Neither the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary or Merriam-Webster can help you in truly understanding the dynamics of Nigeria’s socio-political environment. For that, you need the Village People’s Dictionary (VP’s Dictionary for short). This is because Nigeria is a unique country where English words hardly sustain the meaning intended for them by the English people.
Collins Dictionary, for instance, defines a road as “a long piece of hard ground which is built between two places so that people can drive or ride easily from one place to the other”. That’s correct you know—but only as long as you don’t import that understanding to Nigeria. Things are much different here… So different we’d need the entire dictionary rewritten to suit our realities. In Nigeria, a road would be more appropriately defined as “a warzone where potholes are mines, shock absorbers are shields, curses are bullets—and from which every soldier returns home a casualty”.
With this compilation, rest assured you can navigate through life in the giant of Africa without feeling dizzy, confused, or scammed.
1. Activist: (n) He who specializes in detecting bad-tasting food and delights in announcing his discovery, but himself has little or no knowledge of cooking.
2. Constituted authority: (n) An autocratic ruler whose rise to power is accidentally as a result of democratic processes, and often displays symptoms of schizophrenia and narcissism.
3. Corruption: (n) A crime of stealing from the state but which the state, generous as it is, punishes far less than the crime of stealing from ordinary people. Someone who steals from the state may, for instance, be asked to return some of his loot and spend a year in luxurious isolation, while he who steals from citizens is deemed undeserving of additional breaths.
4. Culture: (n) A set of actions and beliefs that people do or accept because they’ve always done them or accepted them and which, under no circumstances, are allowed to change (especially when they favour the old and the morally conservative).
5. Depression: (n) A mental health problem that is common to white men and which only they are susceptible to. Apparently, any Nigerian who suffers from depression is either faking it or isn’t a pure breed.
6. Election: (n) The process of freely choosing the next political leader from a large pool of two or three political parties, depending on such factors as zoning formula as well as the wealth and generosity of the candidates. Often used in the same sentences as malpractice, violence, and rigging.
7. God: (n) A supreme deity who must be thanked whenever the government does not succeed in destroying the people (for instance when a person survives a road accident) and who must be prayed to in order to prevent this from happening. He is also responsible for uniting the country, which, despite all odds, is a good thing.
8. Human rights: (n) A set of fundamental things every citizen is entitled to according to presidential speeches but not according to executive orders.
9. Investigative journalism: (n) See: Espionage, Treason.
10. Journalism: (n) The art of reporting what someone has said exactly how they have said it. Often, experts in this art spend four years at a tertiary institution to master it, enrolling under programmes known as Mass Communication. See: Public Relations, Amanuensis.
11. Judge: (n) A person who confidently gives orders in the open courtroom but prays secretly in his chambers for them to be executed (especially in cases involving the State Security Service).
12. Law: (n) A set of rules that, like the blind dog, are originally made to guide the actions of the people but are, in fact, the blind man dependent on the people for guidance on where to go and where not to go—where to look and where not to look.
13. Lawmaker: (n) One whose birthright it is to buy new bulletproof cars every year and is paid the salary of 50 for doing the work of zero. He’s also entitled to huge allowances and unlawful kickbacks for his labour of love to the country.
14. National Assembly: (n) A set of two retirement chambers for past governors and veteran politicians, constituting the Senate and House of Representatives.
15. Permanent Voters’ Card: (n) An identification card often used by eligible voters to open bank accounts and submit various applications—but hardly deployed in actually casting votes.
16. Political party: (n) An organisation to which people pay huge sums of money in return for high-paying public offices, political appointments, or simply more money. A political party and a wedding party have one thing in common: people don’t give a shit about the morality of the persons or union as long as food is in abundance.
17. Politician: (n) Someone who promises heaven on earth but has never been to heaven—and often doesn’t plan to either.
18. President: (n) A person who is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the country but never thinks it necessary to blame himself. “The Situation” is his beautiful second wife and he is always on top of it. When he gets tired (and he usually does) after eight years, he files for a divorce.
19. Presidential Villa: (n) A mansion at the capital city where old politicians go to retire, intelligent politicians go to become dull, and female politicians simply go to visit the other politicians.
20. Prison: (n) A place where the poor go to suffer, the guilty go to get tougher, the rich go for vacation, and the influential never go.
21. SARS: (n) Acronym for Special Advanced Robbery Squad. Also the major Internally Generated Revenue department of the Nigeria Police.
22. Suicide: (n) The art of escaping from one hellfire but the inmates have great pity for you because they think you’re heading for another one.
23. Supreme court: (n) The apex judicial organ in the country, sometimes technically a department under the Ministry of Justice.
24. Twitter: (n) A social media platform that gives voice to the voiceless, jobs to the jobless, courage to the spineless, and some sense to those who lack it.
Inspired by Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary.