AP PHOTOS: Colonial polo embraced by Nigeria elite

AP News
Posted: Mar 04, 2013 3:41 AM
AP PHOTOS: Colonial polo embraced by Nigeria elite

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — In the midst of the urban hustle of Nigeria's largest city, the grassy field where horses run stands out as a rare bit of green in a city of gray concrete.

This is the Lagos Polo Club, located on Ikoyi Island, a remnant of Nigeria's colonial British rule. But after Nigeria gained independence in 1960, the oil-rich nation's political and business elite quickly adopted the equestrian game. Polo also crossed the religious and ethnic boundaries in the nation, as the clubs exist both in its predominantly Christian south and its Muslim north.

Each year, the club hosts an annual tournament. The club's impact can be seen as young men pull carts full of cut grass through the street, sometimes for miles at a time. That grass ends up back at the polo club, eaten by the hungry horses. Others, nearly all Muslims from the country's north, live on the grounds of the polo club, tending to the horses and grounds.

Those who work at the polo club run the horses and look on as the wealthy drink champagne and cocktails at the club's outdoor bar. Those involved in Nigeria's airlines, telecommunications industry and politics frequent the club, as do foreigners and diplomats. Former House speaker Dimeji Bankole also played here frequently for the tournament. He later faced corruption allegations after leaving office.

The horses run hard and the players often switch their mounts during the game. All the while, the honking horns and sirens from the city's gridlocked traffic can be heard outside, the towering office buildings looming nearby. But during the polo matches, that noise gives way to the clomping horse hooves and cheers from the audience.

Here are some Associated Press photographs showing polo in Nigeria, a colonial game that has found a loyal audience among the country's wealthy.