I am Always Entertained in Nigeria…

Sheila and I are back in Nigeria for the long haul. After a busy May, June and July, we are looking forward to rest and relaxation as we settle in to our marriage. But it doesn’t take long before Nigeria overwhelms your senses and your outlook. I have lived in Nigeria for exactly two years. May 26 marked two years in Nigeria. When I arrived, I was only planning to stay for nine months but twenty-six months later I am still here…We will leave that discussion for a later blog. I have come to learn that Nigeria is what you see and the country can care less how you feel about your experience in their country.

In May, my parents arrived in Nigeria for a brief visit before my wedding in Rwanda. On arrival, like every other visitor, my parents had to wade through a hot and steaming airport with little to no instructions on what they needed to do. I can imagine what they went through because I have entered that airport on countless occasions only to become frustrated and overwhelmed by the lack of efficiency and customer service. When I met my mom in the airport she joked that she was “about to start crying.” Yes, the Abuja airport can bring a grown woman (and man) to tears…

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It was difficult for my parents to see Nigeria outside of their American lenses. To be honest, at times, it is difficult for me to see Nigeria outside of my American upbringing and cultural background. But when you live here, you begin to understand why this happens and why that happens…so for me, I have been able to analyze and understand Nigeria for what it is worth. I once described the country as a teenager; not exactly sure what it wants to be so it swings back and forth trying to figure out life. While my view of Nigeria has softened, I do believe the country is confused and not sure exactly what it wants to be. In 2015, the country voted to change the leadership of the country saying it was time for new leadership and a crack down on corruption. However, the people are now upset with the current president because of the sagging economy and challenging living conditions. Many of these challenges are a lack of planning and vision from previous administrations. For too long, leaders enriched themselves without considering the needs of the people.

My parents have experienced the crazy driving that makes you cringe and close your eyes in fear. They have witnessed Nigerians treating the sidewalk as their own personal toilet and yes; they have experienced the constant asking of “what do you have for me today.” Maybe I thought that Nigeria would take a holiday when they arrived, recognizing their naivety in traveling and giving them a break. But Nigeria doesn’t take a holiday. Just ask any of its citizens; even when you feel as though there is nothing left for Nigeria to take from you, it squeezes in and removes whatever is left.  It’s not easy-oooo (as my friends say). During our tour of the slave sites in Badagry, my dad was trying to relate with our Nigerian tour guide about the difficulties of Nigeria. My dad said, “when I was a boy, we experienced the same thing. We had bumpy roads and random power outages.”  What our tour guide heard was, “in the 1950s, I lived the same way.”

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I would like to believe that my parents enjoyed their time in Nigeria. I do know that it was mind opening for them having never traveled out of North America. And for me, it was important for them to first experience Nigeria before heading east to Rwanda. I wanted them to see the contrast and understand that while Africa is a continent of 54 nations, it has diverse people with different cultural backgrounds that make it unique and fascinating to visit.

I have to relate one final story. While the Abuja airport will make you cry, the Lagos airport will cause a nervous breakdown. Just to get from the entrance door to the immigration counter will take you one hour. Your checked bags have to be inspected before you give them to the gate agent. This process is easy for those with personal items but for most of the passengers, they are carrying items to sell at their destinations, Dubai, Kigali and beyond…so it takes a significant amount of time to check all the bags being processed at the gate. Luckily for us, immigration and security was a breeze and we were at our gate just as they were starting to check in. The Lagos airport is old and in need of an upgrade (Turns out that they are building a new airport). Air conditioning works sporadically in the old terminal which means for the most part you are sweating and gasping for air.

As we boarded our Rwandair flight to Kigali, we noticed that the plane was as hot as the terminal. After everyone was on board, the pilot announced that the plane was experiencing a technical issue with the engine and was unable to use the air condition. He mentioned that the ground staff was working to correct the issue and hoped to resolve the problem very soon. This was insufficient for the Nigerians on the plane who DEMANDED that either they start the air conditioning or they would leave the plane. Now, I fly all the time in Nigeria and when there is a delay, I am only told it is because of operational reasons – no other excuse. So my first thought is, “the Nigerians should be used to this…and to a certain extent, impressed that the pilot informed them of what was going on.” But instead, they were starting a revolt on the plane. About twenty Nigerians jumped up and started to the front of the plane only to be told that they were not opening the doors and they needed to sit down. Eventually, they came back to their sits grumbling how unhappy they were. Twenty minutes later the issue was resolved and we were off to Kigali…As much as I might complain about my life in Nigeria, I am always entertained…

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