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BN Reader, Lize Shola Okoh has chosen to share her experience being at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja for the first time. We hope you enjoy reading it!
After over two decades of living, I found myself for the first time travelling to the capital under very interesting circumstances.
When my boss had first asked if I wanted to go on a business trip, I thought to myself, duh who wouldn’t?! But it was only after the excitement had subsided some worth that I began to wonder what living like up north in the Federal Capital City was really like.
You see, growing up, whenever I thought of the capital, my mind conjured up dusty streets, very tall mountains, dry air; but also, clean and well maintained roads unlike the ones I was accustomed to in Lagos, streets void of hawkers, order and civility. I never really had pre assumed characteristics of the people, except that there would most likely be more Hausa’s than in Lagos where I grew up.
Also, growing up, we heard lots of tales about the northerners, and not all of which was stereotypically positive I must say. So I was indeed excited to finally travel to this region of the country and experience things for myself.
Ever since I could remember I have been travelling, I even have baby pictures from trips to foreign countries to prove it, so wanderlust wasn’t new to me. However, what was it about FCT that excited me?
Well, after my WAEC in 2006, I had taken a trip to the east where I visited relatives in Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Benin City. It was a very insightful and enjoyable trip. I had been able to see other parts of the country, leaving Lagos which I had only known, to other towns where I was able to enjoy the sights and customs of other Nigerians.
Also, I had spent a few years in boarding school in the West, so that was the South, East and West quite covered. So you can see why I was especially curious about my journey to the north, as it was a region I had never been to.
The day I was to travel finally arrived, and in my usual fashion, I had a restless night’s sleep. There’s something about an excitable journey that leaves me restless at night. I kept going over tiny details, making sure I didn’t forget to pack anything. I was super excited, but also nervous. The fact that I had had a weird dream the night before didn’t make matters any better. But either way, I got on the plane and braced myself for the experience!
When the plane landed, I bided farewell to a friend I had made on the plane who was still travelling on to Port Harcourt. Then I followed the other passengers and we marched on to the immigration check point. After the usual protocols, I was finally left to my own devices. So I went to get my luggage and to my horror, one of my suitcases had been opened. I mean, I had padlocked both of them, but one was clearly missing its padlock.
At that point there was nothing I could do, so I dragged my luggage out with annoyance and looked for my driver, but guess what? He was nowhere to be found.
So there I was at the airport with no money and no sim card to call his number. What do I do? I looked around in confusion, but trying hard not to draw attention to the fact that I was stranded because the last thing I wanted was for the “boys” in the area to come over to me offering help.
However, a few minutes later, a young man came up to me and asked if I needed to use a phone. Trust the Lagosian in me, I looked at him and said plainly “I won’t be able to pay you o. I don’t have any money with me.” And to my surprise he said “no problem, you can use it.”
I was baffled, but I collected his phone anyway. As far as I was concerned I had honestly told him my situation.
I made the call, and found out that my driver was actually waiting outside the airport in the car park area because they aren’t allowed inside. I thanked the good Samaritan and handed him back the phone. As I walked away, I looked back and saw that he had gone to approach someone else, offering them his phone. Wow, I thought to myself. What a kind man! I don’t know what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t that.
I finally found my driver and he was leading me to the car when some groundnut sellers approached me. Again, I respectfully declined because I had no money. Damn Lize, you need to get to a bank I thought as I smiled and tried to wave them off, but the little girl insisted. I repeated that I couldn’t pay for it and guess what? She offered a small bag of the roasted groundnuts for free!
“Wow, people here are definitely kind!” I thought, but declined again.
My reasoning was that I didn’t want her to waste the groundnut on me when she could sell it to someone else who could pay. However, she kept on insisting I take it. So I did, thanked her profusely and got in the car.
Finally we were on our way, and then I mentioned to my driver that my luggage had been opened.
“Ah! Why you no tell me since, we for check am for airport before we leave” He said, which made me feel stupid.
Why didn’t I think of that? Anyway, he parked the car and we got off and walked to the boot where I inspected the contents of my luggage. As far as I could tell, nothing was missing, and besides what could be done even if it were?
We got back into the car, and he gave me an impromptu tour as the car sped away to Ladi Kwali Street where my hotel was situated. I was immediately fascinated by what I saw. With the lights on at night time, it was a beautiful sight.
I spent almost 2 weeks at the capital and enjoyed every bit of it. I enjoyed the food, felt welcomed by the people who were all friendly, welcoming and mostly intrigued by my faux dreadlocks, lol. But perhaps most of all, the nonexistent traffic on the roads was a joy! Never did I imagine that I could leave my hotel 10 minutes before my appointment and still get there on time! For Naija? I would have never believed it. I think that’s just a Lagos thing, or no?
I heard Abuja is known for certain vices, some of which I saw firsthand, but that’s all I’m saying. If you know, you know.
To conclude, I had a wonderful first trip to the capital and will definitely love another opportunity to explore it wholly. My first impression of the city and the people itself was great and I now look forward to visiting more states in the north. The next on my agenda will possibly be Kaduna, or perhaps Jos where I’ll have the opportunity to visit my cousins who I haven’t seen in almost 8 years. If you’re reading this, hello Lauretta and Ethel, you just might see me soon on your doorsteps!
Till next time, stay positive, creative and passionate!