Nigeria: Home Away From Home by Brian Botts
I’m an American and I love the United States of America. I’m proud of where I was born and raised. But this post isn’t going to be about that. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many places throughout the world. I have fond memories of so many people I’ve met and so many instances I’ve been a part of.
Nigeria isn’t just a place I’ve traveled to. This has become a home away from home to me. I lived there off and on for many years and it is a Country that I not only care about, but a place where I want to see it’s potential reached. And I have committed myself to being a part of that solution in the years to come. As you’ve seen from my prior posts, Nigeria is always on my mind and there are so many topics I could talk about. But this post is going to go over the 5 main reasons why I love Nigeria. And it’s not only a privilege to share this, but I believe it’s mandatory.
Reason #1: March, 2011
In March 2011, I was in Nigeria. I was in the middle of a trip that would keep me there for a 4 month stretch. I was staying on the mainland in Lagos at the time at a lovely little hotel in Mushin. My wife who is Nigerian and her family that were in Nigeria thought I was crazy for staying there. My wife hasn’t been back to Nigeria in over 15 years so her opinion on Mushin is based on 15 years ago, not currently. And her parents haven’t really been to Mushin in a quite a while. So I appreciated their concern, but I enjoyed staying in Mushin. This could be another post all on it’s own so I will stay on topic.
I was working on the Island this particular day. I worked late. It was around 9 p.m. when I left. We had to stop over in Ikeja before I went to the hotel so we were on the Third Mainland Bridge heading there at that time. A small car hit something in the road and flipped on it’s side. The car was packed with people. 4 adults and 4 little kids. Since it was on it’s side, they were crushing each other. I had my driver pull over to the side and when I got out of the car, what I witnessed told me what Nigeria can become. And this moment will stay with me forever and has been my inspiration in regards to Nigeria.
I would guess that 40 cars pulled over on both sides of the bridge when this happened. At least 40-50 people ran over to the car. They were all there in less than 30 seconds flat. People latched on to each other to make a “ladder” so other people could climb on top of them. One guy positioned himself to be able to reach in the car. Then in consecutive fashion, a person latched on to his feet to give him stability and strength and another person at the bottom was grabbing the other person’s foot to give total stability. Everyone was rescued from the car and were not injured because of how quick the rescue was. Then, about 2 minutes after the rescue, the car caught fire. Without that quick response and everyone working together, 8 people would have died.
At that moment in time, there weren’t any Yoruba’s, Igbo’s, or Hausa’s. At that time, there was just simply Nigerians helping out fellow Nigerians. I believe what I saw could be incorporated into every day things not just emergencies. A society where people look to help other people. Slowly as the future generations are getting older, the cultural and religious stereotypes that people in Nigeria have been mentally enslaved to are going away.
Reason #2: The Food!…..Oh the Food.
I love Nigerian food. The good thing about the various tribes is that they have their own take on Nigerian cuisine. And it is delicious. Personally, I love Efo. And I can cook it too. My Nigerian friends and my Wife’s family are always shocked at how I can cook Efo. When I first ate it, I had to learn how to make it. The key I believe is to fry the onions with the palm oil first. And if you can find the perfect juicy tomatoes and red peppers to blend then you are going to have a good dish.
I don’t know if I’m spelling this correctly, but Kokoro is also one of my favorite snacks. And I believe you can only get this snack in Abeokuta. For those who do not know or are not Nigerian, Kokoro is corn that is blended and then fried into corn chips. They are unbelievable. Every time I go to Abeokuta, I buy a large amount of this snack.
Lastly, Suya is one of my favorites. I don’t like it spicy though. So when I head over to the Suya stand on the side of the road in Ikoyi, I always ask for Suya without all the pepper. I get extra tomatoes and onions on the side. Since the guy is Hausa, I ask for “fala fala tomatoes and onions”. Suya has gotten me through many nights when it was too late for me to get dinner.
Reason #3: The Parties
Nigerians know how to party. Not only do they know how to party, they can find any excuse to throw a party. Just had a kid? Have a party. Just got promoted? Have a party. Just retired from your job? Have a party. Just had an anniversary? Have a party.
These parties are usually scheduled at 2 p.m. but since this is Nigeria, everyone starts to show up around 7 p.m. and the party goes on through the night. Lot’s of food. Lot’s of music. And I believe 40% of the guests don’t even know who the party is for. They just heard about it and came along. So at these parties you meet a lot of new people.
There was one trip where I believe I went to a party on 5 consecutive Saturdays for some reason or the other. By the sixth week, I was exhausted.
Reason #4: The Music
Whatever kind of mood you are in, you can find some kind of music in Nigeria to fit your mood. Nigerians are excellent at using existing genre’s and adding their cultural flair to add sound to the music.
Whether it’s Hip Hop, Gospel, Rock, Reggae, Jazz or Rhythm and Blues, there are so many talented Nigerian artists that are enhancing these genre’s.
Reason #5: The Street Vendors
We all know how bad traffic is especially in Lagos. This is a place where you could be going only 30 miles and take over 3 hours to get there. It’s infuriating and highly stressful.
But when you are stuck in traffic, everything you may need will be available to you through the street vendors who walk in between the cars on the street. Thirsty? Get some soda or juice. Hungry? Get some popcorn, peanuts, banana’s, ice cream, fruits, or gala. Don’t have time to get to the malls? No problem. You can get CD’s, DVD’s, Shoes, Sandal’s, Home Décor or really anything else. All of these things can be bought while you’re in traffic.
I got stuck in traffic one day and I was late to dinner meeting. When I finally got to the meeting, I didn’t order anything to eat. Because while I was in traffic, I had a Coke, Banana, half a bottle of peanuts, and Ice Cream.
Some people might say that it is these very same street vendors that cause the traffic to begin with. But I don’t care. I love them any way.
Article by: Brian Botts