Nigeria is a large, densely populated West African country on the Gulf of Guinea. Its neighbours are Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Nigeria’s coast is low-lying with lagoons and sandy beaches. There is a high plateau of extinct volcanoes in the centre of the country and a mountainous area along its border with Cameroon.
Find out more about Nigeria.
English is the official language but there are over 500 languages spoken including Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo.
206.1 million (2022)
H.E. Sarafa Tunji Isola
1960, following independence from Britain; membership suspended 1995-99
Poet, Novelist, Essayist, Short story writer, Anthologist, Aphorist, and Playwright
Ben Okri is a poet, novelist, essayist, short story writer, anthologist, aphorist, and playwright. He has also written film scripts. His works have won numerous national and international prizes, including the Booker Prize for Fiction.
He was born in Nigeria and came to England as a child. He went to school in London and returned to Nigeria with his parents on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War. The war made a defining impact on his life.
His first book of poems, ‘An African Elegy,’ contains some of his best known poems, including the title poem, which is a set text in schools, and ‘To an English friend in Africa.’
running splash of rust
and gold – flung and scattered
among seven hills like broken
china in the sun.
I anoint my flesh
I anoint my flesh
Thought is hallowed in the lean
Oil of solitude
I call you forth, all, upon
Terraces of light. Let the dark
I anoint my voice
And let it sound hereafter
Or dissolve upon its lonely passage
In your void. Voices new
Shall rouse the echoes when
Evil shall again rise
I anoint my heart
Within its flame I lay
Spent ashes of your hate –
Let evil die.
IN THE CHILL breath of the day’s waking,
comes the newcomer,
when the draper of May
has sold out fine green garments,
and the hillsides have made up their faces,
and the gardens, on their faces a painted smile:
such synthetic welcome at the cock’s third siren;
when from behind the bulrushes
waking, in the teeth of the chill May morn,
comes the newcomer.
An African Elegy
We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.
There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things
And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.
That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.
And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here
And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.
Finding the Present
The present moment began with fire
And still it burns; it began with water,
And still they drown on the margins of Europe.
It began with air – see how they flee, see
How the bombs fall on houses made of sand,
Dreams made of flesh, the blind drones
Of remote war. But it began with earth,
Where all destinies are one, but many perish
For want of justice or soap or flowers
Instead of fears. Our age is confused:
The world runs ahead while humanity
Falls behind, trampled on by juggernauts
Whose names are the fearsome powers.
Across borders and nations, a new web
Of chains within the greatest horizons
The world has even known. Water itself
Resists oppression. Press her down too much
And she erupts with unexpected force
Somewhere else. We are all on a great ship
That’s lost its balance, lost its way,
And a huge storm’s gathering beyond
The iron veil of our hearts. Maybe
It’s a storm of revelation. Maybe it’s a storm
Of truth, of which art’s the unknown magus.
The age is changing. The present moment
Is itself constantly revealing. Everything
We see is the mask of time
Concealing its features.
Come with me through the mask,
Into rites of visiion and truth.
Come with me to the blue garden.
New time is being made here from
The wandering sleep of dreamers.
Shadows on the cave walls walk to and fro.
Shadows on the city walls come and go.
Shadows in the garden
Shadows in the garden.
Shadows in the
And If You Should Leave Me
And if you should leave me
I would say that the ghost
Has passed through
I would say that the stars
In their malice
Merely light up the sky
To stretch my torment
And that the waves crash
On the shores
To bring salt-stings on
For you re-connect me with
All the lights of the sky
And the salt of the waves
And the myths in the air.
And with your passing
The evening would become too dark
To dream in
An the morning