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  • Woojin Jung

Journal - Nigeria 2

The following content is from the journal I kept during my work with World Bank. It documents my reflections during a field trip to Nigeria in 2004.



Why do people here not smoke?

"Smoking costs money."

Talented Nigerians Cannot use Their Talent

Nigerians are so skillful, independent, frugal, and diligent. They can live without electricity, water, cars, cell phones, and the internet. Instead, they can generate electricity, which their government does not provide sufficiently. They buy liters of diesel, put it into a generator and make it turn on.

They even know how to get a 25-year old car moving.

"What do you do when you get stuck in the muddy road? Are you going to call your car insurance company?" I asked a Nigerian.

He said, "You don't have a phone. You don't have insurance. You should try on your own or get some help from cars passing by."

When a driver has difficulty starting up the engine, people are gathering around his car to help the car move. They are running back and forth with their skinny hands and legs, pulling cars back and forth to get the engine started. Once, twice, third time... seventh, eighth, ninth... They might be frustrated and tired, but they don't stop. They cannot find any other way.


My home in Seoul,Korea: To get on the internet, I just go to my desk and turn on the computer. It takes 10 seconds of butting time. My mom pays a monthly fee for using DSL, which is less than $20 a month for unlimited use.

Ago-Are community in Oke Ogun area of Oyo state in Nigeria: To use the internet, I walk to the taxi station and take public transportation. The taxi is moving around several stations to pick up 8 passengers. Two in the driving seat, two in the next front seat, 4 in the back seats. It's a 5-person maximum economy car.

The taxi takes me to the nearest community, Saki, which is bigger and has internet access. After I get out of the taxi, I then have to ride a bike. The bike takes me to a cyber cafe.

I have to pay $3 for two hours of internet use. I paid $2.20 for public transportation. I have to pay 2.2 cents per page of printing. I spent $0.50 to buy a bottle of

water. It takes me an hour to go to Saki and come back. An hour is a time that I can earn $10-12 for me research assistant job at school.

Everything takes so much time and patience.

There is only one photocopier in the information center in the whole Ago-Are community. But it is out of order for two months. How can people fix it? People have to invite engineers from Ibadan which is 2.5 hours away. After the engineer sees the copier and does not have enough equipment to fix it, he needs to go back to Ibadan and come back to fix it. Ago-Are people find it hard to afford this engineer's transportation and service fee.

When we have to put a lot of effort, time and money to get basic social infrastructure such as electricity, water, telecommunication, and transportation, how much more energy do they have to spend on their initially intended jobs?


Corruption and bribe make things expensive and inefficient.

It makes every single thing involve costs.

"Do people here pay tax?"


"What does the government do with the taxes? They are supposed to clean up the city, and provide electricity. It should be used to pave the road and lay water pipes. Isn't it?"

"You are in Nigeria, Woojin."

"Police is your friend." -Billboard-

The police were supposed to guard citizens. Instead of protection, however, they threaten people. Policemen wearing military uniform are on the road. They stop whichever car they want to stop. They ask drivers to show them certificates or documents. They are eager to find fault, and get money to blink at their mistakes. Most drivers just give money to get out of this situation as soon as possible. Drivers are holding bills while they are driving. They are always ready to pay the police, "Nigerian toll." Drivers now don't renew licenses as upgrading their licenses does not prevent them from being harassed. This corruption is spread all over the country. So now dealing with corruption just looks like living daily life.

"Police officers do not have friends. In such places where there is a strong sense of community, is it possible that such men on the road troubling ordinary people can live a normal life? Policemen probably need help."

Powdered Milk

There are many cans of instant powdered milk in Nigeria. I love its milky flavor, creamy color and soft texture. But why isn't there liquid milk as I usually used to drink?

"Because we need a refrigerator to fresh milk. We don't have electricity to get a refrigerator going on."

Savings as a Positive Development

I was amazed by the fact of how much water I can save. I could take a shower with only a bucket of water. With two buckets of water I could do laundry. Laundry is an unusual, special event, so I should not wash my hair on the day I do laundry. A step further, I found that I can recycle the water that I already used for flushing the toilet. I used to wash my hair everyday but I changed my habit to save water. Compared to using flowing water from the tap, I can save so much water by using a bucket.

What if people in the world save water like this with a little inconvenience at the beginning which, however, will soon become a habit? What if these saved resources can be flowed to people suffering from extreme deprivation?

Distress of Poverty

I have to pray for my car not to be broken down.

I have to pray for police men not to stop my car.

I have to prat for food not to upset my stomach.

I have to pray for camera batteries not to die after taking only one snap shot.

I have to pray for a bucket not to fall into a deep we, and put me in a situation of not being able to bathe for the day.

Gasoline and Nigeria

Nigeria is the number 5 petroleum producing country. It is number 2 OPEC gas producing country. But people don't enjoy the abundance of gas. Only a few rich can use gas stoves. Most lay people use wood to make fire. People in power in the nation export raw oil and import processed petroleum. They import gasoline because it can make more profits ALTHOUGH it deteriorates the capacity of the country as a while. The government turns a blind eye. People in power only take care of themselves.

Burning and Honking

I have to get used to the honking and burning in Nigeria.

Smells of burning waste.

Sounds of honking cars.

It's not like the picture of Africa with majestic scenery of nature that I dreamed of.

It's not like the film "Out of Africa."

Electricity and Water

Living without electricity and water bothers me a lot. I don't know what to do at night without electricity. But it seems not to bother people who got used to living without it.

"It is a Western perspective that perceives living without electricity as being inconvenient."

My friend responded to me, "But you see Ago-Are women don't come out to the community meetings. Because they are too busy doing household work."

Development can liberate Ago-Are residents from menial labor. But in New York, people get stuck in busy daily lives, and don't even have time to take a look at stars.

How can we draw a balanced line?

Anyway, I got used to lamps and candles.

Our Wife

"Do people get divorced here?"

"Very rarely. Although people do separate, it's rare to get divorced."


"You know, we say 'our wife', and not 'my wife'. It doesn't mean that a woman sleep with many men but it means that a wife gets married to the community. Being someone's wife means that being joined to the whole ancestral community."

"If a man abuses his wife, the community will intervene in family matters. They will tell the husband not to do that. After that, it the man does not stop abusing his wife, the community leaders encourage her to leave him."


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