Your Nigerian Passport? Please

It was as if the Nigerian immigration officer had read my blog. His question to me when I arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport (named after the first president of Nigeria) centered on why I wasn’t presenting my Nigerian passport. I kept trying to respond to him nicely by saying “I don’t have a Nigerian passport” but he was not satisfied with my answer. He then asked to see my passport. By now I was getting a little frustrated because I was trying my best to make it to the front of the line but now I was being delayed by someone who was confused about my nationality. Finally, after glancing at my blue United States of America passport and my resident card he said OK and told me to continue on.  The delay placed me in the middle of the line and if you have ever arrived in Abuja on an international flight you want to be at the front of the line. But this would not be the only experience I would have proving my United States of America citizenship.

I have learned to stay awake on the Lufthansa flights to Abuja. After lunch is served, the flight attendants distribute arrival cards for processing through immigration. Most times I don’t get one before we arrive because I’m usually asleep. The flight attendant just assumes I’m Nigerian because of the color of my skin and proceeds to distribute the cards. So this time I waited until the flight attendant came through with the arrival cards and asked for one. His response to me was “Nigerians don’t need an arrival card.” I said “OK but I’m an American so I need an arrival card.” So he gave me an arrival card and a customs form to fill out.

After dealing with the immigration officer about my citizenship and proceeding to collect my bags, I was now met by the customs officer who wanted to inspect my bags. Now, I have been flying into Abuja for the past four years so I have seen various policies put in place since 2014. And the newest policy is inspecting all bags that arrive at the airport. So when I entered the customs hall I presented my US passport but the officer asked me for my Nigerian passport. I told him, “Unfortunately I don’t have a Nigerian passport.” He said “that’s not possible you look like a Nigerian.” I said “well thank you for the compliment but the only passport I have is my passport issued by the US Government.” So he then responded by asking “were you born in Nigeria or were you born in the United States?” I said “not only was I born in the United States but my parents were born in United States and my grandparents were born in the United States and generations and generations before them were also born in the United States. It’s possible that my family came from Nigeria but they were on slave ships not airplanes.” The custom officer standing next to him chuckled at my statement. The officer who had been questioning me gave me back my passport and wished me on my way.

Despite my desire to exert my American citizenship, it’s nice to live in a place where people harass you about fitting in as opposed to not belonging. With rise of nationalism and protectionism policies around the world, it’s nice to be a global citizen. Now, I just need to figure out where home is…

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