By Dr. Biodun Ogungbo
When I travelled to Bangkok in Thailand recently, I was accosted right from the arrival hall by people ‘selling Thailand’ to tourists. They were actively promoting the sights, sound and smell of Thailand – from the many Buddhist temples, to the crocodile farms, elephant zoos, shopping malls, river cruises and exquisite beaches and even high quality gold jewellery. Thailand is a tourist haven and millions visit yearly, fetching the country millions of dollars.
More people are also visiting Nigeria these days. Every British Airways flight is filled to the brim with Nigerians returning home and, more than ever, foreigners visiting Nigeria for the first time. The fact is that we can also offer ‘unrivalled’ attractions to tourists visiting Nigeria. It is best for them to be prepared for ‘fun’ right from the airport.
The first thing to notice on arrival in Nigeria is the heat and humidity. We will not talk about the men of Customs and Excise! Anyway, your luggage seems to take forever to materialise. Then, it comes through in a heap, haphazard, as though Tarzan had been flinging them from outer space. Further, they come round and round on the small carousel such that the passengers have to push and elbow one another to get to their luggage. Finally, you have to find N200 for a dirty, rickety, luggage trolley. You cannot change dollars to Naira in any other country outside Nigeria! The Naira is that ‘exclusive,’ nobody wants it, let alone bothers to hoard it.
Free view boxing matches
As soon as you get out of the airport, you may be lucky to see two people fighting for your viewing pleasure. This is free view boxing on the street, usually between a taxi driver and some other dude. They conveniently pummel each other till both require the emergency unit. It may interest you to know that the reason may be perceived slight or even just as low a sum as $1. Just park your car at a safe distance and enjoy. What do you care?
Traffic in Naija
The traffic in Nigeria is rather special and something to behold. Unlike many countries where the cause of the traffic jam may not be obvious, here you will know and see the cause of your delay. From bad roads, to accidents, five-lane cars in a single lane space and the numerous check points: many factors conspire to keep you on the road. This allows you to take in the smell from open gutters, in the afternoon heat, which is great for sun lovers! If you hate the sun, then please make sure your car has air-conditioner. Getting cold water or iced drinks is not a problem on our roads, as we have teeming numbers of energetic, upwardly mobile Nigerian youth doing brisk business on the streets. They are our pride and joy!
It has been said, satirically, that Nigeria has the highest number of toilets in the world. Ideally, this should be a Guinness World Record award if such was recorded. With greenery everywhere, some Nigerians pee everywhere. Every blade of grass or shrub is a toilet. Both men and women pee and defecate anywhere on the streets. Some do not even bother to find shaded or secluded areas anymore. A chap once parked his car and proceeded to urinate all over the back wheel. Pray to be fortunate to see women peeing standing up or a man dousing his privates on the street. The joys of life in Naija!
We frequently have ‘lights out’ in Nigeria. Several times a day, wherever you are, the electricity might just go: switched off. This is no reason to worry, as it will come back. We have playful children running the electricity boards and they play ‘switch.’ We are used to it and it causes ‘little’ irritation. It may mean that your shirt is not ironed but what the heck, that ‘designed’ effect is becoming.
It is no longer considered rude and socially unacceptable to pick your nose. I had the pleasure of watching a chap pick his nose, scratch his bottom, cough into his hands, which he then wiped on his clothes. I wondered who he will hand shake or pat on the back next. Or, God forbid, share bread with! You can catch ‘stuff’ in Nigeria, though mostly salmonella and subsequently Typhoid fever just by looking at some people.
You will find hard faced cashiers, receptionists and store assistants in Nigeria. Their welcome smile is like a sledge hammer. You will be sorry you asked a question!
The Bar Beach in Lagos
I cannot help but mention the delights at the beach in Lagos. This is the best in Nigeria. You can go at any time of the day, just not at night. I don’t know what people do on beaches at night anyway! Regardless, once you park your car, someone is sure to sell you a ticket for stepping on their ‘personal’ space. If you are not careful, someone might even ask you to pay to breathe. Further, you are immediately accosted by bodyguards and well-wishers who want to all but please you. To get to the actual sand and the ocean: Just hop up and down on a few rocks.
Finally, the beach is not the place for solitude or even silent contemplation of the marvels of the ocean. We have so many churches for that, stupid!
NB: What do you enjoy in Nigeria?
Posted by ODIN G.A