Was It All That Bad?
Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
159Trip End Nov 29, 2011
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Where I stayed
Nelbee Executive Guesthouse
All in all, we spent less than six days in Nigeria. I left with a mixture of feelings and opinions on a place which held no promise of enjoyment prior to arrival. Let's be honest, this country suffers from a reputation which is not enviable: Kidnapping of foreign workers and volunteers; abundant violent and organised crime, including massive global-scale fraud operations; ingrained and institutionalized corruption. Hardly a destination to relish.
All of the above does indeed occur, there is no escaping that fact. Happily though, I did not witness any kidnappings or violent crime, but then I did not venture into the Delta region or other volatile places. I was not exposed to fraud, but then I did not use any bank cards here. I did witness though the corruption that cripples this country. On one occasion, a taxi-driver paid off an approaching policewoman in a practice known colloquially as as 'dashing'. No words exchanged. Indeed no communication at all. And of course, no offence committed either. This is simply an accepted reality when dealing with police and state institutions here. More instances of 'dashing' included bottles of wine being used as payment.
Corruption extends to all levels of society. It is a sobering thought (and one that you will probably re-read to ensure you read it correctly the first time) that around $352bn of oil money has been stolen or misused since oil started flowing in the 1960's. This figure (a 2005 one) was in fact drawn up by the government's own anti-corruption commission and equates, astonishingly, to four times the value of all Western aid to all of Africa in the last forty year. Re-read it - there are no typos.
Nigeria faces a very testing few months, with Presidential and Congressional elections due to be held in April. Will the recent trend of detaching the political and military arms of state continue? Will the country's cultural, religious and ethnic differences spill over into civil unrest? Will the politicians' promises of change and of challenging corruption be upheld? Time will tell. This country faces huge social problems, with the divide between rich and poor being the starkest I've encountered to date. And yet on the whole I found Nigerians to be warm, friendly and honest people.
Although I left without any horror stories to tell, I was glad to leave. Six days of its expense, maddening driving and general intensity was enough. From here, I turn southbound again...