Nigeria – An Introduction

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Going to Nigeria is a very unique experience even before it actually happens! While other destinations bring comments such as “How exciting,” “I wish I was going”, Nigeria brings statements such as “It’s very dangerous”, “They kidnap white people down there”, “Why do you have to go there?” Further research warns you of all the evils you are about to face.

“There has been a significant escalation in insecurity – particularly abductions of expatriates and small-scale bomb attacks on oil installations – in the Niger delta states since early 2006. Travel remains subject to the dangers of carjacking and illegal roadblocks. Elsewhere, crime presents the main risk for travelers. Armed crime and carjacking are particular problems. Travel at night, outside cities or in high-crime areas should not be considered at any time and walking around the streets poses daily risks of petty and more serious crime. Many Nigerian airlines have poor safety records.”

It is necessary to prearrange a secure escort from Lagos airport because of consistently high levels of crime on the airport road. Exercise heightened levels of personal security and awareness at all times. Be aware that criminal activity is a problem in all areas; restrict all non-essential movement outside secure accommodation and facilities. Taxis and public transport are not sufficiently secure for business travelers. Approach the security forces with caution; some are involved in criminal activity.”

So, the question seems to be: Why go to Nigeria?

“Because it is wonderful!” Nobody mentions that in addition of being a beautiful country, Nigeria has as its core a tradition of generosity and warmth towards its guests. People wanted me to be not only safe and comfortable — they were not going to rest until I was happy, well fed, and have experienced Nigeria in as many ways as positively possible.

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I traveled to Nigeria as a US State Department’s Cultural Envoy. The goal of my assignment was to teach a week-long printmaking workshop at the University of Nigeria Nsukka; work with school children in Enugu on the themes of AIDS and child abuse through an art workshop; give a lecture entitled “Printmaking in the Northwest and Beyond” at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, IMT in Enugu, and Uni Lag in Lagos. I also was introduced to vice-chancellors, rectors, universities’ department chairs and faculty in Nsukka, Enugu and Lagos; the Minister of Information and Culture of Enugu State; the Consul General and staff of the US Embassy in Lagos. I was given three formal receptions, at which times I was presented with a Kola nut, special delicacies, Palm wine, and in one instance, traditional Igbo dances.

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Enugu and Nsukka are located in the heart of Igbo land, which was known as Biafra in the sixties. The Republic of Biafra was a secessionist state in south-eastern Nigeria, and existed between 1967 and 1970. The secession was led by the Igbo due to economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria. The international humanitarian organization “Doctors Without Boarders” came out of the suffering in Biafra, as Nigeria cut off humanitarian aid to Biafra, resulting in hundreds of thousands of civilians dying from starvation and disease, in addition to being murdered. I recommend reading award winning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of A Yellow Sun”.