(from Thomas Johnson)
Last September I sent my wife and our assistant to nearby Katsina, Nigeria on a shopping errand. Katsina is just across the Nigeria-Niger border and is less than an hour away. My assistant was going to see if replacement tires for our vehicle might be cheaper there, while my wife wanted to discover if they had cheese and few other hard-to-find items as Katsina is a bigger town than Maradi, Niger (where we shop). As an American, I needed a difficult-to-obtain visa to cross the border, whereas these two Nigeriens could enter Nigeria with only their ID, so I didn’t go.
When they returned from their trip, we learned that good tires could be found in Katsina, but my wife informed me that the food selection was much more limited than what was available in Maradi. She said that when she asked for cheese and some other “Western” items, the store owners replied that they used to stock them but no one bought them anymore. To me, this was an indication that Westerners and southern Nigerian Christians had largely left the area, since their tastes vary from the majority’s food preferences.
Once upon a time, you had a healthy foreign expatriate community in northern Nigeria serving as teachers and technical advisors to various development, health and agricultural projects with even a few missionaries there. Southern Nigerians who worked for the national government or who ran businesses were also once common in Nigeria’s north and these groups brought a Christian presence to the region that has been fiercely Islamic for the past 200 years.