After 14 years in the US and 48+ hours of United Airlines delays I finally made it to Nigeria. ‘Emotional Surrealism’ is the only fitting phrase! I saw some good, some bad and subjectively, very little ugly. Overall, the areas I visited were much better than I expected, including the villages, however, we’re still light-years off from the ‘promise land’ status.
I was only able to explore Owerri and the neighboring areas (Port Harcourt, Umuahia, Etiti, etc.) so I can only speak to those. Lagos is obviously the ultimate litmus test for Nigeria and I’ll get a chance to explore it later this year. And also, my thoughts in this post were not later organized or edited so excuse me in advance. I found it best to just leave them in the order and format they entered my mind for your reading pleasures only…lol…
Somehow I convinced myself that I was ready for the heat and human-sized mosquitoes with teeth that were clearly laughing and waiting for me to fall asleep! I do have to admit that SC Johnson’s OFF and Cutter’s Skinsations really work! I was 100% sure that these mosquitoes would turn me into a buffet but the products kept them at bay for most of the night. Even the brave ones that came really close in an attempt to impress the female mosquitoes couldn’t get a single successful bite! I must confess that I was a bit unnerved when two mosquitoes comfortably landed on Cutter’s Skinsations insect repellent as if to suggest – This crap won’t work on us buddy, THIS IS AFRICAAA! I thought to myself, ‘I am royally screwed!’
The Nigeria I left was definitely much more conservative than this one. The city centers are booming, however, in the rural areas, much of the infrastructure remain the same which is a bit disappointing. It is encouraging, however, that we are following suite with China by bypassing the landline era and catapulting, slowly but surely, into the wireless revolution. I’m still a bit shocked that Abuja and Port Harcourt international airports have just 1 runway each and everything, I mean EVERYTHING, was extremely manual and slow…I”m actually a bit salty and ashamed of that! The fashion is definitely more advanced and westernized than any other sector….there’s clearly a Brazilian hair and makeup revolution in Nigeria.
The whole drive to the hotel was hard to explain…good roads, bad roads, horrendous roads; military and police personnel everywhere; lots of checkpoints, chaotic corners and squares, orderly disorder and complete disregard for any sensible traffic suggestion…With this sort of self regulation on the roads, how are there not more accidents? It was obvious after a few minutes that the street signs, and traffic markers, were available, were just suggestions to be ignored at the driver’s convenience..Parking spaces are clearly not part of any construction project…the streets and highways are the best spots to part your car. There’s no parking anywhere!
My first taste of Owerri was rice and stew with beans, fried plantain and chicken.I must say, it was worth every second of the 14 years that I was away. And of course I proceeded to devour akamu and beans the next morning for breakfast and finally pounded yam and egusi soup. No food marriage has brought more happiness to my life than egusi coupled with pounded yam. I ate a lot. If it weren’t for the scorching heat, I would have added at least 10 pounds of stomach. I do have to admit that I’m still a bit on edge, anxious and defensive given all the scary’ stories but so far so good. It’s definitely been quite the trip already…hard to explain all the mixed emotions but this is home…For better or for worse, this is home.
Electricity went off 7 times my first night. Scared the crap out of me each time to be in complete darkness in an unknown territory. Lol…Thank God my dad brought me a rechargeable torch that I forever glued to my sides!
I compared Nigeria go China…not even close. It’s more like India…especially New Delhi…crowded, bustling with interesting air quality and questionable planning overall. China is definitely much more advanced and developed…and much cleaner too. It takes a few hours for your senses to adjust to the sounds, sight invasions and smells. I also thought that China was as hot as Nigeria, maybe slightly cooler. Far from true! China is warm at best compared to Nigeria. I’m not even sure how to explain the heat. It’s obvious that the sun is purposefully slow-roasting my people to medium-well temperatures.
If I spend another week in Nigeria, I’d be medium well at the least. I arrived in Nigeria already dark black and just 5 days into my trip, I’m midnight black; close your eyes…YES, that black! I’m talking PIKABOO black. This is ridiculous how people live without air-conditioning. I walk for 2 minutes and I feel like I’m showering in the sun…sweat literally drip down all body parts.
After a few days in Nigeria, I can say there’s no need to reinvent the wheel to be successful in Africa, impact lives and be rich in the process. There’s so many little things that we enjoy in the Western hemisphere that’s either not available in Africa or is simple inadequate or ‘slow.’ The Services industry is in pre-school at best and everything is so slow here in Nigeria. Opening a bank account alone could last your entire life…and depositing money is too manual for my liking.
Anyways, my first impression is that things have definitely improved, however, a lot of the tiny basics we enjoy in the West are just missing…too many holes and gaps to fill. We’ve come so far, yet, so far behind. Despite how bad things are, I was extremely hopeful and encouraged. My village, once poverty ridden, showed signs of life with housing projects and renovations popping up everywhere. I am impressed and ready to be part of the African revolution.
On one of my last nights, we were visited by armed robbers….this incident raised so many questions and brought back memories that I’ve suppressed…I’ll save that story for another day but personal security still remains a huge problem in Nigeria…a direct by-product of lack of jobs and opportunities for the youth. Speaking of things I hate about my country, here are 10 things I have not missed:
- Men proudly grabbing their crotch as a sign of manhood.
- People urinating on the side of the road at anytime…one man urinated on the side of the road then tried to shake my hands with a watery hand.
- Terrible or non-existent customer service
- Lack of trust and patience at all levels
- Excessive yelling, arguing and impasse
- Nonsensical flow of traffic and overuse of car horns
- People asking you for money NONSTOP! On your drive to the airport, the police will stop you at least 4 times and ask for money, the military will stop you an additional 3 times and ask for money. Then there are at least 7 checkpoints inside the airport where they’ll also ask for money while holding your passport and documents hostage. And finally before you enter the plane, after you’ve begrudgingly walked from the terminal to the plane, there’s also 3 more baggage destroying checkpoints where they’ll proudly ask for money!
- Electricity manipulations and loud, nonstop generator noises.
- Widespread and weirdly accepted prostitution especially among the men
- Armed Robbers. We were visited by armed robbers on the night before my departure…I’ll leave that story for another day.
Here’s the video summary from my trip: Nigeria – Reaction 14 Years Later (First Reactions)
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