From far away Abidjan, the capital city of Cote d’Ivoire, a Nigerian international chess player, Oladapo Adu, has cried out, lamenting his ordeals in a strange land.
His predicament is not unconnected with the outbreak of coronavirus, which has grounded movements across borders. The player, just like many other Nigerians, has been trapped in different countries, having left Nigeria for one reason or the other.
But he said that his case was peculiar, and argued that he shouldn’t be abandoned in the foreign land to continue to wallow in anguish. He maintained that he deserves to be evacuated from the foreign land on the ground that he travelled out to represent Nigeria in a tournament.
His words: “The Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF) is aware that I am here and they had a meeting about my being here. But nothing has really been done for me here in terms of finance or otherwise. Though the NCF president said he would write about my situation to the minister, I am yet to see or hear anything done about my situation. I can only say what I know at the moment,” Adu stated.
The talented man was in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he went to compete at the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championship, which took place from March 13 to 22.
It was one event that Adu had looked forward to, which would enable him to once again prove his prowess. Going to represent Nigeria at the competition and the hope of winning a medal for his country brought him an undiluted joy.
But all his excitement, particularly after a brilliant performance at the tournament, has somehow waned. All is not well with the player, and he is not pretending otherwise.
He has been left stranded in Abidjan, after his Air Cote d’Ivoire flight was cancelled. Adu said that he had to embark on a three-day tortuous road trip from Freetown to the Ivorian capital. Looking back to the risks he took, he believe that it was God who stood by him in those three days of what looked like hell or earth.
He said that the last two months of his ordeal still appears like a mystery to him, which has left him in absolute bewilderment. He told Daily Sun that his strength to endure further had been exhausted.
He is calling on the appropriate bodies in the Ministry of Sports to quickly come to his aid. He said that he, and by extension, Nigeria has become a subject of ridicule among his contemporaries from other African countries. The shame has become unbearable, he stated.
Narrating his experience to Daily Sun in a telephone chat, he lamented: “Basically, it was challenging having to get a place to stay and paying for hotels. Staying in one room with two other guys was not easy. Generally, one needs funds to survive even at home not to talk of a strange land.
“I don’t even speak their language, which is another huge barrier for me here. Most of the people don’t understand English Language except French. To communicate with the people or purchase anything, one has to be looking for an interpreter.”
The chess star said he had arrived Lagos from the USA on March 13, and hurriedly boarded another flight to Freetown the following day for the event, with the intention of making his country proud.
With the arrangement, his return flight to Nigeria was scheduled for March 22, unknown to him and the organisers that COVID-19 was about to disrupt every activity across the globe. Luck ran against him as the Air Cote d’Ivoire’s last flight out of Freetown was on March 20, and thereafter, the airline cancelled all its flights due to the pandemic.
Immediately he realized that there was no way he could fly, he had to get on the road with two others: one going to Cote d’Ivoire and the other to Ghana. All he wanted was to find his way back home, no matter how long or painful it might turn out to be.
“It took us three days to reach Abidjan from Freetown by road. The Ivorian stayed back in Liberia while the Ghanaian and I proceeded to Abidjan and on to the Ivory Coast-Ghana border.”
Sadly, after entering Ghana through the Ivorian border, Adu said he was sent back to Cote d’Ivoire by the Ghanaian police. His situation at this point became more complicated by his missing luggage at the border post. This he said further added to his frustrations.
He spoke further: “Somehow, we were able to cross into Ghana but we were sent back by the police. I was sent back to Abidjan, while the Ghanaian was allowed to cross in. This was on March 24. While trying to enter into Ghana, my luggage got missing and all I had with me was my backpack with very few items. I found myself back in Abidjan and have been here since March 24.”
He stated that his luggage was and still missing till date. He said that his newly purchased books in the US prior to his trip to Freetown were in the bag, noting that each of those books cost him $40 to acquire. Besides books, he said the luggage also contained his training material, clothes and some electronics. His ordeal, he explained, isn’t something he loves to recall.
“In fact, the luggage itself was newly purchased in the US just before I came back to Nigeria,” he informed the reporter.
The player emerged second at the championship behind another Nigerian during the seven-nation tourney. He said that his three other compatriots and other players at the event were all back in their countries, while he is left like an orphan over there.
He expressed disappointment that the Federal Government was yet to in his situation. “I didn’t come here on my own but to play for my country. The other player who was stuck in Abidjan with me is a Tunisian, but he has been evacuated from here about a month ago by his country. Prior to that, they kept him in a hotel for all the period he was here and all his expenses were taken care of.”
He said that the winner and some other Nigerians were able to get back home because their flight, which was on March 20, was not cancelled,
“My family is fine back home, but they are worried over my safety in a country that I didn’t prepare to stay in. And the embassy here has done nothing much to alleviate the pain that I’m going through. This is one of the most traumatic moments of my life,” he said.
Adu said it was unbelievable that no help has come his way despite what he has been passing through in the last two months.
He added that he spoke to the president of the Nigerian Chess Federation, and to an aide of the Minister of Sports about his predicament, all to no avail.
He also revealed that though he and his colleagues went to represent Nigeria, they all paid their way there since they knew there was no money, according to the federation He expressed gratitude to his family and friends who have been sustaining him. He said he never knew the people he is squatting with over there, but was connected to them by one Pastor Olu Omotoyinbo. He thanked his host for accommodating and feeding him so far.
He countered a recent report by a national daily claiming that he was sent some money by the government. He insisted that he has not received any financial help from the government, adding that nobody sent any money to him from the sports body.
According to the publication, dated May 22, the media aide to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, John-Joshua Akanji reportedly said: “Efforts were being made to bring back the chess player to the country.
“He (Adu) wasn’t the only one that went for the tournament but others came back before the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I have also been told that he has been connected to the Nigerian Embassy in Ivory Coast. Abike Dabiri-Erewa (Chief Executive Officer, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission), has spoken to somebody at the embassy and he was also given some money.
“His name is actually number six on the list of those to be airlifted back to the country, but the process is in batches. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working on that, just like every other Nigerian stranded over there.”