When people come to Abuja, they usually don’t want to leave. That is why there are so many people here, a young man once told me. They try to stay back and get “connected.” They are eventually forced to leave when the connection does not seem to come. Little did the man know that he was telling me part of my own story.
Welcome to Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, home to more than 3 million Nigerians, including the first family.
Unlike Lagos, which was the country’s capital before December 12, 1991, when it was moved to Aso Rock by the then military Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Abuja is a planned city. It is not hard to see that.
Many people are forced to leave Abuja after stepping in in search of greener pastures, but meeting disappointment because they are not “connected.”
Some leave of their own volition for reasons other than not finding the greener pasture they came for. This was my own story. I have been visiting Abuja on and off until 2011, when I came in ready to stay. I was given a phone number of a family friend who, at the time, was believed to be an “Oga” (boss) at the Federal Ministry. He was my connection. When we talked on the phone before I left my home in Ogun State, he would tell me that if I really wanted a federal government job, I should come to Abuja. I did just that. I eagerly procured a Federal Civil Service entry form, filled out and dutifully submitted the form. My connection asked me to send him a number that would be given to me after filling out said form. I did. Here it is, six years later and I never heard from my connection again. I never even saw him throughout my stay…we only talked on phone.
Thankfully, in one of my earlier visits, I had met an entrepreneur at a book launch of a mutual friend. He indicated interest in hiring me after working with his organisation for some time. I left of my own volition. I just did not fit in at that time.
Travails of a Newcomer
Other concerns he has may be categorised as travails of a newcomer. For example, navigation around town is a tedious chore if you don’t have a good guide or at least Google maps. The road signs and directions are not really available to guide you, and there are not many landmarks, so one junction looks like the other and it can be painful to find yourself needing to make abrupt turns on Abuja roads.
Surprisingly, the lack of road signs for ease of navigation in Abuja is not a new problem. A Facebook note written seven years ago by the Federal Road Safety Commission acknowledges the same issues then. The Facebook note titled Road Sense – Abuja Corridors, posted on September 20, 2010, reads: “…More traffic lights, as well as road signs, are still needed in many of the junctions in the city.” The post also mentioned the alarming rate of bad drivers in the city, a problem that still persists as of now, Fisayo testifies. “In Lagos, road crashes happen because people are in a hurry and the roads are either not good or too narrow, but in Abuja, road crashes happen because of the sheer lack of driving skills on the part of the driver,” he states.