We must salute the creativity and perseverance of Nigerians. My sense is that because we are largely an optimistic people, we have the propensity to make the best out of even the worst of situations. That is what I see. A people who are determined to make a name for themselves, irrespective of the diverse hurdles in their path.


Is Nigeria changing? And by how much? You only need to attend one of these fashion exhibitions to appreciate the transformation that is taking place in the Nigerian retailing space. Being at any of these exhibitions presents a different narrative about the Nigerian people.

I was at a fashion exhibition yesterday and met several amazing Nigerians, young and old alike. I actually met a 60-year old grandmother who has a handbag line which she actually makes herself. And to be honest, her bags look like they are off some designer in Paris. Majority of the exhibitors were young budding Nigerians, however. From stall to stall, I saw fine craftsmanship on display. In a particular stall, this lady was selling fascinators all handmade. Once upon a time, we saw these things only worn by the most fashionable women in the world and via the pages of international fashion magazines. Today, Nigerian women are making these things and our women in diaspora are buying them to use in different foreign locations.
A friend who lives in the U.K. was at the exhibition and she could not restrain herself from buying so many clothes. She was taking them back as work-wear. She was so excited, I was amused. That moment was interesting, though. Once upon a time, we were the ones who were excited to travel abroad and shop for clothes. With the way Nigerian retailers have grown, that excitement has waned.

If one could stand on a mountain looking down on developments here, and reach judgments just on going ons in the exhibition space, one would never agree to any narrative that says that the Nigerian youth are lazy. No, on the contrary the stronger evidence is that they are industrious, solutions-providers, hardworking and are eager to learn. Despite the very hard conditions, these retailers still try to make a difference.

But the frustration for them is real. The cost of running their businesses is very high. Patronage may be growing, but the many dependencies and uncontrollable factors that they face make it difficult to break even, so they tell me. That is why I do not think that closing the border is really the solution that we need. Nigerians will stop eating foreign rice or buying foreign goods if the alternative is just as good. Today our local rice is very good and I even hear it is a healthier alternative. A nutritionist actually told me that the foreign rice needs up to 12 hours to digest, whilst our local rice needs less than half of that! I did not know this (even though I am yet to confirm this statement). But it is enough for me to go exploring our local rice.

Personally, I believe that what Nigerian businesses need is government’s support. Government needs to find ways to make it easy for these businesses to thrive. They need good quality human capital. In other words, they need strong technical schools churning out top quality graduates.


Last week at the supermarket, I was really impressed by the packaging of our rice. Many years ago, our local rice was not appealing to the eyes. It was poorly packaged, plus one could not differentiate between the rice and the stones. Today the story is different.

It is the same with our fashion industry. People will switch to locally made goods without you forcing them to change if the conditions are right. Personally, I don’t need anyone to appeal to me or to legislate for me. I love our made in Nigeria clothes. My friends and I were saying the other day that more and more, we seem to be buying more of our clothes in Nigeria. Even our workwear now is largely Nigerian made. Nigerians are now making very good leather bags and even shoes. I see that our retailers are starting to pay attention to the finishing, which is really important.

Personally, I believe that what Nigerian businesses need is government’s support. Government needs to find ways to make it easy for these businesses to thrive. They need good quality human capital. In other words, they need strong technical schools churning out top quality graduates. They need the right equipment and machinery. And at the right price. They need rebates and tax exemptions. They need electricity and they need access to funds.

How long before Lagos will be referred to as the fashion capital of the world just like we do London, New York or Paris? In a short while, I have no doubt about that.


I think our big corporate organisations should be encouraged to support these businesses by allowing “Made in Nigeria” clothes as official workwear from Monday to Friday. Ankara or Adire suits?

We must salute the creativity and perseverance of Nigerians. My sense is that because we are largely an optimistic people, we have the propensity to make the best out of even the worst of situations. That is what I see. A people who are determined to make a name for themselves, irrespective of the diverse hurdles in their path.

How long before Lagos will be referred to as the fashion capital of the world just like we do London, New York or Paris? In a short while, I have no doubt about that.

‘Lande Omo Oba is a lawyer and everyday girl.