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Memories of Lagos and Port Harcourt late 1960’s & early 1970’s.

I am writing a novel based on the years I worked as an expat in Lagos and Port Harcourt, (1969 to 1971), and  I am looking for anyone who was there during that time and may have memories, or even photographs of that period.

At the moment I am trying to recall the name of a club on Lagos Island where I used to spend many evenings. It was owned by a rotund Lebanese man who we all knew as ‘Tiger’. From my research, I believe the club may have been called the Phoenicia club on Martin Street, but the name doesn't ring a bell and I am not sure. I think we all referred to it as ‘Tiger’s’, but it is so long ago, my memory may be playing tricks with me.

The club had a good food menu and had a live band every night. It was very popular with expats and Nigerians alike. There was also a very generous sprinkling of single young ladies. The club had a very good resident band and Tiger also brought in ‘name’ bands for special one night stands. I’m sure that I saw Fella Kuti more than once - amongst others. We all used to call him as Fela Ransome-Kuti in those days, although it seems he dropped the ‘Ransome’ part of his name  quite early on.

Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, I moved down to work in Port Harcourt. Tiger also followed me down there and obtained the catering contract for re-opened Port Harcourt Club, but he continued to run his club in Lagos.

When I was in Lagos I also used to occasionally go to Bobby Benson’s ‘Caban Bamboo’ club out on the mainland, and in fact it was there that I met and married my first wife.

Is there anyone out there in expat-forum land who remembers those years, or can direct me to someone who does? I would love to see some old pics of those times - I have no plans to publish them - just to see them and get some inspiration….

Thanks for any replies.

Mobi

Hello Mobi and welcome to Expat.com

Hope that some members out there will be able to help you out.

Regards
Kenjee
Expat.com Team

Hi, I lived in Nigeria between 1968  and 1970 and then continued to travel there on business for a further 15 years. I was 22 and had joined the John Holt group as a area manager with their Ford dealership Joe Allen. I was in Ibadan initially for about 10 months and then went to Kaduna for four months. The Civil War had just ended and my company sent me to Port Harcourt to reclaim our property and try to get our business off the ground again. it was a fairly hairy time to be there, guns everywhere and the Black Scorpion General Adekunle in charge. I was there about five months and then went on leave coming back to a head office job Apapa. Before finally spending around six months in Benin.

I remember Mr Tiger and the Phoenicia club very well, lots of pretty girls. I also used to go to the Bagatelle also on Lagos Island. The Port Harcourt club reopened while I was there and since it was managed by an all Nigerian committee there were plenty of excellent dances and events. I think the most memorable thing about my stay in Port Harcourt was the explosion in the town centre. The Nigerian army had stored all the captured ammunition, many many tons of it, in a UAC warehouse right next to the John Holt compound. A lot of it was home-made and very unstable and every now and then you could hear the odd small explosion. Then one day things started to get out of hand, so much so that me and all my men made a run for it on the company truck. Just in time, the explosions continued for 6or7 hours. I remember watching from the Port Harcourt club and seeing the main roof of the warehouse some 200 feet in the air on top of a fireball. People started to flee the town thinking the war had kicked off again and all the roads were jammed: total chaos.

I found this 1970s guidebook to Lagos on the web, it might amuse you:  home.koranteng.com/writings/lagos-1975.html.

Best wishes John Reed

Further to my last post if the link isn't displayed just Google guide to Lagos 1975.  John

Hi John,

Many thanks for your very detailed post.

Your post brings back many memories, and thanks for the link to the 1970's guidebook. It is very interesting and will come in useful.

I think there is little doubt that our paths must have crossed. I remember the Joe Allen dealership in PH, and more to the point, I remember buying one of the first Ford cars that were shipped into Port Harcourt at the end of the war. I'm not an expert on cars but I think it was a Ford Escort - or similar - and who knows? It might have been you who sold it to me.

I was a young accountant working for Santa Fe Drilling Company and we were subcontracted to Shell. We had a large complex on the outskirts of PH, past the airport, on the right hand side, and before the Shell housing compound - which I think was on the left, (Rumuokwurushi Road, or something like that…).

I married a Nigerian girl from Lagos and we lived in an abandoned property on a side street, half way into town.
I reckon I spent about 7 months in Lagos, from August 1969 to January, 1970 and was then transferred to PH in Feb 1970 and stayed there until I finally left Nigeria in October, 1971.

I well remember the Port Harcourt Club, as I do the Hotel Presidential where we used to go several times a week to watch the international cabaret, and yes - I well remember the munitions dump exploding in the centre of town. As you say, we all thought the war had broken out again.

I also recall that initially, the town was a 'cash economy', before the banks re-opened. We used to collect huge bags of money from Shell which we used to pay our bills, salaries etc.

I also recall the road being blocked before and after our premises one day by a gang of ex-military gun-toting criminals, and the local bank, close to our office was robbed.

So many adventures….many of which I am including in my novel.  If you are interested, you can follow the draft chapters of the novel as I write them on my weekly blog at:-

mobithailand.com.

I took hundreds of photographs during my time in Nigeria; including many during trips to jungle villages with my wife, as well as Lagos and Port Harcourt towns.  Sadly, not a single one has survived my tumultuous life since then. So if you have any pics of those days, I would love to see them.

I would rather keep my real name private, but would be happy to pass it along to you via a private email, and also the name of my English work colleague with whom I spent much of my time there. His or my name may ring a bell.

All the very best

Mobi.

Thanks, John, the link worked fine.
M

Hi Mobi,

A few other random memories from PH.

I ordered plateglass for the six large windows of our showroom and you can imagine the difficulty there was getting this cut and shipped in to PH from Lagos. I had measured all the windows with extreme accuracy, but my stupid boss in Lagos thought he better add another half inch for 'safety's sake' the window frames were steel and of course none of them fitted. I broke half of them try to get them in..

Most of our equipment had of course been stolen but we had a very large compressor and somebody had managed to crack the cast-iron flywheel. I needed to repair it and the only argon gas welding machine belonged to shell and it was on a barge heading down the creek. So we took the flywheel out, four men to lift, in a bum boat and my welder worked on deck in the pouring rain welding it together as we sailed down the creek.

I was reclaiming one of the company's houses and deserting soldiers had left a cash of sub machine guns and grenades. So I put them in the boot and flagged down an army officer in a jeep and with great reluctance he took them. Afterwards my driver told me he was the regimental chaplain.

I had a girlfriend in PH who was the daughter of the chief of police, Henry, which was quite useful. She was well-known in pH and her nickname was Princess.

After I left Nigeria I worked for a merchant bank in London and travelled frequently to Nigeria before setting up my own small trading company to export engineering goods to Nigeria. Through one of the bank's clients I was involved with the great cement disaster, which you may have heard off. This was caused by massive over ordering by the Ministry of Defence of cement for building barracks for the army after the war. By means of a cock up they ordered more than 10 times as much as they needed and just could not unload it at Apapa. At one time there were over 500 ships at anchor in Lagos roads trying to get into the port.

John

Interesting to hear memories of good old days Nigeria.... Though wasn't born at that time but I stay Very close to Bobby Benson hotel at the mainland, the hotel is now a shadow of its self, abandoned
Good reading your past experience, it also fascinate me how you recall the rumuokroshi road in portharcout

If you are still interested I was brought in the area in the 60s.  My dad worked for BOAC and helped to start Nigerian Airways. 

Let me kniw

I was living  in Lagos in 1971 Ikoyi & Yaba and still am. I may have some old pictures. I will look when I get back home

Hi,

I would like to find out more about some expats who were in Lagos from around the 1950s to 1970s and may have been friends of my grandmother.
I have postcards and pictures she kept from that time and a couple of names I'd like to know more about.

Please get in touch if you were in Lagos around that time and may be able to help.

Hi Arwilko,

As I wrote in an earlier post:

"I reckon I spent about 7 months in Lagos, from August 1969 to January, 1970 and was then transferred to PH in Feb 1970 and stayed there until I finally left Nigeria in October, 1971."

I stayed at the federal Palace Hotel for several months before moving to an apartment on Lagos Island.

You can contact me at: mobithailand[at]gmail.com

My novel about my time in Nigeria was published on Amazon- Kindle and in paperback in November 2015 under the title, "Azzy."

I withdrew it from Amazon early this year and since then the book has undergone substantial revision. It is in the process of being republished on Amazon under the new title: "Mobi's African Odyssey" and covers the 2 ½ years I was in Nigeria between 1969 to 1971.

It's quite a read and all the action and incidents as described in the novel are as I remember them.

If anyone is interested, the republished book will be found within the next few days on Amazon.com or Amazon.uk under its new title - "Mobi's African Odyssey"

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