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Michael Orok, Alabama A&M University assistant provost and interim dean of graduate studies, shows Oak Park Middle School students a ceremonial hat and shoe that he wears as a member of a Nigerian royal family.
Daily photo by Bayne Hughes
Michael Orok, Alabama A&M University assistant provost and interim dean of graduate studies, shows Oak Park Middle School students a ceremonial hat and shoe that he wears as a member of a Nigerian royal family.

Nigerian royalty shares history with Valley youths

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

Guest speaker Michael Orok wanted Oak Park Middle School’s African-American Studies class to know one thing about his homeland of Nigeria.

“Nigeria is a country; Africa is a continent,” said Orok, assistant provost and interim dean of graduate studies at Alabama A&M University.

Orok, a U.S. citizen and a Nigerian national, gave the students a lesson in Nigerian geography, culture, economics and education last week.

He said Nigeria is the United States’ second-largest supplier of crude oil, most of which comes from the southern part of the country. While Saudi Arabia is the largest supplier, Nigeria’s oil is a “sweet crude” with less sulfur, which makes it easier to clean and refine.

Orok told the students that Nigeria, 21/2 times larger than Texas, has two seasons, rainy and dry, alternating between the two about every three months.

The country is hot and dry in the north near the Sahara desert and tropical with temperate temperatures in the south and west.

He said the country has three major ethnic groups — Housa, Yoraba and Ibo — and two main religions, Christianity and Islam. English is the primary language, although 283 languages are spoken in Nigeria.

“If two people from separate ethnic groups are talking, they speak English,” Orok said.

Orok is from a minority ethnic group, Ibibio. He is from a “royal family” that founded a village in southern Nigeria.

His family duties require that he keep in constant contact with the homeland and take several trips home a year.

The country has a heavy British and American influence.

It’s a former British colony and the U.S. is a major economic partner. James Brown produced his “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” song in Nigeria.

“The students love American music,” he said.

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