A professor at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State, William Hansen, who has lived in Nigeria for 12 years, tells ARUKAINO UMUKOROabout his love for the country
How long have you lived in Nigeria?
I have lived in Nigeria for about 12 years.
Was your first experience on arrival in Nigeria a culture shock?
No, it was not. I knew a bit about Africa and had lived in other parts of the continent before my visit to Nigeria. I lived in South Africa for about six months. In fact, I travelled to Nigeria from Tanzania, where I had lived for about two or three months. So, it was not much of a culture shock. I’m reasonably flexible. Although I had never visited Nigeria before, I knew where I was coming to. But compared to the United States, it was unusual to see electricity going off every now and then, as well as the Internet connection being disconnected.
What was your impression before and after you came to Nigeria?
I don’t recall but it was not so radically different from what I already knew.
What do you like about Nigeria?
Nigerian women are beautiful and Nigerians generally are friendly people.
What Nigerian book are you currently reading?
I am actually writing something for a Nigerian book, titled ‘Perspectives on peace, security and development in Africa.’ I’m not reading anything right now that is necessarily Nigerian, but I read about Nigeria all the time. I’ve read all of Chimamanda Adichie’s books and all of Chinua Achebe’s books. I am not a great fan of Prof. Wole Soyinka’s books though. Adichie is a good friend of mine. She has also visited the university (AUN) in the past.
How many states in Nigeria have you visited?
I can’t put a specific number to it, but I have visited several states in the country. I live in Yola, Adamawa State. And I have visited all the northern states, as well as Delta and Cross River states, among others. I was given a chieftaincy title in Imo State, Omezi Obodo. It means ‘builder of the community.’ I was given the title in 2007/2008, I think. I have my regalia at home and I wear it sometimes.
Can you draw any similarity between Nigeria and the US?
The Nigerian Constitution, for one, is modelled after the American constitution. And there are a lot of Nigerian-Americans. Virtually all of my Nigerian colleagues are American citizens.
What kind of Nigerian food do you like?
I don’t eat food with a lot of carbohydrate or fat. I am getting old and it’s not good for me. Nigerians like eating food with a lot of carbohydrate and fat, like yam, cassava, and so on, and they like eating lots of meat too. I try to confine my diet to fresh fruits and vegetables. My normal diet is a plate of fruits – bananas, mangoes, oranges and so on. I take a plate of fresh fruits every morning. I grew up liking fried food too. I’ve been to restaurants in Lagos. For Nigerian food, I love moin-moin because it tastes good.
Tell us about your family.
I have grown-up biological children and four adopted Nigerian children.
How old are they?
I have three biological children; my oldest son died in a plane crash over 30 years ago. My second son is a writer and lives in New York City, and has two children. My third son is a human rights lawyer and is in his 30s. He lives in Liberia and works with the United Nations. I have three Nigerian sons: they are 15, 10 and four years old respectively; and an eight-year-old daughter. They live in my house and are part of my family now. I read books to them. I’m 78 years old, but they make me feel young. I love children.
What is your favourite Nigerian drink?
I like Guinness (stout).
What is your favourite Nigerian outfit?
I like wearing kaftans; I wear traditional Hausa attire most of the time.
What is your favourite spot?
The AUN club in Yola.
Do you have a Nigerian nickname?
Yes; I am called Igwe.
Do you speak any Nigerian language?
No, but I speak German and a smattering of French. I think I’m lazy about learning any (Nigerian language), but I can understand a bit of Hausa.
What kind of Nigerian music do you like?
I like Fela Kuti’s music. One of my closest friend; a German, who lives in Leipzig, Germany, owns an upscale restaurant there called The Fela, named after Fela. I also like traditional Hausa music.
Do you have any favourite Nigerian actor?
No. I don’t like Hollywood movies too. I am not a movie person. Nollywood films, the ones I have seen, need improvement. They have too many scenes depicting rituals in them and some of the storylines are too similar, mostly stories with different versions.
Do you miss America?
Do I miss America? Not at all. But I miss baseball. I love Nigeria. Nigeria and Nigerians can sometimes drive one crazy to distraction, especially if you are a bature (meaning ‘white man’ in Hausa), but Nigerians are amazing people. I love it here. Nigerians are nice. I like living here; which is why I have been in the country for 12 years. I would probably die here. I am getting old; I don’t have any plans to die anywhere else. If you ask me: is Nigeria is perfect? No, it isn’t. I complain all the time, but I love this country.
Mention one or two of your favourite destinations in Nigeria?
Calabar (in Cross River); it is cool, nice and clean. I’ve been to Calabar several times. But my favourite place in Nigeria is Yola. Yola is home. I like the people and I enjoy living here.