I’m sorely embarrassed to say that I had no idea just how normal of a place Nigeria would be for me. I can’t remember how many people bid me farewell on this trip with the words, “be extra safe,” “don’t get shot” or “don’t die”.
Sure, Nigeria’s a developing country with lots of visible poverty, and I’m sure that a fair amount of dirt goes down here in Lagos on a daily base. But you can go out at night without fear, there are plenty of nice establishments that don’t seem totally fortified and segregated from the general population (notwithstanding the separation between the island and the mainland). It is not worse than a number of other places I have been. Places I have been that felt less secure include Belize, parts of Lebanon and Chad. The traffic is abominable, but not so much worse than Dubai or, I’m sure, plenty of other constantly growing huge cities in poorer countries.
Funny, then, that Nigeria has a reputation as a virtual no-go zone. Apparently, American embassy staff are not even allowed on the mainland of Lagos under normal circumstances, so it’s clear that this perception of the city runs deep.
I guess that all places are usually more mild than their reputations. I’m just amazed by how much my own expectations were off for this city and this country — I thought it would be one big headache.
And with that, I’m off to the beach for a day.