Challenges In Early Nigerian Life

Challenges In Early Nigerian Life

In one of my previous blogs, I touched on landing in Lagos, in August 1976 and staying in Mainland Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria. During my 21 days stay in Mainland Hotel, Lagos, my employer, Dr.K.O.Mbadiwe arranged a welcome get together in a hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos. When I met Dr.Mbadiwe first, he commented that he was reading every word of my letters, which I had sent to him after signing the employment contract. In the welcome party, Mr.Sunil Kumar Roy, the Indian High commissioner was the chief guest. Those days Mbadiwe was running a successful import business and therefore, a lot of Lebanese and Guajarati businessmen participated in the party.

Ogochukwu, the secretary to my employer Dr.Mbadiwe, called me and informed me that he had booked air tickets for me and for Dr.Mbadiwe to go to Enugu, and from there by car to Okigwe where my community hospital was situated. On the day of departure, I met Mbadiwe in the old Ikeja airport, where he was sitting in the lounge for dignitaries. Our flight was with Nigeria Airways,and by noon time we landed in Enugu airport. Ogochukwu had arranged a Peugeot 604 car to take us from Enugu airport to Okigwe and I sat in the front seat. Dr.Mbadiwe mentioned that  the car would be stopping in another village as he had to attend a funeral. When the car reached the village, I noticed hundreds of cars parked on either side of the narrow muddy road, bordered by colocasia plants with large leaves.   

Dr.Mbadiwe asked me to wait in the car, and mentioned he would be back soon after visiting the bereaved family. I waited for one hour, and noticed staring look from the locals. Later someone from the bereaved family brought bottles of ‘Star’ beer and food made of yam for me and the driver. According to igbo tradition, death is not just the end of life, but a transition into a new life, therefore during funerals, they celebrate lavishly. I remembered my patients telling “Don’t let my mother die now, I can’t afford her burial”. One of the largest cultures of Africa is Igbo culture which celebrates and mourns in funerals. After three hours, Mbadiwe returned and he asked the driver to proceed to his residence famously known as ‘The palace of the people’.

We reached ‘The palace of the people ’after two hours of driving and then it was evening. The palace had three gates numbered 1,2, and 3, and on number 1, a notice was written, ‘use gate number 3’. The garden was well maintained with hibiscus hedges.His palace was huge which looked like a manor house in England, and consists of three storeys. Mbadiwe led me to the palace entrance and then to the lounge, where I was asked to be seated. Soon his butler ‘George’, who was lean and walked with a characteristic bent greeted me. He asked what I would like to drink, and as I asked he served me whisky and snacks in style. Normally Mbadiwe lived in Victoria Island, Lagos, and rarely he visited his village. When people heard about his arrival, a lot of people gathered in the garden of the palace of the people for getting favours from him.

blog-1629565762anambra road (1).jpg

I spoke to a few of his friends, and after a couple of hours, George led me to a huge dining room.The dining room was splendid with several Victorian chandeliers, and a long dining table with twenty chairs.The dining table was set for twenty people, and his friends joined with me for the dinner. Mbadiwe sat at the head table, welcomed everyone with a pre-dinner speech.Dr. Mbadiwe was known for his oratory and he was blessed with timbre voice coming from deep down the throat. He always articulated slowly giving emphasis to certain words. A four course dinner was served, which was not particularly tasty, owing to the mixing of local ingredients in the preparations.

After the dinner, George took me to first floor guest room, which was spacious with a double bed covered with mosquito net in the centre. Like other African countries, Nigeria also had the scourge of malaria, and whilst in Lagos, I was advised to take daily dose of chloroquine or Fansidar to prevent it. After the tedious journey, I was tired and tumbled right into bed. When I woke up and looked through window, I had a glimpse of a huge mountain half a mile away facing the backside of the palace of the people. This brought a feeling of isolation, my enthusiasm faded away and my mood was down. I had my breakfast, and Mbadiwe directed the driver to take me to the hospital quarters.

The accommodation was a newly purpose built one with two bed rooms. There was an airconditioning unit in the main bed room, a kitchen and a single toilet. As soon as I arrived, the superintendent of the hospital, Dr.Gutierrez came to my quarters to welcome me. Dr.Gutierrez was from Philippines and he briefly explained to me about the community hospital. He introduced Dickson, who was going to help me as cook/steward. Dr.Gutierrez promised to get me a television. He called one of the hospital drivers, Christopher and instructed him to take me out whenever I feel like going out. I asked Dr.Gutierrez when I was going to get a car as written in the employment contract. I felt even more gloomy when Dr.Gutierrez informed me that the electricity was produced by a generator and power would be there daily from only 6pm to 10.30 pm and from 5am to 6am. Later I noticed that the water was muddy, and people needed to boil water, cool it and filter it to make it potable. Dr.Gutierrez also lamented about lack of nightlife due to the scare of armed robbers, and poor state of roads.

That was my initial recollection on settling down in a Nigerian community. Social life was abysmal until I met a few of Kerala doctors and teachers a few months later.I regained my liberty in moving around when I got a hospital car after a couple of months. From time to time, Dickson brought up details of bizarre culture and traditions of the village and added gossip to spice up the conversation. Gradually I got used to the challenges, but they made an indelible impression in my life story.

Share On

This blog is about my experience as a doctor working in various countries in different clinical set up. This experience spans through 45 years, in which I acquired a lot of favourable contacts and unfavourable encounters. I shall dig deep into them and make it interesting to the readers. Unlike others in the profession, I worked as a community medical officer in a remote areas, prison medical officer, benefit service medical officer, in cardiac surgery in prestigious institutions and as a private doctor. I was managing my own businesses, and real estate in three continents. I hope the information I impart will be valuable to the like minded readers.

Related Post

Comment Form