NDINDA: Still hopeful despite silence on repatriation plans 

Thursday June 04 2020



One week after we were informed that the repatriation process has been initiated, we don’t have much to ride on. We are still waiting for the results of what must be hectic coordination between the relevant authorities and Kenya Airways.

By now, I have learnt to manage my expectations. Between the frustration that comes with endless waiting, the excitement that rears its head when some progress is made and what seems like a slow process towards the end, I have learnt to be patient.

We anticipated that by this first week of June we would be preparing to travel, but that no longer looks like the case. I decide to email Kenya Airways about rebooking my return ticket.

The person who responds to my email rebooks me on a flight for June 17, the rider being that my travelling on that day will depend on the airspace reopening.

It is clear that all I can do now is wait for June 8, the date that Kenya Airways is set to resume passenger flights. Or perhaps I will be lucky and the repatriation flight will come through sooner.

Meanwhile, I need some money to buy meals and water, so I decide to take an okada (motorbike taxi) to the ATM instead of asking my friend Lanre to travel the 20 kilometres from his home to my hotel to take me.


The first bank’s ATM does not recognise my card, so I decide to move to another bank. At the second bank, I find out that the machines are being serviced, but since I am second in the queue, I decide to wait, sure that it will not be too long a wait.

After more than 20 minutes of queuing, people crowd around the two machines angrily protesting how long it is taking to fix them.

Some of them are wearing masks while others have them on their chins, which beats the purpose.

But since it is now mandatory in Nigeria to wear a  face mask when out in public, many feel obligated to have one on show.

The queue keeps growing, and after a while, it becomes a big crowd of frustrated people anxious to withdraw money.

They are shouting and gesturing animatedly and everyone seems to have an idea about how the problem can be solved. There’s even a commotion as one of the male customers tries to control the surging crowd, and it looks like it might soon degenerate into a fist fight.

Eventually, I decide that this is not a safe space to be in, considering that there is no longer any social distancing to talk of.

Thankfully, the okada rider has been patiently waiting for me. I hop on  as we decide to try the ATMs at Maryland Mall, about five kilometres away.

The motorbike would not have been my chosen mode of transport for such a long distance because just like their counterparts in Kenya, the riders don’t pay much attention to traffic rules and so one does not feel very safe. But since I have no option, the okada it is.

At the mall, I get an ATM that is working and withdraw money that will tide me over for the next few days.

It is about 4pm when we start the journey back to the hotel. An errand that should have taken 20 minutes has taken one and a half hours.

By the time I alight from the motorbike, I am sweating profusely, and my clothes are sticking on my back like glue. As for my mouth and throat, they feel as if they are lined with cardboard – I am parched, and feel as if I could drink a gallon of water in one go.

I pay the rider and add a little extra in gratitude for all the waiting he had to endure, and then I walk to my room as fast as the sweltering heat allows. I plan to take a cooling shower before frying some eggs for supper.

Ms Ndinda is a research manager with Transform Research Africa Ltd. She is stranded in Nigeria, where she has been since March 21.                         

TOMORROW: My days revolve around sleeping and waking, during which I spend my time on social media, monitoring what is happening here in Nigeria and back home in Kenya. Prayer, messages, and sometimes calls from family and friends are what keep me going as I wait to finally travel home.