Bits and Pieces from West Africa Magazine (Again)





I've been flicking through West Africa magazine in my breaks again. It's quite a useful exercise a change of pace when I'm stuck, a source that improves my grasp on Nigerian history, some of the developments that hadn't quite made my history lessons and at various times plenty of references (sadly) to the state of roads, accidents and (roadside) robberies in Nigeria. There is also this story of a manufacturer in Ogun State starting a business recycling motor scraps based 'entirely on motor scraps in its production.'


A manufacturing company, Wehrhahn (Nigeria) Limited, based at Otta in Ogun State has begun reprocessing and manufacture of vehicle spare parts as well as cast iron parts for man-hole and gulley covers. The company's chairman, Chief Mobalaji Smith, said his new company was going to depend entirely on motor scraps in its production. The military administrator for the state, Brigadier Harris Eghagha, has commended the adventurous move by the company, which, he said, would help in the clean-up of accident vehicles from the cities of the state.
(West Africa, 2 April 1979, page 819)

'[D]epend entirely on motor scraps,' 'clean-up of accident vehicles' – I have read plenty of statistics but that paints a rather stark picture of the state and dangers of Nigerian roads!

There are, of course, more uplifting stories too. Including a series of articles that trace author Buchi Emecheta's steps during a publicity tour in the United States. Here's the bit that I liked best, for obvious reasons.

They put me down at this place called Cincinnati. I found this place really fascinating. The streets are not as wide as the ones I saw in Philadelphia, and the most wonderful thing I saw there were real Americans dressed in cowboy outfits, walking like ducks. I was happy about his, so I bought cards and sent to my family and said that now I feel that I am in American because I have now seen real John-Wayne-looking cowboys.
('US longing for roasted yams,' West Africa, 27 August 1979, page 1562)

To my mind, the quote illustrates the extent to which the image of 'the American West' that Western novels and movies exported around the world shaped the perception of the United States including in Nigeria. That is, until I remembered that Buchi Emecheta lived in the UK for much of her life, rather than Nigeria itself. Her ideas about the US and the Cowboy would thus have been at least as much – most certainly more profoundly – shaped by the media in the UK, including of course some of the same Westerns that were also screened in Nigeria. It's a very charming passage nevertheless - 'walking like ducks' had me smiling and remembering my first pair of cowboy boots (incidentally, a present from an acquaintance in Nigeria who couldn't bear seeing me in flipflops during the rainy season).

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