By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Many Nigerians will gladly sell themselves to travel out of Nigeria for keeps.
Back in time, there were plenteous noises against the capturing of Nigerians – and sundry Africans – and selling them as slaves.
Now, many Nigerians are ready to pay with hard cash – and even landed property – to be taken away as slaves across the oceans of this wide world.
Today’s reality of seeing Nigerians being airlifted from Ukraine back to Nigeria following the Russian invasion is akin to a traumatizing case of back to worse than square one.
While thinking of the matter I had to fetch from my library the 2016 book 8 Evils of Human Trafficking written by my friends Steve Osuji and the now deceased Boniface Opute.
One is of course not arguing here that the Nigerians in Ukraine were trafficked because a good number of them are students, but then it has to be admitted that there are no safe havens anywhere given the unforeseen incidence of war.
There are no guarantees whatsoever for Nigerians living in this basket case of a country.
It amounts to double jeopardy when human trafficking only ends up scoring the own goal of deportation back to the native land.
The woes depicted by Steve Osuji and Boniface Opute in 8 Evils of Human Trafficking are indeed galling.
The arresting story of the brilliant teenage girl, Kate (not her real name, of course), from Benin City rends the heart.
A senior secondary school student who had set her thoughts on going to the university and making a success of her life, Kate had the course of her history changed when her greedy mother Elekhia arranged through a friend for her passage to Italian prostitution.
The story reads in a convoluted manner thusly: “It was Mummy Idiat, her mother’s friend whom she knew quite well, who had made the connection through a friend of her friend and of her friend again. The connection was so long it could have been ten times removed.”
In the dead of a heavily rain-soaked night, Kate is spirited away in a manner that no forwarding address could be traced.
Kate’s father, Odion, who knew nothing of his wife’s plans for their daughter ends up a destroyed man even as the wife withdraws to the outskirts of lived life.
Kate is taken to Lagos under the charge of the ruthless Big Mummy before being taken to Ghana alongside the other captured girl, Omo, before the flight in the base company of the escort, Uncle Osas, to Italy.
The tragic fate of the unfortunate Omo somewhat turns Kate into a willing jelly.
The HIV-positive Kate gets cast away “under a flyover bridge along an Italian highway” where she is eventually discovered by the Italian police, thus helping in the arrest of the Nigerian traffickers.
Human trafficking recognizes no bonds of maternity, paternity or consanguinity. Nothing is sacred in the satanic trade.
Even the so-called “men of God” are active participants, not the least of which can be Catholic Reverend Fathers.
Osuji and Opute cite the instance of columnist Azuka Jebose Molokwu who reported that Dubai is now the new haven of the Nigerian prostitution ring, with mothers happily sponsoring their graduate daughters to indulge in the lucrative trade.
The making-babies-for-sale in the baby factories dotting the terrains of the Southeast and South-South states of Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Rivers, Anambra and Akwa Ibom can be seen to be stretching to the Southwestern states of Ogun and Ondo.
The flesh of the matter happens to be prostitution, “the world’s oldest profession”, in the words of novelist Rudyard Kipling.
It is estimated that “30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture and neglect.”
Sterility, forced abortions, miscarriages, organ harvesting, vaginal and anal trauma come in for bad measure.
The sad story of Maria, the beautiful Catholic girl from Abbi town in Delta State, who makes the ill-fated journey to Holland, illustrates a life of wreck.
On the positive side, the young Chinelo from Anambra State escapes from an arranged marriage in Lagos to make a success of her life through the help of Reverend Father Dennis.
Knowing that education is the key to success, she becomes the overall Best Graduating Student in Computer Science and caps it all up with a Master’s degree and a job with one of the GSM operators.
In another remarkable case, Shalewa is duped into a dubious American marriage by a crooked childhood sweetheart named Tayo.
The survival of Shalewa is the ultimate measure of human triumph as she has since her return from America been running a school for seven years where most of the students score distinctions in the requisite subjects.
Given the hopelessness of daily Nigerian life it would be read as wickedness advising any young Nigerian against venturing abroad in the search for greener pasture.
After all, the immortal boxing champion Muhammad Ali once quipped that he was so happy that his great-grandparents got a space on the slave ship to go to America!