Thursday, 11 February 2016

Cultural Intelligence, Security Awareness, Tips For Expats Coming To Nigeria

Notwithstanding a battered image, negative publicity occasioned by unremitting Boko Haram terrorism and insurgency, sporadic Fulani herdsmen attacks, proliferation of kidnap for ransom and extortion, pervasive corruption and advanced fee fraud or ‘’419’’ narratives by few unscrupulous Nigerians, far from it that Nigeria is a bastion of instability, insecurity, crime and fraud. It’s said that in every twelve, there’s a Judas; it is not usual that there will be bad and desperate folks in a country of 170 million people, where many suffer in the midst of abundance. The goings-on, hitches inherent in Nigeria are largely man-made and characteristic of a disparate body politic trying to negotiate itself into nationhood. The gospel truth and good news is that Nigeria is imbued with great potentials and many Nigerians are sanguine, morally antiseptic, benevolent, and very hospitable.

Quickly bring to mind that terrorism, extremism, insecurity and other ramifications of violent crime are not exclusive to Nigeria. For instance, statistics from the Gun Violence Archive and the Mass Shooting Tracker conservatively estimates that some 13,286 people were killed and 25,810 people were injured by firearms in the United States in 2015. However, not minding the risk of been felled as a result of intermittent shooting incidents, throngs of Nigerians, citizens of mostly developing countries yearn for US visas annually. Some of those fellows render testimonies, thanksgiving in their places of worship at the prospect of traveling to ‘God’s own country’.
This piece is not trying to shy away from the facts but rather to reconcile expats, foreigners coming to Nigeria with what to expect, rituals, etiquettes - cultural do’s and don’ts, how to blend into the Nigerian setting and also enlighten them on risks, potential security challenges or hotspots in Nigeria.

What Is Cultural Intelligence

Prior to acculturation, it is typical of new arrivals or JJC - Journey Just Come as they are derisively referred to in Nigerian parlance, to experience cultural challenges – culture shock or stiffness. According to Earley, Ang, and Van Dyne, ‘’Cultural Intelligence (CI) or Cultural quotient (CQ) is defined as a person’s capability to adapt as he or she interacts with others from different cultural regions’’. Research attests that cultural intelligence is an effective forecaster of performance in multicultural settings and that people with healthy cultural intelligence easily blend into any environment. Akin to, but broader than emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) - the ability of individuals to appreciate and manage their own emotions and that of others, cultural intelligence (CI) is useful in the corporate or business world, statecraft, international affairs and diplomacy – ‘soft power’, ‘smart power’, and military operations hence people in leadership positions, expats, pretty all and sundry must strive to boost their cultural quotient. Sometime in 2006, Vladimir Putin purportedly used his understanding of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fear of dogs to intimidate her during negotiations by ushering in his Labrador Retriever, Koni.

Nigeria at a glance…

Tip #1: Geography, Natural Resources In Nigeria

Nigeria is located in West Africa; shares land borders with Republic of Benin to the West, Cameroon to the East, Lake Chad to the North-East, Niger republic to the North and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. Nigeria stretches across 923,768 sq. km, comparatively more than twice the size of the state of California in the United States. Nigeria, the sixth largest oil-producing nation in the world is endowed with abundant natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, limestone, gold, tin, iron ore, coal, bentonite, lead, zinc, tin, niobium, columbite, amongst others. Nigerian climate varies but is largely equatorial in the Southern part of the country, arid in the North (Potiskum, Kano, Yola etc.) and mainly tropical in the ‘middle belt’ (central Nigeria). Temperatures can go as high as 46 degrees Centigrade or 111.2 degrees Fahrenheit especially in the northern part of the country. At an altitude of 3,937 ft. (1,217m) above sea level, Jos in Plateau state is essentially cool all year round with average temperatures of between 20-255 0C, drops to 11 0C from mid-November to late January.

Tip #2: History, People And Languages

Nigeria crystallized as one country sequel to forceful amalgamation of disparate nation states by British colonialists in 1914. Nigeria is undoubtedly Africa’s most populous country and the continents biggest economy. Peopled with plausibly 170 million people, Nigeria boasts of more than 250 ethnic groups and more than 500 local languages, many nonextant. English Language remains the unofficial lingua franca widely used in schools, the corporate world, government offices and for business transactions. There are 36 states in Nigeria. The most popular ethnic groups in Nigeria are: Igbos (South-East Nigeria), Hausa (predominantly Northern Nigeria), Yoruba (predominantly South-West Nigeria), Fulani (Northern Nigeria), Kanuri (Northern Nigeria), Ijaw (South-South Nigeria), Ibibio (South-South Nigeria), and the Tivs (Central Nigeria), amongst others. In terms of religion, Christianity and Islam are almost evenly spread, Christians to the South, Muslims to the North and interspersed with some traditional worshippers. The most populated cities in Nigeria are: Lagos, Kano, Abuja (the federal capital), Port Harcourt, Kaduna, and Onitcha.

Tip #3: Modes of Greeting in Nigeria

Preferable to say ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’ or ‘good evening’ rather than to say ‘hi’. Save for Nigerians with some Western exposure, many folks here are fastidious about titles – honorary, academic and professional whether earned, appropriated or purchased. A warm handshake with a smile will do, don’t hasten the greeting process. Shake hands at the commencement and conclusion of meetings. Close pals and family members habitually hug and kiss during meeting. Except for close friends, calling people by their first name is not pretty much a Nigerian thing, better you use surnames unless the person permits the former. Take time to genuinely enquire about the person’s health, his family and his endeavors. If he considers you of a marriageable age, a typical Yoruba person will ask you, iyawo nko (how’s your wife), omo nko (How’s your child). When greeting or shaking hands with an elderly or very influential person, it portends respect, reverence to slightly bow your head and use both hands for the handshake. Traditionally, practicing female Muslims don’t shake hands with members of the opposite sex. To further buttress shades of cultural departures exist, my erstwhile land lady, a Yoruba woman from the South West thinks I am not very respectful simply because I don’t venerate - bend, bow down or prostrate to greet her. Truth be told, I struggled to blend in to this routine Yoruba practice because it was not a norm in South East Nigeria where I come from. Of course it helps and opens doors if you can bandy a couple of words, greetings in a Nigerian vernacular to folks you come across. For instance, ‘’ututu oma’’ means good morning in Igbo language, ‘’ekaro’’ is Yoruba for good morning, ‘’inakwana’’ is Hausa for good morning.

Tip #4: Personal Lifestyle, Morals

Cultural differences, norms, idiosyncrasies vary from one country, geographical location to the other. What is acceptable in say, Canada, may be a taboo in Nigeria. While many Western countries have come around to identify with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) folks, apart from South Africa, most African countries frown at homosexuality. In a frank response to President Obama during his trip to Kenya, his Kenyan counterpart – Uhuru Kenyatta was quoted as telling the former that, ‘’gay right is not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans’’. Africans, Nigerians are currently been stifled by pressing infrastructural, security, unemployment challenges than lesbian-gay right. For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerian law provides for a 14-year prison sentence for homosexuality acts involving either men or women and 10-year prison term for people belonging to gay organizations, supporting same-sex marriages, or displaying same-sex affection in public. Generally speaking, Nigerians tend to be overtly fastidious about spirituality and morality but people seldom care what you do within the confines of your privacy as long as you are not gaudy or ram it down. Another classic example of cultural deviation: while polygamy is tantamount to a criminal offence in many parts of the West, it is permissible in Africa, Nigeria. As a foreigner, precisely a Caucasian, you are like a gold fish with no hiding place anywhere in Nigeria. In the interest of personal security or safety, a foreigner in Nigeria should desist from attracting undue attention to himself or been too loud. Don’t go outing with folks you do not trust or not familiar with. If you appreciate class, serenity and need accommodation in Lagos that is commensurate with the best of American or European standard, Amen Estate – boasts of exquisite homes, apartments with 24-7 electricity, water supply, good road network, recreational facilities and armed security.

Tip #5: Business Etiquette, Formalities

To paraphrase the statement of famed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her novel - Americanah, ‘’business and private boundaries in Nigeria are blurred; work blends into life…female bosses are often called mummy’’. Imagine calling someone, a lady much younger than yourself ‘’mummy’’ because of her status or how high up she is in the food chain. Better to cultivate personal relationships before morphing into business relationships. Knowing people on a personal level, their interests amongst others is encouraged. Do use your two hands or the right hand but NEVER the left hand while presenting a gift or a business card to people especially folk’s higher-up. If a business card is exchanged, briefly study the business card before retaining it. As earlier said, Nigerians are somewhat obsessed with; I mean place people by virtue of their titles, qualifications. Including sorted academic qualifications, certifications, titles on business cards can open doors. It is not unusual to see a business card bearing High Chief (Dr) Engineer James Manager Ochirizuo, JP, CPP (Florida), MON. Nigerians are quite fashionable and will rate, grade you by your appearance, dress sense; endeavor to dress smartly for business appointments while in Nigeria.

Tip #6: Time Management, Punctuality

While a typical German comes across as overly punctual, Nigerians generally have this ‘’African time” mentality. This is to say that a meeting or an appointment billed for 4pm could commence by 5 or 6pm. Sometimes it’s not intentional; it could be a spinoff of terrible traffic or something else. Don’t be terribly frantic if this happens, be patient especially if you need the other party than he needs you.

Tip #7: States With Sharia Laws in Nigeria

The northern part of Nigeria is densely populated by Muslims though many of the big cities, especially the state capitals are quite cosmopolitan. In total, about 12 northern states out of Nigeria’s 36 States adopted Sharia law. As at 2012, the following 9 states: Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kebbi, and Yobe instituted Sharia laws statewide while Sharia law is practiced in some parts of Kaduna, Niger and Gombe states. Implementation of Sharia in northern Nigeria led to intense controversy and riots because of the very stiff penalties.  You may be aware that Islam forbids adultery, alcohol, pork meat, gambling amongst others. As much as possible, don’t be seen or caught indulging in any of these. Alcohol is hypocritically forbidden in Sharia enclaves but folks booze under the radar. Infractions such as blasphemy and apostasy could attract a death sentence under Sharia law. In 2002, a Sharia court sentenced one Amina Lawal to death for adultery, conceiving a child out of wedlock. The sentence was subsequently upturned by a higher court. In 2014, one Mr. Mubarak Bala was forcibly committed to a psychiatry establishment in Kano for 18 days after saying he was an atheist. 

Tip #8: Security Awareness; Terrorism, Crime and Kidnapping Hotspots in Nigeria

In one of his earlier widely circulated piece titled, ‘’Forecasting Boko Haram’s Next Cycle of Terror’’, this writer warned when the previous administration was relishing its successes against Boko Haram, that it was not yet Uhuru, that the Sect’s strategy would morph into launching sporadic suicide attacks especially on soft targets, drive-by shootings and so on and so forth other than holding territories. Without sounding pessimistic or joining issues with the position of the sitting government which claims that Boko Haram has been ‘’technically defeated’’, one believes the Sect is yet to be utterly weaned of its bloodletting streak. A partially defeated enemy is still dangerous. Granted Boko Haram has been rolled back but sporadic suicide IED attacks by the sect and rampaging Fulani herdsmen cannot be ruled out in parts of the North East (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states), North West (Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states), North Central (Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau states). Given that terrorism basks on surprise, unpredictability and mass casualty; paucity of efficient, proactive security and intelligence network entails no part of the Nigerian territory is immune to ‘lone-wolf’ or coordinated terror attack, kidnapping. 

For detailed analysis of salient risks, threats, safety concerns, crime, kidnapping dynamics, terrorism or violence extremism hotspots representative of cities, 36 states of Nigeria, kindly refer to these articles (a) Security Mapping: Guide To Threats, Crime And Terrorism Hotbeds In Nigeria and (b) Investigation: Nigeria’s Thriving ‘Kidnapping Enterprise’; How To Arrest The Scourge

Written by: © Don Okereke
February, 2016
Follow Don on Twitter: @DonOkereke
Don Okereke is a passionate, innovative, Information Technology, Social Media-Savvy, proven Security Adviser/Consultant, Entrepreneur, Writer, Public Speaker and Change agent with over 17 years combined Military (Air Force), Private/Industrial Security, entrepreneurial, management skills/experience distilled from Nigeria and the United kingdom. Don loves entrepreneurship, brainstorming solutions to societal challenges and rendering altruistic service to humanity. He is the Founder/CEO of Forenovate Technologies Limited (RC 755695). Inter alia, Don completed postgraduate modules in Forensic Engineering & Science from Cranfield University (Defense Academy), Shrivenham, United Kingdom, a first degree in Industrial Chemistry, a Professional Certificate/training in Communication and Conflict Management from the United Kingdom National Open College Network, a Certificate in Security Practice & Safety Management and a Certificate of Accomplishment in Terrorism & Counter-terrorism: Comparing Theory & Practice from Leiden University (MOOC), Netherlands. His interest and expertise span Security/Safety/ICT/Cultural Awareness Training, Threat/Travel Advisory, Risk Assessments & mitigation, Security survey/mapping, Loss/Fraud Prevention, Due Diligence and Investigations,  Executive/Asset Protection, Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, Background Screening/Vetting,  Competitive Intelligence, Research and Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) Information Retrieval, Countering Violent Extremism Advocacy and Public Speaking, amongst others. His passion for writing, researching, innovations, sharing information, knowledge, training and mentoring galvanized him into blogging. His passion, knack for writing has seen his articles published on major Nigerian newspapers such The Guardian, The Nation, NewsWatch, Tell Magazine and various reputable local and international online platforms. Don has featured on conferences/seminars as a Guest Speaker and he is routinely consulted by foreign, local, print/electronic organizations for his expert opinion on issues impinging national, personal security and geopolitics. Disappointed with the pervading insecurity, terrorism and insurgency currently stifling Nigeria, Don champions an Advocacy Cause against vestiges of insecurity under the aegis of ‘’Nigerians Unite Against Insecurity and Terrorism’’ and ‘’Say No To Terrorism and Insurgency’’.