An overview of Nigeria (Warri, Ibadan, Abuja & Lagos)
Hi there. Thanks for stopping by. I’ve been doing a series of posts on various locations featured within my novel, Eteka: Rise of the Imamba©. For this post I’ll give you a brief overview of Nigeria, with special emphasis placed on the cities of Warri, Ibadan, Abuja and Lagos.
A little disclaimer before I begin: Nigeria has had a rough, at times controversial and by all accounts a very rich history. I am not going to spend this post diving into every specific detail, as that would make for a lot of writing that in my opinion goes beyond a mere blog post. Nor am I going to highlight the current drama and dysfunction happening there. My post will simply give a general, non opinionated overview of Nigeria, and touch on specific areas and points in its history related to my novel.
Nigeria is a country located in West Africa. It sits between Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, and by sea is bordered by the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is close to 1.5 times the size of Texas (US). There are hundreds of languages spoken in Nigeria, and just as many different ethnic groups, the most dominant being the Hausa’s, the Igbos and the Yorubas.
Nigeria has the 2nd largest economy in Africa (the first being South Africa), and according to the World Bank (Sep 2013), Nigeria has the 38th largest GDP worldwide. Nigeria’s currency is the Naira, and as of the time of me writing this, 1 Naira = 0.0063USD, or in reverse 1 USD = 159.31 Naira. While it’s popular belief that oil is Nigeria’s biggest asset, Nigeria’s energy sector accounts for about 35% of the country’s GDP (Other economic sectors within Nigeria are the agricultural, manufacturing and services (financial/banking)). However, Nigeria’s petroleum exports historically have accounted for +90% of all export revenue. This enormous “weight” placed on one export revenue stream has been a source of concern for many critics over the years, and in recent times such policies have had to stand trial. The fall in global oil prices to $33 a barrel (Feb 2016) and Nigeria losing its biggest oil consumer in the United States to other low cost producers has severely strained the economy and put Nigeria in debt. The growing instability has affected the lifestyles of many Nigerians, and unfortunately has tarnished Nigeria’s already strained reputation.
Geographically, Nigeria is broken up into 36 states and a capital territory called Abuja. The northern states are predominantly made up of the Hausa’s, the western/south western states are predominantly made up of the Yoruba’s, and the eastern/southeastern states are home to the Igbos. Within each state also exists smaller ethnic groups.
Like most of West Africa, Nigeria has two main seasons: wet and dry. The duration of these seasons varies by location (north/south). Due to how close Nigeria is to the equator, Nigeria is predominantly hot/tropical.
A Brief History of Nigeria
Britain abolished slavery in 1807 (without a war and a good 58 years before their American cousins). This leads us to mercantile companies, organizations “chartered” by their home countries to conduct business in regions of interest (and also carry out the interests of the nations that chartered them). The Royal Niger Company was one such entity (another such company was the British East India Company). The Royal Niger Company controlled assets along the Niger River (the Niger River flows through Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria):
After buying out competition from French traders along the southern end of the Niger River, forming political treaties with the most powerful chiefs along the river (who had little to no relations with one another and were from various ethnic groups) and bringing in British forces to protect the company’s economic assets, the Royal Niger Company sold its assets to the British Empire in 1900, and thus was born Britain’s official colony of Nigeria. So in essence, what is present day Nigeria was born out of a series of isolated business deals, unbranded marketing, buyouts, brute force where needed and consolidation of assets.
I don’t think big business has changed much today.
Fun Fact: The Royal Niger Company was completely absorbed into Unilever in 1987. In case you don’t know, Unilever is a global consumer goods company, and is responsible whether directly or indirectly (via acquisitions) for some notable brands like Lux soap, TRESemmé, Axe bodyspray, VO5 and Ben&Jerry’s:
Nigeria gained its independence from Great Britain in 1960. Much of the trouble Nigeria has faced since then has been in large part due to how the Nigerian region and its multitude of ethnic groups were grouped together right from the beginning (resulting in religious and cultural clashes), the concentration of resources in specific areas, corruption born from poor/selfish leadership and a lack of national patriotism.
I’m not going to get into the specifics of what has happened in Nigeria since its independence. For a play by play run through of events, I recommend you watch this documentary by Jide Olanrewaju. It’s pretty long, so please watch it after reading this post (wink)!
Nigeria’s story is not completely one of despair. Nigeria has boasted many accomplishments, for example, Nigeria runs its own space programme! The nation has been operating its own satellites (the Nigeria-SAT series) since 2003 (this point is not always seen as an accomplishment within certain circles as Nigeria has a chronic poverty problem). See below for a short video on this initiative:
Nigeria has also produced some of the worlds foremost thinkers and entertainers. For example:
Chiwetel Ejiofor. British actor with Nigerian blood/roots. I first saw him in a movie called Deadly Voyage (I was actually at one of that movie’s premieres which happened in Ghana back in the 90s). He caught my attention with his performance in Dirty Pretty Things and Endgame, and I’ve been a fan of his work ever since. He also got an Oscar nomination for his work in 12 Years a Slave.
Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaye. I first saw him in Oz as Adebisi, and have enjoyed watching his character renditions in his other roles (Mr. Eko in the Lost series, Heavy Duty in the G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra movie, The Evangelist in Faster next to The Rock, etc etc…).
Chinedu Echeruo. Invented the successful online city transit guide called HopStop (if you’re a New Yorker like me I’m sure you’ve used it at least once). Apple bought HopStop in 2013 (for about $1 billion). I’m a big fan of his work, check out this old video of him giving an overview of HopStop:
Chinua Achebe (R.I.P). Perhaps the most well known literary figure to come out of Nigeria, his novel Things Fall Apart has been an African literary classic since the 50s. Examples of other talented writers of Nigerian ancestry include authors like the beautiful *Chimamanda Adichie, Teju Cole, Wole Soyinka, Uzodinma Iweala, Ben Okri, and Dewunmi Okupe.
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. NBA legend and perhaps the best center to ever play the game (definitely top 3). Today is a real estate mogul, trains the best in the NBA on post moves in his private training camp, and is now part of the Houston Rockets coaching squad.
Jay “Jay” Okocha. Former professional footballer. Played in many leagues across Germany, Turkey, France and most notably within the English Premiere League for the Bolton Wanderers. I enjoyed watching his skills when he played.
I could go on with many Nigerians who have done great things across different disciplines, but I’m sure you get the point. There is no way I can write about Nigeria without sharing the below video of Chimamanda Adichie giving a beautiful, intelligent and eloquently delivered speech at TEDx titled “The Danger of a Single Story.” I recommend you watch it.
So, how does Nigeria tie into my novel, Eteka: Rise of the Imamba?
A big chunk of my novel takes place in Nigeria across the 90s and the 60s. These specific locations are featured:
Abuja — Abuja is Nigeria’s capital city. It was built in the 1980s. It contains modern architecture, and is home to many wealthy Nigerians. Abuja makes its appearance within my novel in the 1990s.
Ibadan — Ibadan plays a very important role in Eteka: Rise of the Imamba. Ibadan is home to the University of Ibadan, the former stomping grounds for some Nigerian literary greats such as Wole Soyinka, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Chinua Achebe. Ibadan makes its appearance within my novel in both the 1990s and the 1960s.
Lagos — Lagos makes a few exciting appearances within my novel. Lagos is Nigeria’s most populous and exciting city which was originally built on a cluster of islands. Lagos makes its appearance within my novel in both the 1990s and 1960s.
Onitsha — A commercial and populous city in Anambra State. Onitsha makes its appearance in my novel in the 1990s.
Warri — Warri is a city in Nigeria’s Delta State. It sits in a rich oil region, and is home to some oil refineries. Warri played a key strategic role in the Nigerian/Biafra civil war, and also saw some of the worst violence. Warri makes it appearance within my novel in the 1960s.
Fun Fact: Pidgin English, a street vernacular dialect is widely spoken among the youth and locals across much of West Africa. Each country has its unique form of pidgin, but the general verbage is standard across most countries. Below is a video snippet of the Christ story dubbed over with Nigerian Pidgin:
I’ll leave you with the below video which offers some shots of Obalende, a neighborhood in Ikoyi, Lagos. Enjoy.