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I can only presume that President Trump’s recent reference to Haiti and Africa as shitholes included Nigeria, a country I lived in, and dealt with, for six years.

I don’t presume to speak of, or for, all of Africa, but, as to Nigeria, I beg to differ with the President.

I love Nigeria.

This sentiment regularly shocks people. True, the country does not have a particularly high reputation and could not accurately be described as restful or peaceful, nor scrupulously law-abiding. (An official once told me, confidentially, that a Nigerian I had once known was the biggest crook in the whole country, and that’s against a lot of competition.)

But, really, who could fail to be charmed by the incredibly imaginative, almost poetic, stream of abuse that a Yoruba market-woman can unleash; the charming and persuasive letters from Prince Odipe, kindly offering you the opportunity to claim the million dollars your uncle left you; the colorful buses and wagons and taxis whose sole safety mechanism is the God Will Provide consolation painted on the front?

Maybe the best way to think of Nigeria is in nuclear terms. Its potential energy is enormous, available (and sometimes used) for destructive ends, but also available (and sometimes used) for positive ends.

How and where that energy gets used is up to Nigerians. But outsiders can help, at least if they have the common sense and grace to meet the country and its citizens on an equal footing.

It is not particularly helpful to smear the opening for dialogue with shit, especially when it’s so clear from what opening it actually is emanating. Perhaps the real shithole is right here:

 

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