Africa

Last updated: 24 may, 2010 - 13:36 GMT

Africa Kicks: Nigeria

This morning, from the room in Ibadan where I ate breakfast, I could look out of the window onto the securely gated courtyard of our hotel and watch a Nigerian policeman kicking a ball around, with an AK47 rifle hanging off his shoulder.

View over the rooftops of Ibadan, Nigeria

View over the rooftops of Ibadan, Nigeria

He was having a knock about with members of the BBC team warming up for their imminent match against Ibadan's Shooting Stars Reunited, a team of veterans from the Ibadan side that, in the 50s, 60s and 70s, was the most successful club in the country.

But it is the image of the armed police officer playing football that summed up Nigeria today for me. The friendliness of the country, its obsession with football, teamed with that edgy feeling that violence is just a wrong step away.

The security forces here have a higher profile than the other four nations that we have driven through, their large guns always on display.

Driving from the Benin border to Lagos we were stopped several times for checks. There were customs checks, yellow fever checks and security checks.

At at least two of these there was an official with a golf iron. I am told it is swung against the windscreen of any motorist so foolhardy that he does not stop when requested.

Continuing to Lagos, the road was dark with angry storm clouds and the onset of night. Torrential rain burst from sky, the road became a river and the flow of vehicles slowed to pick a safe path through the water streaming below us.

Oyinkansola welcomes the challenges of Nigeria's thriving music scene

Oyinkansola welcomes the challenges of Nigeria's thriving music scene

The weather exacerbated the well-documented traffic problems that Lagos faces daily, so our arrival time was well beyond the scheduled hour. Then we still had to get beyond the two security gates and into our hotel.

Violent crime is a real fear for Nigerians. Deterrents and protection measures around premises like these are common.

But get past the fear and there is so much more to the country.

Lagos is the country's commercial capital and the city that is at the heart of Nigeria's modern culture.

Adjacent to our hotel, rapper MI, or Mister Incredible, was just finishing his gig. The city has a really influential music scene with artists from here performing regularly in the US and around the region.

We met a young singer/songwriter just starting out, Oyinkansola, who plays guitar and writes her own folk songs. She performed a Network Africa video session which will soon be available online.

Next stop, the ancient city of Ibadan, to meet the traditional Yoruba leader, the Olubadan of Ibadan. We wanted to find out how Nigeria's traditional society functions within the modern state.

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We arrived at the hall, high on a hill overlooking swathes of the city below.

In keeping with Yoruba tradition, troupes of drummers, dancers and singers beat and chanted out their respect and praise for the king as he sat on his throne high on the stage faced by an audience of the Ibadan gentry dressed in their pristine finery and us, the disheveled, bus-crumpled BBC team.

The 98 year-old Olubadan told Network Africa's Bilkisu Labaran that he had no concerns about the future of Yoruba tradition because it is so deeply rooted and embedded within Nigerian society.

In 1927 he captained a local football side; he approves of the honest physical exertion involved and likened it to the vigorous dance performances we had just enjoyed.

When the 2010 World Cup finally kicks off, this time on African soil, he says that he will of course be supporting Nigeria's Super Eagles.

But he is also wishing the other African teams in South Africa success.

We all nodded in agreement.

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