#BounceExclusive: Europe By Road - Why I Turned Back At Tripoli - Returnee
In 1979, Andrew lost his mother. He was barley ten years old at the time.
In 1989, his father also died. He was left alone in this world with his only brother.
“Things became so tough. In fact, that is one of the reasons I could not further my education. My father owned two houses in Benin. After he died, one of my uncles sold one of the houses,” Andrew started.
“One house was left for me. In 1992, out of desperation I also sold the house and used the money to travel to Germany.
“But in Germany, life was difficult as well and in 1994, one of our town’s people in Italy suggested I cross over to Italy where life was better.
“I packed my bag and left Germany but on my way crossing to Italy, I was arrested in Verona and deported to Nigeria,” Andrew narrated.
Then in 2007, several years after his unsuccessful ‘hustle’ in Lagos, an old friend of Andrew's called him on phone and informed him of an opportunity for people who wanted to travel abroad.
“He asked me if I still want to try again, having been deported, and I said yes,” Andrew told Bounce.
Thereafter, he went to Benin, indicated an interest with five other people. And then they returned to Lagos and went to Iddo motor park in Lagos where they took a bus to Kano.
When they got to Kano, they boarded a bus to Niger Republic. From Niger, they joined a bus to a town called Agadez. From Agadez, they joined a lorry with hundreds of other travelers.
“The lorry is the popular 911 trucks that we know here. It can take as many people as there is any space available.
“It was the beginning of the actual risk. The desert has no road. The driver could only follow tracks that have been left by other vehicles.
“If you are unlucky and the wind blows too much and covers the tracks, the driver will miss his way and you would soon run out of fuel. And that will be your end.
*Andrew along with hundreds of other passengers traveled in this kind of lorry - (Google Photo)
“There is no rescue unless you are spotted by security helicopter,” Andrew said.
Lady Luck smiled on them and they got through to Duruku town where they took another bus to the Libyan border town of Sabha and then crossed to Tripoli where they started preparing to depart to Europe by sea.
Say Hello To 'Mother Mediterranean'
But a crucial moment of decision came when it was time to depart. Andrew never knew that he could develop cold feet after traveling more than 2,248 kilometers from Lagos, Nigeria and his dream country barely 1,245 kilometers away.
“When we got to Tripoli and then it was time to depart, I saw the boat we were supposed to be travelling in. It was not actually a boat. It is called a Zojiac. It is not a boat at all but a giant leather balloon in the shape of a boat. And it was supposed to take about 70 of us.
“My brother, when I looked at the sea, I was frightened. It was really scary, looking at the massive and endless stretch of water and one is supposed to be on that thing called boat for more than 2 days.
“It was riskier than I thought. So there and then, I and my younger brother decided there was no way two of us should die in one day.
“My younger brother’s mind was made up, so we decided he proceed with the journey and I along with two others started coming back to Nigeria.”
But coming back was not any easier.
The journey began again as swiftly as it ended earllier.
The dust filled his nasals and he could taste it in his lungs. For some strange reason, he wasn't afraid anymore until it happened.
The truck revved loudly and came to a complete stop. He could feel his heart beating as loud as the village drums on major market days.
It was almost sunset and he could sense panic in his stammering voice. "What's going on? Did they see us? Why are we stopping?"
The vehicle had to be fixed and they had run out of supplies - no water, no food, not even the Gala he had stored in his bag was still available.
He had to drink his urine as they stayed in the dust for over 48 hours.
But eventually they made it back in one peace. And luckily, his brother and the other two guys also made it safely to Italy.
*Andrew decided to return to Nigeria scared of traveling in this kind of boat - (Google Photo)
Call it cowardice or survival instinct, Andrew could not tell which at the time but it was time to come home. He was done with seeking greener pastures overseas.
He returned home and started seeking for jobs. He later secured a driver’s job with a multinational company based in Lagos.
But does he regret making the journey?
“I do not regret making the journey. Many people say all sorts of things about the people that make the journey. But I would not blame those who make the journey.
"Things are very tough here. There is no job. Even when you have a job, how much do you earn?” he said, the bright looks on his face obvious he reminisces his unsuccessful trip.
But he also believes that people travelling have helped develop Nigeria in more ways than one.
He said: “Let me tell you the truth. If not for the travelling opportunities to Europe, nobody would be passing through Benin today.
“Between 1981 and 1986, you could not wash your clothes and dry them outside. Armed robbery was the order of the day.
“Benin back then was filled with mud houses. But go to Benin today and see the mansions they are building everywhere. And they are sons and daughters of Benin who took the perilous journey to Europe.”
He added: “I know more than 50 people including friends and relatives who are overseas and except for few of them that left in the 80s, the rest went through land and sea.
“But many I know have also died, including my cousin who died last year. It’s a game of 50/50. Even right from Lagos to Kano, it is either you make it or you don’t.”