1. Abroad: (n) A place where the system works by sheer miracle and where people who have either ruined their country or lost hope in its revival run to for solace.[1]

2. Austerity: (n) Difficult but necessary economic measures needed to keep the economy afloat—difficult and necessary only for the low-income earners.

3. Award: (n) An expensive commodity that says more about the depth of givers’ thirst than the quality of their taste.

4. Bad leadership: (n) A temporary tunnel of awful governance that shall give way to the light of messianic comfort after the next election—or maybe the one after that.

5. Bail: (n) 1. A ransom paid to police officers by a captive to secure his release. 2. The release of a defendant from police custody following an application from the defendant themself or a law court; subject to presidential oversight, the security agency has full discretion over whether or not to grant this application.[2]

6. Bible: (n) A holy book that is the commonest witness to “unholy” acts—especially in hotel rooms.

7. Borehole: (n) An equipment supplying water to a house whose owner has discovered that a cooperative society is more useful than the water corporation.

8. Bride price: (n) Consolation prize given to the parents of a girl child by society’s crowned breadwinners.

9. Constituency project: (n) A lawmaker’s generous donation to his people that is fully funded by the government and just happens to benefit him more than anyone else.

10. Devil: (n) An imaginary creature who is to blame for, among other things, every incident of rape and sexual assault. Ironically, his accomplice often is the rape victims themselves.

11. Domestic violence: (n) A form of suffering which must be inflicted by one spouse and endured by the other for the sake of a marriage’s success and longevity.

12. Generator: (n) A machine that is the primary source of electricity in many homes, while electricity distribution companies serve as backup energy sources. Usually, the size of a generator is directly proportional to the wealth of its owner.

13. Grace: (n) The secret to every person’s success often constituting as much as 90 per cent of the recipe. It must be acknowledged each time the question is asked as a show of humility, to convince others they can achieve the same (literally effortlessly), or simply to cover up acts of criminality. Usually takes the possessive prefix, “God’s.”

14. Hashtag: (n) The god of wealth and influence appeased by poor people and influencers on social media, especially Twitter, for a chance to get their daily bread. To the former group, manna is supplied in the form of “giveaways” mostly by celebrities (or their online look-alikes).

15. Heaven: (n) A peaceful place where everyone who believes in your very version of truth goes to live forever and ever.

16. Hell: (n) A burning mass of fire blazing inside a bottomless pit where everyone who disagrees with your religious beliefs, which is almost everyone else really, goes to rot in pain forever and ever. Amen.

17. Housemaid: (n) A slave who receives salaries.

18. Intern: (n) An employee who is too valuable to be sacked but also naïve enough not to be paid (what he or she deserves).

19. Lawmaker: (n) One who constitutes the largest constituent in a constituency when the dividends of democracy are being shared and the smallest when the demands for sacrifice are being made.

20. Lucky: (adj) The quality of being consistently better than others and being occasionally recognised for it. Often used by mediocrities to describe their distinguished peers.

21. Megacity: (n) A city that succeeds in hiding all of its poor people, especially by banning their trade and means of transportation, deporting those from other states, and encouraging slums in remote places (as long as they don’t disturb anyone).

22. Nigerian: (n) A demonym that refers to a person unfortunate to be born in Nigeria but whose soul reflexively lingers in a different country, usually Canada or the United States.

23. Okada: (n) A fast and inexpensive means of transportation used by poor people—until the rich people remember they can be banned.

24. Poor: (adj) The quality of being cherished by the rich when its election season and despised every other period.[3]

25. Poverty: (n) 1. A very bad living condition where a person is unable to afford decent food, needed medicine, high-paying government jobs, or even deserved court judgements, but which one must be thankful for because it can get worse. 2. The politician’s capital without which his conventional intelligence is useless, the almighty formula without which his skills lack potency. (Studies have shown that if poverty seizes to exist, politicians as we know them, like the ancient dinosaurs, would also follow.)

26. Power supply: (n) Brief proof that your community has not been totally cut off from the national energy grid and that the transformer is still in good working condition.

27. Queue: (n) A line consisting of people who need a service but have the misfortune of not knowing the service provider or being rich enough to woo them.

28. School: (n) A place parents send their children “to become whatever they want in life” but where lecturers tell them to “forget about making a first class”.[4]

29. Second term: (n) A period in a politician’s career when, understanding that he has little or nothing to lose, he reveals his true nature.

30. Settle: (v) To give a person money or other valuable(s) in exchange for a service they are already ordinarily paid for to provide.

31. Sex: (n) An enjoyable bedroom (or other room) activity between two people which mustn’t be mentioned in public and, if mentioned, must be referred to with a name other than this one lest the gods of chastity and good behaviour are angered.[5]

32. Social media: (n) A powerful tool for mass mobilisation as a political aspirant and a thing to fear and suppress as a political leader.

33. Strike: (n) The only annual nationwide holiday that is more unpredictable than the Muslim festivals, usually declared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).

34. Success: (n) Enormous wealth, regardless of such subjective, immaterial adjectives as ill-gotten, sudden, stinking etc.

35. Suffer: (v) To live, to hustle, to breathe, to be Nigerian.

36. Terrorist: (n) A person who tells others using YouTube and Telegram that western education is prohibited. Also, a person who cannot wait to die, but also can’t resist taking others along.

37. Time: (n) A resource people take pleasure in wasting, especially when it belongs to other people less fortunate than them, such as their subordinates at work or those seeking favours.

38. Traffic congestion: (n) A terrible thing that makes you spend as much time on the road as you spend at the office, but which victims brag about nonetheless to friends in less crowded regions. “If you can survive this, you can survive anything,” they often say with pride while hiding exhaustion behind a tough smile.

39. Ultramodern: (adj) Used by government officials to describe a project that is (sometimes) fine on the outside but has no quality equipment or workers. Politicians have so much faith in such projects they would rather leave them to be used only by ordinary people while they travel abroad for similar services.

40. Unemployment: (n) The absence of jobs or an inability to get one, depending on who’s speaking.

41. Vanity: (n) Riches and abundance, when they sadly (and unfairly) belong to someone who isn’t you.


[1] Most Nigerians have only two homes: Abroad and heaven. And for those who don’t believe in God, abroad is both home and heaven.

[2] “Bail is free” is the all-time greatest oxymoron in Nigerian literature.

[3] The rich, thinking that with wealth comes magical powers, often want to get rid of poor people, without first getting rid of poverty.

[4] They also say to them, “A is for God, B is for me, C is for the exceptionally brilliant, while the rest of you can share what’s left of the grades.”

[5] “Sex” holds the record for having the greatest number of synonyms in the Village People’s Thesaurus.


Click here to check out other entries in the Village People’s Dictionary. This is all the clarity you need to understand English words from, I am sure you would agree, the very unusual Nigerian context.