Being Nigerian

I’m breaking my rules. Yes, it’s a Wednesday post.

In case you did not already know, my name is Afoma and I’m a Nigerian. I was born and raised in Nigeria.

Nigeria is such a beautiful place complete with colour, diversity and culture. I love that place. Today, I’ve put together a few things that amuse me about growing up Nigerian. I hope you all enjoy it and think of home, especially if you’re not in Nigeria right now. And if you’re not Nigerian, this is a rare peek into the life of a Nigerian child.

The Nigerian Experience

-Nigerians are so big on respect. They love to be respected and they teach their children to respect everyone older than they are, even if they’re just two minutes older. Please whatever you do, do NOT greet a Nigerian elder with ”hi” or ”hello”, been there done that, it does not end well;

You: Hi aunty

Aunty: Ehn? Hi kwa? Can’t you say ‘Good Afternoon???”

There may or may not be ensuing slaps.

I believe respect is also the reason why children are not allowed to drink malt, No? Even in weddings! The servers will pass by you or give you coke, Fanta or Sprite if you’re not an adult.

-No one punishes like Nigerian parents. It’s a fact. The fear of your parents is also a very good place for wisdom to start. When you have committed, your parents will call you by your full name (Chukwuemeka Obinze Nwokolo) and after a dialogue that is actually a monologue of them shouting rhetorical questions like; ”Am I your mate??- at you, they will proceed to either flog you or hit you with anything from a spatula to slippers. God bless you if their weapon breaks on your body, because then you will be beaten for the loss of the weapon. Also, do not attempt self defense, you might destroy the weapon and like I said, that doesn’t help you. And do not try to run, they will throw things at you and  catch up with you. So, don’t do it.

Also, whatever you do, do NOT respond to any accusation your Nigerian parent makes because it will  be held against you.

”Why are you just coming home?? You were with that boy again abi??”

”Daddy.. we just went to…”

”Shut up! Are you talking back at me??”

-Nigerian parents are the lords of sarcasm and bitter irony. When your father calls you ”my friend”, it’s not good. They also have the habit of calling your name a specific number of times (they know this number) designed to instill fear and then they’ll ask- ”How many times did I call you??”– when you’ve done wrong. They’ll say things like –”Ask me!’‘ when they don’t know the answer to your question or ”oya beat me!” when you try to defend yourself against them. Again, don’t listen to Nike. Abeg, don’t do it.

They’ll tell your teacher to flog you, yes, they might plead with her to flog you very well if you do wrong. You might be fortunate to have parents on the other side of the spectrum who’ll come with a cane to flog your teacher after she has flogged you.

-Try not to correct your Nigerian parents, especially in English related issues. If they’re in a good mood, they’ll laugh and say;

”Ha! It’s not my language oh!”

If they had a bad day?

”So, you now have no respect abi? Is that what they’re teaching you in that your school?”

Ignore the fact that your parent says ”Bee-yonce” as opposed to ”Bee-yon-say”. DO NOT CORRECT THEM.

-Nigerian parents are not pro dating. They are pro marriage. They expect to see a prospective husband or hear about someone coming to ”knock door” when you’re twenty five but they expect you to never date anyone. Well, ladies, we have our work cut out for us. We ”garra” make some magic happen!

They are not the greatest in sex education either. This is what happens in most Nigerian homes when the girl begins to menstruate;

”Ehen, Amaka. Now, if a man just touches you, you’re pregnant oh!”

-They were all straight A students in their time. You have no business failing any course.

”Mummy, I had 90% in Mathematics!”

”Ehn… Where’s the other 10%?”

Daddy interjects: In my time, I had 98% minimum!

Well, what can we do? This is why Nigerian students do very well everywhere.

-Nigerian parents do not understand the song choices of this generation. And while I don’t blame them, it hurt my feelings when my mother said that my favorite Beyonce song ‘Halo’ sounded like a funeral song. Despite my arguments, she still maintains her ground till today. My mother also thinks Beyonce is possessed especially when she does her ‘mad woman’ dances on stage. In agreement with an earlier point I made, I try not to argue. She also says Chris Brown sounds Efik in ‘With you’. *sigh. She’s probably right. They’re probably right and we’re all too starstruck to see clearly.

Nigerian parents are very squeamish about saying ”I love you”. You have to say it first. Many Nigerians have never actually heard their parents say ”I love you” to them. They love you, they’re just shy. I know, it’s cute.

-If you were raised in a Nigerian home, especially if you’re female, you’ll know that every morning, you should sweep the house and its environs. Basically, you clean every day like a health inspector is coming to visit. The only problem is that Nigerian mothers are stricter than the average health inspector.

-Nigerian weddings are the greatest! Food and dance! The problem is that it starts two to three hours later and to be an MC you have to be a proficient ‘apologist’ to apologize constantly and promise to set the guests free on time. Another problem is that people will probably fight about food and drinks. And insult those serving and accuse them of enormous partiality. You also have to bring a gift or forget about receiving a soh-veh-niah (souvenir).

We invented spraying money on the couple while they dance happily. And then we dance on the naira notes.

At a Nigerian event, it is most likely that you’ll be unable to see in front of you, thanks to the many gele wearing women.


”I’ll use the money to feed you. Who pays your school fees??”

They will even make you wash dishes and clothes when you have a dishwasher and washing machine. Do you want your husband to send you home?. No? Ehen, wash.

-Hot chocolate like ‘Milo’ is called ”tea”. In Nigeria, no one drinks tea. It means you’re suffering because you can’t afford milk or you’re trying to lose weight. *shrugs*

-Visitors show up without calling and eat all the food in your house and leave a mountain of unwashed dishes. At least, its not as bad as family that come to stay for a week and stay a year.

And now, some final fun facts;

-In Nigeria, an average road side seller of ‘Gala’ runs faster than Usain Bolt.

-Nollywood movie witches are 100% scarier than Freddy from ‘Friday the 13th’.

-Nigerians are accustomed to doubling words, e.g; ‘follow follow’: A person who follows the crowd. ‘Chop Chop’: Someone who loves to eat. ‘Kata Kata’: Basically trouble of massive proportions.

-We rename objects; T-shirt= Polo. Hair packer= I honestly don’t have the word for this, that’s how deep I’m in, its like the hair band thing you use to pack? your hair into a ponytail.

-Nigerian breakfasts are the greatest. They range from akara, bread and akamu to yam pottage. They’ll have you either sleepy all day or extra fortified depending on the kind of person you are.

-No one makes declarations like Nigerians;

Calling the name of their hometown when they slip ”Isiokpo oh!”

”The devil is a liar!” can be a declaration, confirmation or question.

”Jesus is Lord!” comes in handy in times of profound shock.

-A Nigerian child is everyone’s child. Your mother can call your neighbors to beat you. Yes. Or they’ll just come on their own. This is why everyone both related and unrelated to you is your ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’.

I love Nigeria. I love my parents and all Nigerian parents and every time I see other children who weren’t raised properly, I’m grateful to my parents for teaching me courtesy, respect, self sacrifice and patience. Appreciate your parents! They love you.

PS I would love to hear your funny experiences growing up Nigerian and maybe we can have a readers edition. Don’t be shy, leave a comment! x

PPS To read even funnier experiences, see Christiana Mbakwe’s post growing up African here.