Nigeria, 1977

In 1977 I spent a few weeks over the Christmas holidays in Nigeria, where with my colleague Ron Gentile from the Faculty of Educational Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo, we offered MA level courses to members of the faculty of the Alvan Ikuku College of Education in Owerri as part of a SUNY degree program. It was a splendid trip which included many harrowing drives around the country from Owerri in the Christian southeast to Kano in the Muslim north. There were accidents everywhere from insane driving, roadblocks by soldiers and others out to make a buck, and potholes the size of school buses. One SUNY colleague, who joined us at the end of the trip, was arrested and threatened by railway police when he inadvertently photographed the pregnant Muslim wife of one stealing fruit from a freight car, requiring that I intercede with a lot of bureaucratic threats (we were in the country with UN and government papers and sponsorship). Nigera, cobbled together by British imperialism, was in bad shape, having just gone through the very nasty Biafran civil war in which the Ibos, who lived were we worked, were defeated.

Among other things I remember about the trip were the friendliness of the people, always ready smiles and poses (less so in the north), music penetrating sultry hot night air, debilitating daytime heat, how religious people were, the huge families of my students (Nigeria has more than doubled its population since 1977), how much kids knew, and wanted to know, about Elvis, American sitcoms on the national television network, and the quick wit of so many people -- including guys (most of our students were maie) who loved to tell modestly obscene jokes at the expense of their friends in class or over a beer in the faculty club. I also remember my surprise at little was taught in the college about Africa, African education, and other domestic subjects. The impact of British education and degree programs was very great still, and it was not uncommon to be called 'master' on the street, though when we visited a military base to see native dancers, we were guarded by a man who could have played on the offensive line of the New England Patriots because of the presence of extreme nationalists, one of whom can be seen below making a threatening gesture and not being happy when I snapped his photo. Because it was the holiday season we got to see a lot of dancing, singing and ceremonies of different kinds, some of which were staged for us. And, we got to drink palm wine, which can kill you pretty easily. I would love to return, but Nigeria is not a happy place. Religious conflict is intense and dangerous, corruption rampant, and the South's oil is causing devastation and bitter confrontations.

Click on each photo to enlarge.


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The photos on this page were taken with Pentax ME Super and Rollei B35 cameras using Kodachrome II film. They were digitized with an Olympus 2020z digital camera and slide copier, and post-processed with Adobe Photoshop Elements. The images on this page are the property of Ronald K. Goodenow and may not be used for any purpose except individual enjoyment without explicit permission.

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