Because of the course I studied in university, I had the privilege to choose where to apply for my Student Industrial Training and Internship Programme. Well, my options were not varied. So I applied to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Abuja. And so began my love/hate relationship with Nigeria’s federal capital territory.
Abuja is quite a distance from Lagos by road. Initially I had my reservations but being the adventurer that I am, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit one of the fanciest capitals in Nigeria.
I got to the bus park around 5am and paid for my ticket, plus a little extra for air conditioning and my luggage. You have to indicate that on your ticket whether you would like to travel in an air conditioned bus or not, since it is considered a luxury service that is sometimes not included in your transportation. And then I readied myself for the 15 hours trip. Though it is a 45minutes affair by air.
In-between Lagos and Abuja, there’s a popular way station in Ore town, Ondo state. The highway is filled with different types of buses displaying the various names of road transport operators in Nigeria. Some private cars can be seen here as well, since road travel is the most affordable and readily available means of transport in Nigeria.
We had a pit stop there. It’s the one-stop destination for any type of local meal your heart desires. The highway along Ore town boasts of having quite a number of eateries run by owners from different tribes in Nigeria. Imagine travellers from all over Nigeria en route different destinations all stopping for a quick meal. The food here is enjoyable if you don’t mind eating in a hurry but the choice of deciding which eatery to eat can simply be narrowed to finding a place to sit and eat. I would advise against ordering the takeaway since the roads are treacherous and bumpy.
For longer journeys up north, a driver has to make a second pit stop along Lokoja highway. We had another stopover here. One of the most noticeable features here is the fleet of fuel tankers that are parked along the highway. I like to describe it as A mega sleepover for tanker buddies. Another noticeable thing in Kogi town is the large number of stray goats that wander about; a driver has to be careful not to hit one of these animals or you’ll find yourself in quite a pickle.
Welcome to Abuja
Driving into Abuja you are greeted by the wide roads that connect you to every part of the capital. Abuja is like a caviar and has a Hampton feel to its lifestyle. Tales of Abuja varies with each person you ask. Since it all depends heavily on who you know and who you are. You have to be a thoroughbred or blue blooded to appreciate its style. Because it’s called home by only the elite, the working class and the politicians. Some might want to include the natives but it is no longer their home. They have since been resettled on the city’s outskirts.
The roads stretch and turn round and round like one big orgy party. And just like any exclusive party, you`ll need: (1) an invitation and (2) a social card. Abuja is very shy about its invitations but very bold in kicking you out.
Zone 6 is a big difference from Aguda in Lagos where I came from. The houses here are modern and private; the inter-street roads are wide and lined with trees, the roads are good in Abuja, leading to gardens and parks on every corner. The terrain also is a little hilly and good for hiking, and electricity is more evenly distributed here as well. It’s a sane neighbourhood to live in.
The city is filled mostly with people from the Hausa speaking tribe of Nigeria so you can bet you`ll see a lot of people wearing the Hausa native attire everyday on every occasion. The language on the street is mostly Hausa but sometimes diluted with some English to accommodate non Hausa speakers. It is indeed a sharp contrast to Lagos that also consisted of many tribes where most people converse freely in pure English or pidgin English.
Food in Abuja is a tricky issue because of its fancy restaurants and fast-food places. Most of the gardens and parks contain small mama-put joints and bars. I was lucky to find one in one of the gardens in Zone 6 and that was how I survived eating.
There’s no other well-known local hors d’oeuvre in Abuja than suya, barbecue, and they take it quite seriously. Suya spots are everywhere since it originated from the northern part of Nigeria and no other tribe does it better. The farther up north you go the better the Suya. Abuja is also famous for having cheap fresh food items. The farmer’s market is the envy of other southern and eastern states. While its local kunu drink is my favourite.
Transportation in Abuja is quite easy, there are always taxis and buses plying every street.
Another thing about Abuja is its social scene which is capable of rivalling that of Lagos with the simple advantage being its exclusive attitude. But its tiny flaw is its lazy-attitude. You can’t get your job done before noon on a weekday, you get just a tiny bit of that job done and a little extra done before the Friday prayers. And you get nothing done at all immediately after any public holiday. So basically everything drags on and on and on. That’s why it’s a town fit only for the elite. This same lazy attitude creeps into their social life as well.
My social card
Since I sort of fit into the working class group, and also worked in a multi-cultural organization that welcomed the elite, the political affiliated, the famous, and the rich I was introduced to the elegant side of life.
I hang out with some friends that invited me to posh parties at fancy hotels and exclusive clubs. I had dinners in beautiful restaurants, rubbed shoulders with the wealthy, the politicians, the CEOs and spent some of my weekends at the golf and polo clubs.
I also networked with some other working class people that introduced me to the not-so-fancy hotels, the not-so-fancy parties, bars, clubs. I had lunch in lovely gardens and met with different types of hustle-gangs: students, entrepreneurs and dreamers, and spent weekends at suya spots, ice-cream shops, malls, cinemas, or watching soccer in pubs.
Slowly I forgot about my need for speed, as Abuja charmed me with a new quest to live a finer quality of life. Besides my IT programme was lazily coming to an end. And so I decided to start my own company and become an entrepreneur.
Registering a business in Nigeria is done at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). I found one of their offices located in Zone 6 and registered my company just like every newbie hustler in Abuja that had the Oil-Rush fever and was hooked into the oil Business. My company’s mission was to become Fleet Managers for NNPC since there was a shortage of fleet managers picking up and supplying fuel to fuel stations across the country at that time.
And so the fun went and my time spent. My time in Abuja was euphoric, I still remember it fondly.
Uche Thelma Orjinta is a creative thinker and Gemini. She currently works as the director of operations for greenBuilt-Africa. Her work allows her to travel, explore and build creative projects that solve social problems. She enjoys watching movies and cartoons, shopping, and travelling. You can always find her on Twitter or Instagram via @Uche_Orjinta.
Cover photo credit: PJD-DigiPic