Gems from Peter “Pan” Enahoro’s How To Be A Nigerian

Gems from Peter “Pan” Enahoro’s How To Be A Nigerian

Thursday, May 18, 2023 11:44 am


Peter Enahoro and his book, How to Be a Nigerian

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu


When a great man dies, the general rave is to read his repetitive biographical details all over the newspapers and online.

It’s currently the case with the inimitable Peter Enahoro, alias Peter Pan, the legendary Nigerian journalist who recently passed away in London, England.

I plead to be different here by not parroting his biography because it is incumbent on me to just publish the gems of quotes from his classic 1966 book How To Be A Nigerian.

Peter Enahoro describes How To Be A Nigerian thusly: “A guide book for natives and expatriates on the conduct, deportment, comportment, bearing, demeanour, mien, carriage, air, port, actions; the misdoings, misconduct and misbehaviours of the Nigerian adult male and female.”

Now, hereunder, are the gems, the quotable quotes from Peter Enahoro’s How To Be A Nigerian as selected by me:

“It is not easy to write a book. First, you have to get a book: then you have to write it.”

“Today, the conglomeration of tribes assembled compulsorily at the 1884 Berlin conference are assigned as Nigerians – for want of a substitute collective noun.”

“Europeans talk about the weather; Nigerians talk about tribe.”

“Next to God, there is nothing that fills the heart of the Nigerian with greater awe than a Chairman.”

“If invited to dinner, it is pertinent to arrive terribly late, for it is bad manners to give your host the impression that you are eager for his food.”

“In many happy monogamous homes, marriage is a contemplated compromise between bachelorhood and polygamy.”

“…on the seventh day while God rested, the Nigerian invented noise.”

“Nigerians are a nation of good grumblers.”

“The power of Nigerian oratory is measured by the strength of the speaker’s legs.”

“In Nigeria, by the time a waiter brings your change, you are on the verge of calling the police.”

“When a death occurs in Nigeria, the mourning that follows is usually a game of conventional grief played between the bereaved and sympathisers.”

“The Nigerian telephone operator and the taxi driver have one thing in common. They both drive you round the bend.”

“Bureaucracy is the art of officialdom by officials for the sake of officialdom.”

“The difference between an aeroplane and the Nigerian taxi is that one takes off, the other just fails to take off.”

“Travelling in mammy-wagons is the cheapest means of journeying in Nigeria – as a great many people on their way to heaven have found out.”

“In Nigeria the forces of public opinion are divided into two – between the politicians and the progressives, with the public trying hard to get in a word.”

“The ambition of most Nigerian girls is to be the last love of a man. The demand of all Nigerian men is to be the first love of a girl.”

“National holidays aside, nothing thrills the Nigerian and cements him in spirit with a fellow Nigerian faster than the unanimous disregard for Father Time.”

“The trouble with the English language is that it is no longer English.”

“There is a popular Nigerian saying that to go to Lagos from your home village is no difficulty; it is to return that is war.”

“An alien is the foreigner who refuses to become a Nigerian.”


The following excerpt on the subject of “Humour” serves as my clincher on the Gems taken from How To Be A Nigerian by Peter Enahoro:


An expatriate acquaintance of mine was told the story of the Nigerian student who went into a London restaurant and ordered a whole roast chicken. When the Nigerian saw the bill, he was aghast. At home a roast chicken would cost 6/- or less and here he was paying 18/-. He decided he had to do justice to his extravagance and was noisily breaking the bones between his teeth and sucking at the marrows, when an English gentleman presiding over a cup of chocolate ice-cream on the next table, asked him icily what they fed to their dogs in Nigeria.

“Chocolate,” answered the Nigerian.

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