Why I love Nigeria

In January 1984 Geoff Priestley and I were trying to catch a British Caledonian flight from Kano airport in Northern Nigeria, to Schiphol, Amsterdam, on our way back to the UK, having endured a four hour bus journey from Kaduna.

At the end of December 1983 General Buhari had overthrown President Shagari, with a pledge to eliminate corruption from Nigerian society.  In practice all that happens in Africa is that the corruption is transferred from the followers of the old leader to the followers of the new one.

However in our case Priestley and I finished up hiding behind 40 gallon oil drums at the back of the admin building at Kano Airport, being shot at by Igbo troops sent there by Buhari to close the airport.

While I pondered over how on earth we were going to get a flight out of the country, before the airport was closed down for weeks, Geoff had other concerns.

I will always remember how he turned to me asking “Keegan, do you think these oil drums will stop a 303 bullet?”  I’m not sure that he fully appreciated my response, which was “I believe that we are relying on the fact that the bu**ers can’t actually see us, and they are crap shots anyway”.

In the face of the drive against corruption I managed to find a corrupt immigration official who accepted my $1,000 US bribe and got the pair of us onto a Thai International flight, which turned out to be the last flight out of the country until February 83.

We were mildly inebriate by the time we arrived at Manchester Airport in time to be collected by our wives and transported to The Hermit Inn at Winwick for a Sunday lunchtime aperitif to celebrate our return to normality.

John Keegan

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