In attempt to address some of the reoccuring themes in the comments to my previous post, I’ve decided to write a follow-up.
Firstly, I did not write that post for the benefit of only Nigerians. I don’t write for a particular audience, I write primarily for myself. Insofar as I have a readership, I have an idea that it consists mainly of people who have known me in the past and a smattering of people who are interested in the oil and gas industry. Other than that I have no idea who reads this blog, or how many of them there are. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, and I’ve never tried to slant a post in order to appease or anger a particular set of people. I just write what I think, based on what I’ve seen, and present it as my personal opinion, nothing more.
With that in mind, let’s put to bed the idea that I am lecturing Nigerians on the state of affairs in their own country. I put the article on my blog, and a whole load of Nigerian websites republished it without my permission. This doesn’t bother me as they did credit me as the source (swiping my photo too on some occasions), but this article was not written with the intention of informing – or misleading – a Nigerian audience. Some commenters claim I am saying nothing new, and they’d be correct. I wouldn’t expect any expat to spend a mere 3 years in Lagos and be able to tell a Nigerian anything they didn’t already know about Nigeria. Like I said, I didn’t write it for Nigerians, I wrote it for myself and anyone else who happens to be reading. And for those who aren’t Nigerian, there was an awful lot of new stuff in there.
I note that some people have complained that I have not offered any solutions, just a list of problems. There are two reasons for this. For a start, I have no idea whatsoever what the solutions would be. And also, it is hardly the place of an expat assigned for 3 years in Nigeria to start offering solutions to the country’s problems. That would be arrogance in the extreme.
Secondly, I do appreciate that I only spent time in a very small part of Lagos and barely saw anywhere else in the country. I cited security reasons to explain why this was the case, and a few commenters seem to think these were exaggerated. Now I’ll admit, I could have explored more of Lagos than I did. Our company security protocols were far more strict than those of other organisations, and objectively there were opportunities for me to have got out more. But let’s be honest here: there is no chance a foreigner can go off exploring Nigeria on his own. A foreigner driving himself about in mainland Lagos would be putting himself at serious risk of being car-jacked or robbed. This is no mere paranoia, the statistics support this. All the Nigerians I knew advised strongly against any expat going to the regional cities on a private trip. I was invited to a wedding in Owerri and briefly looked at the possibility of going, before quickly abandoning the idea. For a start, the guy getting married – who was from Owerri – was nervous about making the trip himself! Returning from Lagos to a regional town is a signal for the local criminals that a “rich” guy is coming. I know a guy from Warri who never goes back for much the same reasons. If Nigerians are abandoning their regional cities due to the levels of lawlessness, what chances does a foreign tourist have of showing up and enjoying a weekend away? Even foreigners travelling in groups would be a target for any number of dodgy officials, corrupt traffic police, area boys, and other criminals. During my time in Nigeria one of my compatriots, a telecoms engineer, was kidnapped and murdered in the north of Nigeria by Boko Haram or one of its offshoots. I’m sorry, but anyone who suggests I could have just taken off and explored Nigeria either doesn’t know the place very well or is being disingenuous.
On that note, I am quite prepared to believe what I experienced in Lagos was not representative of the whole country. Contrary to what some people think, I am not a professor submitting a thesis to accurately describe every aspect of life in Nigeria. I’m just a bloke who lived there giving my opinion based on what I saw. However, I don’t believe that anything I’ve written is specific to Lagos and cannot be found across most if not all of Nigeria. If there is a city, region, or state where everything I have described does not exist, then please feel free to point this out in the comments. But I’m going to remain pretty skeptical of comments which claim my remarks are not representative but avoid citing any examples.
Thirdly, I am a Brit and British English is my first language, and the language in which this blog is written. As I said, I don’t write for Nigerians, I write for myself. The term “lad” in British English is not derogatory, and nor was it used with such an intent in my post. The term “lads” in this context is a term of endearment used to convey friendship and warmth, and is a common term of reference in the UK. There are few terms of praise in the British oil and gas business greater than being described as part of “a good bunch of lads”. I suspect most people know this, but unfortunately one of the traits of a minority of Nigerians – and again, they are far from alone in this – is to seek offence at every opportunity, especially if this allows them to embark on a rant against “racist” British, colonial overlords, etc. It is pretty tiresome. The term “lads” is not racist nor derogatory, and those who think otherwise might want to consider that three of my lads were Scotsmen.
Finally, I do appreciate the comments, especially the many positive ones. I am always glad when my articles reach out to somebody, and I value and greatly appreciate both your readership and the feedback. Many thanks to all of you who read and commented on my piece.