19 Things I Learned in Nigeria

If you’re not sure what Odd Things in Odd Places is and why I’m in Nigeria by myself, here’s why.

Nigeria Map

There’s not really a more jarring travel experience than spending two weeks getting used to being in Japan and then going immediately to Nigeria. They’re opposite places in almost every way places can be opposite. Even as I was checking my bag at the Tokyo airport, the woman saw where I was going and looked at me like, “Seriously though what’s your problem?”

I don’t know what my problem is. But I had apparently decided to leave the world’s most pristine, orderly, safe place to go to a place that was not those three adjectives, and there I suddenly was, standing in the middle of Africa’s biggest city, trying to not die.

But we’ll come back to my situation in a minute—let’s first get oriented on Nigeria.

About Nigeria

(All stats from the CIA World Factbook unless cited otherwise)

People:

Nigeria has a lot of Nigerians in it. So many (179 million) that if you took half of them out of the country, Nigeria would still have the highest population of any African country. There are more people in Nigeria than there are in the UK, France, and Spain combined, and 1 out of every 7 black people on the planet is a Nigerian.

Nigeria is pretty parallel to Pakistan in terms of land area, population size and population density, and Lagos, Nigeria’s mega-metropolis, is the world’s fourth largest city, comparable in population and density to Mumbai, Seoul, and Jakarta.

Nigeria also has a really young population—with a median age of 18.2, half of all Nigerians are kids 17 and under, which means that if Nigeria’s kids decided they were over it one day and formed their own country, it would be the biggest nation in Africa, and the most annoying. Combine that with one of the world’s highest fertility rates (5.25 children born/woman), and you have a rapidly growing population. Currently #7 on the country population list, by 2050 Nigeria is projected to have 440 million people and have leapfrogged up to #3 on the list, behind only India and China:

Population Graph

But it’s not a simple situation. All of these people are Nigerians, but really, they’re 250 different ethnic groups, speaking 510 different languages, with a British-drawn border around them. Kind of asking for trouble.

And health is a major struggle—Nigeria has the world’s 10th highest rate of infant mortality, the world’s 12th shortest life expectancy (52.6), and 3.1% of Nigerian adults have HIV/AIDS.

Religion and Ethnicity: Nigeria is one of those tricky countries that’s about half Muslim and half Christian, and while most of the population is fine with this, religious extremists create a lot of violence and ruin everything. And then there are those 250 ethnic groups, the three largest of which comprise 68% of the population—Hausa in the north (mostly Muslim), Igbo in the southeast (mostly Christian), and Yoruba in the southwest (Muslim and Christian)—and these three groups’ general annoyance with each other is behind much of the country’s violent past and political instability.

Land: Nigeria is the world’s 32nd largest country in terms of land area, or about two Californias. On top of the US, it could encompass New York, Chicago, and Atlanta:

Nigeria on US

Economy: With a nominal GDP of just over half a trillion, Nigeria has Africa’s largest economy, mostly due to its huge oil reserves—it’s the world’s 8th largest exporter of crude oil. But with a profoundly corrupt government, that wealth isn’t doing very much for the people—the infrastructure’s a mess, 24% of adults are unemployed, and two out of three Nigerians live in extreme poverty. Nigeria’s median per capita income of $493 means that a Nigerian who makes $10/week is in the top half of wealth in the country.

History in One Diagram:

The area known today as Nigeria has been home to a bunch of ancient civilizations for over 10,000 years, and in the late 19th century, the British got their tentacles involved during a period of hot European competition over spheres of influence in Africa. The area became a British protectorate in 1901, and today’s Nigeria borders were drawn in 1914. After World War II, the Nigerians were super into the British leaving, which they finally did in 1960 after setting Nigeria up with a new, representative government (which today is a federal presidential republic modeled after the American system).

So 1960 marks the first year of independent Nigeria, and also the beginning of what I can only call The Nigeria Coup Festival, a 50-year devastating struggle to gain stability and democracy.

If you’re really interested in learning about The Nigeria Coup Festival, this is a well-done 2.5-hour documentary about the history of modern Nigeria. For those who are just kind of interested, I spent a quarter of my living years gathering the highlights into the below diagram. Those who are almost entirely uninterested in Nigeria’s history should just count the big red coup dots in the timeline and understand that things have sucked. The image moves forward chronologically using the blue numbers, and you can click on the diagram to see a larger image.

Nigeria History

Being Sibling #10 of the Adebayo Family

Before we get into what I learned in Nigeria, here’s who I learned most of it from—

The best way to learn about a foreign place is to get to know locals, and I got lucky in Nigeria. Through a friend, I was put in touch with a 31-year-old Nigerian guy named Femi, who offered to pick me up at the airport when I arrived. This turned into Femi taking me under his wing for almost the entire trip, showing me around Lagos, having me over to his apartment, sending me with his brothers to stay for half a week with their mom at their childhood home, introducing me to a bunch of other locals, and answering my roughly 12,000 questions about life in Nigeria. Convenient.

I stayed with different members of the family during the trip and got to know a few of them pretty well—it’s a mom and her nine kids, who range from the ages of nine[1]Being a nine-year-old boy sucks. John is the nine-year-old and youngest child in Femi’s family. He’s a great kid—mature for his age, laughing all the time, and really bright. He’s also the world’s bitch. This isn’t specific to Nigeria, of course—nine-year-old boys across the planet are the absolute lowest rung of the human ladder. Nine-year-old boys are too old to get special kid treatment, too young to have seniority over anyone else, and people tend to be more comfortable making a boy that age do unpleasant manual labor than a girl. And John’s life was case-in-point. If a low-grade manual job was anywhere to be found, someone was yelling at John to go do it. And he’d just take everyone’s shit, because that’s what a nine-year-old boy just has to do. to 32. After growing up in a tiny village, four of the siblings now live together in a small one-bedroom apartment in Lagos, and three others live in the smaller town of Ife with their mom in a one-room apartment. Both apartments are paid for by Femi, the second oldest sibling and the oldest guy. He was getting ready to start college when their dad got sick and died at a young age. Femi dropped his plans and started working as a professional driver to support the family, something he’s still doing a decade later, and his siblings say he’s like a dad to all of them.

And because it happens to be a ridiculously hospitable family, I just stepped my ass right in as their 10th and least useful sibling, which gave me a much better insight into life there than I normally would have gotten. Here’s what I learned along the way:

19 Things I Learned While I Was There

1) Nigerian children like to express the shit out of themselves on the airplane.

2) Just because two people are fluent in the same language doesn’t mean they can easily communicate. As a former British colony, Nigeria’s official national language is English. In reality, most people’s first language is their local Nigerian language and English is a second language they’re often fluent in but sometimes not as comfortable speaking. And many less educated Nigerians don’t speak English at all.

Femi and his siblings speak fluent English but with such a different accent to mine that sometimes when they’d speak, I wouldn’t be sure if they were speaking their Nigerian language (Yoruba) to each other, or English to me, and I’d have a little panic while trying to figure it out.

3) Racism against Asians is a go in Nigeria. At Femi’s apartment, we turned on the TV to see a popular comedy duo on stage doing a show. At one point, they started talking to different audience members, and when they got to an Asian woman, they pulled the corners of their eyes back and said “ching chong ching!” and the audience roared. Different.

4) The country’s power goes out 10 times a day on average. Which means it happened over 100 times just in my visit. The first few times it happened it jarred the shit out of me, and I’d be like “Oh would ya look at that!” before realizing that it’s really lame to make a big deal about it and what everyone else does is just continue the conversation without any acknowledgment of the situation. If you were lucky enough to be in a hotel or restaurant, a generator would bring the power back within a few minutes. But when I was in Femi’s or his mom’s apartment, the power would often stay out for hours. No one knows how long power outages will last—they can be as short as 30 seconds and as long as three days.

So there were a number of times I’d spend a full night in a room with six people, eating dinner and talking for hours, and the entire time we’d be in the dark without being able to see each other’s faces (this was fine until I tried to play with a two-year-old sitting near me before I realized that her hand was intensely liquidy with I’m not sure what and I had no way to wipe my hand off and then had to continue eating my meal with my hands, which is the traditional way to eat there).

The power issue makes most Nigerians seethe, given that they believe the government has more than enough wealth to fix the problem.

While we’re here, another infrastructure debacle that got some angry eye rolls from the people I met is the condition of the highways. On a drive from Lagos to nearby city Ibadan, a 10-mile stretch of road took us about four hours to get past because the amount of cracks and potholes in the road created utter gridlock.[2]This was not pleasant. Our air conditioner wouldn’t work when the car wasn’t moving, so I spent the four hours breathing in dense fumes from surrounding cars. On top of that, the driver was blasting music upsettingly loud and being nausea-inducing by accelerating forward and then jerking on the brakes anytime there was 10 feet of open space to move, and I was playing an infuriatingly hard Candy Crush level the whole time that I couldn’t beat (181). Not a high point of the trip. Amusingly, a stretch of gridlock is called a “go-slow” in Nigeria, and part of a Nigerian go-slow is utter lawlessness, as cars do insane things like drive over the median and weave around cars going in the opposite direction to speed up their drive. To spice things up, apparently police officers sometimes come walking through the gridlock and mug people—I was told to keep my phone out of sight for this reason. I offered a glimpse of a few go-slows at 2:42 in the Nigeria video.

5) It turns out that being white is a conspicuous quality in Nigeria. At one point on a car ride, I saw this written on the truck in front of us:

Oyinbo

There was that word again. Oyinbo. I had assumed it was a slang way of saying a friendly “hello,” since that was what people on the street kept saying to me as I walked by. To confirm, I asked people in the car with me what it meant. They smiled. “It means white man.”

Well would ya look at that.

I thought about it and realized that since leaving the airport days earlier, I had not seen even one other white person.

And I sensed that the more rural a place we were in, the more surprised people were to see me. In small towns or villages, when someone would see me walk by, they’d look at me, then look away, then do a sudden double-take and with wide eyes and big smile, they’d get the attention of the other people with them and then they’d all look at me with wide eyes and big smiles—delighted and amused at the rare sighting.

I’m sure with a history of European occupation, race is as complicated an issue in Nigeria as it is anywhere else, but as far as my own experience there, I sensed no negativity at all—only exceptional friendliness—including the roughly 2,500 times someone called me oyinbo during the trip, which never came across as carrying any hostility.

(Quick pause for experienced Sub-Saharan Africa travelers to patronizingly pat me on the head.)

One other funny thing that kept happening is kids would regularly study my hand or arm or touch (or pull) my hair, which Femi’s brother explained was because they probably hadn’t ever seen a white person up close before. Here’s an example—and I’m not sure why my arm looks like a corpse’s arm either so don’t ask:

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6) A guy I met told me that he had no full siblings but over 20 half siblings because his father has seven wives. I just needed to tell you.

7) Nigeria is not a good place to be gay. In January 2014, President Jonathan signed into law the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which jails people for 14 years for gay marriage and 10 years for “other violations of the law.” And if you keep quiet about your friend being gay, that can get you 5 years of jail time. As soon as the law was passed, the police started arresting people.

8) A baby’s arm can also serve as a handle. I kept seeing people pick up a baby or toddler by the arm and displace it to a new location in that manner. This didn’t appear to hurt or bother the child at all and is both hilarious and practical. I’ll be adopting this practice for all future dealings with children.

9) A lot of people think President Goodluck Jonathan is stupid and blame him for allowing terrorist group Boko Haram to wreak such havoc. Boko Haram is a militant Islamist terrorist group that has been killing and kidnapping throughout Northern Nigeria for the last five years, killing over 2,000 civilians already in 2014. Their name is oddly specific, meaning “Western education is forbidden,” their goal is to turn Nigeria into a hard-line Islamic state, and their leader wants to kill a lot of people. You probably remember hearing a lot about them when they kidnapped over 200 school girls in April, before the news got bored and moved on to other things.

As for the president, A) I learned that Goodluck and Jonathan are both a common first and last name in Nigeria, respectively, and B) He’s a Lyndon Johnson—i.e. he was the vice president but after the president died he took over, and has since won election, and the people I talked to think the original president would have done a lot better at dealing with Boko Haram.

And while we’re making overarching statements about Nigeria based on a tiny sample size of personal opinions I encountered…

10) A lot of people think that most of Nigeria’s super-wealthy are selfish, greedy, and far more interested in protecting the status quo and their elite position than in improving the country’s future, and this is disastrous because they have great sway over the corrupt government’s policies. Yeah yeah I know, this is exactly the problem with your country too—but something tells me your country’s corruption/inequality issues are less extreme than Nigeria’s.

11) Nigeria has a prolific film industry called Nollywood. Nollywood puts out two hundred movies a week, topping the output of Hollywood and coming in second only to Bollywood.

12) Education is revered in Nigeria. Education being revered is a pretty universal concept, but it’s especially valued in Nigeria. One piece of evidence for this is the 2006 US census finding Nigerians living in the US to be “the highest educated ethnic or racial group in the country,” with 17% having a master’s degree or higher.

13) Left hands are taboo. Given that I’ve encountered this exact taboo multiple times before in the Middle East and Asia, you’d think I’d have it down by now, but I messed up at least five times by doing things like touching my food with my left hand or handing something to a person using my left hand, getting scolded for doing so each time. The idea is that people there use their left hand for all things dirty, and the right hand is kept clean for things where cleanliness matters. And after spending a four-day stretch in a rural area with no access to soap of any kind, I understood why this wasn’t just for the hell of it—it was an important health practice.

But—

14) Men holding hands with their male friends is not taboo. A product of the American system of taboos, I was jarred when I was walking alongside Femi and he started holding my hand. And I’m not talking about the milder mitten-hand grasping position—this was the full interlocking fingers position. In my experience, the mitten-hand position is mainly for dating couples and parents/kids with maybe a few other applications, but the full finger interlock is only for seriously dating couples. I finally gathered the guts to ask Femi about this, and he told me it was a very normal thing to do with your friends. Later, his brother would do the same thing to me. This time I was prepared and just got into it because fuck it, I’m in Nigeria and we’re holding hands and this is what’s happening.

15) The only thing you actually need to play ping pong is a ping pong ball.

Ping Pong
(The paddle is a rock if that’s not clear.)

16) You can fit up to 20 chickens on top of your car if you ever need to.

Chickens

17) Framing this baby’s face with a cloth is a fun activity.

Baby frame

18) When it comes to corruption and scamminess, Nigeria has a bad reputation for a good reason. For its entire modern existence, Nigeria has had a problem with crookedness, and it spans from the top to the bottom of society:

The Top

Since the country gained independence in 1960, almost every single government that has been in charge—whether it be one of the four republics or one of the military dictatorships—has been accused of being rife with corruption. Even in the last 16 years, during their longest-lasting period of civilian democracy, all four of the recent elections so far have been widely condemned for alleged vote-rigging. Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perception Index, which ranks countries from most clean to most corrupt, puts Nigeria at 144th out of 177 total countries.

The Middle

Dealing with crooked lower-level government officials—cops, security guards, checkpoint officers—is a ubiquitous way of life in Nigeria. This part I experienced first-hand—about 40 times. Almost every time I was in a car, we’d be stopped at a checkpoint and go through the same routine—the officer would ask us to roll down the window, reach in and shake my hand, and then smile and say something like, “So what do you have for me today?” I’d give him the equivalent of $2 or $4 or $5 and then we’d continue on our way. When we stopped at a famous landmark to take a look, a couple men who either worked there or patrolled the area would inevitably come over to us and collect money. When I was in a busy outdoor market, I took a picture and a few seconds later I was pressured to pay a “photo fee” to a guy who walked over and said he’s in charge of the market (Femi told me he was more or less a mafia guy). I’m not sure how things would go down in any of these situations if I refused to pay, but I decided not to find out, and nothing bad beyond these small payouts ever happened.

The Bottom

Everyone who uses the internet has at some point encountered a Nigerian scam. Some are openly Nigerian—like the infamous “A Nigerian prince just died and we need to send his fortune to a safehaven overseas and if you agree to accept this payment you will be paid $4.3 million for the service, which all makes perfect sense I promise” email. Some are run out of Nigeria but don’t mention the country specifically—like an email responding to your Craigslist couch-selling ad that offers, in odd-sounding English, to pay you exactly what you asked for (the scam is that they send you way more than the price “by accident” and then ask you to wire them back the excess—the money they sent appears to actually be in your account so you send them the excess. Then a couple weeks later, the bank realizes it was a fake check and you’re on the hook for all of it…but the “excess” money you wired was real money and the scammer has taken it and disappeared).

I came to Nigeria excited to learn more about the people who run these scams so asked a bunch of questions. Apparently, Nigerian people call these scammers “Yahoos” (pronounced “ya-OOZE”) because they always used Yahoo to carry out their scams, back when Yahoo was something humans used. And word is that they don’t bother scamming Americans much anymore because Americans no longer tend to fall for the tricks—instead, they’ve moved onto Denmark and Norway, two places where they’re having great success now. I learned that one scam that’s hot right now is convincing some poor lonely Danish man that you’re a pretty American girl (by creating a fake Facebook account and stealing photos from some random other Facebook account), spending a couple months forming a relationship with the man, and then asking the man to send money for a flight so you can come visit him. Which he does and then never hears from you again. They even have a machine that makes a man’s voice sound like a woman’s, which they use to talk to the man on the phone. Good, honest work.

At one point, Femi’s brother made the mistake of mentioning to me that he plays soccer/football with a Yahoo. Captivated by the prospect of meeting a real live Yahoo, I casually brought this up about 25 times until he finally agreed to introduce me (after I promised not to mention scams for any reason during the meeting). We went to the Yahoo’s house, and though I never made it in the house, the Yahoo and his three Yahoo friends came out to the sidewalk and chatted with us for a few minutes before getting bored and going back inside. I took stealth photos, like a lunatic, and now I guess I’m putting them on the internet?

So here you go—the bodies of real life Yahoos! (I really didn’t want to blur the faces, but I can’t take a chance of these guys getting caught and then taking some revenge against Femi’s brother.)

Yahoos

Those are the dudes emailing you about Nigerian princes. Femi told me that they’ve gotten really rich since they started scamming—but that they were also taking a huge risk. Cops are looking for Yahoos, and young guys are often stopped at checkpoints to have their laptops checked. If they get caught, they receive a 20-30 year prison sentence.

He also said that Yahoos are pretty despised by most of society, which highlights the sad fact that most Nigerians are perfectly honest people, and they just have to live with all of this sleazy bullshit around them, not to mention having their reputation stained because of it—people around the world are wary of doing business with Nigerians.

So to review, we’ve learned so far in this post that Nigerians are enduring pervasive corruption, a roller-coaster of government instability, rank inequality, religious violence, dire health issues, and crushing poverty. Which makes it highly surprising that—

19) A study done by World Values Survey found Nigeria to be the world’s happiest nation.

Huh?

First, I checked whether World Values Survey is legit—it is. Then, I started reading about why this would be the case, and supplementing that with my own attempt to figure it out when I was there. Here are two explanations:

1) Nigerians are super religious. Islam has played a large role in northern Nigerian life for centuries. Nigerian Christians were typically moderate Catholics for the most part up until the 1970s, but when the 80s and 90s were run by harsh military dictatorships and life was pretty dire, Christian missionaries had great success igniting a full-fledged Evangelical movement throughout the country, which is a huge part of the culture today. Religiousness seems like a necessary ingredient of a badly-suffering-but-also-super-happy country.

2) Nigerians have an unusual level of optimism. This isn’t just an observation. Consecutive Gallup polls in 2010 and 2011 found Nigeria to be the world’s most optimistic nation. Optimism has long been linked to happiness in psychology, and Nigerians tend to believe that though things may be bad, they’re looking up. My experiences corroborated this—everyone I got to know in Femi’s family had big ambitions and an excitement about the future.

Nigerians being exceptionally happy is yet another piece of proof that happiness is completely about your mindset and not at all about the external world around you.

And here’s the Nigeria video. Everything I saw and did, compressed into 288 seconds:

And a few village photos, because I couldn’t help myself:

IMG_4698
IMG_4754
IMG_4738
IMG_4727
IMG_4709
IMG_4684
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The other stops:
Russia
Japan
Iraq
Greenland

The genie question I asked people in all five countries

And another time, North Korea

  • wop

    This was my favorite of the country posts so far, really blew my mind. Especially the part about how the scams work. I can’t believe you met real “Yahoos,” so exotic. Great video too.

  • SJ

    This was great, thanks 🙂

  • Muzungu

    Great read, but too short you gotta have more than that. Please, I am bored. I will send you the cash through moneygram.

  • Ravi

    This is just brilliant!!
    Love your work. Waiting eagerly for Iraq.

  • Abioye

    Sweet read, loved it

  • Yulia (Kaliningrad, Russia)

    Great work as always!! Enjoyed reading!

  • Margarita

    I’m just in love with your personality, openness and the way you write! Thank you for taking time to make the world better with your posts, you’re awesome! <3 Never stop!

  • FOLA

    Hmm nice observations, but it would have been nice to show them the other side of town…. where the wealthy live. Then your story would be more balanced.
    Trust me some folks will have a hard time believing its the same country.

    • Adetunji

      Fola has a point. Victoria Island and areas past the peninsula are completely different.

    • Fumi

      His point of view does seem incredibly white washed, when white people visit African countries they can’t help but talk about the poverty and then sling shit about their character.

  • Paradalis

    What happened to taking on someone’s role for a day?

    • Ike

      He tried balancing a tray of popcorn and groundnuts on his head for 3 seconds. I believe that should do.

  • Gab

    Great work – really, really enjoyed it. You still going to Iraq?

  • Lalo

    You blurred yahoos faces, however, they appear on the video

    • Anonymous

      No they don’t.

  • sh

    Tim, I have to say this in a crazy fan girl voice, you are awwwwweeesome seriously 😀
    Best thing on internet, again seriously. Please don’t stop traveling and just visit all countries, because we love it and you should do just that 😀

  • Daniel

    I really, really like what you are doing here. The mix of fact, trivia, and wide-eyed wonderment that you display in this posts is great. The personal self-improvement stuff is great, and the travel/country info is also awesome. Keep it up!

  • g

    Great post!

  • Jen O

    Loved it. But that’s not a surprise, I love all WBW posts. God speed in Iraq!

  • Alexis

    This was so great! I laughed out loud at the part about the Yahoos and getting to meet them. I’m loving this series.

  • Kwame

    Don’t visit Iraq. Visit Ghana next.

    • Wale

      A Kwame WOULD say that…

    • Fumi

      You don’t want him to visit Ghana, he’ll just write more about blacks experiencing poverty in Africa and take additional pictures of mud huts. I’m not going to stay on this “white man’s critique of colored people” train, that story has been told before, no pics of food, art, celebrations, a simple sentence on Nollywood, false sense white supremacy strikes again.

  • Randi

    Loved this post and the video. Can’t wait for the next one. Stay safe in Iraq!

  • Nigerians = SUPER nice

    Loved this post. It was great (as usual!) and the video at the end is the best part. I just wish the post was a littler longer as well. Nigerians are some of the nicest people around. I went to a friend’s Nigerian friend’s graduation party where the girl just graduated from law school (and her mother was a lawyer in Nigeria, father a businessman, brother a businessman/something else that was prestigious but I forgot, aka all very successful in the academic world). I met the girl and her family for the first time that night and they were all unbelievably welcoming. We danced all night to Nigerian music and everyone was quick to teach me their Nigerian dance moves and different parts of their culture. You could really tell these people loved life, their culture, and were genuinely good hearted people. It’s great that the happiness within Nigeria follows those who leave it too!
    -Im from the US btw.

  • Ryan

    Fantastic. Best parts of the video: the kids surrounding you counting to infinity & the education song.

  • Khephra

    Hey Tim,

    Great post. I’m glad I discovered WBW a few months ago. But fuck Iraq! Don’t go! I admire your balls (in a figurative sense, of course), but I wouldn’t like it if you got your head chopped off by ISIL or ISIS or whatever.
    WBW wouldn’t be the same without you, would it?

  • Olu

    100% true. thanks a bunch for visiting my country

  • Steve

    Super interesting and entertaining, but how is there not one mention of the word “ebola” in this?

    • Adetunji

      This was done well before shit hit the fan. Tim is in Iraq already.

    • Bridge

      Ha I searched for the world ebola and your comment is the only hit.

    • zahar_alao

      Because, contrary to popular belief, the Ebola epidemic is nowhere near as bad as American media makes it seem. More people have died of the flu. Ebola has veen around for the past thirty years or so.

  • Jenna

    This was SO interesting!! Please keep traveling and writing – I love everything about this article.

  • Ellen

    I agree with some of the other posters – please skip Iraq for now.

  • Mukesh

    Great post , looking forward to the next one.

  • Vee

    Highly interesting read. Gives off an impartial and open-minded. As a Nigerian, I’m a little surprised about the men holding hands bit… That is usually a no-no, especially with the gay situation in Nigeria…but maybe it’s something Femi’s family is okay with..

    Would have loved to hear what you though about the food..if you liked anything in particular..(or didn’t) And the markets too!

    Also, as someone sed in the earlier comments, it would’ve been great to maybe visit a wealthy Nigerian for a day..or go maybe a party organised by the wealthy.. That would’ve really added to your overall impression of Nigeria..

    I particularly liked the point you made about Nigerians being optimistic. So true. And generally, we have some sort of “stand out” characteristic running through most of us.. Sometimes, it’s for good, like Femi and his warm and welcoming family…. And other times, sadly, it’s for bad.. Like the Yahoo-Yahoo boys..

    Thank you for visiting Nigeria, and I hope you found the experience rewarding in more ways than one.

    • Vee

      *lots of typos/errors..sorry, it’s waaay past my bedtime..

  • Jane

    Love it! Traveling is the best way to open up ones vision. Thank you so much for sharing. (I was called a ghost in Ghana…..after the shock, I got it.)

  • Adetunji

    Brilliant post time. You are an inspiration to wanderlusters everywhere.

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  • Trish

    Here’s an idea when you get back to the US: create the Wait But Why World Tour Company for all the readers who have fell in love with the way you travel.

  • Trish

    Fallen. Wow, sorry for the bad grammar.

  • Maren

    This is awesome. I really enjoyed it. I have a Nigerian Catholic friend, and he’s super duper optimistic and happy go-lucky all the time! I get it now. Also, I recently received a Craiglist scam email, and it was one where they offered to send me a money order. I was scratching my head trying to figure out how that scam would work, but now I see. Love this blog.

  • Voracious Reader

    Great read, as always. I was touched by the Nigerian optimism in the face of so much adversity. The video was wonderful. Learning more details about the Yahoos was quite an education in itself.

  • LC

    Goodluck Jonathan! Please be careful in Iraq.

  • Precious

    I love your writing…..great work. Can I travel with you?

  • Ravi

    Please come to India.

    • disqus_dor1YsFNCG

      Wahan bhi jaake ye chutiyapa hi dikhayega!

  • Nigerian Gooner!

    Really, really, really cool article and video. And this is coming from a Nigerian who was born and bred in Lagos and just finished spending SIX years of my University education in Ile-Ife (Ife for short).
    You managed to relay a really accurate portrayal of life in Nigeria.
    Long may your travels continue!

    Cheers!

  • greenish

    great post, I love your writing, and your approach to finding out about life in these places. stay safe.

  • girl from africa

    as a fellow african, i learned a lot from this post. very interesting. also well done on the history chart there, that is like Nigeria 101. keep it up dude. lovit.

  • Sofi Berro

    Great post! I worked at an international NGO and have many friends who have gone to Kenya, Uganda and so many different countries and cities in Africa and they all have told me similar stories. You forgot the part where you live as a Nigerian for a whole day, or was that the satying with your friend’s family? Anyway, I liked the idea of that small section. Even though you couldn’t do it in Japan, of course, the Russian one was hilarious! Can’t wait for the Iraq post. Be careful, have a safe trip, Tim!

  • victor_ludorum

    I think a more balanced piece would have been sampling the rich, middle class and poor as well as rural and urban areas (affluent neighbourhoods and poor ones). But overall a good read as always.

    Thanks for taking my lunch break away but I’m still happy and optimistic!

  • Romi

    I enjoy your posts too much…please don’t go to Iraq, die, and leave me with nothing….

  • Jussy

    Africa is the cradle of mankind, very unique and interesting means of survival, kip up the gud work, Zimbabwe must be on your list too lest mugabe deny u entry

  • Terry

    Having lived in Nigeria from 1954 to 1970, I’m truly saddened that Nigeria has made such little progress since then.

    • david soul

      Dude I got a little story for you ,four blind men set out on a journey to know what an elephant really look like when they finally get there,the first one hold the elephant tall and said the elephant was just like a rop and the second blind man grab the leg and said the elephant was like a tree,the third blind man touched the ears and said no the elephant is really like a thick wide leaf and the fourth blind man hold on to the elephant trunk and said the elephants are really like a snake!!!lol this is my thought about this write up….

  • cris

    oh man…you’re really going to Iraq?Now? Ok…I admit i’m curious about what you’re going to write about Iraq, given that the description of previous trips have an excepcional quality, and many other qualities, too many to mention, but really, I’m not that curious if you’re risking your life….

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  • Glorydee

    I wish history or social studies was taught this way! 🙂 I would’ve paid more attention.

  • Sam

    So amazing man!! You got lucky with Femi. Do you imagine your trip without him? Seriously, I’d love to know how do you think things would have gone if you’d been there on your own.

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  • Christian

    Wow I’m so surprised being white was a quality to have, I thought you would consistently be shaken for money. Great blog post Tim, I’m so happy you made it out alive. Please be safe in Iraq

    • zahar_alao

      The only people who will ask strangers for money in Nigeria are homeless.

  • Fan for Life

    I can’t put into words how much I look forward to your posts. I learn so much from them and they make me laugh out loud. Awesome combination. Best writing on the Internet. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into each of your posts. You never fail to keep me informed and entertained. The video was awesome. I am going to the wbw store now to support you so you can keep up your writing. Please never stop.

  • Ruth

    Excellent, Nigeria in a nutshell!

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  • Bob

    Help Femi go to college:

    http://www.gofundme.com/d6e2do

  • Lauren

    Nice article but sad to hear that you contributed to corruption apparently every time they asked you for money. You perpetuated the fact that local people should demand money from white people. Will this ever stop if you keep giving??? I NEVER give and the worst thing that has happened is that I have to tolerate annoying discussions that go on for longer than I would prefer…

    • zahar_alao

      He was just being kind.. there is nothing wrong with giving to people who need it, no matter what your race it. Its called being humble. Your white skin doesn’t put you above anyone else.

      • Ádám Zovits

        Yes, but these people clearly don’t need it. They are either employed (policemen) or belong to the organized crime (the guy on the market asking money for the picture Tim took). Being homeless due to unfortunate circumstances and demanding money for unlawful reasons (possibly extorting too) are two concepts a world apart.

  • Mallory

    Yes, god forbid the poor white people are being exploited. That is such a problem in our world!

  • Obinna

    Nice one

  • LilTCDavis

    Sons of Anarchy Season premier and a new post from WBW tomorrow = best day ever!!

  • Anonymous

    Why were the Femi donations stopped?

  • Bunmi

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading the above….well researched, humorous and completely fascinating. Keep up the good work and please stay safe!

  • Funmi

    I learnt a lot from this
    I went to Lagos when I was Eight and whenever the power went out we had a generator
    My mom was telling us about when Nigeria was under Britain it was better at least at school because they had milk and fruit and veg everyday then one day it just stopped

    • grateful mortal

      Shut up!

  • mak-nwonrin augustine ayo

    i luv d concept of d write-up,, its not hurtful and no sentiments,,,…. next tym u cum,,, try to visit d big towns like victoria island, abuja, calabar etc,, and put the pics online… once again,,, GOODJOB

  • Costas

    Tim, Please travel more… tell us about the world most of us are unlucky to see more of.

  • paschal9

    This is a one sided report. Seems you are out to report basically everything bad about NIgeria and inly write one or two words about the good side of NIgeria. You went to a village as you calim. Did you also go to Victoria Island, Marina, Lekki, Ikoyi and Banana island? Your report about the bad side of Nigeria is true but I am afraid your basic intent for going there was not to seek a balanced opinion, you never reported about the many skyscrapers in the country, the beaches and water fronts, the vibrant music industry, the robust banking system which is ranked the strongest in Africa. I guesx it makes you happy to write about all the scrappy things you saw but I think its not fair. I am Nigerian and will forever be proud of my country. I wish you well.

  • paschal9

    Disappointed that some people in this forum see this as a good job. The writer posts pictures here of delapidated village structurss, talks about Nigerians as being racist, makes NIgeria’s reproach of the gay culture to sound like hypocrisy and you say this is a good job? I am sorry I do not agree. When you do such reports, make it wholistic, talk about the good side and and the bad, dont give the impression that all Nigerians live in those dirty huts you snapped. Nigeria’s economy is sustaining most of the economies in the west african subregion do you know that? Nigerians manufacture goods that are consumed in most parts of Africa, why not say something on that. The cameo mention you make about the good side of the country leaves a lot to be desired and you know it. I love my country and I am ready to shed my blood in defence of it.

    • Jimmy

      white people generally don’t like revealing parts of black countries that look like their own. It is almost a DNA thing for whites to ask about the worst sections, news and culture of black people.
      Most discussions with whites (inclduding liberal ones) tend to go like this…

      1, did you hear about boko haram or al shabab – not did you hear that Nigeria’s economy is now the biggest in Africa?

      2, I went to his village and the huts were nice, not I arrived at Abuja airport on the way to the village and it was a nice airport.

      3, CNN journalist I asked, where did you stay when you took those photos of poverty and disease…oh, a 5 star hotel in Lagos but that is not the topic I went to research!

      Their assessment is one of total bias and half -truths and it is infact left to blacks to create balanced reporting because majority of whites will not do it for you.

  • Jimmy

    Remeber that white people generally don’t like revealing parts of black countries that look like their own. It is almost a DNA thing for whites to ask about the worst sections, news and culture of black people. Most discussions with whites (inclduding liberal ones) tend to go like this…

    1, did you hear about boko haram or al shabab – not did you hear that Nigeria’s economy is now the biggest in Africa?

    2,
    I went to his village and the huts were nice, not I arrived at Abuja airport on the way to the village and it was a nice airport.

    3,
    CNN journalist I asked, where did you stay when you took those photos of poverty and disease…oh, a 5 star hotel in Lagos but that is not the topic I went to research!

    Their assessment is one of total bias and half -truths and it is infact left to blacks to create balanced
    reporting because majority of whites will not do it for you.

    • grateful mortal

      True

    • disqus_dor1YsFNCG

      This is known as ‘poverty tourism’ in Western circles.

  • handleym

    Picking up babies by the arms has the potential to dislocate the elbow. It seems like something to be avoided given that there are other options that work just as well.

    • disqus_dor1YsFNCG

      It’s pretty much common in several Asian countries. I never heard or came to know about any such incidence.

  • handleym

    The impression I got when I read something about the economics of Nollywood is that (from a big picture perspective) it’s basically the same story as everything in Nigeria — a tragedy of the commons.
    Specifically, the way the US and most of the West handles visual entertainment nowadays is through a TV/movie dichotomy. TV is not expected to be as visually striking as movies, but offers continuity and all that implies. You only have to arrange deals once, the actors and writers can become very good at their roles, the viewers know what to expect, you don’t need much advertising after the first few weeks, etc etc. Movies are tremendously inefficient in that all this stuff has to be redone every movie.

    The impression I get of Nollywood is that they are essentially doing the volume of TV without any of the efficiencies of TV; and I assume at the end of the day this boils down to who controls the TV system. Even so, ideally you’d still work to establish a brand (eg a particular sitcom or police procedural or whatever) and release successive episodes on DVD or however they do it in Nigeria; but the system does not seem to encourage that sort of long-term co-operation.

    As for the education thing, count me as pretty damn skeptical. The US numbers reflect the small subset of people that are able to get from Nigeria, through the US immigration system, into America — they’re hardly a random sample of the Nigerian population. It’s one thing to universally praise education; it’s another thing to actually engage in the day-to-day work of trying to learn, especially under difficult circumstances. Reverence for education, to me, means the kinds of commitment you see in Jewish or Chinese communities.

    • david soul

      What’s your point?

  • grateful mortal

    This writer is a bloody liar. Why didn’t he live in the cities like lagos, Victoria garden city, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, lekki, banana Island or even abuja. He went to live with a village farmer. Stupid white man. Who even told him he is white? Why didn’t he show his stupid face?

    • BuddhistChristianJewishHindu

      Maybe, he was attempting to distance himself from ignorant bigots like you. You would have bitched and cried that he only stayed in the sanctuary of these homogenous and sanitized locations if he had. Hateful jerks like you are never satisfied and always find a reason to justify your lack of intelligence and tolerance. Your comments (specifically “stupid white man”) only highlight your own stupidity, hatred, and racism. Immediately take your left hand (the dirty one according to your beliefs) and punch yourself in the face until common sense sets in. Cheers, asshole. ; )

      • MacLeod Sotonye Bob-manuel

        Damn man! It’s true that people use their right hand as a sign of courtesy,but the truth is that Nigeria is large and in bigger towns,city,metropolises and megapolis they still use the right hand rule though soap is as common as sand,Nigerians get upset when people show poor villages and leave out the better areas.the infrastructure in Nigeria is over loaded because the country is trying to catchup and before they’ll put in place a certain facility nation wide there will be updates.

      • grateful mortal

        How come your post was allowed here. If I probe more into your life you would be a job seeker. Get a life first before you talk to me. Who cares! Jst get a life!

      • grateful mortal

        U b mumu o

  • Thank you for sharing your experience of visiting Nigeria. I especially enjoyed the video and pictures of the rural families, usually they are out of the picture even though they form the largest section of our society. It says a lot about you too to trust your driver enough to stay with him, glad Femi and his friends did a good job to show the other side of Nigeria in a positive light, they may not have much of material wealth but can be entertaining and dependable.

  • Rick Cohl

    Hi. I wanted to check out the documentary you recommended, but it has been taken down. I cant find it anywhere on the internet, to download/stream or purchase. Any idea where i can find it??

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