It’s been a while since I have had a chance to post on this blog, the simple act of getting on with life and the absence of readily available internet connections have been my major excuse. I have started many times to write an entry, but have been unable to post. I am currently in Port Harcourt Nigeria, the so-called Garden city. There is no Internet connection in the house where I am staying and at work the connection is intermittent and any way I have a job that I am paid to do that leaves little time for literary self-indulgence. However it should come as no surprise to those of you who have read my previous entries that Africa has not failed to surprise.
People often talk of being lulled into a false sense of security, this is usually a clichéd short hand warning sign to the reader or listener that some thing unpleasant is about to materialize, Nigeria is quite the opposite, it goads you into totally justifiable sense of Paranoia and trepidation and then quite unexpectedly does something unbelievably pleasant and human. I have frequently complained about African airports in general and Nigerian airports in particular, when I came out to Nigeria this time the flight from Cameroon was late, the onwards flight from Lagos was canceled with out any reason warning or explanation, In the first Domestic air port I was constantly hassled by un official and official airport personnel and avoided a couple of attempts to steal my luggage, in other words, situation Normal.
Having discovered from a rather surly check in girl, (after she had checked in my bags) that the flight was canceled I hauled myself off to one of Lagos’s other Internal airports, and brought my self an Air Nigeria Ticket to PH> The woman who served me was polite and courteous and spoke English with the sort of precise and clear enunciation that would have made Henry Higgins apply for a residence permit. In fact all the Air Nigeria staff (formally Virgin Nigeria) were polite and courteous. I made my way through security without incident. I did however remark on the number of serious books on the conveyor belt passing through the X-ray machine. The last time I had flown out of the UK (Bristol Airport) I had noticed that most of the passengers if they had any reading material had the sort of glossy sub tabloid publication that barely achieves the five hundred word vocabulary that is generally considered to constitute communicative proficiency, The rest had had held electronic games and head phones. In Nigeria though I noticed that books were everywhere, though I have seen precious few bookshops. During the flight almost every one was reading, novels and the local newspapers. This was the day after the first round of elections had been canceled; the papers were alive with vitriolic and frequently very funny comments on the political situation. In Britain we pride ourselves on the Ian Hislops of Grub street, and whilst certainly I am a fan of his acerbic wit, and I am proud that we still have a Swiftian element in our media that pilloried political pomposity, I have been pleasantly surprised by the level of satire in The Nigerian press, it’s true that they have much to satirize, but it is also positive that in a country so rife with political corruption that there is such freedom of the press, Whilst that freedom flourishes there is still hope for Nigeria. Though he road the country still has to travel, is long.