Nigeria is not Abuja

WHEN the military in the 1970s created Abuja, they wanted a city that will represent the new Nigeria, which they hoped to nurture; a city devoid of the congestion of Lagos, the then capital of Nigeria; a city with good roads network, good and well planned housing schemes and settlements; a city that will be the seat of the Federal Government, while others remain the seat of other governments; a secured and protected and fortified city. Abuja was to be the paradise.

In order for Abuja to manifest, the Land Use Decree was promulgated, the civil service structure was adjusted, the Federal Government did all to see that Abuja came to stay, and they achieved it. Today Abuja is standing tall as a glorious manifestation of the good dreams of a few good Nigerians for Nigeria.

If the military could do it at that time, why can’t civilians build us more cities like Abuja? Why can’t we build such cities in every geo-political zone of Nigeria? If not, why not for the centenary celebrations memorabilia? One wonders when you hear comments like Nigeria  cannot afford to build an ultra-modern seaport in the South East; that the South East cannot get an international airport, be it for cargo or passenger; that the national rail line cannot reach all state capitals of Nigeria; that we cannot build fertilizer plants, factories and refineries; that we are finding it difficult to manufacture cars and vehicles, and now we cannot fund the payment to lecturers for the education of our future generation, and we now prefer to throw sands in the air than till the land. I ask, where did we miss it all ? Is it that we now have leaders who lack the will, or we have become a people who take whatever is shoved down our throat?

In Nigeria, where money follows the seat of power, Abuja is the place to be. All the roads are smooth, with traffic lights, with all sorts of exotic cars to grace the roads, and as a result, most leaders in Abuja now think that the only way to help Nigerians create jobs is to punish them for desiring imported cars. In a short while, import tariffs on vehicles will be increased, in the name of encouraging local manufacturing of vehicles. Nigerians do not know how many vehicles these people will produce in a specified period, and there is no phased tariff increment to match an expected or agreed production targets. Importation of cars will be reduced or discouraged, Customs will be richer, businesses will die. Many of them will be pushed into buses and Keke Napep, yet buses are not allowed in Abuja while Keke is allowed because Southerners don’t ride Keke in Abuja, they owned most of the buses. The importers that would be hit most will be the struggling ones, mostly Ndigbo, no thanks to the fake life in Abuja. A life that is far from the reality under which most Nigerians live.

In Abuja, there is fairly regular power supply, so much so that some hotels rely on PHCN power to sell their rooms, yet there are no hotels with humble rates in Abuja. While N7,500 will get you a decent accommodation in a hotel across the nation, you won’t find such easily in Abuja. They charge high rates with poor services because “this is Abuja”.

The work force and small business people in Abuja come from villages or small towns around, like Nyanya, Lugbe, Kuje, Kubwa, Maraba and new Nyanya in Nasarawa State, while others come from even smaller settlements like Durumi, Kabusa, Mabushi, Garki Village and Mpape, to name a few. The link roads to these areas are perpetually under traffic grid lock during the day. The city therefore has developed gardens that are well and beautifully lit in the nights.They mostly sell drinks of all sorts, and just small chops. These are where the work force go to hang out while waiting for the traffic jam to their villages to thin out. These spots have become nesting grounds for immorality. Married persons walk in boldly with younger persons of opposite sex and their body language is simple: “This is Abuja”.

In Abuja, everybody is important because they know somebody who is important. It is either they are connected with top civil servants who these days are very rich people, or to some legislator who do not look at the price tags to buy whatever they fancy, or to the Presidency, or to one chief of Police, Customs, military or the other. On their phones they talk of billions of naira; the students are the poor ones who chase millions. Try taking them on by asking to visit their homes, their big Oga immediately calls and orders them to get ready to fly to Dubai, London or Lagos, depending on what time of the day. They are all mostly fake people.

Abuja indeed has a way of making those who live there feel that they own Nigeria, and that the beat must go on, with the “no wahala mentality”. This is perhaps what causes them to come up with policies which do not impact the lives of the ordinary Nigerian positively. They wake up and find light so they think there is light in Nigeria. They write a note or make a phone call, and a relation is absorbed into the civil service, so they think there is no unemployment. They get onto the road, it is smooth, they think Nigeria has good roads; they find cheap taxis and assume Nigeria does not need buses; their students carry super handsets and Ipads, so they think what the farmer needs is mobile phones. Abuja is not Nigeria, if anything it is a representation of the fake life of the true Nigerian. Most Nigerian state capitals still have bad roads, power failures, lack of jobs, poverty, lack of money, and security as big issues