Posted by By Estelle Shirbon on
The Nigerian state of Bayelsa proclaims to the world on car number plates that it is "The Pride of the Nation" or, on some models, "The Glory of All Lands".
ABUJA (Reuters) - The Nigerian state of Bayelsa proclaims to the world on car number plates that it is "The Pride of the Nation" or, on some models, "The Glory of All Lands".
But the exploits of its governor, who was arrested in Britain on his return from a tummy-tuck operation in Germany and charged with money-laundering, only to jump bail disguised as a woman, have given the state's slogans a hollow ring.
Far from bringing pride to the nation, the return of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha to Nigeria after fleeing Britain has caused embarrassment back home. "Shameful" was the word used by President Olusegun Obasanjo to describe it.
Bayelsa is just one example. Register your car in any one of Nigeria's 36 states and you will get a slogan on your number plate that gives a decidedly optimistic version of reality.
Plateau is "Home of Peace and Tourism". While it has a cool climate and cultural landmarks that do make it an attraction for the rare tourists who make it to Nigeria, Plateau has been plagued by religious violence that has killed hundreds.
Last year the government declared a state of emergency there after riots culminated in a massacre of Muslims that sparked anti-Christian reprisals elsewhere in the country.
As for Kaduna, it earned the label of "Liberal State" for its cosmopolitan and lively atmosphere. However, it has suffered from several bouts of religious violence, including the 2002 Miss World riots that killed 200 people after Muslims were angered by an article about the beauty pageant.
The state is also one of 12 in the predominantly Muslim north that has reintroduced parts of Islamic sharia law that had been abolished under British rule, such as sentencing adulterers to death by stoning -- though no sentence has yet been carried out.
Some states have adopted more prosaic slogans for their number plates. Nassarawa is "Home of Solid Minerals", while Benue is "Food Basket of the Nation".
Others take a more esoteric approach. Yobe declares "The Young Shall Grow", Kwara proclaims itself a "State of Harmony", while Abia is "God's Own State", no less.
But by far the most famous and celebrated number plate in Nigeria is "Lagos - Centre of Excellence".
The slogan may come as a surprise abroad, where the dilapidated port city of about 13 million is known mainly for violent crime, slums, traffic jams and pollution.
But many Lagosians will tell you a different story.
"Everyone comes to Lagos because you can start from nowhere and reach the top," said middle-aged Lola Ojo, who has lived there all her life. "You can buy a plastic sachet of drinking water for 50 naira (35 cents), sell it for double the price, and you're in business.
"It truly is a Centre of Excellence."
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