“Good morning Doctor Oke-Oghene”, the female voice with an American accent said.
“Good morning madam. May I know who is calling”, I asked.
“I am Ms Jackie Haywood from the American Embassy here in Abuja”.
“O-k-a-y”, I said slowly while wondering what the call may be about as I couldn’t recall having anything to do with the American embassy lately.
“Our records indicate that you are one of the most experienced virologists in Nigeria” she said speedily.
“Well, we do our best”, I responded politely.
“Doctor Oke-Oghene, it is my pleasure to inform you that you and a few other medical practitioners in Nigeria have been chosen for a special immigrants’ visa program.
For a minute, I had a feeling this was a crank call. But it wasn’t.
“Excuse me madam, I thought Nigeria was branded as a terrorist country and slammed with visa restrictions a few months ago by your Government? What has changed?”
“That’s right. As I mentioned before, this is a special program which has just been approved by the Trump Adminstration
for highly skilled medical practitioners from all over the world.”
“And what is the reason behind the program?”
“Oh, to equip medical practitioners, especially from the third world a unique opportunity to gain first hand experience in fighting a pandemic.”
I chuckled lightly. “But madam, it is a pandemic. It is everywhere. Nigeria has over 80 cases as at this morning. And I am already in the frontline of the battle to defeat the virus at the Gwagwalada General Hospital.”
“The United States provides you a much wider field of experience. As at this morning, 124,534 have tested positive with about 2,189 deaths.”
“Madam, the figures are also rising rapidly in Nigeria. According to the newspapers this morning, the US government is planning an evacuation of it’s citizens from Nigeria out of fear that things may get out of hand here.”
“That is just a precautionary measure the US Government takes under this kind of circumstance.”
“Madam, that only proves my point. If the US is taking such a precaution, it means things might be worse for Nigeria. Don’t you think I should stay here to help my fellow country men and women.”
“That will be your call to make.”
“Madam, your government wants foot soldiers to help check the rapid spread of the pandemic in your country. You are overwhelmed and you want to send us to the theater of death for your own selfish purpose. Let me tell you something, given the way things are in your country, US citizens will not be willing to leave Nigeria at the moment. They are much safer here, aren’t they?”
“Doctor, the information you have is not correct. President Trump has just assured Americans that they will go back to work by Easter.”
“Easter of which year?”
“Oh please. Give me a break. Let us be serious for once!
“Doctor Oke are you willing to consider the offer?”
“Madam, why do you people do these things? You are offering us visas on a platter of blood? You think we are so dumb that we should jump at every offer of special visas? We have seen through all that, madam.”
“I take it that you are not interested in taking up the offer?”
” No, no. I am interested in considering the offer. I have always looked forward to this kind of day with much joy. Here are my conditions for joining your so called special program:
- The American government will deposit one million dollars in my account prior to issuing me with a visa.
- The American government will purchase a fully furnished family house in my name in Manhattan, New York.
- On the issuance of my visa, I will work remotely from Nigeria just as civil servants are currently doing in the United States until this pandemic is over and then emigrate to the United States.”
“Hello Doctor Oke-Oghene. Are you still there? I can’t hear you.”
Then she dropped.
I called back several times. But she never picked up.
As I jumped into my car to roll back to the crisis of the day at the Gwagwalada General Hospital, Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the wind song” came up on Abuja’s Classic FM. The lines,
“How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind”, touched me like never before.
How long will the western world take us for granted before we sit up to do the right things for our country? May the answer not blow around in the wind.
Then my phone rang. It was the Medical Director of the Gwagwalada General Hospital.
“Doctor Oke, you need to be here right away. Another patient has been brought in from the Three Arms zone.”
“No kidding”, I exclaimed.
If you do not live in Abuja, you probably won’t know what it means for another patient to come from the Three Arms zone.
I throttled down and began to do 130km per hour towards Gwagwalada. My day had just started. End