•We commend our foreign service for a good job on this cautionary tale
With viral heat, the story toasted the internet. She spoke in her native Yoruba language but it did not vitiate its intensity and universal appeal.
The 23-year-old Omolola Ajayi, looking suppliant and fragile, was lost in Lebanon in the Middle East. She was in captivity in one of the world’s hotspots of sectarian unease.
She was in a home as a house help but, more eloquently, she was a slave. She uttered the word eru, and that means slave in her language with all its semantic weight of human degradation and shackles.
She spoke in Yoruba as a strategy of survival. If she spoke in a recognisable language, that is English, she might have triggered a rage in her tormentor and slaver who might have picked up on her strategic trail and endangered her life even more.
The host-slaver had made attempts to assault her sexually but because he was not strong enough to force his way, she fended him off. She said she did not want the man to die during the abuse.
The phone was hidden within Ajayi’s sight and reach, and she took advantage of the man’s absence to send the message to the world.
That drew the attention of the world, and it rose quickly from a private terror and human pathos to a diplomatic puzzle. The Nigerian government stepped in and she was fished out, released from her stronghold and flown back home to rejoin her family. She was first handed over to the Nigerian ambassador, Goni Zanna Bura.
Ajayi is a mother and she invoked sympathy also by referring to her child. She did not want to work as a house help or slave. She thought, like so many who go abroad for work, that she would pursue a dignified course of work by being an English translator.
It shows how desperate our people are to earn a basic living because Nigeria cannot provide livelihoods for them. Ajayi basically wanted to earn an honest living, and she had to look to Lebanon to find one, or so she thought. Today, it has been more difficult to secure visas to Europe, the United States and Canada.
So, more Nigerians are looking to other lands for succour. Some unscrupulous citizens are taking advantage of these vulnerable persons. That is how Ajayi was entrapped in the Lebanon scheme.
These Nigerians do not work alone as it happened in this case. The two persons who tricked Ajayi worked with a Lebanese accomplice. It shows that Nigerians who want to work abroad should be careful not to fall for any tease.
Her release also is a good story about Nigerian governance. Kudos to the foreign service, and the work of Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission.
She gleefully tweeted at the end of the drama that the woman had been released and the alleged trafficker handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
She was not the only person in that trap. Another Nigerian citizen was also in that situation and released. This story has had its rosy end because of the weaknesses of Ajayi’s host.
One, she had access to her phone, which was a means of communication with the outside world. So many may
not be that lucky. If she had no phone access, she might still be in captivity.
The other weakness was that we are in a technology age, especially the power of social media, which transmitted her story.
We are happy she is back with her family, and the suspects in detention. The basic problem remains. Too many people are out of job, and we cannot sustain this.