Ingo Herbert has been the German Consul General in Lagos Since September 2015. Born in Wolfsburg in Germany the diplomat is married with two children.
Before his present station, he has worked in various places.
In this interview with Vera Wisdom-Bassey, he went down memory lane to his life.
You’ve been in Nigeria for a while now, what is your perception of the country now, vis- a -vis before you came?
Before I came down here nearly a bit more than two years ago, personally, I was curious in view of the general image of Nigeria abroad, that it could be improved upon. That was one of my major challenges, but I chose to come to Lagos, especially, because, to be honest, I love reading the Financial Times weekend edition and I read a lot about Lagos, life here in the country, so, I was curious.
So, do you feel fulfilled?
Yes, I wanted to come to Lagos to put up, I like living in a city and I like the vibrant city life. What I’ve found, to my happy surprise, for example, was the openness, which was one thing about Nigerians, because I’ve been to South Africa and I must say one feels welcomed to Lagos. I must say as a foreigner when you come to Lagos, meeting with the people is very positive. Lagos is a metropolitan city, you have so many people living here, so many Nigerians living here, who have travelled abroad, and they are interested in the open world, and then the energy, I must say the energy in the streets of Lagos is simply tremendous. It reflects in the city life, the country scene, music scene. When I invite people for discussion on politics, economy, it’s never boring, very interesting table discussion over dinner or lunch.
How was growing up in Germany, memories of your childhood days?
(Laughs) Your question is similar to what I had at an event I attended recently at Muson Centre during the music celebration week, where I talked about my kind of music and my biography. I spoke about one of the modern cities I lived in. My father was Austrian and worked in posh farm. Then, there were a a lot of Austrians in the modern town, it’s either you studied engineering, or… I read Law and returned to the posh farm company, which was dominating the whole city where I grew up. People were working there, about 500,000 people work there today. It is the biggest in Europe, with the management of the whole holding. When I was small before I turned 13, I wanted to discover the world, I like discovering, whenever I go to places I had never been before I feel excited, whether it is in Germany or somewhere else in the world, and I still like to discover the world. I lived near the airport and I love flying, seeing these people traveling coming from all over the world in the airport. I tried to travel a lot, even when I was a teenager, my parents allowed me as part of a group at 17 years of age, to travel to US when still in school to spend holiday.
After school, everyone of us was happy working and were able to save from our earnings that enabled us to have money to pay for our own flights to the US. So, when the next summer we wanted to go to the US for four weeks to do some jobs, our parents allowed us.
How was life without your dad?
My mother and my sister were already adults and made a very good team in taking care of me. But my father was very strict.
So, when your dad was no more, what was the role of your mother?
She was working then too, preparing the food, but I can cook too, not many European mums nowadays can. In Africa I am quite often surprised the men cook like myself.
What do you cherish about Nigeria, do you eat Nigerian food?
What I most cherish is the people, because considering the image of Nigerians abroad, coming here to meet so many engaging and hardworking people, who are open and very friendly was a somewhat pleasant surprise for me. When it comes to food, yes, I love Nigerian food, I love spicy food, I love chilli in the food, jollof rice, normally I don’t like rice, but when it is spicy, like the jollof rice, I love it, yes.
What is your philosophy of life?
When my father died, I told my sister that we were born and we would all die, and for sure, we don’t know the moment, but to deal with the fact that we have a limited time on earth. We are all alone when we were born, while growing up, we meet other people, we love them, but in the end, we’ll still go our ways alone. My wife doesn’t like it when I say we are all together but when we die, we die alone. So, first of all, follow your dreams, do what you like so much to do. Also not knowing when your time will be up, do what you try to do well and always quickly.
Secondly, give love, because you get love back and try to make an impact, to leave the world a more progressive place, whatever you become -president, or whatever. Even in your small neighborhood, not until you become a Secretary General of United Nations, even if your are handicapped, make a positive impact in your environment.
How do you unwind after work?
Quite often during weekends, I have events to attend. I have some official engagements, but I like to do sports, this is very important for me, by 6:00 O’clock in the morning I exercise. I do that three times or four times a week to get fit and be free from stress. The other thing as I said, is music at Muson, no day without music. So to relax, I listen to music quite a lot, I love Opera, I listen to them, but I try to meditate at least 10 minutes a day, I like reading also and I have some literature on my table, inspiring, good literature. Also books on psychology, on what is the meaning of life, the third, books on political and economic issues.
Do you have any regret coming to Nigeria?
No regrets. I leave next year after three years, to concentrate on my life. Just as I said, everything is like a book for me, with different chapters that you have to fill. A book of life. So, I would say I have no regrets, because it’s a chapter of my life.
How’s your country helping Nigeria get out of recession?
One of my duties as Consul General in Lagos, not on policies, but in business/ economic relations is to bring more German investments/engagements to Nigeria. I am glad that I have been here. I think Germany is looking more into Africa and definitely, because Nigeria is an important country on the continent, Germany has keen interest in coming back, we’re analyzing the opportunities. More companies are coming in, German foundations and business delegation on trade promotion. We encourage participation of German companies here in Nigeria on trade fairs’ delegation, and we do a lot of vocational training too, because Germany has special model modifications and on -the- job- training programmes and schools.