Letter 1: The True Reason why Nigerian men are not Romantic

Nigerian men born mostly in the 70s, 80s and 90s are not romantic (arguably). Not largely their fault.

My friends I greet you in the wonderful, matchless name of our lord Jesus Christ. I write this letter to my friends in an attempt to enlighten you about why and the potency in the notion that Nigerian men are not romantic, perhaps not romantic enough or why they simply just suck at it.

Let me first give kudos and due respect to those Nigerian men who actually hold their own and excel in the business of romanticism (a state of being romantic or affectionate in a sentimental way), I do this because it is not an exclusive fact that all Nigerian men are not romantic. Many who are celebrated "Mr. Romantic" have achieved this either from sheer determination, with motivation from the romantic experience of their parents, romantic family/friends environment, exposure to romantic movies, books, being good students to their romantic partners or divine inspiration. Whatever the reason, we must respect it and appreciate it.  Having established these fact, it is actually true that most Nigerian men are not romantic.

What does it mean to be romantic?

The word "romantic" comes from the word "romance" which may be defined as any affectionate act that takes place between lovers, wherein one partner woos the other. It can serve as foreplay, though not necessarily; it is aimed at the emotions rather than just the sex drive. It is used to establish and maintain intimacy and emotional closeness in a sexual relationship.

Anything from simply expressing your love for the other, to taking them out for an evening activity, can serve as romance. However, let us understand better what the term "romantic' means;

According to Merriam-Websters Dictionary, "romantic' means;

  1. Of, relating to, or involving love between two people.
  2. Making someone think of love; suitable for romance.
  3. Thinking about love and doing and saying things to show that you love someone. 
  4. Consisting of or resembling a romance.
  5. Having no basis in fact;  imaginary. 
  6. Impractical in conception or plan.
  7. Visionary and  marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized.
  8. Of, relating to, or having the characteristics of romanticism. 
  9. Of or relating to music of the 19th century characterized by an emphasis on subjective emotional qualities and freedom of form; also of or relating to a composer of this music. 
  10. Having an inclination for romance :  responsive to the appeal of what is idealized, heroic, or adventurous.
  11. Marked by expressions of love or affection, conducive to or suitable for lovemaking

Background of Nigerian men born in the 60s, 70s, and 80s:

I was born in the mid 70s in Surulere, Lagos and in 1978 we moved to the then prestigious Festac 77 Town, Lagos and can say I was privileged to witness the cross-over from the romantic (as I put it) to the not so romantic 90s (as I put it) era. I was also privileged to attend one of the special government sponsored unity schools; Federal Government College, Okigwe, Imo State to be precise, where children of the rich and famous were schooled and this exposed me to the life and exposure of the rich, the middle class (which existed strongly) and the privileged lower class.

While it is not advisable to say that Romance and being romantic is not an "African thing", as most modern, teddy-bear hugging, sushi-eating, candle-lit dinner craving women today (2016) will attack me without reservation, I am sure I will be forgiven to say "romanticism' does not have its roots from Africa, evident in the fact that standing at the door of a potential partner or actual partner's doorstep wielding a rose flower (from behind your back) in the air before her is definitely not African.

However, the Nigeria of the 60s and the 70s had a very strong leftover culture from Nigeria's colonialists (Nigeria was colonized by the British and gained independence on October 1, 1960), that era was also significantly blessed economically because not only did the Naira (Nigerian currency) match the British Pound, and double the US Dollar, Nigerian discovered oil and the first oil field began production in 1958 (See Wikipedia)

The 1980s, precisely from 1985, the government of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida introduced austerity measures (Austerity measures refer to official actions taken by the government, during a period of adverse economic conditions, to reduce its budget deficit using a combination of spending cuts or tax rises) packaged in a programme called SAP (Structural Adjustment Programme). A reality that Changed the average Nigerian's attitude to life.

Now this reality meant that the average Nigerian's attitude to life in every way. It really wasn't a case of choices, you were forced to adjust as income went down and Nigerians had to prioritize their expenses and so big chunk of the pre-SAP list went out the window or simply died a natural death. So you can imagine a man in his right sense at the time wielding a rose flower before a lady at her door step.

The economy so strangled the nation and business that most if not all the multinationals operation in the hospitality industry literally shut down and closed shop, so you can imagine what happened to "candle-lit dinners" at a 5-star restaurant, probably in a 5-star hotel, your guess must be correct.

Major realities Nigerian's had to deal with; they include:

  1. Price of food commodities went through the roof and so went your exotic foods; This includes Eggs, milk, chicken, meat pies (I remember confectionery business owners changed from using wheat flour to using corn flour for baking) became luxury. Shops like United African Companies (UAC), Kingsway Stores, AG Leventis Nigeria and Leventis Foods (Nigerians from that time will understand me and indeed feel me, in fact I see them smiling in affirmation), but these shops were your premiere destination for luxury foods and snacks, which would have been a good destination for a romantic date at the time. This was the reality in Lagos, where I grew up and you can only imagine the reality observed in other parts of the nation.
  2. Petrol scarcity and subsidy removal was real: I remember Lagosians (Lagos residents) owning two cars to beat the government policy of even number, odd number cars being on the road alternately as a way of addressing traffic congestion in Lagos, so was the affluence pre-SAP, but now had to settle for only one car being on the road and selling the other. Long queues now prevalent at petrol stations.
  3. Unaffordability for brand new vehicles: Income for households was weaning, retrenchments prevalent; rise of self-employment, high taxes, high import duty, high inflation which affected all commerce meant the average Nigerian could no more afford to buy a new car straight from the dealers and having a zero mileage record. this gave rise to a new business of importing secondhand (used) cars from Europe (mainly Germany and Belgium), which actually baptized the vehicles as "Belgium", which also referred to everything fairly used, secondhand and imported.
  4. Cinema Houses, Amusement Parks, Zoos and Theatre Industry Shutdown: Yes you will be amazed at how youngsters of the late 80s and early 2000s will actually tell you they do not know of any Cinema House or name, let alone visit one. I remember often visiting the National Arts Theatre in Orile Iganmu in Lagos as a child with mum, dad and my siblings to see a cinema or theatre production. It became a shadow of itself and could hardly sustain itself without government funding and patronage was almost non-existent. Even the Apapa Amusement Park, the Lagos Zoo all suffered the same fate, in fact you barely hear these places as being part of anybody's life growing up in Lagos.
    National Arts Theatre, Orile Iganmu, Lagos (Suffered from low or lack of patronage in the 80s and 90s).  
  5. Visiting Hotels, Lodges and Restaurants for romantic getaway became Luxury: Durbar Hotels (later known as Festac 77 Hotel and now Golden Tulip Hotel) used to be a playground for me and my childhood friends back in the days, as it was just a walking distance from home. Beyond lodging in the 4-star (5-star) luxurious rooms which wasn't our thing, one could go swimming in their Olympic size swimming pool we only paid a token as external guests). Durbar Hotel, like many other hotels served the need of the romantic, but it finally practically closed for business at some point and I can tell you it never recovered as its location became a part of Lagos less fancied for outings you could term romantic. Most people will rather go to Victoria Island, Lekki Peninsula, Ikeja (Capital of Lagos State), Festac Main, to mention a few.
  6. Recreational Parks, Walk ways and Gardens compromised: Based on the cost of maintenance of these serenity platforms, paying for manpower (personnel) and corruption, the idea of keeping and maintaining these spots and areas died a natural (perhaps unnatural) death, therefore denying the romantic bird the standard opportunity to take their evening walks.
  7. Transportation of all kinds, including flight became expensive: Pre-SAP you could easily plan a trip with your partner or family to destinations of your choice for various recreational reason and for romantic based reasons, but the exorbitant fares made it important, hence luxury. The deplorable roads didn't help the road transport either which took romantic out of the equation.
  8. Expensive Romantic apparatus, toys, gift items and gesture items: like rose flower etc became not only expensive, they became scarce due to lack to sales and in most cases the idea was relegated to the background.
  9. The cost of Privacy became unreasonable: Whether it was the privacy of your home, which in most cases was your parents home, or a paid daily or hourly accommodation, or a decent restaurant with relevant ambience, it became altogether unthinkable. In fact in most cases, especially in the hinterlands, privacy beyond the home bed at lights out was not in view, not an option, and so unthinkable.
  10. Endless pursuit of money and wealth, even at the expense of a decent vacation: The reality of frustration and raw pain that austerity measures and economic hardship brought to Nigeria and the utter failure of the Nigeria government (mostly military dictatorship) to provide hope, meant Nigerians had to work twice as hard, putting in long shift in their business and work, thereby having less and less time for frivolities, so you can try yourself to see how and where romance fits (or doesn't fit) into the picture. Even vacations also became luxury.
  11. Music production, Jazz and Music Festivals declined: More and more if not all of the known Music Labels (including Sony Music and EMI) closed shop and left the country as it became impossible to survive under the impossible economic climate. This reality meant fewer romantic destinations for musical pleasure, and even less original works available for pleasure at home. Also worthy of mention is the fact that buying electronic video and musical audio machines not only became expensive, but it went miserable down the pecking order of priority lists for most homes. Piracy was rife understandably.
  12. Dearth and Death of Fast Foods outlets: It practically became impossible to even conceive the idea of patronizing any fast food joint, let alone afford to actually successful visit and patronize one, as challenges ranged from lack of proximity, affordability issues, to the dire need to eat a fully cook African meal.

When everything began to change for the better

I will utterly have failed in this assignment if I do not mention that things have since began to change for the better, economically, commercially, socially, technologically and otherwise, even the economy of Nigeria overtook South Africa economy as the largest on the African continent . Let me list some of the visible positive changes that have taken place in Nigeria since the late 90s; they include but not limited to the following:
  1. The return to democratic rule, which marked the end (Thank God for this) of years of military dictatorship rule for over three decades combined. This of course opened doors to economic growth and social development.
  2. Economic growth, Telecommunications Sector Revamp and Social development, which gave room for the lifting of international economic sanctions and stability in both the banking sector and the business climate in general. The approval for the digitization of the Telecommunications industry and its privatization saw the entrant of global and continental players in the telecommunication sector. Econet and MTN being the first, local players like Globacom and Multilinks joining the list and together the revolution was secured.
  3. The return of social infrastructure relevant to romance and family life. I remember the opening of the Silverbird galleria in Victoria Island, Lagos, a product of the vision of veteran businessman and former Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Ben Murray-Bruce. Silverbird Galleria is a private cinema and theatre house, which was most welcome and heavily patronized by Nigerians who could afford it. We are talking about one standard cinema house for approximately one hundred and eighty million Nigerians. Silverbird Galleria was established in 2004 by Silverbird Group, a media and real estate company founded by Ben Murray-Bruce in the 1980s. The movie theatre, Silverbird Cinemas which revolutionized cinema in Nigeria pioneered the first five-screen Cineplex in sub-Saharan Africa. Silverbird Cinemas also possesses the largest cinema chain in West Africa with several locations in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Uyo and Accra, Ghana.
  4. Return of Music Record labels and Local Music/Video Productions: From the doldrums arose visionary record labels like Kennis Music, which produced Eedris Abdulkareem and 2Baba or Tu Baba (formerly known as Tuface, 2Face) Idibia  and Little Fish Records that produced Tu Face Idibia, Ruggedman (Michael Ibotikwu Steven) to set the ball rolling for a local music revolution. Jazz and High-life music came alive again and so sprang the floating of Night Clubs and other stages for live performances. Stand-up comedy is now at a whole new level and very successful. The Mad quick production and release of local African home videos saw the birth of Nollywood (third largest after Hollywood and Bollywood), with patronage all over the world.
  5. The Return of Restaurants, Night Clubs, Bars and Fast Food Outlets: This welcome development was not only seen in the Lagos Metropolis, but in all the big cities in Nigeria. Always first will be the three usual suspects; Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. We saw the birth of Tantalizers, Tetrazzini, Mr. Biggs, Sweet Sensation, to mention a few (worthy of mention is the fact that they were quite expensive or more like not affordable to the average Nigerian) and today with growing business partnerships with foreign countries, especially South Africa, we now have the likes of News Café
  6. The return of Mega Supermarkets, Clothing, Gift and Book Shops: Local and international outlets for clothing, books, gift items and mega supermarkets have flooded the major cities of Nigeria, including South Africa Shoprite Supermarket franchise.


Just google search the Nigerian Pidgin phrase "na flower i go chop" (meaning is it flower that I will eat) and you'll see how popular the phrase is, it became so popular that Nollywood movies were produced to celebrate its popularity.

"na flower i go chop"

The phrase "na flower i go chop" had to become reality as women meant to be recipients of romantic gestures either haven't practically eaten or have more pressing issues that thinking about the cost of putting together a romantic adventure was depressing.

Romance doesn't have to involve money?

One may argue that romance or being romantic didn't have to cost a dime, fine you may win with that argument, but I am saying to you that the idea of "romantic" as this discussion suggests died or simply just faded away and lost any form of interest from both parties in the romantic exchange.

Not the Excuses but the compromised mindset.

I do not highlight all these issues above to make them reason enough for a man to become completely romantically redundant, but to throw some good light into the state of mind of the men from that era who largely represent the majority of Nigerian men in active marriage and dating life today.

Location of a problem helps its dislocation

Now I decided to write this letter to my friends and potential new friends as my contribution towards helping the woman in the life of the unromantic Nigerian man, especially in the diaspora, where Nigerian men are involved in one way or the other with woman from their country of residence.

I hope that this piece offers background for good understanding of the average unromantic Nigerian man and provides direction for patience and assistance towards fixing the problem. So give a brother a break. Nigerian men please do not relax now, instead get going and trying new stuff with your partner. Go to the movies (indoor and outdoor), organize getaways, dinners, boat cruises, picnics, bowling, visiting the flower shop and attempt whatever works for you or your partner.

Practical tips on how to handle your unromantic Nigerian Partner

  1. Take charge of the Romance agenda of your relationship.
  2. Set him up into surprise lunch, dinner, movies outings.
  3. A typical Nigeria man (hustler) has no time for picnics, but he wont mind group stuff, so join leisure groups for picnics, boat cruises and perhaps wildlife adventures. You may leave out bungee jumping, as this might be a long shot.....ha ha ha ha.
  4. Identify and become family friends with others who were in your situation but have now excelled in the romance business, perhaps the power of association will help.
  5. "Slowly but surely" is the trick. Understand that some of these things may be strange and so foreign to him, so be patient and supportive.
  6. Create a humourous atmosphere, as this makes it easier to discuss romance issues and so he never feels any seeming bruise on his ego (Nigerian men and ego, this is another topic altogether).
  7. Fast and pray my dear, there is nothing prayer cannot do, as with God, all things are possible.

This topic is open for discussion and even debate and may be shared across all possible digital and social media platforms, but please respect its originality and avoid plagiarism. Give credit when and where it is due; otherwise write me to share your thoughts.

God bless all my friends, especially all my prospective friends.

1 comment:

  1. I've finally completed reading this, thank you for the background given and the tips shared. It's an eye opener!!!!!


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