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Travels in Nigeria

by Noo Saro-Wiwa

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61902-007-8
Publisher: Soft Skull Press

A Nigerian-born English journalist makes peace with the land that killed her father.

Ken Saro-Wiwa was a Nigerian nonviolent political activist campaigning against government corruption and environmental degradation when he was falsely accused by the military regime and executed in 1995. His daughter Noo, a twin to her sister, Zina, born in 1976 and educated in England and the United States, maintained a mostly antagonistic relationship toward the land of her Ogoni parents, who sent the children on summer holidays back to the family compound where the heat, disorder, lack of running water and electricity consumed the author with dread. Now a young woman self-admittedly spoiled by the amenities of English life, the author allows her love-hate relationship with Nigeria to flavor this thoughtful travel journal, lending it irony, wit and frankness, yet also an undertone of bitterness. Starting in Lagos, staying at the home of her mother’s friend, she was overwhelmed by the noise and tumult of the city, teeming with 300-odd ethnic groups that were miraculously not worn down by quotidian inconveniences such as five-hour commutes, poorly paid jobs ($2 at most per day) and a constant need for haggling and hustling to make ends meet. Indeed, a Pentecostal faith inspired many Nigerians, rendering them by one account the happiest people in the world. From Lagos, “feral and impenetrable,” Saro-Wiwa trekked through Nigerian land and history, to the university town of Ibadan, the modern urban metropolis of Abuja, Kano and the Islamic northern recesses, national parks and nature preserves, civic-minded Calabar and formerly glorious Benin, before facing the “tense oil-city” and difficult childhood memories of Port Harcourt.

A vigorous, scathing look at Nigeria then and now.