This is on what I love the most about Nigeria. What’s your favourite thing?
This is a land of birds. To be honest, I did not notice them much in my thirteen years in Nigeria – well, apart from the tall, obvious lekeleke (cattle egret) and its white in-your-face feathers amidst the dirt and scum of the city. Since my return, my eyes have been opened to so much wonder. I now have a full-on avian obsession.
I love watching the green parrots feasting on palm kernels and the terrifying big black birds that travel in groups of three or four, using their yellow beaks to devour the moringa tree (it’s upsetting that I can’t identify them!). The normal-sized pigeons – not the fat overfed ones you see in Trafalgar Square – and the doves racing together. Once, while in traffic, I saw the tiniest, most fragile yellow bird settle on a plant peaking above an illicit rubbish dump. For a moment, I didn’t care about the heat of the day or that we had been stuck in the same area for some time. I just stared at its intricate design.
The august eagles are my favourite. I love the glory of their wings, soaring above all the other more meagre birds. Their beauty is an enigma to behold. I admire eagles. For some unknown reason, they inspire pride in me. When one passes above, I have to halt and pay my respects with a look of awe and a sigh of envy. I want to be an eagle. Who wouldn’t want to possess such magnificence?
I am becoming a bird watching nuisance to a family friend whose house is surrounded by fruitful tropical trees. There is nothing like seating in the gentleness of the evening sun and letting its rays embrace the face in the sweetest of caresses, feeling the cool of the coastal breeze while listening to creation’s most graceful inventions chirp away showing off their splendour. Then after the sun has gone to rest, the moon rises to the tune of distant prayer calls echoing ensemble with the owls and crickets.
It’s amazing! Despite the turmoil of the overcrowded polluted city, these birds are still here. Their numbers have plummeted through the years but they seem to be taking refuge in the lush residential estates the emerging middle class are packing themselves into. These creatures are as resilient as the humans that dominate this land. Like us, they have learnt to hustle, to fight for their existence – and not just the birds. Forget about textbook ecology, Nigerian fauna is breaking all the rules. Only here you’ll see a wild monkey boldly stretching out its hand begging its human counterparts for food or a tortoise that walks faster than a peacock (true story). We all have to survive somehow.
Nature, that’s what I love the most about my country – apart from the lizards. Sorry, agamas are the one creatures on Earth I cannot stand.
Image: Lekeleke | Source: wilkinsonsworld.com