What you need to know:
- I felt disappointed that the embassy was unable to rally the 50 people it insisted on because I was sure that there were many others like me who were yearning to return home.
- What an angel Lanre has been throughout my ordeal! I have no idea how I would have coped were it not for his generosity.
Having made a firm resolution not to dwell on my dismal situation and to take one day at a time, rather than mull over the future, I got contacts of a group of Kenyans living in Nigeria through one of my brother’s friends.
Her husband and child were stranded in Abuja. I was ecstatic about this link because I didn’t know any Kenyans in Nigeria.
I had, in fact, tried to find such a group on Facebook and Twitter but I had been unsuccessful. This contact therefore felt like the breakthrough I had been longing for.
With my heart now hopeful, I got in touch with the Lagos Mainland representative, which is where I was. We talked in detail about my situation and he was very sympathetic, giving me hope and encouragement.
My contact is married to a Nigerian and had worked here for over 15 years. He had been planning to travel to Kenya to visit his extended family but the plan was thwarted when Nigeria’s and Kenya’s airports were closed.
When he informed me that the Kenyan embassy in Nigeria had promised to repatriate any Kenyans stranded here if the group could rally at least 50 people who were willing to pay fare to fly back home, my heart sang.
Finally, the end of my ordeal was in sight. I would be going home soon. But my hope was dashed a few seconds later. There weren’t many Kenyans ready to go home. Only 13 people had so far forwarded their names to him. I followed up on this lead for a couple of weeks but kept getting the same response — the number was stuck at 13, a far cry from the 50 required.
Initially, I would call my contact daily because I desperately needed updates, but as days went by without a glimmer of hope I called less.
Eventually I gave up altogether and decided to change gears and try another avenue.
I felt disappointed that the embassy was unable to rally the 50 people it insisted on because I was sure that there were many others like me who were yearning to return home. I felt that they were not making any effort to find and help us return home because the person who answered my call did not bother to ask for any information that would have enabled them to trace me later.
My days became longer and longer. Being on lockdown meant that I couldn’t go anywhere.
Uber services had long been suspended, therefore if I needed to go anywhere I would need my dependable friend, Lanre, to drive me around yet he lived about 20km away.
The other option was an Okada (motorbike) which I actually took on two occasions when I urgently needed to buy some supplies. These two times, my helpful landlord requested the guard in the next building to get two motorbikes, one for me and the other for him (the guard) so that he could accompany me to the supermarket for security purposes.
I noticed that the riders wore no masks, nor did I see them use a sanitiser — of course, there was no social distancing between the rider and the customer.
I observed that in this neighbourhood, Covid-19 was a concept. Life here went on as usual even in lockdown. People were interacting with ease, greeting, hugging and even enjoying alcoholic drinks by the roadside in groups. To avoid getting exposed to the virus, I made a decision not go out unless it was an emergency.
Lanre would text me every day to confirm that I was well, and whether I needed anything. He even offered to pay for my needs because ATM costs are quite expensive if you consider the withdrawal costs charged two ways, here and in Kenya, as well as the exchange rate.
We agreed that when I got back home, I would pay him back. What an angel Lanre has been throughout my ordeal! I have no idea how I would have coped were it not for his generosity.
I have had to adjust to being on my own. I have had to confront my thoughts and my reality, some of which had been shelved and ignored due to my busy lifestyle.
Being a hermit, before Covid-19 came calling, I took for granted time I could spend with family and friends. Now with more time on my hands I realise the value of those moments when I could have met a friend for coffee, or hang out with my family for lunch. I can’t wait for that time to come. As I eat my noodles in solitude, I yearn to share a meal with my family and friends, at a restaurant or even at home.
Ms Ndinda is Research Manager, Transform Research Africa Ltd. She is stuck in Nigeria, where she has been since March 21.
TOMORROW: My landlord is repatriated back home, I cannot help but feel stressed, forgotten and unimportant.