Living in Nigeria for the past week has made me understand a few things.
The first, you cannot drive here if you do not have a working horn. Nigerian drivers seem incapable of using indicators to alert other drivers that they are merging into another ‘lane’. Instead symphonies of horns fill the roads of Lagos.
The second, you do not need to go to a shopping centre to buy anything. Trading on major roads and highways is common place in Nigeria. Here women and men adorn themselves with items from belts to car windshield wipers and of course the traditional ‘pure water’. In a one hour journey I was able to buy popcorn, a drink, a holographic picture of Jesus and Mother Mary, a painting of Fela Kuti and a Manchester United flag (this took some time as it seems the whole country now supports Chelsea).
The third, electricity is a luxury. I stayed in Lekki for the first week of my stay; an affluent Nigerian island (think Jersey), where the country’s ‘New Money’ live. And although you could see money everywhere - in the mansions, cars and the clothes – electricity wasn’t always everywhere. At regular intervals during the day, generators powered by diesel would be switched off; and if Nigeria’s electricity supplier Nepa was not in action, you’d be sitting in a pool of your own sweat in a matter of minutes(no electricity, no AC, no fans). There is a joke that Nigerian childrens’ first words are ‘up Nepa’ – the phrase exclaimed by Nigerians when the power is switched back on.
The final thing I have learned, is that life goes on. Nigeria, unlike the UK and other parts of the world, does not stop when the electricity does. I stood in a KFC (which by the way sells seafood and jollof rice) when the electricity went off. I was shocked when the hum of the AC ceased, the electronic menu screens went black and the music abruptly stopped; but the locals acted as if nothing had happened. It was the same with the occupants of a house I stayed in briefly before moving into a hotel. While I lay spread eagle on the floor (heat rises), the rest of the house carried on washing, writing and working.
It is safe to say that being British born and bred, Nigeria has taken some adjusting to. Although a lot has changed positively in the nine years since I last visited, there is still a way to go – and even though this impoverished nation on the west side of a rich continent knows this, life still goes on.
Ola Ojuko is a second year student on the BA in Journalism and the News Industry