Although Nigeria has substantial oil and mineral deposits, prosperity is far out of the reach of most of its people, and poverty is widespread. Inflation and corruption in Nigeria are rampant, riots and strikes are frequent, and the country's infrastructure is in tatters from plunder by past governments. Travel in Nigeria can be a stressful ordeal, stalled by inconvenience, inefficiency and shakedowns—by police and militia as well as freelance operators. Although Things Fall Apart, the classic novel by Nigeria's Chinua Achebe, was written about a crisis in the country during the early 20th century when the missionaries arrived, the title could be applied to current conditions.

Since 1999, Nigeria's civilian government, led for two terms by President Olusegun Obasanjo followed by President Umaru Yar'Adua, has had some success reducing the country's endemic corruption and improving working conditions. But Nigeria still has an awfully long road ahead of it.

Nigeria has never been the most pleasant West African country to visit. It's dirty and hectic, and the Nigerians are known among other African peoples for their aggressiveness—it is said that the whole country has a Type A personality. Unlike some other developing nations, where you might risk your life for stunning natural beauty or unusual cultural artifacts, the only superlative you'll hear about Nigeria is that Lagos is the world's ugliest and most chaotic city. Nigeria's one true bright spot is its wonderfully ebullient music—which you'll probably enjoy more in the comfort of your home than in Lagos' dangerous nightclubs.

On a more positive note, Nigeria now has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which should improve its reputation as a tourist destination. Although very difficult to get to, the ancient village of Sukur on the border with Cameroon has earned recognition for its cultural landscape and a way of life that hasn't changed for hundreds of years (the British didn't even know of its existence until 1927). The other site is the Oshogbo Sacred Forest (also known as the Osun Sacred Groves) in the southeast, which is home to statues and shrines dedicated to the Yoruba religion.

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