A week in Abuja has me believing the people here are of a slightly different ilk than their brothers and sisters down south. Life is more relaxed, and the people seem more at ease.
Abuja, as many a Nigerian would say, was built on the oil money produced in the south. It’s a nice city, with an organized grid and roads that are not pot-holed or falling apart. Traffic downtown follows traffic lights, while away from downtown, it’s more a “drive-at-own-risk” mentality.
My colleague, a man from southern Nigeria, says the people here are happier, generally speaking, than those in the south because the daily struggle is more pronounced there. Here, there is electricity, water, good transportation and more opportunity. Also, I think it might also have something to do with less people. The further north you go in Nigeria, the less populated it becomes. Put a bunch of people together, and you’re bound to rub elbows one too many times.
Some highlights from the past couple of days:
Had dinner at the home of a man who writes plays. He signed a couple of books for us, and passed them out. I look forward to reading them. He was the spokesperson for the previous vice president, and is now getting back to writing. Inspiring.
Eating suya (SUE-yuh) at an abandoned lot with friends was a good time. Suya is grilled meat. We had beef and chicken under a tarp-like tent. The dry pepper spice makes it all the better. Served on newspaper.
Dancing traffic control police guy was a hoot! Situated in the middle of many lanes of traffic coming at him, he didn’t miss the beat in his head as he danced and motioned the traffic along. My colleague threw 50 Naira, about 50 cents, out the window to him as a tip.
Major progress made with the stove project. We were offered an office space here in Abuja by a counterpart organization. Fully furnished. Now we have offices in Benin City (south) and Abuja.
Through an interview connection my wife made, we had a late dinner with political leaders from Nigeria’s Muslim north. If ever I have felt peace exude from anyone’s body, it was that of a man who offered to drive me across the north the next time I come back to Nigeria. It’s an offer that has me seriously considering a return to Nigeria sooner than later. Being able to see Jos, Kano, Kaduna and parts in between would be a dream come true, especially through the eyes of a native.
The hotel staff here are great! Godswill is a new friend of mine. I plan to sit down and have a beer or two with him. He makes me laugh! And, he laughs at how I say “Wahder” and not “WAH-ter” the way a Nigerian with a British-like accent does.
Gamji is a local food joint that serves up traditional food on the cheap. Jollof rice is a spiced rice with veggies, not too hot on the pepper radar, but the heat is there. Kunu is a drink made from powdered guinea corn, spices and sugar, mixed in water and served cold. Somehow it has a citrus flavor, sort of. Pretty refreshing.
We see many people with markings/cutting on their faces. We are told they are from the north, towards Niger. One woman wore a beautiful green dress while hawking items that sat on her head. She had a long, slender frame, a narrow face with catch-scratch-type cuttings, and very dark skin. I knew she was not from this area of Nigeria. “She’s from Niger. Yeah…they come down to sell products, and then go back.”
We still haven’t gotten enough rest on any given night. Most likely things won’t slow down until we back to Ethiopia next Thursday. We’re hoping the weekend will be a restful one.