Preparations for Nigeria began early; visa applications, driver, accommodation. Some colleagues had suggested that perhaps we shouldn’t be travelling to Nigeria. This visit was to attend a higher education fair in Lagos Nigeria organised by the British Council. My colleagues in our international office were responsible for the details of the trip and I am pleased they made some sensible decisions. We were so very fortunate to be accompanied on this trip by a Nigerian colleague, now friend, who extended tremendous hospitality and humour in helping us navigate this unfamiliar cultural landscape.
We arranged for a greeting at the aeroplane, this person helped us negotiate airport security – ensuring we did not make common mistakes, such as discarding your boarding pass (which travellers must match to their luggage before exiting the airport). We then met our armed guard and driver who transferred us to the Eko Hotel, Lagos Island. I was unnerved by how many off-duty police officers in the immediate vicinity of the airport, carrying semi-automatic weapons. At first, the urban landscape was unlike any I had seen before, a long multi-lane road in places suspended above long stretches of water, slums, the dump. Lagos Island is something of a compound.
The British Council higher education fair lasted two-days and was a remarkable opportunity to meet so many aspiring young Nigerians; my colleagues radiated passion and flair talking about our offerings. The real treat, for the intrepid urban explorer in me, came on the final day when we were only too happy to relinquish control of our schedule over to our Nigerian companion. All day, and into the night, we travelled from one site to another, from the national museum to Freedom Park and then on for dinner (including giant African snail!) and cocktails.
A memorable situation unfolded during the trip because our hotel hosted national film awards; we were proximate to some of Nigeria’s cultural elite, unfortunately when we attempted to slip into the VIP roof-top bar our efforts were thwarted!