I am learning to speak Urhobo — German doctor
A German medical doctor in Nigeria, Dr. Klaus Engert, speaks with BAYO AKINLOYE about how he met his Nigerian wife, , his love for local dishes and celebration of the Day of German Unity, which was held in Lagos on Monday at the German Consulate General
For how long have you been living in Nigeria?
I have been living in Nigeria for about four years.
Where did you first set your foot in the country?
The first place I set my foot in Nigeria was Abuja, though my workplace is in Lagos. Abuja was a starting point.
What caught your attention when you got into the country?
Let us talk about Lagos because in Abuja things are quite different and I was there only for a short time. I will talk about three things – I have been to a lot of countries and I have worked abroad even in Africa. I have never seen a city like Lagos in terms of its population and pollution; environmental pollution. Traffic in Lagos is also something I still grapple with. I remember leaving a town hall in Lagos Island back to my clinic in Ijora and it took three and a half hours on a 10 km route. That wasn’t the only time I had such an experience.
What was the first Nigerian meal you had in the country?
The first Nigerian food I ate – though in my company, we have our own canteen that serves German food – was suya. It was delicious. I like it. Afterwards, when I got to know my wife — I am married to a Nigerian —I got to know all the kinds of food she cooks for the family, whether it is egusi soup or ogbono, bitter-leaf soup and I like them.
What is your favourite meal?
My favourite Nigerian food is eba with egusi soup.
What is the Day of German Unity all about?
Most of the younger generation do not know what the day is all about – even in Germany. Germany was once divided; we had East Germany and West Germany between 1945 and 1990. The Berlin Wall that represented the divide was pulled down, which signalled the end of the division. So, today, we have one united Germany. It is a day worth celebrating.
Apart from Abuja and Lagos, have you been to other places in Nigeria?
Yes. My wife’s family is from Warri (Delta State). I have had cause to visit the family because of traditions, like for our traditional marriage. Besides that, I have been to Uyo (Akwa Ibom State), and Ogun State. But our movement as oyinbos in Nigeria is restricted by the company I work with because of security reasons.
Have you visited any historical site in the country?
Yes; my wife and I visited the Slavery Museum. She took me around the place.
Having lived here for some years, how do you view the country?
Let me start by saying that in every country all over the world, you have good people and you have bad people. If you approach people in a proper way, they are usually friendly and helpful.
What challenge do you think ‘oyinbos’ face here?
As white men, one has to be careful. In Nigeria, there is only one type of white people. It is different from what obtains in South Africa and Kenya, for example. In Nigeria, there are no poor white people. White people in Nigeria are seen to be rich. In South Africa and Kenya, where I had worked, there is a certain layer of poor white people. But, this doesn’t exist in Nigeria. Therefore, when Nigerians approach an oyinbo, they approach such an individual generally as a person who has money. This can be a problem in relationships with others.
How did you meet your wife?
I met my wife in a market while I was out shopping for some wears.
How do you relate with your Nigerian in-laws in terms of language?
The only challenge I have in terms of communication is with my mother-in-law. She speaks pidgin English and Urhobo. I try to communicate with her in pidgin English. I speak some words in Urhobo and I am learning more in the mean time; same thing with pidgin English. Other members of my wife’s family can speak English fluently.
Will you speak Pidgin English with me?
No; I no do.
If you have the opportunity, do you intend to spend decades in Nigeria?
It depends on the situation. When I become older and upon retirement, I will be able to decide where to live. It is my hope that the security situation in Nigeria will improve – so, yes; I will like to live here. I like the country. More important is the fact that my wife is rooted here.
Which Nigerian book have you read or are you currently reading?
I have read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s books. I have also read Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy written in pidgin English. I have also read the works of a Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Besides having read some Nigerian books, what do you do at leisure?
I do not have leisure time. I am 24 hours on duty. Sometimes, I go to the MUSON Centre to listen to music. I also go to a local restaurant with my wife from time to time. However, because I have to be available 24 hours, range of movement is limited. As I speak with you I can be called to duty.
Who is your favourite Nigerian artiste or musician?
I cannot give you any name off the top of my head right now. But I do enjoy watching and listening to local bands playing Nigerian songs at some restaurants that I visit from time to time. I am a musician.
Which fun place have you been to?
I have been to The Afrika Shrine. It was a good experience being there.
What was the first local drink you had?
It was Star lager beer.
Do you have a Nigerian nickname?
People usually call white people like me oyinbo.
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