Dancing on the Brink…
When I was told I was going to Nigeria, my colleague recommended “Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink” to better understand the country I would eventually call home. The book was written by John Campbell a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria. The book provided an overview of the political history of Nigeria and a glimpse into life on the ground.
Although Nigeria is a remarkable improvement to my time in the newly established South Sudan, Nigerians are constantly “dancing on the brink” and life in the most populous African country is never more than a few unfortunate events from disaster.
Since arriving in Nigeria, there has been a steady fuel crisis. Nigeria is one of the top oil producing nations on the African continent. The Niger Delta of Nigeria is a fertile and oil rich section of the country. Violence has been associated with the area as groups continue to fight over who controls the oil wells. However, Nigeria lacks any refining facilities so once the oil is extracted, it is sent abroad to be processed and then sent back to Nigeria. So every few weeks, there is a fuel crisis. Fuel lines can stretch for several kilometers and drivers wait for upwards of four or five hours to fill their tanks. So to relieve the outrageous lines, men with jerry cans stand on the side of the roads selling gasoline at ridiculous prices. It’s funny, they don’t stand in dark alleys or in secret locations but out in the open for all to see…When I ask why there is a fuel crisis, I am told that the ships are just off the coast. 🙂
And a fuel crisis affects the cost of goods, your ability to provide power at home and transportation. Nigeria lacks an efficient public transportation program so the average Nigerian is either forced to own a car or rely on taxis. During a fuel crisis, taxi drivers will raise the price by 200% to compensate for the time lost in queuing for fuel. It is ridiculous but I understand their desire to charge an emergency rate. I am one of the lucky ones in Nigeria. My organization provides housing for me in an apartment compound that has two generators. So, when the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has its constant power outages, the generator in the compound starts up and my power is quickly restored. However, for most of my colleagues and other Nigerians, there is no generator to provide instant relief to the 100 degree weather. And if you do have a generator, a fuel crisis only makes it more difficult to keep your refrigerator or air condition on.
I was recently told by a government minister that Nigeria is anti-climactic – there is a lot of buildup but nothing happens in the end. The 2015 elections was exactly that – a lot of back and forth and fear that Nigeria would plunge off the cliff. While the days after the elections were tensed and people encouraged to stay off the streets, in the end, Nigerians woke up after the announcement of the winner and went back to work.
And not to mention the numerous security agencies and government institutions that require a bribe to accomplish basic tasks (see my earlier blog on bribes in Nigeria https://fredayinafrica.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/what-do-you-have-for-me/). Life in Nigeria is not easy for its citizens. They are always dancing on the brink…
I really enjoy your blogs about daily life in Nigeria. It makes me realize how much we take our American way of life for granted.