My Nigeria visit – part 1

This month I travelled to Nigeria to give a series of talks and workshops on Creativity and Innovation to the Young Presidents Organisation, a chief executive group in Lagos. Here is an account on a few aspects of my trip.

The journey to get there

You’d be forgiven for thinking that your presence was not wanted and that obstacles were being placed in your path at every opportunity. On entering the Nigerian Embassy I was already a stranger in a strange land. “Be prepared to loose hours, days in this place” someone said to me. I found the maelstrom of chaos disorienting. There were no answers to be found in the hot, blank, confused faces of the vast assembled congregation. The innovation needed here to improve the process would not require hours of brainstorming. A simple sign could have said, “take ticket and wait for number” which would have removed all uncertainty for everyone and also the pointless need for the voice on the Tannoy to have to angrily bark for the confused denizens to “get back from the counters and take a seat”. Four visits, unnecessary payments and the uncertainty that I would even get a visa, finally granted me the green sticker in my passport just a few hours before my flight. I was going to Nigeria.

I was met at the airport straight off the plane by an assistant from YPO. It was 4.30am and I hadn’t been able to sleep on the plane and had watched re-runs of Doctor Who and Blackadder instead. Their guy got me through grumpy military-dress officials who always seem to sit in pairs. They offered no eye contact and grunted to indicate that I step forward and grunted again to indicate that I hadn’t filled out a form properly. Then baggage reclaim: there’s always that awful few minutes when everybody’s bags seem to have appear save your own, but eventually my case and guitar turned up. Then we were out into the 29 degree dark heat of Lagos. Even though it was so early in the morning and so dark there were loads of people hanging around. The roads were busy with cars and small buses packed with people like sardines. There appeared to be no rules of the road. Red lights were just to ad colour, they certainly didn’t seem to mean stop. The oddest thing was noticing that all the vehicles looked like their entire bodywork had been extensively pummelled by a million toffee hammers. Every car looked like it had been once used in the Dukes of Hazard, missing windows and bumpers hanging off. One car looked like it had been burnt out – but was still driving along. When we drove up to the hotel it was dawn. A sliding gate opened (it was someone’s job to open and close the gate. His job was to sit there all day in case someone wanted to come in). I had just a few hours before my first talk at 10.30am.

(Photos: Top: view from my hotel window. Below: the Civic Centre)

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