Everything they told me about Nigeria turned out to be true. They are loud people. They talk as though they are quarreling, much like Indians and Nepalis. I have a theory that a combination of high temperatures, humidity, and eating too much pepper (piro in South Asia, pepe in Nigeria), gives one a big mouth and a hot temper.
|A street food vendor in Lagos. The city is full of yellow and green.|
On the plane, one Nigerian man made the Ethiopian air-hostess cry, because she couldn’t give him the food he wanted. She tried to tell him, ‘I’m sorry I can’t serve you that,’ but she doesn’t know proper English, so she said, ‘I’m sorry for you.’ The Nigerian exploded. ‘Sorry for me? Did you pay my air ticket?’ The others seated around him soon joined in harassing her. They wanted wine. She served them. They insisted on getting more than the tiny bottle they were being given. It nearly turned into a riot. Too much pepe, I think. Their outburst made the poor woman cry. I felt bad for her. I nearly cried too. I had to explain to the ogah what the woman was trying to tell him, and then he felt so ashamed of himself that he followed her to the back room (what do they call that room in the airplane where hostesses hang out?) and he apologized to her.
|The streets of Lagos are full of Maruwa, three-wheel cars.|
They warned me before setting off that I needed to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate, that I would not be allowed into the country if I did not have one. I set off with a vaccination card, which had a bunch of shots that I had got before going to Nepal. I assumed yellow fever was one of them. But at Entebbe airport, an official almost stopped me from boarding the plane. I think she wanted a bribe. She said I did not have a yellow fever vaccination. It had happened to me before, but this was at the boarder inMalaba, never at the airport. I told her that I travel a lot, and surely of the twenty or so shots listed in that card, yellow fever had to be one of them. She insisted she could not see it, and so she would not let me board the plane. She claimed she was doing me a favor since the moment I reach Nigeria without a yellow fever card they would deport me immediately. That is when I became certain that she wanted a bribe.
|They call this a bus. They overload passengers.|
I then played a trick that I always do whenever confronted with such corrupt officials. In the pretext of looking for my wallet, I opened my bag and pulled out my DSLR camera. When she saw it, like all the other corrupt officials, I saw panic leap onto her face. ‘Are you a journalist?’ she asked. I smiled at her, and she gave me a nervous laugh. She handed me back my vaccination card and passport, and said, ‘If the Nigerians ask you for yellow fever, say it is this one.’ She pointed at an item in the list of shots, Typhod, and before I could say anything, she shoved me away towards the Ethiopian Airlines desk.
|Lagos is full of vehicles in
dangerous mechanical conditions
But all the way to Nigeria, I was worried. The camera trick worked on the Ugandan official, because she was afraid of the Ugandan media, but a Nigerian wouldn’t give a rats ass about my camera. I was nervous as we queued up to face the immigration officer. A guy from Curacao was pulled out of the line. ‘You don’t have yellow fever vaccination’, they told him. Of course all this was done hush-hush, without anyone overhearing, but he later told me what happened, when we met at the function which we both were going to attend. ‘Why do I need it?’ he asked the official. ‘To enter the country,’ the official said. ‘Isn’t my passport and visa enough?’ he asked. ‘No. The yellow fever vaccination is more important. If you don’t have it, you will be deported.’ The poor guy was at a loss of what to say. Just as he thought they would deny him entry, the official said, ‘But if you have a hundred dollars…’ The Curacao guy’s face lit up with a smile. ‘No,’ he said, I don’t have a hundred. But I have fifty.’ The official then walked over to his boss, whispered, and the boss gave a slight nod. The official came back to the Curacao, ‘Boss says fifty is okay. But you have to add ten for me. Put it in your passport.’
|A palm wine seller. When in Nigeria, make it a point to taste it!|
They took his money. Crafty like immigration officials everywhere. At least in Kenya, when they fleeced Reiza of a hundred dollars because she did not have a yellow fever vaccination (and she was not even going to Kenya, she was changing planes enroute to South Sudan), they gave her a certificate. The Nigerians just took the sixty dollars and sent the poor guy on his way.
|eba, one of the delicacies of Nigeria.
And below, wild meat on sale at the roadside.
Outside the airport, we were taken to a taxi that had been sent to pick us up. ‘Hurry! Get in!’ the driver shouted at us. Then I saw two soldiers running towards us, weilding guns. ‘Go! Go!’ One soldier shouted, holding his gun like he wanted to shoot. ‘Get in quick!’ the driver yelled at us again. We scrambled into the van. I was certain Boko Haram had attacked the airport, and they were whisking us quickly to safety. The vehicle sped away. My heart was pumping fast, like in the cliché, expecting to hear gunfire at any moment now.
|God’s Grace Ministry Inc. Worlwide, Bayelsa, Nigeria.
Why would a church have the word incorporation in its name?
|The nine commandments of dressing, according to
this church in Bayelsa, Nigeria.
It confirmed to me what I had heard, that Nigerians take their religions too seriously, maybe so seriously that it becomes rather comical. Like this church in Bayelsa, that has a set of guidelines for its worshipers. I have heard of other crazy churches, like the one in South Africa where they eat grass, and those in Uganda where they have banned offering coins and where blessings are on sale. But this one, with its own version of the ten commandments, which you can see in the inset, made me laugh out loud! Women, among other things, cannot wear wigs and attachments, nor can they wear trousers, or open back dresses that show off their breasts or shoulders. Reading this list of prohibitions makes me think of radical Islam, not Christianity, yet it is called God’s Grace Ministry Inc. Worldwide. The term Inc., (an incorporation) should give you a hint on what it’s motivation really is.
Next time I come to Nigeria, I will look out for such hilarious churches. But I will also look out for the food. It’s the one thing I totally enjoyed there, and it’s the one thing you should look forward to in case you ever find yourself in Nigera. I ate snails, for the first time in my life. They taste like chicken gizzards. I ate bush meat, antelope, the butcher told me, though I wonder if that was really true. And then there was the palm wine, which deserves a whole post on its own. It gave us diarrhea though, so maybe I shouldn’t be talking about that!
|A snail on a plate, ready to eat, and below, snails on sell.|