Nigerians are so conscious of marking significant time changes. For example, they are extremely conscious that a new week starts on Sunday morning. In the same vein they are very aware of a new month. And then, the most important of all: transitioning from one year to the next.
Many of my Nigerian friends spent New Year's Eve at a church service--and I don't mean playing games and having a party as we sometimes did. They were at an all-out worship service thanking God for keeping them alive duirng 2009 and then praying in the new year with all its fresh hopes and dreams. Even Nigerians who aren't religious during the year can often be seen attending such 'Crossover' services.
Nigerians really want their January to start well. I was reminded of this when two of my colleagues had a petty argument, and one of them said, "I won't let you spoil my January!"
I think the riots in January surprised us all. We weren't expecting them at the beginning of a fresh new year. That's the kind of thing that happens near the end of the year. In 2001, we had riots in September (four days before 9/11). In 2008, we had riots in November. Nigerians tend to expect bad things to happen in the '-ember' months.
So, as from January 1, we were all going around greeting each other with "Happy New Year!" This can continue for many months until you have seen your repertoire of friends and colleagues and given all of them this greeting.
Well, I think the "Happy New Years" have been cut short this year as I notice the new greeting in town is "Happy Survival!"