Lesotho or  Nigeria?-Part 1

Lesotho or Nigeria?-Part 1

Lesotho and Nigeria, are the two countries in the world I love most. I spent twenty-five years in Lesotho, and five years in Nigeria, with repeated visits to the latter ever since (as often as I could, when the Nigerian High Commission didn’t mess up my visa application). Friends and colleagues in both countries are aware of my divided loyalties (as Shakespeare puts it in Much Ado About Nothing, “men were deceivers ever”) and they often ask me “come on, Chris, which of the two countries do you prefer?” Or they ask me a question along the lines of “please compare and contrast the two.”

This is like asking someone “would you like an apple or a screwdriver?”, the answer to which will depend on whether you want a snack or need to change an electric plug. The following four-part column is an attempt to take us through the issue.

I don’t want to say much about the people of these two countries, because any temptation to generalise about national or ethnic characteristics is highly dangerous. I have a friend who has a great fondness for the Basotho and contrasts them with the Batswana, whom he regards as being much less “open.”

There may be something in this, but it’s a point-of-view to be approached with great caution. Another friend had some unpleasant run-ins with individual Yoruba from south-west Nigeria (and I count a number of Yoruba as amongst my closest friends); he suggested setting up a National Association for Speaking the Truth about the Yoruba —the acronym for which would be NASTY. Ouch.

In any case it makes much more sense to talk about Basotho than it does to talk about Nigerians. The population of Lesotho is around two million (I don’t know how many Basotho live in South Africa) and they are exceptionally homogenous ethnically and linguistically. Nigeria’s population is not two, but over two hundred million, speaking several hundred different languages.

When one of my adopted sons visited London, he remarked on the fact we hadn’t bumped into a single Mosotho and asked why there were so many Nigerians. I replied “well, there are a lot of them to go around.”
And the Nigerian peoples have very different pre-colonial histories. The Hausa-Fulani of the north make up around half the population of the entire country and before the British plonked themselves down on the place, the north was an Islamic caliphate. In the south-west you had the Yoruba (and other) kingdoms.

In the western part of the south-east, largely, village democracies, the strengths (and weaknesses) of which are immortally depicted in Chinua Achebe’s novels Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God — and if there are any of my readers who haven’t got around to these two great works, I’m afraid I shan’t be able to associate with you anymore. It was the Brits who decided all of this could be flung together to make up a single country (including bits of what is now Cameroun); even the name Nigeria was thought up by Lady Lugard. No wonder so many Nigerian writers question whether the whole concept of their country isn’t “na big lie.”
If that for the peoples of Lesotho and Nigeria, what of the places? What do they look like?

Nigeria’s not generally thought of as being on the tourist trail, and there are reasons for that I’ll go into later. I’ve not been everywhere in the country and am assured the eastern grass highlands are beautiful. But it’s not a country you remember for its scenic splendours. Lesotho is, of course, another story.

Lesotho has two of my favourite views in the whole wide world. First — and I have spent hours and hours gazing at this (helped along by the odd bottle of wine) — the view over the valley from the Trading Post Adventures Lodge in Ramabanta (and this isn’t the BBC, so I’m allowed to throw in the occasional advert).

The backdrop to the view is the high maloti, rugged and craggy and wild, including Baboon’s, a narrow pass both loved and feared by mountain bike competitors. You can’t see the drop to the river, because it’s so steep, but in the foreground you have the great rolling lawns of the lodge and beautiful flowering shrubs, cared for by the excellent Puleng McCarthy. The whole set-up (as the French would say, “quelle belle ensemble!” is quite something — the contrast between the rugged mountain sides and the sophisticated horticulture.

The other most special view is from the minor road (track, really) that takes you to Malealea Lodge (why do all my paragraphs lead to a glass of wine?) At a point you get quite high up and there’s a view — and a touristy signpost telling you, here’s the view –across the valley below (you can just make out the lodge) and behind that an enormous massif of rock, which looks absolutely impenetrable, as if it marked the edge of the world. The name of the place in English is the Gates of Paradise. But Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, thought it looked more like the Gates of Hell. Hereby hangs a tale (and then another one).

First, though, I’ll branch thousands of miles sideways into an anecdote (and my long-suffering editor knows I can never resist doing this). The memory is sparked off by my mention above of a touristy signpost. Once when I was living in Peru I took a break from the damp and smog of Lima, spending a few days in the Andean town of Huancayo. I travelled by train, aware of the fact that on the way we would go over the highest point reached by any railway line in the world. 

We got to that spot and stopped for ten minutes, with the guard speaking over the tannoy, inviting passengers to get out and photograph the signpost commemorating the highest railway line point in the world. Then we set off again and entered a long tunnel — and continued climbing! Turns out the highest point is actually inside the tunnel — but of course that’s no good for photo opportunities.

Chris-Dunton

                                 To be continued
Previous No money for Covid-19 tests
Next Majoro must seize control

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/thepostc/public_html/wp-content/themes/trendyblog-theme/includes/single/post-tags-categories.php on line 7

About author

You might also like

Insight

Maseru: the rotten city

WHENEVER I am in Maseru, the capital city of Lesotho, many questions run through my mind. I often ask myself, what would happen if Chief Leabua Jonathan were to rise

Insight

Poverty needs to be uprooted

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane is a man under pressure. He has to deal with squabbles in his own party, keep his flagging government intact while trying to keep the lid

Insight

Decide for yourself

The Minister of finance presented the 2017/18 budget proposal estimates to the National Assembly yesterday. I cannot help but wonder how many of my country folk appreciate and understand the