Everything about Nigeria is extreme. The country has a staggering 175 million inhabitants, meaning that roughly one in every 7 Africans is a Nigerian. The population is also extremely diverse, with 250 ethnic groups, however The Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba peoples make up the dominant component of Nigerian society. As for religion, Nigeria is split almost 50/50 between Christian and Muslim, with Muslims largely concentrated in the North of the country.
Nigeria is experiencing rapid growth as Africa’s leading producer of oil, and recently overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Cities are becoming safer and being transformed into commercial hubs, but also are strong leaders of West African culture. Nigeria is home to a number of prominent art scenes. For music lovers the country is the birthplace of Afrobeat, the sound that emerged from Lagos in the early 1970s and was made famous by Fela Kuti, however even today Nigerians are pioneers of a celebrated contemporary African sound. The Nollywood film Industry, the second largest in the world in terms of volume of productions annually, is thriving.
Nigeria’s two major cities, Lagos and Abuja, are entirely different beasts: Lagos is the sprawling cultural and entrepreneurial heartbeat of the country, and Abuja – the de facto administrative capital – is a city that was artfully planned for business, and the business of politics.
In addition to its megacities, Nigeria also boasts more quiet enclaves, with stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and a rich history. Calabar, for example, it a pleasant small city that was in the 16th century an international seaport, and played its role in the Atlantic slave trade.
Sadly, internationally Nigeria’s positive attributes have often been overshadowed by an image of Nigerians as the architects of 419 scams, as well as political instability and unrelenting corruption in the country. More recently the word Nigeria has all but become synonymous with the Islamic terror group Boko Haram, who have been killed and kidnapped thousands of Nigerians in the last few years alone.
However the feeling is overwhelmingly that Nigeria is on the up. In 2015 the country celebrated its first peaceful handing over of power from one democratically elected leader to another. There are high hopes that incoming president Muhammadu Buhari will be effective at tackling the country’s problems, as well as making the most of its successes.
On the top end of the scale the Nigerian wealthy class is getting wealthier, and as well as buying up some of the most expensive properties in central London they are returning from the US and UK in swathes to live, work and spend money in their own country. It is claimed that Nigerians are some the biggest consumers of champagne in the world (second only to France), and whether or not this is a symbol of progress, Nigerians certainly know how to have a good time.
Nigeria is the homeland of Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, and indeed its richest woman, Folorunsho Alakija.