The jobs Nigerians do overseas (2)


Continued from yesterday
THERE were other jobs Nigerians did – Traffic Wardens, shop assistance – (all demanding standing for no less than eight hours), car washers, taking care of the elderly in old people’s homes, the post offices and mortuary assistants, underground ticket collectors, sweepers, etc. I am not going to tell you what our women and girls went through while working in the old people’s home. It is better imagined than described. I would end by telling you some of our experiences working in the post offices and in mortuaries. Mount Pleasant was the biggest post office and distribution centre in London. I stayed with a friend in Brixton who had a car and was the neatest, smartest man I know. He said he was reading law. Every morning he wears an impeccable suit, gleaming shirt with a tie knot so perfectly only he could do it. Every morning he said he had 8a.m. lectures and because of the traffic he would leave early to secure a parking place for his car. Another friend once came to the house and asked me to accompany him to Mount Pleasant because he was seeking a job. We went. The place was a beehive of Nigerians.

All the Nigerians I had not seen for years were really all in Mount Pleasant. When my friend got his job, on my way out I saw my host – so I shouted “Jimmy, what are you doing here?” He said he had a project on Labour law and how it discriminated against black people and was in Mount Pleasant on field research!!!

My own experience with the post office was at Christmas when the post office employed lots of students to shift letters. At first I was given an area or a beat to deliver letters to. No one told me about the technique of the easier way to do your beat. I trudged along and by 1p.m. I had not finished the first delivery. All the old women on my route made it a point of telling me I was late, “where is Mr. James, he is never late”! When I got back to the office, I refused to carry a second load. I was bushed. The supervisor then changed my job. I was now one of those who stood before the stamping machine. My job was to arrange the letters in a certain way – the stamp on the envelop was to be turned down so that the stamping machine would stamp the queens head to indicate the stamp had been used. It looked easy. Just turn the envelop so that the stamp is at the bottom right hand corner. Hundreds of thousands of these envelopes were on my left, I had to arrange them for the stamping machine. The job is mind numbing but your hands were fast otherwise the letter would pass without being stamped. On the third day it snowed. I opened my door and there was about five to six inches of snow outside. I went back inside and never saw the post office again.

Working in the Mortuary of a large city hospital is probably the worst experience. You arrive at work just before midnight. You have to wear thick plastic aprons, wellington boots and large thick gloves. You were usually alone. The Corpse comes in to be hosed down, and put in body bags already tagged. Most bodies look actually dead and the expression on the faces confirms this. You sing all the songs you know in your mind to put off the crudest job imaginable. In some mortuaries the bagging is carefully automated so that there is no confusion whose body you are dealing with. Some bodies, however, do not look dead. Some have a silly smile on their faces; some have one hand raised, some have a quimzical look, which seem to say to you, are you alone? You want to join me? This of course is the fetid imagination of a tired mind. The last time I was there, a dead body had a smile and an armed rose up. I never returned to collect my pay.

Tom once had a job on repairs of roads. He was given a hand held mechanical digger and concrete breaker. He lasted half a day and sometimes still shakes till now.
So when I see thousands at the Embassy going to the United States or United Kingdom or Europe, I have a little laugh to myself; “Dis people dem no know nothing. Dem go suffer.”

So when I see thousands at the Embassy going to the United States or United Kingdom or Europe, I have a little laugh to myself; “Dis people dem no know nothing. Dem go suffer.”

• Concluded

• Ambassador (Dr.) Patrick Dele Cole, OFR, is a Consultant to The Guardian Editorial Board.