Brethren, we say goodbye to the #31Days31Writers series as I chronicle my trip to Kigali, Rwanda exactly one month ago for the African Union pre-youth forum on Women and Youth in Politics. As usual, we start with the trip!
So, Rwanda is in Africa (some people don’t know this I promise), and it’s visa on arrival for Nigerians, costs $30. And you need a yellow card; that little booklet that certifies you vaccinated from a number of diseases including polio. And here the story begins.
In March this year I’d been invited to South Africa for a meeting, and I went to apply for a visa; the Embassy asks to see your yellow card as part of the application. Apparently mine wasn’t in use anymore, no surprises there because the last time I’d done any travel within Africa was in 2009, when I did a small tour with my dad.
Anyway, in March all I had to do was take the old yellow card to the Ministry of Health, showed it to the officials, paid one thousand naira (about £3 or $4), and I was given a new one with the vaccinations I had taken entered into it. I was in and out in less than 40 minutes (including the time it took me to find parking).
This December, the night before my departure to Kigali I couldn’t find my yellow card. I searched all my boxes I’d travelled with recently, even found an old iPod I thought I’d forgotten at my cousin’s in San Antonio, still no yellow card. I finished my packing, and went to bed, determined to search for it with fresh eyes in the morning.
Nothing; I didn’t find it. I still had the old one, so I got ready, primed my taxi to pick me at 10.30am (flight was 12.30pm), and ran off to the Ministry of Health. I got there, and recognized the woman who had attended to me in March. She recognized me too, and immediately launched an inquisition into my low-cut hair, asking who died. Hian! Shaking my head at Nigerians who believe that because they’re older there are no boundaries.
Anyway, we came to the matter of the yellow card and she said I had to generate a number on their website (she actually said I should go tot a cyber café), go to Zenith bank, pay one thousand naira, and then come back to get the yellow card. I asked if I could do all of that on my phone (so go online, do a bank transfer, etc.) but she refused, saying I had to get a printout of the code generated, and bring the slip of the payment I’d made for their records.
All of this because of the new Treasury Single Account business, she said. By this time it was 9.45am, and I had two more stops to make before going home to catch my ride to the airport. I ended up paying the one thousand naira, and a bit more to cover the fare of the person who would do that entire running around on my behalf.
It made me wonder if the new process was given any thought. Something that was simple, straightforward and not needing any ‘encouragement’ has now become very complicated with a lot of loopholes people will now be more than tempted to ‘pay their way’ through. Are we stopping corruption or breeding new grounds for it? Is fear hindering real end to end innovation?
Anyway, I got the card, got my other activities sorted, and made it to the airport on time. Whoop! Champ!
On the queue to dropping off our luggage, a wealthy-looking man and his almost ‘gold plated’ wife (she had on a lot, lol) were asked for their yellow cards. They didn’t have them but the man said, “I’ll see you later” and the woman let them through. So when she asked me for mine I said I didn’t have it. She said I should step aside. I smiled and asked if it was because I didn’t say I would come back and see her. Before she gathered her thoughts enough to respond, I showed her the booklet and walked on. Shaking my head.
Boarded the flight, frantically sent off a few emails, and then it was bedtime. I tried to watch Minions but sleep won.
Next thing I knew, it was time to get off. Addis Ababa!
PS: Apparently, Nigerians don’t need a Yellow Card. I’d advise that you carry it sha, to avoid stories that touch!