Doctor, are you Nigerian?

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

I looked over my shoulders when the Nigerian patient sitting in my consulting room asked the question, “Doctor, are you Nigerian?” Perhaps, there was another fellow in the room. I never thought the day would come when my countryman would not read the Nigerian written all over my face. Ironically, I knew the patient was Nigerian from the name and the face when I saw it (please don’t ask what a Nigerian face is.  You just know it!). The speech, mannerisms and accent all gave away his nationality – the name was from Edo State. They were recounting a recent trip “home” when I asked if they went to Benin and they were startled.

I took solace from the Bible story of Joseph in Genesis 42 verses 8 and 9; “So Joseph recognised his brothers, but they did not recognise him. Then Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them.”

The only problem was that with no prior dream I did not see this coming.  I have always thought I looked and sounded Nigerian but what I believed about myself had been challenged. I started to think about what makes one feel Nigerian and what features or characteristics help onlookers recognise a Nigerian. I might be wrong but these are my conclusions.

Ring tones

We have a sign at work which forbids mobile phone usage during consultations but once in a while phones go off during consultations. If the ring tone is ‘Yori Yori’, your patient is Nigerian.

Telephone voice

If you can hear a telephone conversion clearly coming from the second floor flat of a tower block while you drive by in your car, a Nigerian is “ringing home”.  Word like “exchange rate”, “fuel”, “light”, “gen” and “naira” also give away the caller.


If the shoes on a black male cost £500, and he removes them to show you his bunion only to find his cheap socks cost £1.05 for a pack of 12, he is Nigerian. Some of us suffer from a shoe-sock maladjustment disorder. It causes us to be showy, thus the garments on public view are expensive while the “private garments” are as cheap as chips.


If it starts with O, and they are black and well dressed, they are Nigerians.


Some things just roll off the tongue inadvertently, “It is well”, “not my portion”, “how far?”, “ah!” (after getting an unwelcomed news).

Pidgin English

If while speaking pidgin English and laughing on the phone, they go two minutes without saying Charlie, they are Nigerians.


There is a certain swagger to a Naija man or woman. There is always a degree of flamboyance that can be detected with a trained eye. It sometimes boils over into supreme confidence, and other times it might be arrogance, but it is there.


Nigerians generally create traction and fiction. That means sparks fly, heat is generated and noise is created. That is the Nigerian way.


Well, they actually have Nigerian parents or were born in Nigeria.  Nationals from neighbouring countries sometimes cross the borders and assume Nigerian citizenship or the Nigerian persona. The late Prince Nico Mbarga, a musician of Cameroonian, extraction is a good case in point.  He composed the ever-green song ‘Sweet Mother’, and it was only after his death I found out that although he was born in Nigeria to a Nigerian woman, he had dual nationalities. Nigerians don’t like being called Africans, they are Nigerians period!

Favourite topics to discuss

For the men, football, money, politics, tribalism, God and those who are making money fast. The women on the other hand, marriage, children, parents, career, ‘useless Nigerian men’, shoes and bags, what Linda Ikeji said and God, are the main topics.

Tribal marks

Facial scarification marks and tattoos are now a thing of the past but some Nigerians still have them. Those in the know can tell what part of the country you come from just by looking as the marks.

Body shape and complexion

  • Tall and slim means northern Nigeria, if the above features are present. Kenyans are also tall and slim
  • Light-skinned and stocky means south-eastern Nigeria
  • Dark-skinned and athletic means Niger Delta and the south-western Nigeria


Nigerians know that their ancestors created jollof rice and are proud of it.  Moin moin (beans pudding), suya (roasted meat) and boli (roasted plantain) are beloved delicacies. We also share our Gala and our booze for we are generous people.


South-western Nigerians throw parties while the rest of the country will attend.  Baby naming ceremonies, marriages, burials can all be done as many times as the finances dictate.


If they are in “the abroad” and they are black and have over four university degrees, they are Nigerians.


Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Efik, Kanuri, Urhobo, Edo, etc.


I do not do too badly with the above categories. I however let the side down by eating pounded yam with a fork and knife.  Other things to my credit include knowing my Galala from my Shuo and being able to Shoki, Azonto and Etighi with flawless co-ordination.

I am a bit designer clothes averse and have never asked anyone in anger; “Do you know who you are talking to?” but I wrote the first ever online Naija Pidgin English Dictionary and the Pidgin version of Psalm 23.  Urhobo man wey write Ukodo Tonight.

With these few points of mine, I hope I have been able to convince you that I am more Nigerian than the River Niger.