“I was on a little boat in the Mediterranean about 65 years ago, the
year was 2013. I was just 23 at the time. I saw nothing useful in
the country, I was exasperated, the happenings in the country was
getting worst by the day. The rich getter richer and the poor getting
poorer.” The old man, sat across from his four male grandchildren,
in his private jet as they flew over the Mediterranean sea. They
were heading to the Bahamas for a holiday. The kid’s parents, his
children have gone ahead of them.
Flying over the mediterranean, a mental picture of what transpired
half a dozen decades ago cascaded him.
“Those years, years go when Nigeria like I now know does not
exist. When our lawyers still wore wigs and gowns; when ripped
jeans was in vogue and we called it ‘crazy’; when we were still
asked ‘state of origin’ for every university and job application;
when every Nigerian youth thought the ‘good life’ we so seek, can
only be attained abroad; so we go through hell and high waters to
leave the country, When the Nigerian youth sold their rights to life
and politics to the older ‘closer to the grave’ ailing men, when we
let them run the affairs of this country thinking their silver hair was
a ticket to bountiful source of knowledge, not knowing that it’s not
the case. The period when the average Nigerian will sell their vote
for a cup of garri.” His grandchildren chuckled at the fact that
lawyers wore wigs and that ripped jeans was ever a style, they
imagined a rich person dressed in rags. They shook their heads at
the thought of the average Nigerian youth many years ago; they
wondered if there was ever a time Europe was better than Africa
because certainly in their time, the reverse is the case.
“I was one of such youth. I promised myself that if only I could see
myself outside the shores of this country, all my sorrows will be
left behind. I saved up, sold every valuable ~ including a piece of
land my late dad left for me, and set out with a team of others
including Osas my best friend. We were to go through the Northern
part of Africa right through this great Mediterranean to Europe,
where the ‘heaven on earth’ experience awaits us. The plan was
for the girls to sell their bodies and the boys to do all sort of menial
jobs. We were all tired, it didn’t matter what sort of job was
available, we’ll take it. At 23, I had applied countless times to
universities and even polytechnics but never got an offer. I wasn’t
the top of my class, but I wasn’t the bottom either. Out of sheer
frustration, we all set out to leave this ‘Godforsaken country’.“
His grandchildren sat, paying very close attention as they listened.
“We scaled through the toughest situations to get to Libya. Where
we’ll get on boats or ships to cross the Mediterranean. On getting
there, we discovered that we’ll be lucky if we got a dinghy to sail
across the sea.”
“What!? It’s approximately 800km from the north to the south of
the Mediterranean, Libya to Croatia! You shouldn’t go a quarter of
that distance on a dinghy!” Jerry the oldest grandson said in
“Yes I know, but we did. We were desperate. The country was bad
and everyone was running. We fought each other to get on the
dinghy, not minding that many times the Mediterranean was
referred to as a ‘cemetery’, a ‘graveyard’, a ‘burial ground’’,
because of the number of boats that have capsized in the sea. Our
lives were hanging on a very thin thread, but anything is better
than living in this hell hole called Nigeria.
In the deck where we waited to be shipped to Europe for a better
life, most people woke up in the mornings missing their loved
ones. People just disappear into thin air. So we slept holding hands
and mothers wrapped their babies around them.”
“There were babies too?” Solomon, the youngest asked wide eyed.
“Yes, including pregnant women. When we finally got on the
dinghy, myself and Osas and another friend we were lucky to meet,
Lawal were extremely happy. Even though we were over ten times
more than the size the dinghy could carry, we held unto hope and
we prayed that we’ll get to Europe in one piece.
But even that was too much to ask of the poor dinghy as several
miles in, the boat capsized. As it swerved from side to side, there
were screams and shouts of ‘Jesus, Jesus save me.’ Children were
screaming, women were terrified as death stared us in the face.
We only needed to fight for life for only a while as a rescue ship
was approaching us. We’ll later learn it was from a European
country government. Instead of taking us to Europe, they brought
us back to Libya.
We were mostly just happy to be alive. When the big ship arrived
Libya, it was at a secluded and quieter part of the shore where no
one was, and it was the middle of the night. We were not angry at
the way the rescuers treated us, how they flogged us on the ship or
threaten to throw us into the sea if we didn’t do their bidding.
We were happy to be back. At the time I was settled, I looked all
over for Osas but couldn’t find him. It was a large ship, I was sure
he was somewhere but I couldn’t find him. Lawal assured me that
Osas was fine since we were all okay. Until a lady told us she saw
a man matching our description been beaten and thrown off the
ship many miles ago.
Osas had survived the capsized boat but the ‘rescuers’ turned
captors ended his life. I was bitter, we were friends since
childhood. Unbeknownst to us, this was the least of our
oppression. We were sold and resold as slaves and moved from
prison to prison. We were made to perform sexual acts on each
other be it male or female, brother or distant relative, hungry or
well fed, we were for their amusement. We were exposed to so
hard a labour, we swore ‘luxury’ was Nigeria’s other name.
In the prisons, regret was felt in the air, sorrow decorated our
faces. Malnourishment was our load to carry and the whip was
never withheld from anyone necessary or not.
In 2016, I was taken to a new prison in the eastern part of Libya
where we were expected to work for hours non stop and were
entitled to one miserable looking plate of food in three days. I was
there for another year, I looked anorexic and yet, the maltreatment
never stopped. Many people died of starvation. The European
government that sold us into this did not care about us, but for the
few that are able to cross over to this countries without being
caught, they make sure it is televised so the world can applaud
The kids sat quietly, eyes misty as their grandfather told them his
“2018, I was rescued from this pit, I crawled on my belly into the
darkness, across the forest until I arrived a rescue unit. It had a
Nigerian flag flying on the top, and when I got there, I collapsed.
Weeks later, we were flown back to Nigeria. I had lost Osas and
lost contact with Lawal.”
“But is Lawal alive?” Jerry asked.
“I wish I knew. I came back to Nigeria with a fresh anger, this
time, I channeled it the right way. I promised myself that even if I
don’t live to see it, my grandchildren will be governed by a leader
that has an active brain, a young, vibrant, intelligent person, male
or female who has the ability to listen, the ability to understand the
times and move with it. A person that is not interested in a political
seat to further advance their religious or cultural beliefs but a
person who has the dare interest of the average Nigerian at heart. I
made a decision to never die in poverty. I got my first voter’s card
So in 2019, at 29, I went round seeking sponsors. I told them for as
low as fifty thousand, they could get a percentage returns in my
company, many agreed, there was a witness and the documents
were signed. I went to schools and asked to supply them with raw
foods, I told them I had sponsors and I also had suppliers, even
though I didn’t at the time. They agreed, the documents were
signed, 7 schools in total. I went to the suppliers, I told them I had
sponsors and I also have a strong market with the final consumers
~ the schools. I convinced them to give me way above the money I
gave them, enough supply for about 30 schools. We signed the
documents and I got the supplies. I then went back to the other
schools I didn’t hear from with a truckload of food stuff and
convinced them to try stocking food stuffs. I convinced 14 schools
to try it.
I waited a little while, and gathered the names of the PTA chairmen
of the schools that rejected my offer. I went and sold myself to the
PTA chairmen and a few parents that had a ‘say’ in their kids’
school. On PTA days, I came with a truckload of raw foods ready
to deliver to such schools. I got 7 schools by doing so.
My foods were at a reduced price. They were the best quality they
could ever get at such prices. It started with just the Edo branch,
then Delta, Port harcourt, Bayelsa and then Lagos and Abuja.
Today, I can boost of 169 branches of Onah foods and oil in 31
states of the federation, 17 branches in Ghana, 12 in Cameroon
and 5 in Benin republic and I don’t even have a university degree!
Tomorrow, we’ll be launching the 5th branch in South America.
Onah foods is the fifth largest raw food and oil distributor in
“You are very rich Granpa” Solomon said.
“I know. And it all started when I challenged myself, I asked myself
to show Nigeria just half the hope and faith I showed that dinghy
when I mounted it six years prior in Libya, because even after the
slavery, some people escaped and went back to mount another
dinghy in an attempt to cross over to Europe again. I told myself
that Europeans have a better country because they worked hard
for it. The ‘working hard’ part can be physically draining and
frustrating, but today they have a system that is working for them.
We the Nigerian youth at the time, instead of making our system
work for us, we chose to run away from the battle, to celebrate a
victory in a country we didn’t stand with when they fought their
Their plane soon landed in Rome, Grandpa Osei had to stop by for
a quick 3 hour business meeting before heading to the Bahamas.
His PA had booked him a limo to the hotel where the meeting was
held. The Limo driver was an older black man around same age as
After the meeting, the limo driver drove them back to the airport.
He had a nice air to him that Grandpa Osei liked and asked his PA
to always book him for his errands around Rome. Grandpa Osei
didn’t recognise him, but the limo driver did.
As he opened the limo door for the kids and their grandfather, the
limo driver asked grandpa Osei if he recognises him.
“I am sorry, I meet so many people,” Grandpa Osei apologised.
“It’s okay, I suppose that given who you are.” the limo driver said
in an Italian accent. He continued “My name is Lawal, you may not
remember but we met in Libya many years ago, trying to cross the
sea to Europe. I guess you never did huh?”
The unspoken tears in grandpa Osei’s voice whenever he said this
story could not remain hidden, he held Lawal by the hand,
squeezed it tight and streams of tears flowed freely.
“I remember you brother, how can I ever forget?” he said as he
hugged him tightly.
“I am on my way to the Bahamas, will you want to come with me?
We really need to talk. Look what age has done to us!”
“I’d love to, given that I have never been on a plane before, but my
employer will want their limo back as soon as possible.”
“The limo’s not yours? Never mind, I will get someone to get it to
them and tell them you quit.” Grandpa pulled Lawal who was still in
uniform towards the plane as his grand children wondered who
grandpa’s new friend was.
“I was on a little boat in the Mediterranean about 65 years ago, the