Coming To Toronto

Coming To Toronto

He celebrated it, his non-deportation.

Five years in Canada, living in the shadows – and finally he can come out in the light.

Yet, his friends laugh at him. But he doesn’t care. To him, he had to do what he had to do to remain in Canada, especially after going through horrors.

For him to have got here, he had to go through a journey, a perilous one. Edo. Sokoto. Niamey. Agadez. Sahara desert. Sebha. Coasts of Algeria. Across the Mediterranean. Italy. France. London. Cuba. Venezuela. Mexico. USA. Canada. A seven year journey – of seeing death at close quarters, of hunger, of pain, of destitution, of danger, of luck.

He left Benin when he was 20, after failing JAMB twice. Then he convinced his parents that the journey to “overseas” to find work and send money back was the only way. His father sold their second house to fuel the journey. It was the house that usually brought them rent money. After the sale, the only way to survive for the family was his father’s job as a driver for a transportation line and his mother’s proceeds from her stall in the market.

They all cried the morning he left. And he promised them: “Make una no worry. I no go fail. All the money una don gi me, una go get am back over enough. So tay una no go know wetin una go do with am. I promise you…”

And they prayed.

Then he walked into the darkness of the morning, without turning back, because he didn’t want them to see the fear in his eyes.

Now he is 32. And the memory of his past is still raw, the one constant thought driving him being his parents and his two younger siblings.

Even in the shadows, Canada has been good to him.

For him, who couldn’t even send a farthing in the 7 years he journeyed through all those countries, has now been able to send so much from Canada in the following 5 years, so much that his parents had been able to buy another land and build a bigger family house, which they moved into and put the former one up for rent.

He had asked for political asylum when he walked across the southern border north of Plattsburgh New York into Quebec in Canada, armed with a duffel bag and no passport.

The first year in Canada had been one of love and surplus. Canada welcomed him and provided for him. From the shelter he was first sent to and then to the apartment whose rent they gave him. And then the monthly salary they paid him as a refugee claimant, while he processed his application and waited to face the immigration tribunal which would hear his request and reason for asking for asylum.

It was the tribunal that would approve or reject his application.

If they approved, then he would be granted permanent residence. If they rejected it, then he would be given a removal notice, which could be within 30 to 90 days, to leave the country voluntarily or risk deportation.

As he waited, he churched and worked, and also studied free of charge. Computer hardware. He was a fast learner. A six month course and he became a maestro, revamping dead computers and selling them for a profit, and then quickly upping up his ante onto laptops, which he fixed and sent in containers to Nigeria.

Money was flowing in.

Until the day he had to face the board – the immigration tribunal.

His case was hinged on a story about his life being in danger, because of his refusal to be the Enogie (mini-king) of the cluster of villages from where he comes from. Since the custom was that the Enogieship couldn’t pass from one person to another if the first person was still alive, hence it was only upon death that one could be free from the Enogieship. He claimed that the Enogie rotated from one ruling house onto the other. And that it was now the turn of his ruling house and he, being the first son of his late father, who would have to be the Enogie. The crown had fallen on him and since he did not want to do the traditional rites that included eating the heart of the late Enogie and inheriting all his surviving wives, he’d had to flee.

He said he was a born-again Christian and his faith would not allow him serve idols and practice cannibalism. He said that the chiefs had sent people to plead with him, and when he turned them down and fled to Lagos, they had sent assassins after him. He said there was a close shave when the assassins had killed the friend he was staying with in Lagos, thinking it was him.

Because of that, he had fled across the Northern border into Niger Republic and started the journey which would eventually lead him to Canada.

He cried at court. They gave him tissues to dry his tears. He believed that they believed him.

They did not. They showed him that his whole case had been compromised by the story of the death of his friend. They showed him the letter they received from the police in Nigeria, which showed that the police report he submitted was fake. They showed him the letter from the hospital that stated that the autopsy report and death certificate he had also submitted were fake.

And because of this, they rejected his application. He wailed and begged. But the judge simply smiled and told him he had 30 days to leave the country or be deported. And if he allowed them deport him, he would never be able to return to Canada.

He left in instant depression. What would he tell his parents?

And before he could find answers, 30 days had passed.

So he disappeared, into the Canada underground. That world of fake names, strictly cash, no ownership of cars or houses, jobs off the record. Yet he still did his computer business and made money. It was three years in the underground.

Then one day, while he was eating lunch at a Nigerian restaurant, the restaurant was raided. He wasn’t the target. They were in search of a notorious Nigerian fraudster. They arrested the fraudster. But they also checked out each person in the restaurant. It was the check that caught him. His fake alias which he had been using was the name of a friend of his, who he didn’t realise already had a criminal record and had jumped bail. Cuffs appeared and he found himself in jail.

Finger prints didn’t match. And the question came.

“Who are you?”

He was looking at doing jail time for a crime he didn’t commit or face deportation. He chose the latter and told them who he really was. In an hour, he was with immigration and customs, to be put on a flight to Lagos the next day in handcuffs and leg irons.

But his lawyer, who another friend had called on his behalf, had raced to the courts to get an injunction. He could not be deported based on extraneous circumstances.

The injunction was granted.

During the first hearing, his lawyer pleaded for time to prepare his case. It was granted. Bail was set, a surety requested. His pastor stood for him. He had a month for the case to be heard.

This time around the story changed. It wasn’t the fear of death from some village assassins.

It was the fear of death from incensed mobs and a 14 year jail sentence for being who he truly is.

Gay.

A homosexual.

He rented a gay guy to play his boyfriend, an affectionate, overly-effeminate one. They took as many pictures as they could get to show history. But he was afraid that the judge would say the pictures were too recent. His lawyer told him not to worry. But he worried. It was he who would be deported, not the lawyer. It was he who had parents and siblings who depended on him, not the lawyer.

So he went on to create his own evidence. His lawyer blatantly refused to accept the evidence. The lawyer was vehement in his refusal to submit the evidence alongside the other ones. He claimed it would impugn on his integrity and besmirch his reputation as a lawyer.

So he kept the evidence to himself and bid his time.

And the day came. The case was heard. The judge was unsmiling. He was quivering, his rented boyfriend holding tightly to his arm and dutifully giving him kisses on his cheeks at regular intervals, kisses that made him cringe. But he knew to keep the facade going, he had to show affection. So he turned to place a kiss on the boyfriend’s cheek, but the boyfriend presented his puckered lips. And so, he had to kiss the lips with clenched fists. And then say audibly, “I love you.”

The judge watched them as he listened to the arguments. The judge noticed that the guy always tried to say something to the court, but was always shushed by his lawyer.

When all evidence had been submitted and the judge was about to call the court into recess, he made one last statement. It was said directly to the guy.

“I see that you want to address the court.”

He cleared his throat to steady his voice. “Yes, your honour.”

“I will waive protocol. What do you want to say?”

“Your honour, I have evidence of my relationship with my boyfriend here, but my lawyer has refused to present it to the court.”

The judge looked at the lawyer in the near empty courtroom, while the lawyers for the government looked on. “Why is that?” he asked.

His lawyer stood up. “My lord, I do not think that the said evidence will serve the interests of my client. In fact, it will put into question the very –”

“It is my case, Your honour,” he interrupted, “not his case. I am the one it will affect. Please see the evidence and decide for yourself.”

The judge smiled and looked at the government’s lawyers. “I presume you haven’t seen the evidence in question?”

“No we haven’t, my lord.”

“Okay. As this is already a most unusual case, I will look at this evidence of record and have you look at it also. Is that okay?”

“Yes, my lord.”

The judge turned back to the guy. “How many copies of your evidence do you have?”

“Two, Your honour.”

“I see you were prepared.” He turned to the courtroom clerk. “Please give one to them and bring the other one to me.”

The courtroom clerk went over and did as told. They were two iPads.

His lawyer spoke forcefully. “My lord, I want to strongly place on record my opposition to –”

The guy cut him short again. “Your honour, don’t mind him…”

The judge was calm. “I said it is off record. The young man has the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head. The government has agreed to indulge him. I want to indulge him. We recognise your opposition, but we will see the evidence.”

His lawyer sighed audibly and sat down. The clerk handed the iPads over.

The guy spoke as his boyfriend kept smiling and holding tight to his arm. “Your honour, if you press the button at the lower end of the iPad, the screen will turn on. There is a video there that says ‘My Love’. Click on it.”

The judge followed his direction. The government’s lawyers did same.

Nothing happened for a minute.

Then suddenly, a loud moan escaped the iPads, then a grunting, a huffing and a puffing.

The judge shouted, “Oh my God!” Startled, he dropped the iPad on his desk and rolled his chair away from it.

The government’s lawyers, both of them, watched on, laughing as the huffing and puffing serenaded the court.

His lawyer looked down, shaking his head.

The guy maintained a straight face. His boyfriend kept a smiling face.

The court clerk looked on bemused.

The judge rolled his chair back to the iPad and picked it up. He watched silently for a moment. Then he looked back up at the guy.

“You did not have to go to this length, to prove your sexuality,” he said.

His lawyer grunted as he spoke. “I told him, my lord, but he wouldn’t listen.” The lawyer’s face was beet red.

The government’s lawyers were still giggling as they watched the video.

The judged turned to them. “Okay, that is enough.”

They stopped the video and looked up at him. There was silence.

Suddenly one of the government’s lawyers burst out laughing again.

The judge was calm. “What is funny?”

“I’m sorry, my lord. It’s just that…” He choked off with another bout of laughter.

The judge looked on, waiting for a response.

The government lawyer said, “It is just that seeing both of them all dressed up in suits now, being all serious when I have just watched them cavorting like porn stars, is just so comical. And his boyfriend kept panting like he was going to die any moment and looked to be in so much pain, but here he is smiling so much, it looks like he is so grateful he survived the sex.”

He laughed. The judge laughed too.

Then the guy spoke. “No. He enjoyed it. He even went and uploaded it on a lot of sites on the internet.”

His lawyer jumped up. “What!”

The guy turned to the lawyer. “Yes he did. I was trying to tell you but you wouldn’t listen to me.”

The laughter died.

The guy turned to the judge. “Your honour, if you see the ones he uploaded on the internet, lots of Nigerians are commenting on it. They are saying they will burn me alive if I return to Nigeria. Some are saying they will castrate me before cutting out my tongue, then remove my eyes and then chop me to pieces while I am still alive. Even the government has seen it because they sent it to them. So there is a 14 year sentence waiting for me, and in Nigerian prison, they will kill you if you are a homosexual. That is why I wanted –”

The judge interrupted him. “Can I see some of these websites?”

“Yes, your honour. I have them saved in my browser history.”

And he directed him. The judge and the government’s lawyers went to the sites. And they read. There was silence.

That is, until the judge looked up. He was visibly sad.

Then he said, “I will accept this into evidence.”

His lawyer was shocked. The government’s lawyers looked over at the guy and his boyfriend in evident compassion. The court went into recess.

When the judge returned, he was matter-of-fact. The injunction to stop the deportation was upheld.

There were hugs between the guy and his rented boyfriend, genuine hugs. And a genuine kiss – a short one though. Because he came to his senses quick and pulled away.

The case went back to the refugee board/immigration officials. To appeal or not to appeal.

They didn’t appeal. Instead they gave him permanent resident status.

There was jubilation in Canada, and in Nigeria, amongst his family members, both nuclear and extended, who had spent days making the hateful comments on the uploaded videos and nights in prayer-filled frenzy. His mother was ecstatic. Finally, after 12 long years, she would see her son in the flesh.

And to his friends in Canada who laugh at him, he says. “Make una dey laugh. At least e better say you dey laugh me here for my face, dan make una dey use my case dey give example for JJCs while I dey suffer for Naija.”

And when they accuse him of being a closeted gay, he says with a laugh, “Leave that mata. If you know the waka wey you don waka and the pipu wey dey hope for your mata, den if dem say make you become fawol to stay for this country, you go ask dem which one, hen or cockerel, tell me make I transform sharp-sharp.”

And they would all laugh.

He would continue. “I tell you o. E get reason why na palm dem dey use check weda pot don hot, eye to see whether soup dey boil and tongue to see if soup sweet. Trust me. All life na level. If mosquito chop, we go kill am, but e no mind, cos im get to chop. No laugh am, e know wetin dey do am make e dey take the risk.”

They would all fall silent, mirroring his seriousness.

And he would continue, “As for dat gay mata, as long as I know who I be and God know me, e no mata wetin una think. After all, no be God tell Abraham to lie say Sarah na im sister?”

Then he would sigh, as though the memories that peopled his past were too heavy to bear, before he would say, “So sofri dey yab me. Na the person wey dey receive, na im be gay. Not the person wey dey give. But even sef if I calculate say dem dey give paper only to pipu wey dey receive, I for carry Vaseline set position, hala, oya set camera, action! For dis life, for all hustles, na the end dey judge if e wot am or not.”

Written by Jude Idada

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12 Comments

  1. Santa Diaba
    June 08, 07:01 Reply

    How interesting. So as he and his ilk have started to ruin entry into Canada for legitimate people, are they happy?
    People’s visas are being recalled and rejected because of all these stunts.

  2. Vhar.
    June 08, 09:06 Reply

    I felt a lot of things while reading this. From fear, to feeling used and eventually to anger.

    • Pink Panther
      June 08, 13:29 Reply

      The same things I felt. That feeling of being used being uppermost. This just left a very sour taste in my mouth.

  3. lotanna
    June 08, 10:06 Reply

    Wow.Wow.Wow
    This is a lot.I do not even know what to feel about this write up.

  4. Iked_i
    June 08, 10:38 Reply

    And the heart of man is desperately wicked…

  5. Malik
    June 08, 16:28 Reply

    This went from scary to cringy to comical. I actually feel sorry for the character and for all characters in the variants of this story of dangerous emigration. It’s definitely deplorable that he faked being gay (after other attempts to avoid deportation failed) but I empathize with his humanness and the common desperation among us to thrive, to survive.

  6. Naijatgal
    June 08, 20:19 Reply

    Fantastically corrupt and desperate. I don’t empathize with people like this. Today its faking his sexuality to avoid deportation, tomorrow it will be international kito.
    I can’t wait to drop this crappy nationality.

  7. QuietSprite
    June 09, 14:16 Reply

    I haven’t walked a mile in his shoes, he did what he felt he had to do( irrespective of how much I despise it), what choice did he have?

  8. ROCK
    June 10, 15:40 Reply

    I hope this is fiction

  9. Bee
    June 13, 15:46 Reply

    Lol, I’m just discovering that I don’t understand written pidgin English.

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