Career move to Nigeria was big culture-shock

Alan Fallows
Alan Fallows

A MEMBER of HUCKNALL MEN’S PROBUS CLUB, Alan Fallows, looked forward to a change when he decided to take a job in Nigeria.

But in a talk at the club’s latest meeting, he said he did not realise what a big culture shock it would prove to be.

Alan was in the motor trade all his working life and, at one stage, he was sales manager of the former Intermotor firm in Hucknall. He spent seven-and-a-half years as general manager of a business in Nigeria, working for the R.T.Briscoe company.

He flew to Nigeria from Denmark at a time when the weather was so cold, people were skating on a lake. So it was like “stepping into a sauna” when he got off the plane at Lagos, which is close to the Equator.

At a road block during a taxi ride from the airport, he told a policeman he was from England and the officer asked him: “What have you brought for me?”, indicating that people were on the take.

Alan, the son of a miner, said he was greatly surprised to be given servants at a five-bedroomed flat which became his home. One of them was a general factotum who made his beds and did his washing, while another was a gardener.

The speaker said the servants lived in a block of bungalows at the bottom of the garden, where there was a cesspit due to a lack of drainage. When he reported that he had no shower in his bathroom, it was pointed out that this consisted of a bucket of water and a jug!

Cockroaches were rife on the property and so were geckos (tropical house-lizards), which served a useful purpose by eating mosquitoes!

One Nigerian he met claimed that everyone in the country was stupid — but he discovered that some had found an ingenious way to steal motor spare parts without breaking seals on containers.

Alan, himself a stalwart Rotarian, said Nigeria had the greatest number of Rotary clubs outside the USA. Many used membership of the organisation for self-advancement in their jobs.

Projects carried out while Alan was involved with Rotary in Nigeria included digging a well for fresh water and naming streets. Rotarians also provided a platform for a policeman on point duty whose acrobatic way of controlling traffic — with both arms and a raised leg — attracted many people who wanted to see him in action.

Alan said armed robbers in Nigeria were sentenced to death, being tied to posts and then shot. The executions were a major public spectacle.

The speaker ended his talk by showing fellow members two superbly-carved ebony sculptures he had brought home as souvenirs of his time in Nigeria. “These prove that Nigerians are far from stupid after all,” said Alan.

n OUR PHOTO shows Alan with the two ebony sculptures.