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British Journalist Narrates Experience In Nigeria After short Visit

Read what a British Journalist and BBC
reporter, David Hayward said about Nigeria
after a short visit here.
Earlier this year, I was approached to do some
media consultancy in Nigeria. I'd just left the
BBC after 18 years, to set up my own business,
so this seemed a great opportunity. I spoke to
a number of friends and former colleagues. I'd
heard many stories about Nigeria, seen the
reports on Boko Haram and had my own
impressions of sub Saharan Africa.
The advice fell into two camps:
a) Don't go, you'll get kidnapped or catch
malaria. Either way, you're going to die
b) Nigeria is a nightmare. When you arrive,
you'll be swamped by hustlers trying to rip you
off, steal your luggage and all your money. If
they don't get you, the corrupt police officers
and officials will.
I was mainly to be based in Asaba, the capital
of the Delta State, one of, if not the biggest,
oil producing states is Nigeria. In an attempt
to be a bit more thorough with my research
than asking a few old mates, I contacted the
office of BBC Media Action in Abuja.
The fairly pragmatic response was: "We treat
the Delta State as a hostile environment. It's
an oil producing area and there is a strong risk
of kidnapping. However if you have armed
security, this risk will be slightly reduced". I
took this to be reassuring and made sure an
armed security clause was written into my
contract. I spent some time talking to my wife
Jo and children about the prospect of going to
Nigeria.
Jo's attitude was: "For God's sake, this is
exactly what you love doing. The more
dangerous a place the better the stories. You'll
be able to show off and bore people senseless
about roadblocks, men with guns and how
brave you are". Buoyed by this I accepted the
work and prepared for Asaba. I got my visa, all
the vaccinations I could fit into my arm and
made sure I had a small mountain of malaria
tablets.
I really didn't know what to expect from
Nigeria. It's easy to fall into preconceptions
that Africa is all about war, famine,
corruption and poachers killing endangered
animals.
I caught the overnight BA fli1around the site
to cater for a mass of cargo. About ten
minutes drive away, just across the Niger
Bridge, is the city of Onitsha. One of the
busiest markets in Africa. You can buy almost
anything there.
I was to travel in and out of the airport
several times in the next five weeks. Each time
something new was completed. The baggage
carousel, lacking when we first flew in, was
fully operational the next time. So were the
check-in areas and the very plush departures
hall.
The next morning was the first venture out.
Yinka and I decided to go for a bit of a run. It
seemed sensible to set off early because of
the heat and to avoid the risk of being
kidnapped or shot at. So at 6am we were off.
About a minute into the jog we approached a
group of somewhat hard looking men with very
big guns. They were guarding the gates to our
compound. This is not a sight I'm used to on my
normal runs in rural Leicestershire, in the UK.
Anxious to appear as inconspicuous as possible
I tried to sneak past, not drawing too much
attention to myself, convinced I was about to
be arrested. However quite the opposite. We
were greeted with cheers of "Good morning
sir, well done, how far?".
Once I had composed myself from the shock,
very nearly tripping over in a sweaty heap, we
continued our circuits. Every time we passed
someone we had the same greeting. It began to
feel as though we had our own troupe of
heavily armed cheerleaders. (Or should that be
troop?)
This was quite an introduction to what, I began
to realize, was one of the most friendly
countries I have been to. This is a genuine
friendliness. It is not a means to get to know
you and rip you off.
The following few weeks continued to surprise
me – and to make me feel very embarrassed
about my initial preconceptions. I've been lucky
enough to visit a whole range of places in the
Delta State. The TV and radio stations need
some work, but the staff are young,
enthusiastic and very hard working. Warri, the
oil centre, is a thriving hub that is only going
to get bigger, with the construction of the
largest business park in West Africa. The sign
at our hotel was a bit disconcerting. It asked
everyone carrying guns to make sure they
weren't loaded – which was nice.
The University Teaching Hospital in Oghara is
as well equipped as any I have been to in the
UK or the rest of Europe. There are state of
the art CT and MRI scanners, a world class
renal unit and 25 paediatric intensive care
beds.
The journey to the hospital gave me the first
opportunity to see a proper Nigerian village.
This was far closer to what I had been
expecting. The goats and cattle roaming the
dusty roads, the food stalls cooking chicken,
fish and corn over open fires. Dozens of bars
with dodgy looking satellites, advertising the
latest football matches live. When we slowed
down, or stopped the car we were surrounded
by two groups. The children pointing at me
were shouting Oyibo, Oyibo (white man) and
teenagers trying to sell anything from palm
wine to cola nuts, to the latest mobile phones.
Now I can't be sure, but I don't think the
iphone 5 I was offered for 5000 naira (about
£20) was as genuine as it could be. All of this
was done with great fun and humour. If you
chose to, you could buy everything you needed
from your car. If you didn't, that was fine too.
Suicidal Okada
The transport system is far from perfect but
all the roads we've driven on are absolutely
fine. The most interesting experience was
seeing the suicidal Okada motorcycle taxis in
full force for the first time. They have been
banned in Delta State and replaced by three-
wheel kekes. But this is certainly not the case
in Onitsha. It is about a fifteen-minute
journey from the centre of Asaba, but it could
be on another planet.
You drive over the Niger Bridge, enter the
neighbouring state and a different world. One
where thousands of the small machines ferry
people and any goods you can think of around.
We saw one driver with four passengers, two
adults and two children precariously balanced
in front and behind him. Oil barrels containing
God knows what, weighing heavily on the
clearly inadequate suspension. I was told
someone had seen an Okada carrying a donkey,
strapped to the driver as though he was giving
it a piggy back. I don't know if I believe this,
but, from what I saw in Onitsha that day, I
can't rule it out.
The drivers are quite mad. We were there for
about a minute before our car had its first
near miss. We were to have many more in the
next half an hour, with the rules of the road,
like driving in the same direction on a dual
carriageway, simply ignored.
The noise is deafening. As the Okadas rev
their tiny engines, they sound like a swarm of
very loud insects buzzing inside your head. You
very soon begin to choke on the fumes of
burning oil and petrol. It was quite a relief to
cross back over the bridge into the far more
serene and calm home ground of Asaba. The
welcome I have had everywhere is stunning. On
one occasion I interviewed a senior state
commissioner. It turned out it was his
birthday. He kindly invited me to his party
that evening. I didn't really know anyone else
going – so felt a little uncomfortable. No need.
When I arrived he insisted I sit with him.
He made sure my glass was never empty and
my plate constantly filled. I was introduced to
everyone and made to feel an honored guest.
There was a downside to this. The comedian
who anchored the programme took quite a
shine to me….. "Ahhh give it up for the white
man, where are you from"?
This was followed by ten minutes of him
royally taking the **** out of me. I understood
about one word in ten, but by the reaction of
everyone else, it was obviously very amusing.
So much for being inconspicuous.
Premier League
But the worst was still to come. People began
standing up and paying tribute to the
Commissioner. He is a very popular guy.
Halfway through the speeches the comedian
spotted me once again. "Does the white man
want to speak". I stood, said a few words and
wished he would see his children's children and
his children's children's children. This appeared
to be the toast de jour and went down very
well. The evening ended with lots of
photographs being taken and many new good
friends.
The one thing you cannot escape in Nigeria is
the love of the English Premier League. I have
so far failed to meet another Leicester City
fan, an obvious shame, but there are millions
of diehard Manchester United, Arsenal and
Chelsea supporters.
Watching the Liverpool v Man Utd game at the
Asaba viewing centre, with thousands of
people wearing the respective replica kits, was
one hell of an experience, although my
eardrums may take some time to recover.
There is no doubting their passion. They may
not have been to Old Trafford, The Emirates
or Stamford Bridge, but the passion they
exuded was clear. I'm not sure what 'come on
ref,' or 'what was that you idiot' is in pidgin,
but I heard it several times that day.
The viewing centre was created by the
governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel
Uduaghan. He is an Arsenal supporter. I met
him once while playing tennis. For some reason
he didn't seem very impressed by my love of
Leicester City. I simply don't understand why.
S
Sent from my Blog http://naijagoogleblogger.blogspot.com/

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British Journalist Narrates Experience In Nigeria After short Visit

Read what a British Journalist and BBC
reporter, David Hayward said about Nigeria
after a short visit here.
Earlier this year, I was approached to do some
media consultancy in Nigeria. I'd just left the
BBC after 18 years, to set up my own business,
so this seemed a great opportunity. I spoke to
a number of friends and former colleagues. I'd
heard many stories about Nigeria, seen the
reports on Boko Haram and had my own
impressions of sub Saharan Africa.
The advice fell into two camps:
a) Don't go, you'll get kidnapped or catch
malaria. Either way, you're going to die
b) Nigeria is a nightmare. When you arrive,
you'll be swamped by hustlers trying to rip you
off, steal your luggage and all your money. If
they don't get you, the corrupt police officers
and officials will.
I was mainly to be based in Asaba, the capital
of the Delta State, one of, if not the biggest,
oil producing states is Nigeria. In an attempt
to be a bit more thorough with my research
than asking a few old mates, I contacted the
office of BBC Media Action in Abuja.
The fairly pragmatic response was: "We treat
the Delta State as a hostile environment. It's
an oil producing area and there is a strong risk
of kidnapping. However if you have armed
security, this risk will be slightly reduced". I
took this to be reassuring and made sure an
armed security clause was written into my
contract. I spent some time talking to my wife
Jo and children about the prospect of going to
Nigeria.
Jo's attitude was: "For God's sake, this is
exactly what you love doing. The more
dangerous a place the better the stories. You'll
be able to show off and bore people senseless
about roadblocks, men with guns and how
brave you are". Buoyed by this I accepted the
work and prepared for Asaba. I got my visa, all
the vaccinations I could fit into my arm and
made sure I had a small mountain of malaria
tablets.
I really didn't know what to expect from
Nigeria. It's easy to fall into preconceptions
that Africa is all about war, famine,
corruption and poachers killing endangered
animals.
I caught the overnight BA fli1around the site
to cater for a mass of cargo. About ten
minutes drive away, just across the Niger
Bridge, is the city of Onitsha. One of the
busiest markets in Africa. You can buy almost
anything there.
I was to travel in and out of the airport
several times in the next five weeks. Each time
something new was completed. The baggage
carousel, lacking when we first flew in, was
fully operational the next time. So were the
check-in areas and the very plush departures
hall.
The next morning was the first venture out.
Yinka and I decided to go for a bit of a run. It
seemed sensible to set off early because of
the heat and to avoid the risk of being
kidnapped or shot at. So at 6am we were off.
About a minute into the jog we approached a
group of somewhat hard looking men with very
big guns. They were guarding the gates to our
compound. This is not a sight I'm used to on my
normal runs in rural Leicestershire, in the UK.
Anxious to appear as inconspicuous as possible
I tried to sneak past, not drawing too much
attention to myself, convinced I was about to
be arrested. However quite the opposite. We
were greeted with cheers of "Good morning
sir, well done, how far?".
Once I had composed myself from the shock,
very nearly tripping over in a sweaty heap, we
continued our circuits. Every time we passed
someone we had the same greeting. It began to
feel as though we had our own troupe of
heavily armed cheerleaders. (Or should that be
troop?)
This was quite an introduction to what, I began
to realize, was one of the most friendly
countries I have been to. This is a genuine
friendliness. It is not a means to get to know
you and rip you off.
The following few weeks continued to surprise
me – and to make me feel very embarrassed
about my initial preconceptions. I've been lucky
enough to visit a whole range of places in the
Delta State. The TV and radio stations need
some work, but the staff are young,
enthusiastic and very hard working. Warri, the
oil centre, is a thriving hub that is only going
to get bigger, with the construction of the
largest business park in West Africa. The sign
at our hotel was a bit disconcerting. It asked
everyone carrying guns to make sure they
weren't loaded – which was nice.
The University Teaching Hospital in Oghara is
as well equipped as any I have been to in the
UK or the rest of Europe. There are state of
the art CT and MRI scanners, a world class
renal unit and 25 paediatric intensive care
beds.
The journey to the hospital gave me the first
opportunity to see a proper Nigerian village.
This was far closer to what I had been
expecting. The goats and cattle roaming the
dusty roads, the food stalls cooking chicken,
fish and corn over open fires. Dozens of bars
with dodgy looking satellites, advertising the
latest football matches live. When we slowed
down, or stopped the car we were surrounded
by two groups. The children pointing at me
were shouting Oyibo, Oyibo (white man) and
teenagers trying to sell anything from palm
wine to cola nuts, to the latest mobile phones.
Now I can't be sure, but I don't think the
iphone 5 I was offered for 5000 naira (about
£20) was as genuine as it could be. All of this
was done with great fun and humour. If you
chose to, you could buy everything you needed
from your car. If you didn't, that was fine too.
Suicidal Okada
The transport system is far from perfect but
all the roads we've driven on are absolutely
fine. The most interesting experience was
seeing the suicidal Okada motorcycle taxis in
full force for the first time. They have been
banned in Delta State and replaced by three-
wheel kekes. But this is certainly not the case
in Onitsha. It is about a fifteen-minute
journey from the centre of Asaba, but it could
be on another planet.
You drive over the Niger Bridge, enter the
neighbouring state and a different world. One
where thousands of the small machines ferry
people and any goods you can think of around.
We saw one driver with four passengers, two
adults and two children precariously balanced
in front and behind him. Oil barrels containing
God knows what, weighing heavily on the
clearly inadequate suspension. I was told
someone had seen an Okada carrying a donkey,
strapped to the driver as though he was giving
it a piggy back. I don't know if I believe this,
but, from what I saw in Onitsha that day, I
can't rule it out.
The drivers are quite mad. We were there for
about a minute before our car had its first
near miss. We were to have many more in the
next half an hour, with the rules of the road,
like driving in the same direction on a dual
carriageway, simply ignored.
The noise is deafening. As the Okadas rev
their tiny engines, they sound like a swarm of
very loud insects buzzing inside your head. You
very soon begin to choke on the fumes of
burning oil and petrol. It was quite a relief to
cross back over the bridge into the far more
serene and calm home ground of Asaba. The
welcome I have had everywhere is stunning. On
one occasion I interviewed a senior state
commissioner. It turned out it was his
birthday. He kindly invited me to his party
that evening. I didn't really know anyone else
going – so felt a little uncomfortable. No need.
When I arrived he insisted I sit with him.
He made sure my glass was never empty and
my plate constantly filled. I was introduced to
everyone and made to feel an honored guest.
There was a downside to this. The comedian
who anchored the programme took quite a
shine to me….. "Ahhh give it up for the white
man, where are you from"?
This was followed by ten minutes of him
royally taking the **** out of me. I understood
about one word in ten, but by the reaction of
everyone else, it was obviously very amusing.
So much for being inconspicuous.
Premier League
But the worst was still to come. People began
standing up and paying tribute to the
Commissioner. He is a very popular guy.
Halfway through the speeches the comedian
spotted me once again. "Does the white man
want to speak". I stood, said a few words and
wished he would see his children's children and
his children's children's children. This appeared
to be the toast de jour and went down very
well. The evening ended with lots of
photographs being taken and many new good
friends.
The one thing you cannot escape in Nigeria is
the love of the English Premier League. I have
so far failed to meet another Leicester City
fan, an obvious shame, but there are millions
of diehard Manchester United, Arsenal and
Chelsea supporters.
Watching the Liverpool v Man Utd game at the
Asaba viewing centre, with thousands of
people wearing the respective replica kits, was
one hell of an experience, although my
eardrums may take some time to recover.
There is no doubting their passion. They may
not have been to Old Trafford, The Emirates
or Stamford Bridge, but the passion they
exuded was clear. I'm not sure what 'come on
ref,' or 'what was that you idiot' is in pidgin,
but I heard it several times that day.
The viewing centre was created by the
governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel
Uduaghan. He is an Arsenal supporter. I met
him once while playing tennis. For some reason
he didn't seem very impressed by my love of
Leicester City. I simply don't understand why.
S
Sent from my Blog http://naijagoogleblogger.blogspot.com/
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