By Akin Ojumu

It was on 3rd of August 2021 that I last visited the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Washington, DC to complete the final step of the application process for a Nigerian passport. At the conclusion of that exercise 3 months ago, I was told that my new passport would be sent by mail to my address on November 3, 2021. I was skeptical that would happen, but I kept my fingers tightly crossed anyhow.

This morning, November 15th, makes it exactly twelve days, or 10 working days, since the passport was supposed to have been mailed. As at the last time I checked my mailbox, the passport had not yet been delivered to my address. The skepticism I had 3 months ago was now being validated and my doubt at the competency of the embassy staff was coming to pass.

As the saying goes, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Rather than waiting and waiting and hoping the passport would arrive in the mail, I decided to head back to the embassy this morning to pick it up myself. You see, in the United States, regular mails take about 2-3 days for delivery and if you put something in the mail on Monday, you can be sure it’ll be delivered at the destination on Wednesday. That’s how the postal service works in the civilized world.

Upon getting to the embassy, I wasn’t at all surprised at what I met. As it was 3 months ago, so it was again this morning. The scene at the embassy’s entrance was as chaotic as it was last time. In a scene reminiscent of the popular Oshodi market in Lagos, it was pushing and shoving by the masses as usual. The only difference this time was the temperature outside. In August, we were still in summer and the temperature outside was in the mid to upper 80-degree Fahrenheit. But today, with the winter season knocking at the door, the temperature was around 40-degree Fahrenheit but with the windchill factor it felt like 20-degree Fahrenheit.

To make a bad situation even worse, someone in the crowd thought that was a good moment to release a silent fart that smelled like rotten fish right there in the middle of the melee. The self-centered bloke let out a hydrogen sulfide bomb in the midst of a closely packed mob. Even with face mask on, the stench of the fart could choke one to death. For the life of me, I could not understand why someone would want to further pollute an already polluted atmosphere with the waste product of their unhealthy dietary habit. I guess some folks never learned the etiquette of holding the fart until you are someplace safe.

Anyways, I digress. Enough of the smelly fart.

I’d be honest with you, I’m having to rethink who to blame for the mayhem at the Nigeria embassy in Washington, DC. While the embassy staff who do run the place deserve some blame for the bedlam at the place of their assignment, for me to put all the blame for the pandemonium at the embassy solely on them would be unfair. Having been to the embassy several times now, I’m starting to appreciate the fact that many of the folks that work there have been left to play the hands they've been dealt. The problem, in my view, is not the staff, it is primarily the system in which they find themselves. They are simply trying to make lemonade out of a basket of rotten lemons.

A fish, as they say, rots from the head down. The people I interact with each time I visit the embassy are not the decision makers who established the rules under which the staff operate. The poor embassy staff are as much victims of systemic leadership failure as are the clients to whom they offer consular services. They just happen to be the patsies for failed institutions that exist back home and there’s so much you can beat up on a pinata. Unless the institutions in Nigeria are reformed and competent leadership takes the helm at all levels, we are going to continue to witness chaos at our diplomatic posts overseas.

Anyhow, today is not all doom and gloom, there’s actually something to cheer about Nigeria. As I stated earlier, the embassy told me that my new passport will be mailed out to my address on November 3rd. You’d be shocked to know that they missed that timeline by mere one week. The passport was put in the mail on November 10th, and it was delivered at my house in 3 days on November 13th – talk of an efficient postal service. The last time I checked my mailbox was Friday evening and I hadn’t checked my mailbox this morning before going to the embassy. If I had checked my mailbox this morning, I wouldn’t have had to go to the embassy at all.

Despite my doubts and skepticism, the Nigeria Embassy, Washington DC actually delivered this time. Deep inside, I kind of expected them to fail to be honest. But the folks at the embassy surprised me big time. And for that, I say, “Uwese kakabo! E se pupo! Daalụ nke ukwuu! Na gode sosai! Thank you very much!”


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