By Tope Fasua
There are more than 100 slums – real slums – around the posh locations of Abuja. In Asokoro, there are slums. In Maitama, there are slums. In Gwarimpa, Lugbe, Wuye, Garki, there are slums. I say real slums because these abodes are unfit for human habitation. I have seen slums elsewhere but the ones in Abuja take the cake. Well, some are as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah, the worst slum in Accra, Ghana, which I understand has now been demolished and vacated – at least to a large extent. I have visited a number of the slums in Abuja and I am very angry. I lost respect for politicians, who go there to campaign, and promptly and deliberately, abandon those people to their own devices once they ‘win’. Why do we hate ourselves so much?
I drive around Abuja, oftentimes feeling very angry. Not at the way people drive recklessly; I am not given to road rage and because of crazy driving and accidents, I joined the FRSC Special Marshall some time ago. I get angry because of what I see, that shouldn’t be in a capital city, or anywhere in Nigeria at all. I need to say that we have absolutely no excuse to be living like this in 2016 Nigeria, and the need to change this city, and stop maligning our own image as a people by the way Abuja is kept, is one of the key reasons I campaigned and voted for President Muhammadu Buhari. Alas, a year after ‘we’ won, I am yet to see any change. I recall visiting Aso Villa one afternoon during the tenure of President Jonathan, and I was commenting to a colleague that with the amount of filth everywhere around the gate area, one should be careful of reptiles. As if on cue, a long cobra appeared around where the SSS guys stay at the gate and some pandemonium ensued. They managed to kill the snake as we walked by, right at the entrance where the president and other important people drive into the Villa. I had cause to blame Jonathan then, for being unmindful of his environment, and I analysed the implications of that on leadership, to no end.
There is a symbolism about Abuja, for those who may want to say it is not the president’s business. First, Abuja was built from the scratch – of course at great cost in terms of human displacement and commonwealth. This means that Abuja shows the best we can achieve as Nigerians, given a blank cheque. Abuja should be the Centre of Excellence, but it is not, as I will show shortly. Second, Abuja is the seat of power and the home to diplomats in Nigeria. A man will be judged by how his own home is kept, not by the big car and private jet he rides in, or how much muscle he flexes on the outside. A man of respect should be happy to bring home his friends at any time and impromptu, and no matter how modest, his home should be neat and tidy, with everyone living in that home knowing and doing their duties. No matter how big the parties a man throws, if he and his family live like pigs they will never be respected in the comity of friends and family. Abuja is the heart of Nigeria, physically and spiritually. It has become the microcosm, the melting point of our nation; our president’s very own house.
Abuja is where civilisations and class clash in Nigeria, with a very sad consequence… Abuja is the place where Nigerians show our planlessness, our visionlessness, our heartlessness. Abuja is where we eloquently display our penchant and ability for building big things first, without as much as a clue on how they will be maintained.
And so, unlike capitals built for purpose, like Brazilia, Canberra, and to some extent Delhi and many more, Abuja has not lived up to expectations. In fact, the city, and those who run it, since lost the plot. Why? I can’t say but I can hazard guesses. Those who had the opportunity of being administrators here saw the opportunities of making wild money and went berserk. Ministers upon ministers have only been interested in grabbing and selling plots of land at stratospheric prices. They also gift many to their cronies and girlfriends. If you are not in the circle, forget it. Those other officers who work in land registries have become overnight billionaires by hiding plots of land, or allocating to fake names and proxies for onward disposal at exorbitant prices. Anyone who respects himself will not go near them. The result is that property prices in Nigeria went crazy beyond what the fundamentals could justify and that bubble has now burst, with the way the EFCC is marking several properties acquired with stolen money. Only stolen money could afford Abuja properties anyway. But today, huge luxury estates upon estates are lying fallow, some with hundreds of houses, while millions live in the most abject of conditions in slums; totally uncatered for. A class war is afoot in Abuja.
Yes, Abuja is where civilisations and class clash in Nigeria, with a very sad consequence. It is either you have money to live in the posh areas where, as we heard from former Minister Bala Mohammed recently, “the infrastructure (is) too much for the population” (an excuse for him to allegedly grab a green area and share to himself and friends), or you live in areas where there is no light, no water, no sanitation, no organisation, no sanity, and absolutely no government. Why must this be so? Abuja is the place where Nigerians show our planlessness, our visionlessness, our heartlessness. Abuja is where we eloquently display our penchant and ability for building big things first, without as much as a clue on how they will be maintained. Our National Stadium stands fallow; the pitch has been re-laid, after trees, shrubs and thickets grew on it. The area around the stadium is habitat for reptiles for no one bothers to keep the lawn trim. That is N73 billion in 2003 naira (or N200 billion today), lying waste and decrepit. The swimming pool is green with spirogyra. Our Millenium Tower – another unnecessary monstrosity conceived by President Obasanjo, is represented by three large pillars and no building. Our Federal Secretariat is bathed by stench; almost all the elevators in public buildings are dysfunctional. The only one that works is reserved for the big man – who should have ensured that everyone works anyway. Life could be depressing for some of the people who work with government here, as they battle with a culture that rewards mediocrity, and struggle with the little things that expose our backside as Nigeria.
Source: Tope Fasua Blog