He’s a great kid—mature for his age, laughing all the time, and really bright. This isn’t specific to Nigeria, of course—nine-year-old boys across the planet are the absolute lowest rung of the human ladder.Nine-year-old boys are too old to get special kid treatment, too young to have seniority over anyone else, and people tend to be more comfortable making a boy that age do unpleasant manual labor than a girl. If a low-grade manual job was anywhere to be found, someone was yelling at John to go do it.Combine that with one of the world’s highest fertility rates (5.25 children born/woman), and you have a rapidly growing population.Currently #7 on the country population list, by 2050 Nigeria is projected to have 440 million people and have leapfrogged up to #3 on the list, behind only India and China: But it’s not a simple situation.All of these people are Nigerians, but really, they’re 250 different ethnic groups, speaking 510 different languages, with a British-drawn border around them. And health is a major struggle—Nigeria has the world’s 10th highest rate of infant mortality, the world’s 12th shortest life expectancy (52.6), and 3.1% of Nigerian adults have HIV/AIDS.Nigeria is one of those tricky countries that’s about half Muslim and half Christian, and while most of the population is fine with this, religious extremists create a lot of violence and ruin everything.Before we get into what I learned in Nigeria, here’s who I learned most of it from— The best way to learn about a foreign place is to get to know locals, and I got lucky in Nigeria.Through a friend, I was put in touch with a 31-year-old Nigerian guy named Femi, who offered to pick me up at the airport when I arrived.
The image moves forward chronologically using the blue numbers, and you can click on the diagram to see a larger image.After World War II, the Nigerians were super into the British leaving, which they finally did in 1960 after setting Nigeria up with a new, representative government (which today is a federal presidential republic modeled after the American system).So 1960 marks the first year of independent Nigeria, and also the beginning of what I can only call The Nigeria Coup Festival, a 50-year devastating struggle to gain stability and democracy.Even as I was checking my bag at the Tokyo airport, the woman saw where I was going and looked at me like, “Seriously though what’s your problem? But I had apparently decided to leave the world’s most pristine, orderly, safe place to go to a place that was not those three adjectives, and there I suddenly was, standing in the middle of Africa’s biggest city, trying to not die.
But we’ll come back to my situation in a minute—let’s first get oriented on Nigeria.
And he’d just take everyone’s shit, because that’s what a nine-year-old boy just has to do. After growing up in a tiny village, four of the siblings now live together in a small one-bedroom apartment in Lagos, and three others live in the smaller town of Ife with their mom in a one-room apartment.