Our dear country Nigeria is a cauldron of extreme loves, habits, cultures and sensibilities.
Nigerian cuisine is no different. Many types of meats and plants are consumed here – roasted on a spit, fried with different kinds of fats and oils ranging from mmanu groundnut-nut to ororo and epo, or are ground into powdery forms and are used as stock to garnish dishes.
Nigerians would consume most forms of meat, or fish, or snail – mammals, reptiles, amphibians and crustaceans (crabs and lobsters) are fair game. I have even seen someone wait on the rain, not for water or irrigation, but so that he could get his hands on a kind of edible termite which loses its wings after a heavy storm. People gather the termites, roast their abdomens and stuff their faces with them. Yes, even Atom Ant wouldn’t be safe in some parts of Nigeria; neither would any of the characters from the movie “A Bug’s Life.”
So we like animals as a source of food. What I am now interested in asking is: Is Nigeria a nation of pet-lovers?
In Western countries, people keep pets for companionship, even housing and feeding them like they would do their own kids and in some extreme cases bequeathing an inheritance to them worth millions of dollars. Dol wetin?
This is definitely alien to the traditional Nigerian man.
Oyibo people love their pets so such that many prefer them to humans. I was at work somewhere in London some years back, when our manager asked someone why she hadn’t shown up to work for 4 whole days. The person who missed work said that her cat died a week ago and so she had been depressed and couldn’t work. The management empathized with her, and offered to refer her to Human Resources for counseling of bereaved employers. I was like what the…I mean, my catfish once died but I still had to turn up at NYSC Orientation Camp.
Oyibo people even have their pet dogs or cats sleep on their beds. Some rich people even build a large dog-house as huge as a BQ in Lekki Phase One for their pets.
In this country, Bingo the dog belongs outside. If it is lucky or if its owners are minted, it would have a rudimentary shed built for it that would offer scant shelter from Nigeria’s extreme sunshine or monsoon rains. Bingo can expect a staple diet of remnants from the kitchen, including chicken and fish bones which have been stripped of all calcium and flesh by the house owners, eba, amala, fufu and even agonyi beans. Most Nigerian families would not care to buy Pedigree Chum or our local Jojo Dog Food for their dogs.
In Naija, if Bingo wants a dog-house as big as a BQ, it better know how to fetch lucrative multi-million naira contracts, not just sticks or Frisbees, and it should be able to catch and apprehend AK-47 wielding armed-robbers and thieves in the dead of the night. Or it would have to be able to make its owners a fortune by entertaining crowds like the Chuckle Hounds.
No doubt, the inflation and the cost of living severely prevent most pet-owners from taking already hard enough having to cater for the needs and health of yourself and your family without having to buy canned pet food or take your K-9 to the veterinary’s for his anti-rabies injections.
Apart from that, pets may poo all over the place until they are trained, they climb the furniture and slither about.
In the olden days, dogs were bought to consume human excrement. Wait until the United Kingdom’s RSPCA catches them! Sad but true.
We may love pets but feeding them is no joke. Even trying to secure scraps off bones and flesh from your local ele eran for your dog is costly business. Unfortunately, we Nigerians eat almost all the parts of a cow or goat, so unless your dog likes cow or goat horn or hair, there is no free animal part to get off a butcher.
And buying the pet cans of Pedigree Chum, Whiskas, carrots or sesame bird seed requires deep pockets, the type only people who steal government money may usually have. How many pet-owners, faced with the option of buying Jojo Dog Food for Lassie their dog, or purchasing a carton of Indomie Noodles for the child’s dinner would buy the former? Is a dog man’s best friend? Well I don’t think so, unless your name is Tarzan and you live in the Jungle. Or unless you are making a fortune exporting 404 meat to Europe and North America from your base in Calabar.
I have seen people feed their pets substances that the pets themselves never knew they could consume. In Naija, I have seen pets eat foods that will confuse the biologists on the National Geographic and Animal Planet channels. Canivores have been transformed into herbivores due to Naija’s harsh economic climate.
Oh so you think that a cat can never be convinced to eat roasted agbado (maize)? Think again.
Some years back, I was working at an office somewhere in VI. Sometimes, I would get to work quite early to beat the morning traffic, so I would go to this small provisions shop right next to the office to get a Coke and some biscuits. The shed was owned by this huge black Yoruba woman who had a huge gob on her and was always mouthing off to customers about her business.
One particular day, I noticed a cage at a corner of the small shop, with a large white rabbit in it. I asked her about it and she said, it belonged to some expatriate who normally stopped by her shed for a quick cigarette. Apparently the expat had to go on a business trip to Holland, and had begged the lady to help him keep and look after the pet rabbit for 3 days.
Three days had turned into three weeks, and the expat had not shown up or returned to collect his damn bunny. The shop woman said that anytime she tried the number, it was switched off so the man wasn’t still back from the Netherlands.
While the woman cursed and cursed the expat in her local dialect, I looked at the rabbit and gasped as I saw a quarter loaf of Agege bread in its cage!
I was like wow! I turned to the woman and told her that she really shouldn’t be giving the rabbit white bread, as it was processed food and could kill it.
The woman sighed and shrugged her shoulders. She retorted that the man only dropped money enough for three days, and she had had to feed the rabbit from her own pocket. Fair point.
She then asked me what type of foods rabbits ate. As soon as I opened my mouth to answer, I realized how unrealistic I sounded: “Lettuce, carrots, cabbages…”
The woman looked at me with an irritated expression on her face as if to say “Fuji cabbage…”
Taking a blunt stick, and poking the distressed rabbit through the cage hole, the woman proudly told me that she had been feeding the rabbit agonyi beans, a delicacy which she claimed the rabbit now loved and looked forward to. I then noticed the red palm-oil stains on the bunny’s otherwise snow white fur. At that point, how I wished I had the services of Dr. Doolittle so I could know what this rabbit was thinking.
I have seen someone feed their pet parrots – Harry and Harriet, udara (agbalumon) seeds! Talk about bird seed! Harry later died, leaving Harriet a widow.
Imagine giving the stray horses on Lekki road a lump of sugar while stroking their mane. The agitated horse would be sure to kick lumps out of you.
Like everyone, I was amazed when I saw pictures of the stranded whale carcass being carved into chunks on Oniru beach about a fortnight ago. I know about point-and-kill catfish, but this is pointless. Whales are mammals, by the way so the people actually ate whale-meat! Ewww!
Some pets have been known to turn against their owners due to ill treatment. I even know Nigerian pets that “rack” Naija sense. It must be something in the water.
There was a time a friend of mine was travelling out of town for a week, so he left some money for the gateman to feed his 2 dogs – a pair of Alsatian breeds. Soon as he was out of the door, the gateman pocketed the money, and only gave the dogs some remnant chicken bone on the 3rd day. Then the morning of the day, the house-owner was due to come back, the gateman decided to buy some cheap food from a nearby buka for the dogs to give some semblance that he had been feeding the dogs.
As soon as the gateman stepped into the dog cage to feed the dogs, one of them, a very feeble female called Sheba quickly snuck behind him and bit his bum -without barking or giving inkling as to its intent.
The gateman had to use the remaining money to get a rabies shot at the doctor’s. That is what I call canine justice.
But the weirdest case I ever heard happened somewhere in Lagos. There was this family that had a dog called Diego had started becoming a bit erratic. It barked at visitors, was aggressive if someone was eating a steak at the dinner table and didn’t throw it the bones; it even stationed itself at the gate, putting its snout under the gate to bark at who knows what passing by on the street. It even got irritated by gushes of wind. It even barked at the rain once, and nearly got electrocuted snapping and growling at a NEPA power cable connected to a sparking transformer as it bit at it furiously. Atomic dog.
Then there was a day when a business partner came to the house somewhere in Surulere to see Raymond, the dog’s owner. At the gate, the visitor asked whether Raymond had a dog. Being the confident owner, Ray replied in the affirmative, but proudly assured the now shaken visitor that the dog will not bite him because they were together. He told the visitor to walk behind until they were both in the house.
Diego who had been watching the proceedings, from his spot under a car in the garage was already growling. He then bolted from under the car, and bit, wait for this, Raymond! The dog was now officially uncontrollable!
The visitor dashed into the house when he saw Diego biting Raymond, and shut the door. Ray was trapped outside with the errant dog; Ray was mighty embarrassed.
Ray had had enough and the next morning, he called his driver and instructed him to take the dog to Kuramo Beach in VI, where some people were in the business of putting down dogs and making them into pepper-soup. He also handed the driver some cash to pay the dog-bashers.
The driver drove down to VI with the dog in the back-seat. However, when he got to the beach, he decided he could make a quick buck by releasing Diego, driving away and keeping the money for himself.
He did that, and drove off. He had a couple of errands to run in Lagos Island and Ikoyi. He then went to pick up the children at school around 2pm
When he got back to the house, Ray was on the dining table eating rice and chicken.
He looked up from his meal, and stared directly at the driver, as he asked him“Oh you are just coming back now. Did you give the dog to the dog-killers to kill? And did you pay them the money? I hope the money was enough?”
The driver lied “Yes sir. Dem kill the dog for my front, and I carry three thousand give them.”
At that point, Ray visibly frustrated, sighed and looked at the driver again, as he pointed “If dem kill am for your front, then what the hell is the dog doing here!”
Diego was lying under the dining table, with a half eaten bone next to it. Please refer to the lyrics section at the end of this article.
I hear that Diego inspired the storyline for the horror dog movie “Cujo”.
The economic hardship in Nigeria has made families look for different ways to survive. The middle class is being eroded, and the worldwide-recession, bank crisis and crash of the stock market have not helped matters. If people cannot feed themselves, how can they have any regards for pets or animals? Economic hardship can turn your bosom friend into your enemy. The crab in the bucket theory? Some Naija people may take this too far.
I mean, when does your pet hamster begin to look more and more like bush meat (ara oke) to you?
It is not an excuse though.
A cleaner that used to work for my uncle once told me that he used to catch pigeons, kill them, fry and eat. I was shocked, and wondered how he managed to trap them. He said he would mix granulated sugar in a bowl of water and place it on a verandah.
According to him, and I stress that, the pigeons would fly in and take sips of the water. Later on, when they flew elsewhere and drank water, it would taste bitter because they were used to the sugary water. So they would fly back to his verandah, gathering in flocks as they tried to sip out of the sugary water. He claimed that at this point, he would pick them easily as they would offer little resistance! Keep this dude away from Trafalgar Square, I say!
Of course, there are Nigerians that love their pets.
I know a landlord that never charged rent for the use of his Boy Quarters. All he asked was that Major, his dog was fed and groomed daily by the tenant. The only thing was the Major was thick set, heavy Rottweiler with a bad temper, big sharp teeth and a long leash. Well the BQ was in Abacha Estate, Ikoyi.
And of course to some Nigerian people, a pet is a status symbol. If you owned an ekruke (local dog), you would not want to take it for a walk. But watch some people walking their Spaniels or Bulldogs!
I remember back in the days, when some people would lie that their mongrel dog was half or quarter Alsatian. Some people used to lie that they had “police dogs” or “German Shepherds” which you would never get to see when you stopped by their house. I remember someone claiming his dog was half Alsatian, quarter Doberman with a little bit of local dog (one-eighth according to him).
I highly doubted that when I saw the way the dog demolished left-over fufu on the kitchen floor.
Give a dog a bone/
leave a dog alone/
let a dog roam and he’ll find his way home/
DMX (Ruff Ryders Anthem, 1998)