Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nigeria is 47!

Before the great explorer, Mungo Park was credited as discovering River Niger; the people who lived on the bank of the Nigerian river used the river as source of water and knew its course. In essence; he was the first European to follow the course of the river for about 300 miles. In the same vein, Nigerians occupying the place and space that came to be known as Nigeria existed long before we were colonized by the British. It would be strange to re-date my existence to when I started school or when I first travelled out of Nigeria but such dates must be remembered as a milestone in one’s life.

Nigeria became a nation as politically defined when it gained independence on the 1st of October 1960. To honor the struggles of our fore-fathers and fore-mothers, we celebrated their courage and our aspirations. Since we couldn't bring everyone to the table, we would like to give you a taste of Nigeria in 47 lumps.

Nigeria, officially named the Federal Republic of Nigeria gained independence from the British in 1960 October 1. The current President is Umar Yar’Adua.
Nigeria is made up of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja. The former state capital Lagos remains the economic nerve center.
There are 274 ethnic groups where 250 languages are spoken. Some dialects may not even be understood by people from the same region. Nigeria is often segmented as Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo; the languages of these major groups are used nationally. There is an origin mythology attached to every tribe.
Money spent in Nigeria is called Naira. The amount is indicated in four languages – Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo and English.
Though Nigerians are not considered Native speakers of the English Language by most United States’ colleges, the official language in Nigeria is English; British or Queen’s English. Pidgin (from Pigeon) an abridged variation of the English language is widely spoken across the country.
Nigerians are known for the culture of respect. People generally refer to men or women as old as their parents as mothers and fathers or uncles and aunties depending on a number of reasons. Very close family friends and neighbors of one’s age may be referred to as siblings or cousins. First names are usually not accepted in relating to someone older (on the average five years older).
Communal living is common; hardly will you find people living alone. Usually there would be a parent, sibling, cousin, friend, etc sharing your home.
Visiting unannounced is accepted except in some religious instance. Parents, relations, close family friends etc may show up and expect to be pampered. Access to mobile phones and migration has affected this.
Parties are lavishly organized especially wedding, burials and naming ceremonies. Parties are usually fully sponsored by the host or the host’s family. When a Nigerian invites you to dinner or film viewing, it means he or she is making provision/paying.
Price haggling is a lifestyle. It is either you haggle from a higher price downwards (West) or a lower price upwards (North).
Naming ceremonies where gifts are given is usually done after the child is born. Paternal grandfathers usually have a say in the name given. Depending on the religion of the parents; it could be based on Christian, Islamic or Traditional belief.
Nigerians generally believe in the concept of God. God is known in different names and worshipped differently according to faith adopted.
Work-study is uncommon. Parents are wholly responsible for education, welfare and general upkeep of children often till marriage or when the child gets first job, whichever comes first. In some cultures, first salary is handed down to parents as an indication that it is time to start paying back.
Children after coming of age (getting married, working or attaining the age of 25) are responsible for caring for parents and elders in the family. It is not unusual for demands to be made once one is comfortable enough to support.
Children (females especially) are not required to leave home until marriage.
Greeting is required and highly valued. Offence may be taken if you don’t greet properly. Handshake is permitted but when using this form of greeting for a much older person, wait for it to be initiated by the person.
There are variations in greeting styles based on region or ethnic group. Yorubas generally kneel (female) or prostrate (males), Ibos bow slightly (males) or bend slightly (females) while Hausas bend down.
Education is highly regarded. It is not unusual for some parents to sell their all to educate a brilliant or willing child.
Question to a Nigerian may be responded to with another question instead of an answer e.g. Question: Where are you going? Response: Would you like to go with me? It is not something we learn, we just do it.
We seldom come early for functions but we are always on time. On time to begin or join a party means when family members or known faces have arrived.
When giving road direction, using landmark description is better. Referring us to a map would make us turn up much later. The concept of road navigation tool is new.
Money ‘spraying’ (where money is placed on forehead especially during dance) is common across the country. Some religious folks ask that the money be dropped at the feet of the dancer or person to be ‘sprayed’ instead of placed on forehead.
House warming (party to indicate moving into a new home) is not unusual. In most cases the home is one built or fully paid for by the host.
Mortgage or credit card is a new trend until recently anyone with a new car or new house has paid in full with cash saved or borrowed. ATM Debit card is a recent trend.
Esusu (cooperative savings association in which members pay an agreed amount each month then each take a turn at receiving the sum collected) is done by some people to raise money instead of borrowing from the bank.
The rule about dressing is ‘be modest’. Revealing attire may earn you harassment which the law enforcement officers may not be able to save you from.
Polygamy is not approved by law. Tradition however accepts and welcomes it. A woman who leaves her husband due to polygamy is considered unaccommodating. Though women are not compelled to remain in a polygamous relationship most merely separate instead of filing for divorce especially where children are involved.
Eating with hands is permitted; you are required to wash your hands when joining others. Though cutlery sets are used, an average Nigerian can do without the dinner knife.
Basic manners enforced for children include mouth covering when coughing or yawning, saying thank you for gift or kindness received, saying please to request favor, saying I’m sorry to apologize and responding to greetings.
Flogging is permitted. It is seen as a way to open up deaf ears to ensure the one being flogged hear the voice of reason that will lead her/him to lasting peace. It is not unusual to hear the saying “cane does not kill”. Once a child who is being flogged runs to the bosom of someone older then the flogging stops. To continue means you are prepared to beat both of them.
Pregnancy is seldom announced except to close family members and friends. It is generally believed that “when your yam is white, you covertly eat it” though “God’s sprouting yam cannot be covered” this will ensure evil doers “arrive after the harvest; when they cannot spoil the yam”.
Proverbs and proverbial sayings are commonly used; they are considered as palm oil with which words are eaten. The use of proverbs distinguishes native speakers from non-native speakers.
There is a general belief in the existence of witches/witchcraft and the power of evil which explains 31.
Water is seen as a pacifier. Anyone with a fever is asked to take a bath, during mediation water is given to both parties, water is offered to guests as a way of saying welcome, an angry person may be offered water first before discussion.
It is customary for husband to visit in-laws (mother & father of wife especially) to announce the birth of a child especially first child. Some cultures still insist that the naming of the first child should be done at the home of the paternal grandparents.
Marriage ceremony is usually organized by parents; it is seen generally as coming of age and a sending forth to begin life alone for the couple. That has changed greatly with a number of people getting married late.
Unmarried women above 30 years of age seldom use the title ‘Miss’ though they may not welcome the use of ‘Ms.’ because it is seen as a title for divorcees. It is not unusual for women in this age range not to use titles.
In the past, a woman found to be a virgin on her wedding night is celebrated while the one not found to be is disgraced. Parents of the bride receive a gift of honor or of shame as the case may be. For the Yorubas, parents may receive a full matchbox with a goat or cow depending on groom’s wealth.
Though the concept of wearing white by females for wedding and honeymoon for the couple has been adopted by city dwellers. Rural dwellers still practice remaining at home under the care of relations for a couple of days.
A bride-to-be may be sent to a fattening room. Being skinny or slim is seen as lack of wealth or good care. Mothers pay special attention to molding the buttocks of female children at birth.
Insurance may be bought by individuals but there is no national health insurance. Health care is provided through General Hospitals available all over the nation. At these hospitals, consultancy fee is waived and drugs are sold at a discount rate. Though this is mainly to cater to the middle or lower class, some top level folks use the service due to the availability of specialist care. Most of the hospitals are linked to university teaching hospitals.
In the past, sanitation officers were required to visit homes and neighborhood to ensure the environment is kept clean but today some States have monthly environmental sanitation days. People are required to remain at home till 10am on such days for the purpose of cleaning their environment. Violators may be arrested.
There’s always a song; whether in sad moments, celebration mood, when offended, etc. It is not unusual for us to break into a song.
Indigenous family dramas are more popular than western soap operas. It is not unusual to find people crowded around a television under a canopy or in a corner shop to watch popular television programs.
Being the most populous country in West Africa, we are always in the news. Our newsmakers include Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Olusegun Obasanjo, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (late), Cardinal Arinze, Enoch Adejare Adeboye, Mohammed Ali, Sade Adu, Kanu Nwakwo, JayJay Okocha, Dora Nkem Akunyili, Hubert Ogunde (late), Philip Emeagwali and Ken Saro-Wiwa.
There exist a very vibrant media; newspapers (over 150); federal (97) state (32) and private (14) television stations; federal (43), state (40) and private (17) radio stations; cable (35), direct to home (3) and direct satellite (2) service.
Thousands of people are drawn annually to the beauty of tourist places, festivals and crafts. To name a few: Obudu Cattle Ranch, Ikogosi Warm Spring (where cold and warm water flow naturally from a hilly landscape into same stream but does not mix), Yankari National Park, Redemption Camp, Olumo Rock, Durbar, Osun, Eyo, Sharo/Shadi, Argungu, Nok terracotta sculpture, Igbo-Ukwu bronze, Yoruba masks.

Nigerians are very proud of the rich cultural heritage we share. This includes dance, dance-drama, drama, music, oral traditions, philosophy, rites, rituals and fashion. In doubt about our dance skills or sense of fashion? Look out for Nigerians at OU.

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