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Africa Life Updates

10 Things I Don’t Miss About Living in Nigeria

March 23, 2018

I’ve been back in Nigeria for 6 weeks now and I’ve talked about the things that I’m missing, like family, friends, spontaneous and insightful conversations and mango season.
Now I want to talk a bit about the things I most definitely do not miss. I’ve never been one to pretend that everything was peachy while I was in Nigeria. I think it’s important to paint African countries in a positive light, but more important than that is an honest and realistic light. In the spirit of being honest and open, here are the 10 things I don’t miss about being in Nigeria:

1. People mimicking my accent and people getting offended that I have an accent.

I talked about this in the post I wrote about all the sh*tty things that happened leading up to NYSC camp, and while I learned to ignore this a bit, the truth is that it honestly and truly annoyed me throughout. A lot of people try to play it off as a joke, but when you hear it an upwards of 10x a week, it’s not funny. Also, in general it’s a childish and rude thing to do. Also, some people were downright hostile about my accent, so it kind of makes it hard to not be defensive towards people who think they are genuinely being harmless.

2. People making assumptions about me based of that accent, such as

  • I should drive/be driven to CDS instead of taking Keke and walking
  • I’ve never had ogi or other local dishes
  • I don’t know how to cook local dishes or cook at all
  • I would fly to all my destinations
  • I don’t know how to bargain (as if an Igbo woman didn’t raise me)
  • I wouldn’t know how to go the market
  • I can’t get around on my own
  • I don’t know how to speak my language (and funny thing is that lots of people grow up in Lagos without a foreign accent and also don’t know their parents’ native tongue).

And then it’s even worse when those assumptions are more so accusations and people REFUSE to believe simple things I state about myself…for example, that I’m from Ondo. Sorry, shey na you born me? (Translation: Sorry, are you the one that gave birth to me?)

3. Smelly gutters and trash heaps

Especially in Lagos, we GOTTA do something about our waste disposal and drainage systems. It made it SUPER hard to walk around and just enjoy being outside. And no one should come and say “oh, it’s Africa, it’s a developing country.”

1. I’m putting out general things I disliked…I think everyone dislikes smelly places.

2. I’ve been to other places in Africa that aren’t like that. Hell! Abuja doesn’t have open gutters the way even Victoria Island (the posh part of Lagos) does.

4. Electricity Issues 

Coming home ready to #getsh*tdone only to find out there’s no light and your phone (and thus internet) is almost dead. Also, when the lights come and go so fast, your extension cord or your phone short circuit and spotty wifi, I just can’t catch a break. Again, not an Africa thing. Our neighbors have relatively steady light.

5. Coming home and there is no running water

To be fair, this only happened 2 or 3 times in Abuja, but happened a handful of times and at long stretches in Lagos.

6. Bad customer service:

I elaborated on this a bit more in my article or Face2Face Africa: 10 Vices Holding Nigeria Back. But essentially, in providing basic customer service, a lot of people act like they are doing you a favor. Like…I’m TRYING To buy your pizza…you do know I’m GOING to pay for these services?…worse yet, sometimes you’ve already paid for a service, and you’re still treated like crap.

Nigeria brings outs my angry side – nice and cordial doesn’t often get you very far in this country.

The only place nice and cordial might work is government offices because you actually do need them, and if you set them off you are NOT getting anything done that day.

7. Impatient drivers

I was going to say ‘being stuck in traffic,’ but most road jams are caused by impatient people who don’t know how to drive and people trying to turn left from the right most lane. Let’s get a grip people. I know this is probably not unique to Nigeria, but a lot of people have a blatant disregard for the lines in the road. A 2 lane highway turning into 4 is exactly the kind of thing that causes traffic and ensures that none of us reach our destination on time. People can just be really inconsiderate on the road.

8. Arrogant Ignorance & Complacency

So as you can tell, some of the earlier points are written with some assumptions of what I think people’s responses will be (#3, #4) and that’s because I experienced this a lot – and it honestly deserves its own post.

A perfect example is one time in Ondo, my little brother and I went to the pharmacy to get something, and I asked for a receipt. The guy laughed and responded in a high pitched, what I’m guessing he thought was, an American accent (see #1), and said “Sorry, this is Africa, we don’t do that here.”
I wanted to spit in his face. Harsh, but true.

Are you saying ZERO stores in Africa print receipts? Have I not been living in Abuja and Lagos for how many months now? It’s one thing to say “our store doesn’t have the capacity to do that,” it’s another thing to speak for the whole continent. And it’s that level of ignorant arrogance that just really kills me about a number of people I interacted throughout my time in Nigeria.
Nigerians, we gotta stop acting like we know everything when 9 times out of 10 we are blatantly wrong. Also “This is Africa,” is not an excuse for being mediocre. Your neighbors have light 24/7 (see #4). Please, let’s sit down and learn from those doing it right.

And while this is now a longer section than I was hoping, I believe the ignorance and the complacency go hand-in-hand. We think Nigeria is doing at least the best in Africa, therefore don’t see any need to make a change. Let’s assume Nigerian stores on average don’t give receipts…is that the reason to make fun of me for asking…shouldn’t you think “Mmm, maybe we should find a way to start offering it.” There’s this idea that that’s the way things are, so therefore, that’s the way they will stay. I could go on for a while about how I don’t even blame people for this mindset, but I’ll stop here for now.

9. Sexism so entrenched even the women are sexist to themselves and other women.

This probably deserves its own post as well and I talk about in the 10 Vices Article.

But essentially, some women in Nigeria (and I’m sure around the world) really have decided they deserve their 2nd class citizenship status. They don’t want to vote for other women because they think something about women makes them arrogant, rude and power hungry once they gain a little power (so men stay humble and kind when they climb the ladders of success?…I don’t get). To be clear, these are real stances I’ve heard, not just inferences I’m making.

Also, no matter what you got going on, the 2nd question is…when are you getting married? As if marriage will solve all my problems. I’ll stop here for now on this topic too. Just know I’ve had lots of rant sessions which Chineme on this topic, and even taken it to twitter.

10. Carbs. Carbs. Carbs.

Phew! That was heavy, let me end on a lighter more whimsical note…and back to food – my favorite. So, as much as I LOOOOVE Nigerian food, our carb load can be out of control sometimes.

For example, a typical day in Naija might look like this:

  • Yam and egg sauce for breakfast
  • Eba and egusi for lunch (cassava and vegetable with watermelon seed soup)
  • Rice and stew for dinner

Another one:

  • Plantain and stew for breakfast
  • Jollof rice for lunch
  • Indomie for dinner (instant noodles)

Another one:

  • Ogi and Akara for breakfast (corn meal porridge and a fried bean cake)
  • Spaghetti for lunch
  • Semo and Ogbono for dinner (wheat with vegetable soup)

And that could easily be your Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

Minus the heavy portions given and all the oil used, our meals are relatively healthy. Ronke Edoho of 9jaFoodie shows people how to make healthy meals from the Nigerian palette and I think it’s a great initiative.

Also, we did have “salads” with our rice on many Sundays, but it was essentially coleslaw, I just wouldn’t put mayonnaise on mine. I wanted dark leafy greens with avocado and a variety of other adornments. I was able to do this one week when I saved up my money, but with the way my bank account was looking, it just made the most sense to eat what was being served in the house.

So there you have it! The 10 things I do not miss about Nigeria right now, and continue not to miss. I can’t even miss the food because my mom makes it from time to time.

But before you go around thinking I hate Nigeria – please make sure you read the previous post on 10 things I do miss about Nigeria! Everywhere has its ups and downs, I’m just trying to paint an honest picture. Also, these experiences could very well be unique to me. I’m in no way trying to speak for what everyone might dislike about Nigeria!

Let me know below if you agree with any of my observations and if you have any questions about my thoughts of the various matters addressed here! Always love hearing you all.


Omolayo Nkem

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  • Reply Chidera March 23, 2018 at 18:31

    This was a funny post. Well, I am Nigerian as you know, living in Nigeria and definitely not surprised. Lol. Keep up with your great writing. I keep learning from you.

    • Reply Omolayo Nkem March 24, 2018 at 20:47

      Haha, yay! Glad you found the post humorous. It was most definitely an interesting experience and a great chance for me to reflect on my time in Nigeria. Thanks for your constant support Chidera.

  • Reply Ideh Tega Oghenetega April 7, 2018 at 04:08

    These are very good observations. A balanced write-up.
    We do hope that Nigerians will turn a new leaf so that Nigeria will be a better place to leave.

    • Reply Omolayo Nkem April 13, 2018 at 09:12

      Thank you so much Tega! And yes, we truly hope so.

  • Reply LoriKemi May 14, 2018 at 06:51

    You are absolutely correct: while it’s important to paint a positive image of Africa, we have to recognize flaws and shortcomings of people and societies on the continent – especially when they are unreasonable like poor access to electricity. To be honest, I agree with you about most of what you mentioned – particularly the 9th point (I just *don’t* get it!!) and at times do miss life in “the West” for those reasons… Thanks for this reminder to be honest with myself even as I work hard to help promote travel in Africa and help change what the rest of the world thinks about the people and countries in Africa. // http://www.lorikemi.com

    • Reply Omolayo Nkem May 14, 2018 at 17:29

      Hey Lorikemi,

      Thanks so so much for stopping by and I appreciate your thoughtful comment! And exactly! Honest stories are super important. The point is just that we want more nuanced conversations about Africans countries and not the single sided narratives that have been told without us for far too long! I definitely feel like you are contributing to the diversity of narratives available about various African countries, so keep it up! 🙂

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