This post will probably meet you way after I leave Nigeria, I am now in the company guesthouse in Lagos having left the factory this morning. A nice place with my plasma TV mounted to the wall and the full bouquet dstv package. I would really have loved to ship out on Monday, but I can’t live this life forever, I’d probably get bored after a while. This being my upteenth visit now to the land of 419 (allegedly), I want to share a few of my observations.
The Nigerian man is not shy about splashing out the cash. To him, it’s not about showing off but a way of life. I was taken out the other night to a place, not too shabby, but a far cry from the clubs in Osu. My colleague orders a bottle of Hennessy. Last night too we went out to a club in Lagos, another bottle of Henny was put on the table. You see, you can’t buy a couple of shots, you have to buy the whole bottle, and they do. It is usually a half bottle which is sold and at around $30 it’s not too bad a price considering it is about $80 in Ghana. Most salaried workers in Nigeria almost always have a business on the side, selling goods, real estate, catering. So they have that money to chill. I didn’t get the vibe that these guys were show offs like I have seen in Rhapsody’s and Bella, for the average Nigerian, you work hard and you play hard (the ones I met anyway). The man would never ask money from a lady, in fact he will splash out in abundance. The average Nigerian takes his role as the man very seriously, although not oppressive, he feels it is his duty to provide. In the North, the man will go to market and buy the food for the house, although the woman will give him the list of what needs to be bought. The man is the head, and the woman is the neck. He feels like a king, but if you look at it critically, you will see that the woman is in control. You see in the movies when the man gives the lady he is courting money to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, it’s all true. I haven’t experience it personally, bit you drive buy any boutique on a Saturday, you will see them there.
I better pass my neighbour
We were driving on Thursday to this spot just outside the factory when this motorbike rider drove by, he had a back passenger who was carrying a little generator. I was told that this generator is called “I better pass my neighbour”. If I was born and raised here before moving to Ghana, I would never had complained about the electricity supply. As I write, the government electricity has run for 2 hours and the rest of the time the power has run through a generator. Here, it is quite common for you to go two or three weeks without electricity so every household owns at least one generator. The big one which can run throughout most of the day, and if you are better pass your neighbour, you own the smaller one which will power the lights and the fan at night so the big one can rest or in the case where you run out of fuel in the middle of the night.
There are not pot holes in the roads, they are big gapping ditches, with the roads being that bad, you would think that they would take their time in driving. You know I was telling you that my pet peeve is a driver that doesn’t know where the accelerator is. I take it back now. These drivers don’t know where the break is. It is basically survival of the fittest. Even though the roads are fairly wide, every driver is clammering for a small bit of space to pass and they do not stop to give the next man room to pass. Every car has at least one scratch. Even a brand new vehicle straight from the lot, by the time it has reached its final destination there would be at least one bruise and these are just the private cars. In Ghana, the commercial drivers are crazy, but if they swing out and realize that a car is heading towards them, they will relax and wait, in Lagos, if you value your car and your life, then you need to stop. It can sometimes take 2-3 hours in traffic for what would normally be a 20 minute journey, bad roads and indiscipline are the cause. They say if you can drive in Lagos then you can drive anywhere in the world, more like if you can survive driving in Lagos then you are invincible.
There are two airlines that can get me back to my homeland. Air Nigeria and Arik, it is the case of go with the lesser of two evils as they are both absolutely terrible. I have found that Air Nigeria during the week runs on time but is a bit unstable on the weekends, don’t know if the pilot is having too much fun somewhere but every time I have travelled back to Accra with this airline on a Saturday, I am bound to spend more time at the airport than I would like. I had an early meeting on Wednesday so took Air Nigeria and it was on time, no delays, great. I took Arik back to Accra. The last time I took it, there was a slight delay but I thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt and try again on my return this time. Suffice to say, I may even consider taking a bus back to Accra next time. Without any warning the flight was changed from 5pm to 6.15pm, no notification, no phone call, no text message, no email. Having got there the 2 hours early (actually 2 and a half as the driver got to the guest house ridiculously early), you would think they would at least have checked us in, but they didn’t. Instead made us wait in a queue in the arrival hall where there were no chairs around, no apologies, in fact the gentleman behind the counter was quite rude, shuttling us to behind the stand like cattle. Note to self, next time I travel to or from Nigeria it would be on a week day and not with Arik. Snack on the plane was bread and jam with some juice, last of the big spenders.
There is hot and cold. You have some people with very bad attitudes, they are mostly the waitresses and well, you can get that kinda bad attitude in almost all African restaurants on the west coast. They say the Ghanaians are the most friendly, I think it’s a myth. Ghanaians (and when I talk about Ghanaians I am talking your university graduate types) on the whole are not unfriendly to their fellow black man, but I wouldn’t say they go out. I tried to strike up a conversation with some people who are actually people I work with, they smiled politely and answered nicely but an actual conversation at times was a bit like pulling teeth. I don’t know if they have got it in their minds that my English is too advanced so will not understand or if that’s just how they are but these particular two, I just stopped talking to them after a while unless I was spoken to first. The Nigerian people who I spent time with over these days were overly friendly. Apart from the 1001 greetings, they can talk your ear off. I love listening to the Nigerian accent and the way they are so passionate with their wording if only to say they are looking for a pen. One guy who was at the guest house is a Hausa, never been to Ghana but I guess through the job has met a lot of Ghanaians. He would talk, and talk, and ask questions about Ghana and say how much he wants to come visit, I really hope he does soon as I think he was fit to burst. Very nice guy though, made my stay in the guesthouse an interesting one.
The police, customs and security forces also make extra cash to chill by collecting tips. The man who stood by your car outside the spot (and is employed especially for that purpose), the customs officer at the airport who checks your bag, and the policeman who stops you randomly for a bogus offence all want to be tipped for a job well done. Its like that throughout the West coast, here in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire I have witnessed it, but the way they come across over there, well it’s more like an obligation. I wouldn’t mind so much but if I’m going to part with my hard earned cash I’d like to see what I get for the money, it doesn’t come so easy for me but it goes out very easily and I’m supposed to tip someone for what? As part of the company protocol we have a policeman in our car, but I always wonder, if we were faced with real danger, this guy would be the first one out the door. He’ll tell you that he too has a family. Thank the Lord I have not experienced any danger in my visits.
So for those of you that have not been there I can tell you, it is just like the movies. I could go on and on about the stories, the experiences, but I think you can imagine. It really is an interesting place to be but could I live there, I think where I am is enough for me for now, but I really have a lot of respect for those that do.