Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast, my name’s Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about Nigeria. So, we’re gonna find out more about Michael here, where Nigeria is – somehow he’s connected with that country. What countries are surrounding it. His hometown, the capital there, lots of other little facts that hopefully he can share with us.
Hopefully. We’ll grill him for all the knowledge.
The weather there, what about the people, his experiences there, the wildlife, of course – we want to know about that. Holidays, traditions, sports, past times. Barbecues, maybe?
Something like that over there…
Places for tourism, if you’re interested, and any challenges for the future. So, full list of interesting topics, interesting questions.
Exactly. I mean, I’m just gonna talk about everything I can remember about Nigeria.
That’ll keep me happy, I’m interested, I’ve never been to Africa, anywhere in Africa, so I’m interested to know more about it.
And what are you doing here in Novosibirsk, in Russia?
Yeah, I’ve been living here for more than 12 years. At first it was like travelling – I came working for the University, the pedagogical university here in Siberia.
I was invited to work in here, so… I mean at first it was like I was gonna leave here, it was more like travelling. I wanna see the world, I wanna go somewhere and have a unique experience. And yeah, somehow… it’s already 12 years and still counting, you know.
Yeah yeah yeah yeah for experience, you know.
Cool. And you are from Nigeria, so, where is it? What’s surrounding it? What countries are around it?
Nigeria is an African country, it’s in the western part of Africa, it’s the biggest country in the western part of Africa.
Yeah yeah yeah I mean, surrounding… I mean, it’s the biggest because all the countries surrounding Nigeria… Nigeria is quite little. We have countries like Benin republic, Niger republic, Togo. Togo is…
Togo’s one I know about. I kinda know about it. Well, Nigeria I know, so…
Sure sure. Togo is very little. Ghana, Cameroon – all of these countries are around.
Have you been to some of those places?
Yeah yeah yeah, I had an opportunity to travel once – I went to Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Sure sure sure.
Was there a big difference?
Yeah yeah I really liked Togo – Togo was really very cool, not so big a country. Well I was lying at the beach all my time there, probably that’s why…
That would make me like it anyway.
Yeah fresh fish and fresh air and everything – it was so amazing. But I had challenges over there because people speak French in Togo.
I’m guessing that means not so much.
Yeah yeah yeah definitely sure. So I had some challenges in Benin – Togo people speak French, in Ghana people speak English, that’s pretty nice, in Cameroon people speak the both.
That kind of can be tricky.
Can you describe your hometown, or city, or village, whatever you are?
Yeah yeah yeah I was born in the city called Jos.
Yeah J-o-s. No no, not Joth, definitely without a T at the end. So it’s J-o-s, it’s the capital city of the state called Plateau.
It’s [platu]. From the word plateau you can imagine – you know…
Yeah yeah it’s flat, it’s up in the hills, it’s one of the highest places above the sea level in Nigeria, so the mountains around…
You have good lungs then.
Yeah yeah no really amazing, yeah. I mean, the last time I went home I couldn’t just believe I was born here you know.
I lived around it was green, it was just so tranquil, picturesque. Is this my home country? Home town? You know? I couldn’t just believe that. You know, having traveled and, you know, being here in Siberia for this long, I now appreciate my hometown much more, you know.
Cause it’s all green, is it very agricultural?
Yeah yeah yeah it’s very agricultural, you know. Nigeria is very close to the Equator, so we have a lot of rainfalls and… yeah, so a lot of agricultural activities going on so in my city too, where I was born, so…
Jos is right there in the middle of Nigeria, so it’s a society which is basically, how would I say… multi-ethnical in nature, you know, so there are a lot of people form everywhere. The weather is mostly chilly, I mean, if it’s really so hot in Jos it’s like thirty maybe two… So it’s never extremely hot over there.
Yeah. But 32 for me is hot enough….
But come on, you live in Siberia, you see what happens in summer time.
Yeah summer here can be quite hot.
A little bit much for me. My Irish blood or whatever…
That’s what I’m saying, yeah, definitely. I mean it’s even hot for me, as a Nigerian, as someone who’s from Jos. And Jos is actually the second coldest place. I mean, a lot of people say the coldest place in Nigeria about it, but we know it’s the second coldest.
It’s not the first, it’s the second.
There’s a myth in Nigeria that it snows in Jos, so when we go somewhere and if you’re asked ‘Where are you from?’, and you say from Jos, yeah yeah, just take it easy man. We heard it snows in Jos, and we’re like ‘no, it’s just a myth, it’s not true’.
Right. What’s the winter temperature there?
We don’t have anything cold, we don’t have something cold like a winter.
Yeah, definitely. There’s a season called the Harmattan season – the Harmattan season is a very dry season, yeah, so the weather could drop as low as like +9. Nine above zero.
It’s chilly, yeah, it is chilly.
Chilly, yeah. I mean, no matter who you are, you need some sweater.
Yeah yeah yeah definitely. Basically, you know, we use some warm pots, some pots - they’re locally made or we can use electrical one. But we have challenges with electricity in Nigeria, we don’t have 24 electricity, you might need the pot, the locally…
A pot? A big pot that you heat up?
Yeah yeah definitely, it’s a pot, you heat it up, you put some coal inside.
And then you heat it up and it warms the house, yeah, sure. But, I mean, it’s not the whole house, I mean, like warm in….
Yeah it’s just one or two rooms where people are hanging out.
Yeah yeah yeah you don’t go out of those. I mean, it’s not really so extremely cold - it’s cold, but also…
But if you wanna sit in a room for a long time, like usually we want… we heat up the sitting room or my mom’s room, though we usually hang out in my mom’s room, you know, talking, you know. In the evening.
Yeah but during the day everybody is doing their stuff.
I used to live in a house when I was younger.
And, I mean, it’s not so common regardless of what people might think. It’s not so common in the UK.
…without central heating. But I lived there when I was younger, and I used to have to light a fire every evening.
I’d come home and light a fire and the biggest thing for me was when you got up in the morning, pull back the blankets, and it was chilly.
And you could feel, it, you could maybe see your breath. It wasn’t like -30 outside, but it was cold, and you didn’t wanna wake up, you know, you didn’t wanna get out of bed.
No, Jos is not that cold, yeah.
Yeah yeah yeah, sure, definitely. It’s true. I mean, it’s basically chilly all through the year. Then we have this Harmattan, it’s a very very dry season, and you need to cream your body regularly not to have cracks – you can have cracks on your skin.
Yeah, so dry. I don’t know if it’s a myth or if that’s true. Yeah, it’s quite a shame that I’ve never really made a research on that. But people say it’s wind coming from the Sahara desert – that brings the.. so dry weather.
Is the Sahara directly South? Forgive my ignorance.
Yeah, the north, it comes from the north.
We’re not too far from it. We’re right in the centre, so….
You’re in that green belt.
Yeah yeah yeah, so, I think it could be, it could be, it’s from there.
Maybe it’s a myth, but maybe it’s not.
How did your home city compare with the capital? What’s it like?
Ah yeah they’ve got a lot of similarities.
What’s the name of the capital?
I mean if you use a foreign accent that would Abuja.
No, that’s far from us. A-b-u-j-a. It is not the state, it’s a federal capital city, so it is not far from Jos actually.
It is just like some 200 and something kilometers away, so it takes you like 2-2.5 hours to drive.
It’s not far from there. We have a lot of things in common.
Okay. Is it much bigger than Jos?
Yeah it is, it is bigger than Jos. Well, Jos is quite big too. The population of Jos almost like a million, according to the census in 2016. So probably bigger right now, so probably one point something million people in Jos.
It’s quite a big city, but Abuja is bigger, you know. It’s a federal capital city, it attracts a lot of people from everywhere, everywhere from the world, so all the embassies and a lot of international organizations are situated in Abuja. So it’s so huge.
Yeah I like Abuja, I mean it’s a place that I might or I could live eventually one day I decided to… we decided – you’d better say that…
We’re not talking about him and I.
If some other time we decided to move back there, yeah.
But I mean it’s really really very nice. The last time we went travelling, we went everywhere, we went to Abuja too – I’ve got some friends there, so it feels like home.
I’m from Northern Ireland, but my… the capital is half a million. It’s not so far from where my parents live.
So I need… it is kinda like a second home to me. I worked in that area, I lived in that area for a while too, so it’s kinda like a second home to me.
Sure sure sure sure sure.
What else will I ask you?
I think Abuja is the second home to me too, because in the past I often go there… went there for part time jobs, so we came there on my way there, near that area.
Yeah. Where everything happens.
If you’re talking about a place tourists can visit, then yeah Abuja is gonna be on the list, but Abuja is just like… you know, you’re seeing the city life and stuff like that. But if you wanna see nature, yeah, Abuja’s got some nearby nature. If you wanna see a really really very beautiful nature with ocean, water sports and water everything, then you need to go to the east and the west.
Yeah, of Nigeria. Cities like Lagos -Lagos is probably better, because Lagos is a mega city that got everything you want like from the luxurious things to the, you know, to the most..
Yeah budget things, so… then if you wanna go to the east, then I think it’s gonna be Benin republic or Port Harcourt - so I mean they’ve got a lot of facilities there, very developed in stuff, so. I think you can feel yourself at home there.
We’ll talk a bit more about that. Later about tourism. So you described the weather a bit- it’s sort of 30-32 in summer. You feel that Novosibirsk is hotter in the summer?
Yeah it could be hot, sure. It could be. I mean compared to my home city. But in some other places in Nigeria the weather could be really really really hot, like in the northern part of the country. Once I… I mean, I attend the national service – you know, in Nigeria, after…
Yeah yeah yeah yeah, it’s service year they call it. I attended… I took part in this program in 2016… 2006, sorry. Yeah how do you get away from here and go there for a service, sure.
It was extremely hot, definitely, sure. Even more… so, the north.. it could be hotter.
But it’s generally much warmer, even in the winter, like, +9 – it’s a lot different form Siberia, so…
What challenges did you have when you came here? It could be like -35-40 in the winter.
I mean, I think I was so prepared before coming here, so I wasn’t so devastated or isolated or whatever when I got here. But yeah everything was so new, yeah, exactly. I think well just like the way I wanted it, because before my trip, before taking a decision to travel around the world,
I got stuck in my life, I wanted something new, I wanted a new challenge, new experience and all that before I got here – that really chumped me so much. So much that the challenges that I got here, yeah a few challenges I got here is the languages, um, the language, actually. Not a lot here in Russia, just one. Yeah so the language was very challenging, I didn’t understand anything at all.
Excuse me. It wasn’t close to any other language I know, yeah. I know 3 local Nigerian languages, in combination with English, some French and stuff like that, but Russian was absolutely different. It was so different. It was a challenge for me. Then getting around when it was winter. What about you? I mean…
Well, did you get a пуховик? Or what is it called?
Or a winter coat. Did you get one of those before you came or when you came?
Yeah yeah yeah yeah, so I thought I got the warmest coat or jacket for me, but when I got here they told me ‘Oh no, this is just like a, maybe, late spring or early autumn jacket”. Not for our winter.
So I right there, because I came by train from Moscow to Novosibirsk and right at the railway station I was, you know, given another jacket – warmer for the winter. Just right there, cause they told me ‘No you can’t go anywhere with this’.
They were generally worried about you.
Yeah yeah yeah, they were pretty sure I’m gonna get robbed. But my boot was okay, they detected it and said ‘yeah it’s warm enough’. My gloves were okay, my hat – no.
My hat – no, my scarf was okay too. Yeah.
Well I kinda had time cause I came in September, I think, or August.
And I sorta had a bit of a, you know… I was prepared for the autumn and then I got asking questions.
I bought a good coat for the winter.
Oh that’s lovely. Yeah I came just right in the week…
In the middle of the winter.
Yeah, I came in February. I really wanted to see – I was really looking forward to seeing that. Because for me it’s like a myth – all the things I read about Siberia in the internet. I just wanted see it for about… for myself – one hour or whatever, I just wanted to see it for myself.
And well, let’s go back to Nigeria.
Yeah yeah yeah sure, why not.
When was the last time you were in Nigeria?
Quite a long time, I’m a family man now, so.
Yeah, really? We have something in common. Yeah so, before I got married, before I became a family man I went home like once in two years, but the last time would be.. in Nigeria six years ago.
Yeah well, it’s like this, because of the plans – family plan. Right now, I mean, right now we are basically doing our children’s stuff, you know. Since last trip to Nigeria we had a baby and… the first one, the second one – so mostly we are just trying to, you know, put our feet on ground.
What I mean, to put our feet on ground, you know – to raise them. And I think it needs to… it needs a lot of time and energy and all that. And yeah, that is why we’ve not, because okay, I think it’s not really very reasonable for me to go with a toddler to Nigeria.
It’s not so easy, all that travelling.
Apart from the travelling, we’re gonna go there – it means we can’t really explore the whole place, like we would like to, so the toddler is gonna need the attention, we’re gonna see my home, we can’t move everywhere, stuff like that.
So what is the essence? But we’re thinking about going right now, because my son is gonna be three next year, my daughter is already older, so it’s pretty nice – they’re gonna be with their grandparents, I mean, grandparents – I mean my elder brother. My eldest brother is like a grandfather for them, so… There’ll gonna be my elder brother and stuff. We can continue exploring, because the last time we went there we only explored like 6-7 states, so we really wanna explore more, so….
How many states are there?
Oh that’s correct, actually!
32 counties in Ireland, 6 in Northern Ireland, if I remember correctly.
Yeah I mean I’m stronger in that too myself.
Numbers and stuff. How many states in America and all like that. How would you describe the people of Nigeria? What are they like?
Oh yeah, me, right? Yeah, people of Nigeria… people of Nigeria everywhere, in Nigeria one of the most travelled people, you know. Just like, probably, Chinese and the rest of them. So yeah, I mean, you can easily meet a Nigerian somewhere.
People of Nigeria… What can I say about Nigeria… Nigeria is multi-ethnical country, so it means if I’m describing some kind of Nigerian you might meet another person who is absolutely, I mean, who’s a Nigerian, but absolutely different from my description.
That’s your disclaimer, so don’t worry! Don’t worry if they’re different.
Because Nigeria is made up of three big tribes, very very big tribes. Nigeria was a colony of England before, so…
Yeah yeah, you personally! You were there!
Now you’re claiming ignorance, right?
Nothing about it, absolutely nothing…
Yeah yeah yeah, sure. Alright… Our colony of masters brought these three tribes together, in the North we have mostly the Hausas, they’re called the Hausas.
Then the south, south-east we have the Igbos, they’re called Igbos. Then I’m a Yoruba, we’re from the south-west of the country, so…. There’s… this is… we are very different from each other.
Is there a bit of rivalry or by blood or?
Yeah yeah yeah well people talk about each other all the time – of yeah, you’re from the North! And stuff like that, and whatever whatever. We have some special accents you know, pronounces, some stuff, so we usually joke about it a lot.
you’re from the north or whatever, what else can I say… Yeah, but, I mean, the general description of a Nigerian is, probably, the features and, probably, the spirit. Yeah, definitely Nigerians have a spirit. And Nigerians have this…
Yeah, Nigerians have a lot of energy, Nigerians are really really very cheerful. One of the earliest science research about the happiest people on earth confirmed that Nigerians were the happiest people, but of course after that there’s been a lot of other researches, which is based on medical service, some other and whatever, some other…
Can be manipulative, maybe a little bit.
Didn’t even test Nigerian.
But I mean Nigerians are really really very cheerful, they have very thick skin, they never give up. And yeah some people have used all these good qualities doing some bad stuff, you know that.
Unfortunately, but generally that’s the description of Nigerians. Cheerful, strong.
What about the wildlife? What wildlife might be unusual for someone like me coming from Europe or..?
Unfortunately Nigeria is in the west part of Africa, so we don’t have wildlife like you might see on TV or whatever.
People think Africa, they think lions and elephants and crocodiles.
Yeah you’re right about it, sure. We only see that on TV too.
You’re like ‘I wish I could go there’.
Yeah I mean, really! I mean, a lot of Nigerians right now because of social network and whatever start exploring and start traveling norther, so a lot of people start, you know, going to a safari. 00:24:36 M: We’ve never been there before. We’ve only got some few animals in the zoo just like everybody’s got everywhere, you know, like that. Not every region has got a zoo, so… In my city we’ve got two, actually. We’ve got mini wildlife you can drive through, and we’ve got the one, it’s called the small zoo, it’s right there in the center of the city.
Need to start <…>. Are there like national animals or something that people might know?
Like in the UK, for example, the robin – it’s this little bird you’ll see on Christmas cards, very famous.
Yeah yeah yeah, in Nigeria there are, actually. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the names. I mean, there’s nothing specific, there’s quite a lot of them. In Nigeria there’s a place in Nigeria where they have… It’s a UN reserve or whatever, yeah, they’ve got this huge varieties of birds, you know, flocking this area. So there’s quite a lot of them. I don’t know what their names are.
Very colorful, yeah sure. There’s some birds actually, <…> shamelessly I don’t know their name! Some birds, some…
I wouldn’t be there any wiser.
Some snakes, yeah, because it’s a tropical country, they’ve got snakes. Definitely.
You’ve got some wild animals for sure.
Yeah yeah yeah yeah exactly. So…
Monkeys, yeah, monkeys! We’ve got a lot of varieties of them. Definitely from one of these varieties one should be basically from Nigeria. You’ve got to check out my camera, I should find names of them - all of this, because a lot of them went there.
I wouldn’t know. You could tell me anything.
What are the most important holidays or traditions?
Yeah well, yeah, that’s a good question – Nigeria is areligious country, so most of the… most of the most…
Yeah yeah. Most of the famous really… famous holidays are religious holidays.
Both of the Muslims and the Christians, you know. Basically Christians and Muslims, yeah. So these are…
All the different traditional holidays.
Yeah yeah tradition… quite a lot, yeah. Just the religious ones are the most important. Then the loudest of it is the Nigerian independence day.
Yeah, the loudest, yeah, sure, it’s the loudest definitely. But Christmas is… I mean, the loudest because it’s been celebrated by everybody, you know both Christians, Muslims and all that.
Yeah. Not all Muslims are gonna celebrate Christmas, which is really really very loud as well, but… So, trying to be…
I am dreaming of a loud Christmas… Okay, cool. What do you… Do you parades on Nigerian day?
Nigerian independence day is really very big, there’s a parade, you know, there’s special atmosphere in the air. Yeah, really really very special.
What kind of instruments do you play? Guys play?
well yeah there’s a lot of traditional blah-blah-blah and all that, but I mean for the locals we just like the typical English people, we just jump into some pubs and doing it there, you know.
Yeah. Hitting the bottles, you know what I’m talking.
Alright, right. I kinda understood.
Yeah, for Nigerian people. Then some people working, for example, we have a lot of people working in the federal capital city, because, I mean, they kinda have reasons, so most of these guys travel home for the independence day. Any time there’s a holiday, you know, they come back home.
Yeah, definitely. But for the states celebrations it’s a parade, you know, with match passes and stuff like that.
Some speech by the president and all that.
It’s huge. What day it is?
I thought you’re not gonna ask!
Alright, good, so I’m gonna tell you and then I’m gonna ask you a question.
It’s on the first of October.
Yeah. So, does that send any message to you?
It’s the… if you go to Germany, what’s gonna happen?
So where are you gonna go to - Germany or Nigeria?
But Oktoberfest is longer, and they have sausages.
Yeah, so you can catch up later.
And it’s closer to the UK.
First your trip to Africa and then over there…
Maybe, yeah. I could take in both. Sports. What are your favorite sports in Nigeria?
Yeah Nigerians are football or soccer, as you may call it, loving people. Really football lovers. It’s really really very big… It’s the biggest sport, yeah, definitely. And I think I’m gonna say the second or the last actually. So, football.
Not important compared to… And do you enjoy barbecues?
Ummmm… I do, personally, because I’ve lived here for 12 years already. But Nigerians they never do barbecue themselves, yeah.
Yeah, it’s not a big thing for Nigerians. People just buy, so the people…
So they do have barbecued meat, but they don’t normally do it themselves?
They don’t normally do it themselves, yeah, so, I mean….
Yeah, so every time I’ve been there and I took with me some brazier, some roast and all that – so we were barbecuing where… in my brother’s house…
So you’re breaking traditions.
Yeah yeah. But he was really so shocked, like ‘Really? In my house?’ That’s really so special, I mean, so…
You can start a new tradition there maybe, maybe from Russia.
Probably Nigerians… You know, Nigerians are really very slow to accept something new actually.
It’s quite nice, but whatever…
Yeah to marinade the meat and stuff….
Then to blow the coal and set up the fire.
there’s a fun to it though.
Yeah yeah, for us, for them – no, definitely.
What are the three best places for tourists? What would you recommend?
Yeah yeah yeah I just told… I said earlier…
Yeah you wanna see the.. how did I say? The most outstanding thing about Nigeria are the people. Nigeria is the world largest world populous black nation in the whole world.
Yeah so if you wanna see a whole lot of black people yeah, situated in one place, you just go to Nigeria. So that’s the first…
Yeah so that’s the first thing you’re gonna see – the whole lot, a lot of black people, yeah, and see multitude of people you need to go to Lagos.
Yeah Lagos is really very congested, you know. Maybe close to 20, maybe more than 20 million people live there, yeah. So you gotta go to Lagos, you gotta go to the mainland, you gotta go see a lot of people and stuff like that, how people live and stuff. You’re gonna see the good, the bad, ugly – they go to VI, it’s called Victoria Island, it’s an island, yeah.
British word there, for sure.
Yeah yeah, sure, so that place you’re gonna see another Lagos. It’s where they have skyscrapers and the, you know, the Atlantic ocean is situated over there, so the beaches and stuff… I mean, after the experience of mainland you go to there, so…
You can see two paceline there.
Then you should go to the south-east, places like Port Harcourt or Benin. Benin republic is very historical – in the history of the world it’s the strongest and the biggest republic in the world back then.
Can you imagine that in Nigeria there was a great wall too?
Longer… like in China, longer and bigger than the Chinese one. Yeah so.
Benin republic is really very historical and very cultural place. Yeah, they got water tube, they’ve got a lot of things that you could be interested for….
Yeah yeah. Some caves and stuff. A lot of historical blah-blah-blah. I’ve never been there before unfortunately, but it’s well-known to every Nigerian, yeah.
Okay. Well, that was the craic about Nigeria. We’ve talked quite a bit about it. We’ve talked about you and how you ended up here, and your experience of coming without the proper equipment.
We talked about Nigerian and what surrounds it, what countries are around it. The capital and Michael’s home town, home city. We’ve spoken about the people of Nigeria too, how they are the best thing of all when you go there.
A little bit of a wild life. Although we’ve discovered… I discovered something new that it’s not quite as simple as you’re gonna turn up and see a lion. Just like in Siberia you’ll not just see a bear.
Some of the holidays, traditions, sports, barbecues that aren’t so popular. And the best places for tourists. So that was the craic about Nigeria.