Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The social media drew the attention of Nigerians, and, indeed, the world, to the cry of one Chukwuka Onyegesi from Ahaba, Awo-Idemili in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State, who was stranded in a foreign land. The young man had posted a video of himself in Jakarta, Indonesia, begging for financial assistance to return home. But not many who read the story about his plight knew the real reason the 31-year-old man earnestly yearned to return home after almost three years sojourn in Indonesia. There, he tried to hit it big. But luck was not on his side.
Our correspondent met with him recently and he opened a window into his life. Through it, he revealed why he travelled to the Asian country, his experience there and why he cried out for help to return home.
Murky journey of an adventurer
As young man, Chukwuka told Saturday Sun that he was not doing badly in his electrical business after he was settled by his master at the Alaba International Market, Lagos. But because of his quest for big money and the influence of friends, he decided to call the business he had always known quits to go for something more lucrative and of a bigger-earning income. That was how he gathered all his savings as well as sell his family’s ancestral land in his attempt to raise the money for the trip. In all, he raised N1.4 million. With the aid of a friend, he headed towards the Asian continent and found himself in Indonesia.
Narrating his experience, he said: “When I got to Indonesia, we stayed indoors always. We could hardly see the sun. After one month, I asked myself: what is happening to me? I asked my other roommates if that was how we were going to be staying indoors everyday and they asked me to press the laptop. At first, I didn’t understand what they meant, but I later realised that it is a way of engaging in internet fraud popularly known as Yahoo Yahoo.
“That was how I continued to press my laptop for complete two-and-a-half years before I got tired and made up my mind to go back home to my country. I even begged to feed from my friends and sometimes I didn’t succeed; my life became miserable. I was angry, hungry and desperate. That was what led me to record myself in that video which I shared online. In the video, I appealed to people to help me return home. That was my only option or I would’ve died there. That place is like a no-man’s land.
“After doing the video, I started receiving calls and little help from people; some even thought I was trying to defraud them before I was called by RARDUJA (Re-educating Africans on the Risks and Dangers of Unplanned Journey Abroad), a non-governmental organisation. When RARDUJA Director called; I told him everything and he promised to help me and that was how I came back home with their support.”
He also revealed that before his sojourn in Indonesia, he had made attempts to go travel to countries like Egypt and Germany but was deported on each occasion.
Momentary succour, promise of better life from benefactors
President and founder of RARDUJA International, Eddy Duru, the group that brought Onyegesi back corroborated the returnee’s account. He narrated the tortuous effort deployed in rescuing the troubled fortune-seeker from Indonesia.
He said: “For over two months ago, I received on a continual basis a message via WhatsApp, where Chukwuka lamented and pleaded with the general public especially the Igbo, to help him come back home to Nigeria from Indonesia where he was stranded. My team and I swung into action by first placing a call to Chukwuka in Indonesia to ascertain the authenticity of his claim. That I did from Germany where I reside. I assured him of RARDUJA’s assistance. I gave him my word that he would be brought back home alive.
“My team in Nigeria from Imo State was mobilised to pay a visit to his family in Orsu LGA especially to see his mother. That got him so worried. Later, we drew a plan and created a platform to enable the general public come to his aid. Chukwuka had a record of over two years overstay in Indonesia and was only hiding and a day overstay in Indonesia attracts a fine of almost one hundred dollars and other punishments.
“One month after contacting him, luck ran out on him and the immigration arrested him. From then his situation worsened. When the initial plan of creating a platform for the public to participate could not yield any result, I resorted to shouldering a budget of millions of naira to save his life. He would not stop lamenting and sending messages to my phone. I appreciate two persons who brought their widow’s mites.
“That was how we were able to bring him back alive. I would like to use this medium to appeal to the state and local governments not to overlook the plight of Chukwuka. He needs to be reintegrated and re-habilitated. RARDUJA cannot shoulder this financial burden alone,”
Meanwhile, fortune may soon smile on the Indonesia returnee if what we heard is anything to go by. This is because the Imo State government has promised to assist him stand on his feet again.
Making this intention known, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Diaspora Matters, Hibbert Osakwe who spoke on behalf of Governor Hope Uzodimma during a reception for him held in Owerri, had explained that the government has created avenues to tackle such problems as unplanned travels by the youths.
He also pointed out that a lot has been put in place to empower Imo youths in the state which, according to her, would help to curtail such desperate travels abroad. In addition, Council Chairman of Orsu where Onyegesi hails from has also assured the returnee of reintegrating him into the society.