Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Misconception Based on a Single Story: The Actual Abuja I Discovered

Picture Credit: Chipper / Wikipedia
by Eta Uso, Jr.

I grew up in the oil rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Though privileged, my growing up years had very little travel experiences. My life basically revolved around the states of Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Rivers State. Even till this day, I think I have travelled more times abroad in the past five years than I have travelled within my own country (Nigeria) in the over twenty years of my life. Not sure if this makes me sound less patriotic or preferably, more like a Global Citizen.

Growing up, I was privy to tales about the city of Abuja from friends, cousins and yes, the print media. Tales of Abuja being the city of fantastic mansions, luxurious cars, fast money and furthermore, a city with the finest private parties with accompanying financial recklessness being often exhibited by the stupendously rich. Abuja was in simple terms described and projected as Nigeria's El Dorado and the repercussion was instant (citizens trooped in from different states within the country). I was often privy to tales of girls who went to Abuja one-day and owned Range Rovers the next day. And common tales of guys who often drove around with millions of Naira in the trunk of their cars and with an ease as that of a wink, will shut down (exclusively reserve) two to three night clubs in one night to celebrate their birthdays and will do it all over again the next day in celebration of a friend. I heard stories of females who would gather funds to hire a single cab to the now Transcorp Hilton and arriving with barely an assurance of cash on them to find their way home. These girls were often reported as leaving the Hilton overnight millionaires. Wow! The city of overnight millionaires I thought. Well, even with all the tales, I never for once nurtured the zeal to see Abuja for myself. Anyway, unknown to me, necessity will some day take me to Abuja.

In the month of September 2012, few weeks to the start of my post-graduate degree in the United Kingdom, I had the opportunity of visiting Abuja to secure my student visa. On arrival, I was hosted by a good friend and mentor at his residence in Frederick Chiluba Close, Off Jose Marti, Asokoro. Yes Asokoro! One of the most mentioned locations of luxury that always crept up in the tales of Abuja. To put it modestly, I was not impressed with Asokoro. I think the tales had so exaggerated Abuja and as a result did more damage, as I seemed to have expected so much more. And no, Asokoro in my opinion was not so much more. I spent just four days in Abuja. Though I was supposedly in the 'privileged' neighbourhood of Nigeria's El Dorado, this neighbourhood will in contrast be equivalent to the low-income neighbourhoods of downtown Miami. Anyway, this is not where the story starts.

Fourteen months away in the United Kingdom for studies (finished in twelve) and then I returned to Nigeria in the month of December 2013. I spent the Christmas and the New Year with family in the oil rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria and then mid January 2014, I moved to Abuja. Yes, I moved base to Nigeria's El Dorado. I was expectant but not the kind as contained in the tales. I had established ties within the seat of power in Abuja whilst abroad, so moving base to Abuja on my return was more of strategic, than on the randomness of running into wandering gold in Nigeria's El Dorado.

No doubt, on moving base and having more time to explore the city than I did over two years ago when I spent only four days, I could now agree substantially that Abuja indeed embodied a good degree of the fast life, fast cars and financial recklessness (though not the kind the tales talked about). Now this takes me to the actual Abuja I discovered.

The actual Abuja I discovered is a city more developed than the region that actually finances its lavish lifestyle. At the same time, I also discovered in Abuja, a city with the most number of poor people than in most states of the Federation. I discovered in Abuja, a city of uneven wealth. A city made up of areas as Wuse2, Jabi, Maitama, Apo, Asokoro and 'others'. The 'others' represents the largely less privileged section of Nigeria's acclaimed El Dorado that all my storytellers failed to mention. I discovered in Abuja, a city with almost the largest unemployment rate in the country, but yet its inhabitants still survive (on deals, contracts and real estate - the most dominated sector of the unemployed in Nigeria's El Dorado). I discovered in Abuja, a city of drugs and prostitution. I discovered in Abuja that no, you do not walk into the Hilton broke and walk out a millionaire. No! This particular tale, sorry I mean myth, was completely false. I discovered in Abuja that no, boys do not drive around with millions in their trunk (only a handful do and not common). This myth again was proven false. I discovered in Abuja, a city where the male folk would take advantage of the opposite sex where possible and no, submission to this never earned anyone a Range Rover overnight. In fact, I discovered no actual El Dorado. It was nothing but sweet tales after-all.

Abuja is no doubt a rich city with suffocating wealth but then, only a handful fall in this category. The rest are average people living average lives and 'packaging' the other parts. And this is my conclusion; Abuja needs help, so does Nigeria as a whole. Abuja is no El Dorado, neither is any region of Nigeria. And yes, Abuja needs a real economy, not the sleep, wake and hammer (make awoof money) kind - though only often experienced by a handful.

Written by Eta Uso, Jr.  Eta (@royaltyuso on twitter) is a Development professional with vast interests in Governance and Nation building. He possesses an academic background in Artificial Intelligence and Engineering.

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Disclaimer: The content of this post are my opinion and not necessarily that of any organization I may be professionally affiliated with. Please exercise discretion when quoting.

5 comments:

berna1960 said...

Good write up Eta. Stay where you are if you have a job than clamor to go to Abuja (especially girls). Money does not grow on trees like you think you have to work for it.
Papu keep it up.

Bernard Kawaja said...

Nice. Abuja my Abuja, then friends who lived there would say, you can't find any old car on the streets if it's not latest. Omg. I remember it, like it was yesterday.

Bernard Kawaja said...

Nice. Abuja my Abuja, then friends who lived there would say, you can't find any old car on the streets if it's not latest. Omg. I remember it, like it was yesterday.

saiduml said...

I was born in 1992 and I've been living in Abuja since 1996. First and foremost, I would like to say with all due respect that you are quite a naive person for believing the stories that were told to you exactly the way they were told. Secondly, I do acknowledge that there is a misconception. The first time I had to stay somewhere other than Abuja for up to two months was when I went to school in Zaria in 2010. Most people I met who had never been to Abuja would automatically assume that my parents had to be rich because we stayed in Abuja, which is far from the truth. I think its just a case of the kind of information you get about a place. But personally I wouldn't believe those stories even if you had said the same about a city in another country. I mean these things are possible, bit for someone to tell me that they happen more often than not would be ridiculous.

But then again, you said "Abuja, a city with the most number of poor people than in most states of the Federation", I wonder where you got that statistic from, and I strongly doubt if that is the case.

There is no state in Nigeria where men do not take advantage of women. The Abuja 'lifestyle' is not financed by any region in perticular. the residents of Abuja are made up of people from all over the country. If you mean to say Abuja is developed by oil money then that it another thing entirely. All the states im Nigeria are states of uneven wealth. I also wonder where you got the statistic that Abuja has the highest unemployment rate in the country. I stronly doubt if that is the case. Prostitution os everywhere in Nigeria, even on the so called core Northern states. There are brothels in Kano, what more of a place like Abuja.

If you really had to go to Abuja to discover that the the stories you were told did not add up then you are the type that can believe anything.

I'm from Bauchi state and I was born in Bauchi state. My family lived in Bauchi and then Borno before moving to Abuja in 1996. I love it here. The social integration is remarkable. It is a quiet and peaceful place to live when compared to some other parts of the country. I am by no means trying to 'defend' Abuja. What would that earn me? But to me, you have not said anything that is peculiarly bad or special about Abuja that you wonkt find in other states of the country.

Anonymous said...

..Nice write up..but you need to visit owerri in imo state..I don't think you have heard any tales about owerri..cause I know you don't need any story about owerri..you will shed tears..sodom and gomorah of nigeria..owerri