When Thomas Boggs Jr. was planning his first trip to Nigeria in early 1998, at a time when Africa’s most populous country was in the grip of a brutal dictatorship, his partners warned him to bring a bodyguard. Boggs ignored the advice.

And he was right: His physical safety was not an issue. But his senses – and Western sensibilities – were under constant assault while he prospected for work in this Third World nation. While Boggs could still drink his Bombay gin in the plush surroundings of the upper class, he could not escape the irreducible reality of Lagos: a chaos of exhaust-choked air, sun-baked sewage, unnerving power outages, and a populace of aggressive and irrepressible well-wishers, beggars, and vendors.