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One of the national sports in Nigeria is complaining about the country, and with good reason. With the variety of resources and infrastructure Nigeria has, it should be one of the most economically viable countries in the world. However, corruption and mismanagement mean Nigeria is one of the poorest countries. This notwithstanding, there is a myriad amazing things going for Nigeria, many of which people who emigrate find themselves longing for.
The GDP might not be anything to write home about, but Nigerians have perfected the art of throwing great parties, with an abundance of food, laughter, drinks, music and dancing. No weekend goes by without someone celebrating a wedding, birthday party, child naming, even funerals. Nigerian parties are colourful, with different people wearing similar aso-ebi chosen specially for the occasion.
There’s no shortage of places to explore in Nigeria: mountains, hills, caves, the beaches, lakes, shrines, artistic towns and villages. Nigerians love to travel, for commerce and fun, and travelling (especially during the non-holiday seasons) is relatively inexpensive. Even going from one village to the next, one passes through lush forests and sweeping savannas. They also miss being in the midst of colourful crowds and the daily drama that occurs in even the quietest of places.
Now don’t get us wrong; we are not implying that people enjoy all the difficulty that seems to be part of the package of being Nigerian, but it’s the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day that gives you a spurt of adrenaline that seems addictive. Being able to conquer all your fears and making a life for yourself, in spite of all the restrictions and limitations.
What’s not to love – and miss – about Nigerian street food? From akara to masa, roasted corn, ugba, suya, even the inimitable gala and often dodgy meat pie (a special Nigerian pastry). Washed down with soft drinks (street name: ‘minerals’), these are filling meals that can be grabbed on-the-go and are cheap to boot.
There is a vast array of food in Nigeria, as varied as its cultures, and each person has a favourite dish they love to eat from their particular culture. Aside from the fact that these dishes are very healthy, they are also comforting and filling. In other parts of the world it is difficult to access the ingredients needed for these recipes, so whenever Nigerians do get a hold of them, there’s always a celebration.
Most Nigerians who travel abroad miss the ancient practice of bargaining for goods at the market. The thrill of crossing verbal swords with men and women who specialise in sizing up clients before naming their price is something a lot of people enjoy, mainly because of the conversation and casual friendships that are formed within that short period.
One thing Nigerians do not lack is diversity. However, despite our diversity, Nigerians are not really individualistic people. They are warm, friendly and helpful. They are always willing to go that extra mile to provide support. There’s always someone checking up on you to make sure you’re doing well, friends inviting you out or coming to visit, family meetings, parties, colleagues inviting you to their special days. Someone is always willing to look into your eyes, or offer a smile, even in the big cities like Lagos.
Nigerians in the diaspora miss being able to communicate in their own languages and dialects. Pidgin English is the most widely spoken language across Nigeria and there’s no Nigerian who doesn’t speak or understand one dialect of Pidgin or another. The beauty of Pidgin is not just in its simplicity; it also makes room for the insertion of other dialects and words from Nigerian English.
In some places, every single day of the year is dedicated to a deity or god (such as Ile-Ife), so there’s no end to the festivals and celebrations of the ancestors. Egunguns are common sights on the streets of cities, towns and villages across Nigeria. There are also usually traditional festivals like the Durbars, New Yam Festival, Osun Osogbo, Yemoja Festival and others. These are usually colourful and full of dance and fun, but there’s also the spirituality of these moments that makes people who are abroad miss being present.
Unlike some places, the seasons in Nigeria are two: the rainy season and the dry season, which are more or less evenly spread over the year and with little or no natural disasters (most disasters in Nigeria are man-made). Nigerians who live in the diaspora, especially in colder climes, miss the permanent presence of the sun in their lives.