Wish for Africa Foundation


Sunday, 7 June 2009

Goodbye Lagos! Saturday 6th

Awoken at 06.30 by a shower of texts, each one lovely albeit a bit early! Eventually I rose from my bed, showered and began to pack. After obsessively checking every draw and cupboard several times, I convinced myself that I hadn’t left anything. Soon I had a visit from David, wanting to make sure he saw me before I left, to wish me a safe journey and to talk about his dreams of visiting me in England one day.

Mr Solomon also came to show me my bill on my request so I knew how much money I needed to exchange. As you can’t take money out of the country and exchange it, there’s no point in having more than necessary. He also asked to keep in touch and offered to take me and or my luggage to the airport should I need it, in his own car.

As I waited for Femi, who was seeing to a patient this morning, to come over, the electricity seemed to be off more than on and the internet the same. I think this was to ensure I would become frustrated enough to be willing to get on the plane and head home!

Eventually Femi arrived and I settled the bill and we made our way to the airport to check the luggage in. Unlike Heathrow you take your bags to a manual scale, then they open your hold luggage to check it, then you put your luggage on a ‘normal’ airport scales, get your boarding pass and the luggage goes to the plane. The terminal is incredibly busy and unfortunately Nigeria doesn’t take advantage of this (as with so many other things) and have its own airline.

We then decided to leave the airport and as I had just over two hours to spare before last check in. We headed for Ikeja and a Chinese restaurant called Jades. As I walked in I was taken aback by the grandeur of the place, there were huge chandeliers beautiful Chinese décor, ornamental gardens, this has been replicated in three locations. They were very busy the car park was full; there certainly is a call for such things in this area.

After finishing the lovely meal we headed to visit Gloria and say farewell. This took us down Allen Ave, this reputedly is one of the dearest roads in Ikeja, it’s said that many of the houses were bought by drug dealers, who paid over the top prices causing them to be over inflated. They then tried to clean up the area from drugs but the high prices remained; now this has become the ‘red light’ district, with lots of young girls walking the streets at night.

As we passed into a gated area where Gloria lived the security man stood guard with a bow and arrow as his weapon of choice, to deter any would be criminal. I said my goodbyes to Gloria, along with some prayers to commit this whole journey back to God and then left for the airport. A policeman went to stop us hoping for a dash, but Femi refused to stop and get into the conversation, he commented and said what is he going to do…shoot us? At this I ducked and we both laughed, at the fact that acted so quickly!

At the airport Femi dropped me a departure entrance a quick hug and before any tears (from Femi…not me of course!). Perfect timing, I walked through the passport control found my gate and waited to board. As the gate opened we walked through ‘the tunnel of darkness’, the lights had gone out in the boarding tunnel, with a few clipped ankles we boarded the plane (a fitting end to my trip, NEPA down). The plane lifting higher off the ground Lagos below becoming ever more distant, some areas with lights others in almost darkness. I say Good bye, to friends, to chaos, to a vibrant state and pray that I will return.

I feel blessed to have been privileged to have spent a month with such wonderful people, to have experienced things that many will never see or choose to see. I pray that my trip has touched people and that from this small seed big things will grow. I know that Nigeria is a huge and complicated country with many issues, health and poverty is just a small part of those issues. I know that I cannot change things, but I also know that God can. He uses people, people that themselves may not feel qualified or equipped for the task (like me, like Femi, like you!), but when you walk in faith and trust and rely on Him things happen.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Penultimate day - Friday 5th

Well this is my penultimate day in Mafoluku, Lagos. I had planned to meet a facebook friend Eniola at the centre today at 10.00. The hotel manager kindly gave me a lift in his own car to the junction and as excited as a child I finally get to cross the road alone! Guess what, I made it safely!

When I got to the centre Eniola and her daughter Hazel were waiting for me. We sat and chatted for a while about my trip and the experiences I have had. They then suggested we went and ate locally (they do like to feed me here) as Eniola hadn’t got her car as she had hoped. We went to a Tetrazzinie and although I said I didn’t want much I some how ended up being the only one eating a huge fish and rice. Typically here people are so kind and persistent, It's easier and politer to acccept. It was so nice to meet her in person; I would have been disappointed to have gone home without the opportunity to do so.

We returned to the centre where the lovely Mr Dee took me up stairs and presented me with a hat that was made in Abuja and some beautiful material printed in his home state of Abeokuta in Lagos. As if that wasn’t kind enough he called the tailor and commissioned him to make me a Buba a typical African outfit for me.

We then went downstairs and all the staff had come to a farewell party for me, everyone in turn stood up and said some lovely things. I then had to get up and speak to them about my trip the enjoyment it has bought me and the friends I have been blessed to have made. They then presented me with a card that they had all signed and wrote some lovely words in. They went and found a photographer as they all wanted photos with me.

Eniola then presented me with even more beautiful material, yards and yards of it, she suggested I got something made for my husband too (he was very pleased when I told him later). We then proceeded to have sausage rolls (a bit like a fresher Gala, but still dryer than I’m used too) and coke for the party food. I was so overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness, love and generosity. I couldn’t have wished for a nicer send off and I will take away such wonderful memories of today.

When all the fuss had died down, I asked if I could pop along the road to see Funmi and the family, to say goodbye to them. I walked along with young Funmi and Mrs Fashe. We went through the tailors shop front and went along a corridor where each room appeared to house a different family. We went into the small room which contained a double bed and the contents of the family’s belongings. There on the bed was the beautiful baby who had the most gorgeous big brown eyes and a mass of tight curls. Also in came her big sister who always manages to give the nicest smile ever when she sees me. As I was leaving the little girl said in Yoruba ‘I want to go with Oyibo’ everyone laughed and I held her hand and we walked down the road to the centre, her Dad then took her back home and she turned and waved (beautiful!).

A few of the girls and me stood out side and watched the world go pass. Then the men that sit at the entrance to the road (the ones that always greet me when I arrive) and another man suddenly started rowing. It was like watching African Magic (a TV channel that is full of soaps with angry African men on, acting quite badly), lots of raised voices not wanting to give in, as soon as one walked away, they would come back and start again. This went on for half an hour, in the end we went inside whilst they continued.

Back to my hotel, I will miss the wonky taps, the excitement of not knowing how many or how big the towels will be. The thrill of receiving my meal and finding out it’s not what I ordered. The adventure of trying to tell people what I require, in a language that doesn’t appear to be as understood as you would think in an English speaking country (but then again I struggle with Irish, Scottish and Welsh sometimes!).

As I skype home the internet keeps giving up, probably due to the torrential rain and thunder storms that are going on out side. Thankfully I came when they haven’t been too bad. Mr Solomon informs me that July and August they have rain most days. I cant quite get motivated to pack my bags, so I’ve decided to leave it till the morning as nothing has been planned for tomorrow anyway, and it never takes as long to chuck it all in to go home as it does to come. So it’s off to bed for the last time in Nigeria (well at least the last time for this trip!).

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Two more sleeps....Thursday 4th

Another nice lazy start to the day, got up, showered and called Femi for a lift. We went over to the medical centre, today I was expected to give a talk to the staff. I felt a little unsure of what exactly I should focus on but felt confident that it would all fall into place as we went along. I showed Femi the guidelines that I had commenced, and printed them off as guidance to what I was going to say.

Once all the staff had arrived and was ready, we went down stairs and greeted them. Femi discussed the importance of learning and improving on what is already done. How with people like me coming from the UK can add knowledge and suggestions that may be helpful in improving practice.

I started the conversation by congratulating them on all the hard work that they do and by acknowledging how different things are here compared to what I’m used to, with regard to equipment, support, training, not to mention electricity, water etc. I spoke about the type of things that are done in the UK and what and how small changes that can be implemented to here from these. I was keen for it to be a conversation and not a lecture so I encouraged opinions and questions. Most of them were happy to join in and keen to learn about APGARs (a simple tool used to express the condition of a baby at birth). They also wanted to be shown the obstetric wheels, and some guidance books on vaginal examination.

I also showed them the guidelines briefly, explaining how useful having these is. They are not used to having guidelines and I got the impression they thought they were a negative thing. I told them that in the UK we have hundreds of guidelines for every event and we can refer to them to remind us what we need to do. This is so that everyone knows the standards that need to be met, and everyone is doing the same thing, reducing inconsistencies that are evident in the notes I audited. I also stressed that these guidelines can be looked at by them and if there are things that they feel won’t work or need adding, then this can be addressed. I want them to feel part of the process and solution.

I also commented on the fact that I was sure that a lot of what I have written in the guidelines they already did, but as the record keeping is minimal, I can not see the evidence of this. Drawing attention to the importance of writing what you have done and when, so who ever looks at them can see and it’s not just down to memory.

The staff here are all very keen and willing and certainly have the ability to learn. I also told them that we can never say we know enough, as part of being a midwife we have to help train others coming up and also keep up to date with research and change, always reflecting and improving on our practice. After about an hour or so of talking and discussing, we called it a day.

Around 18.00 I decided to make my way home, again on foot. This time Femi asked one of the young assistants to walk with me, Tope who is 19 walked and chatted with me all the way to the hotel. As many of them do here, she wanted to carry my bags, but I always feel it’s not fair to make them carry them when I’m able to so I declined. The roads were busier than on the walk to the centre as the sun was cooling and many people were making their way home. Trucks went past (these often saying load only) full to the brim with people standing. Women at the side of the road preparing for their evening custom, the food cooked often changes. Akara and fried yam is mainly found in the evening and not in the day time.

Back at the hotel, with my happy greeting from everyone I passed, I headed for my room. I skyped home and chatted with everyone there. All of who were well and looking forward to me returning home. Then feeling hungry I called down for the menu as it had been removed from my room. David came up and said there was no chicken, so I just asked for chips as I didn’t fancy any thing available. He suggest I had egg sauce with it, not knowing what I was going to get I agreed to try it (same for most things I order here). It ended up being a curried like scrambled egg with peppers in it and I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Walking Wednesday 3rd

Woke up thinking how can I make today more memorable, nothing was planned, it feels like the trip is ending in an anti-climax. So I thought to my self either I would get on an Okada or at least I would walk to the medical centre, easy enough I thought. I put on my face book status that this was what I was thinking of doing and soon the replies came back. Someone said ‘walk ACCOMPANIED’, and I replied OK I get the message.

Great I could walk along and take a few photos of my daily journey, I rang down to reception to ask if someone was able to chaperone me. At this point I again wondered if I was speaking a foreign language. ‘I would like to walk can someone walk with me please’ I repeated. 5 minutes later the phone rang ‘Madam your driver is ready’, I so nearly said OK and agree to just except the lift, which I often do when I haven’t got what I asked for.

In the end Mr Solomon the hotel manager rang me and said he would come and walk with me. When he eventually arrived he said was I sure I didn’t want him to drive me, I explained how I wanted to walk so I could see more and take photos. So we walked the 30 minutes or so in the baking heat of the by this time midday sun. He pointed out different things on the way, the shopping plaza, factories, what the work being done was, and we just chatted generally. On the way people called out Oylibo and when I turned, they all say welcome, a phase commonly used here. It felt good to be walking and taking in all that I will shortly miss.

He insisted on walking me to the door of the centre, by the time we arrived the sweat was pouring. I think the humidity must be even higher than the UK here as although it’s often reported to be between 30-35 degrees it always feels much hotter. Mr Solomon made his way back, probably on an Okada (which I am still tempted to try). As I entered the centre Femi informed me that there had been a power surge and the electric had shorted and caught alight. The ‘electrician’ was coming back to sort it out (hopefully as he had been paid up front). This also meant no fans, so the sweat continued to pour, with no relief.

We sat and chatted for a while and I expressed my disappointment that the trip to a general hospital had not materialised. Femi although did not feel it was something I needed to do agreed to take me to Ikeja General training hospital. Femi explained the history of the hospital, which had a mixture of very old and new looking buildings.

We entered and were advised to go to the Professor, we entered his room and Femi introduced us and why we were here. He generously gave up his time to speak to us and discussed the problems he faces and the politics behind a lot of these issues. He said that maternal death rate in Lagos was 650 per 100,000. He says that people don’t get antenatal care and that many birth at home or in churches with non qualified people looking after them, the figures are probably higher than this. People are not educated to know better, health education is not very well achieved here.

He then rang his Matron and asked us to be shown around. I had heard people say what to expect, birthing rooms etc. I can’t deny that I was shocked by what I saw. In a small centre like a Mafoluku I expected there to be lack of equipment and poor conditions. This was a teaching hospital, it was at best out of the dark ages. Women in threes in labour rooms, it appeared that little or no pain relief was being used, monitored with pinnards, they said they had sonic aids but I couldn’t see any evidence of them. There was a CTG machine (to monitor the fetal heart) but it wasn’t in use (maybe they were all low risk!). The walls were peeling, the beds were bare and tatty, the rooms were hot, and hygiene didn’t appear to be this big issue it is in the UK, no birthing partners to be seen.

When they are about to deliver they are taken across the corridor to a birthing room. In here was a couch with stirrups and a very old resuscitaire unit. The rooms were ugly, harsh and not clean looking in comparison to what I am used to they looked barbaric. The Midwives I spoken to said that they knew that things were not as they’d like and know they could learn a lot from people in the UK, the matron said they would benefit greatly by doing some kind of exchange with their UK counterparts. This would be a great idea, but what when they return the equipment is so dated and it would have been condemned in the UK.

We were then taken to the ante/postnatal wing; these again were very basic poor conditions. We were told that women that who can not pay or who turn up with out having had antenatal care are put into another area, which was more basic (can’t quite imagine getting more basic). The matrons that I spoke to were all concerned about maternal mortality and I have great respect for them and the work they do in the surrounding that they have to endure. I work in a relatively new hospital, it’s clean and equipment is generally modern and or well maintained. Women generally receive one to one care, there is choice of pain relief, partners can give support, and everything is at hand and no one is given a second class service on matter what they wealth or social standing.

I came away saddened at what women in this area have to endure and others hospitals may be different. Some may be more modern and have better décor and more up-to-date equipment. I would imagine that this isn’t too different to many others, when I’ve taught Doctors how to use a sonic aid because they have never seem one, when a nurse/midwife from another hospital wasn’t even aware what one was. I walked out of this hospital and said to Femi that I had assumed that his centre was basic and not the most cleanest of places, (no water, no sewage etc) but after seeing this teaching Hospital, I felt that the centres standards were certainly no worse than this and in some things better.

In a country that has only five radiotherapy units in it (the whole of Nigeria not just Lagos), Abuja the capital city has only 2 defibulators, Lagos only has three mammogram machines. There are many people dying prematurely due to lack of equipment, drugs etc, immediate medical care (ambulance service) is reportedly almost non-existent The average male lives to be 45 years of age. Health care is a vital need that should be available or accessible by all. Primary health care, health education and screening should be a priority.

This is not a poor country; this is a country that appears to not be managing its finances efficiently. A country that produces oil but doesn’t then refine its oil, it sells it and then purchases it back. This country has fantastic beaches, but where is the tourism? I could go but I won’t! Nigerians deserve better, there is a need for changes, there is a need for Nigerians that have seen the grass is greener to return and sow the seeds of change, to demand better, to expect better and to put in what ever they can to improve and to excel.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Traffic jam Tuesday - 2nd June

A very early start this morning, Femi texted at 04.50 to make sure I was up (doesn’t he trust me!!). I was picked up by him at 06.00 and we headed for Lekki, Lagos Island to go to the Silverbird studios for another TV interview. This journey can normally be done in about 40 minutes or so, but the morning traffic is so bad with everyone heading for work on the island. We queued in the chaotic morning ‘rush hour’ to get onto the bridge and at every junction leading off the bridge until we met our exit.

Whilst driving along, Femi gave me my present from the wedding that we went to on Friday. Here it’s traditional to give the guests presents, it amazed me once more how generous people are. Their was a printed bag, a small printed hand towel and toothpick holder (everyone uses toothpicks all the time here due to the toughness of most meats they always get in between your teeth), all these had Angela and Damola’s names wedding date etc printed on them. Also in the bag was a gas ring lighter, a small flask and a bible. Certainly not something we would do or expect in England.

Eventually as we arrived at the Bar beach area of Lagos, we were thankfully going against the flow of traffic as we headed out of town towards Lekki. The journey took us over 2 hours, when we arrived at the studio we were taken up and introduced to Roli and Patrick Doyle. Then we were taken to the studio, we waited for the current presenter to finish her slot which over ran. When we did get on air we ended up with approximately 5 minutes, Femi managed to quickly get over his email, website and phone number (so I guess it wasn’t a complete waste of time?). Personally I’d have rather had a longer sleep!

When we returned to the car there were several missed calls from people that had been watching the show and interested in finding out more. Time as always will tell what will come from these. The first radio show we did, Femi received a call from a carpenter who said he had no money but could offer his trade for free. This was followed up and he lived in the area where the new clinic is being built, Alagbado and is potentially going to be offered work. Another call from a trained nurse, maybe leading to her coming into the centres and continuing with training, ensuring that issues that have been highlighted are addressed and improvements are continuous.

We headed for the Silverbird Galleria, where Femi had a couple of meetings. This also meant the opportunity to eat something non-Nigerian, sandwiches and chips and a double espresso which was enjoyable. Whilst Femi got on with his meetings, I sat and went through the guidelines I am in the process of producing. Whilst listening to Barry White repeatedly on a loop! About an hour or more passed, Femi then purchased me an hour’s internet, as I was obviously looking like I was losing the will to live. That helped, within 2 minutes of logging on the internet dropped and the frustration continued as well as the boredom!

Femi also had a meeting with Emilia, who works in media, production and broadcasting. She came across as a very intelligent young lady that certainly knew her trade. Listening to her she had her opinions and was very straight forward with getting them across. She has lots of contacts and was able to give help and advice on many of Femi’s ideas. Emilia spent the next couple of hours with us.

We then went to see another acquaintance of Femi’s Mark Eddo, someone he met in England that worked in the media (for ITN in the UK I believe) and had cut a DVD on Lagos and its potential future (Lagos Africa’s Modern Megacity), which featured Dr Olaleye and Baby Mohammed at the Mafoluku clinic. We watched it and the quality was excellent far more superior to anything that I have seen on the Tele since being here. Mark was a very well spoken and charming man and had a lovely clear English accent. After leaving here we proceeded to sit in more traffic and it was as difficult to get off the island as it was to get on it this morning.

Returning to my hotel Femi requested hot water for me so I was able to make a cup of coffee, as my last attempt to get some wasn’t very successful. David one of the staff brought it up for me, a nice young boy that aspires to one day come to England. He lost his Mother when he was young and like many here hasn’t had the best start in life. Minimal schooling and now minimal wages, but he is hopeful. I promised that I would keep in touch and when he comes to the UK I will show him around.

Monday, 1 June 2009

My final week - Monday 1st June

After grappling with my conscience about my Hilton stay and after a most pleasant nights sleep only being awoken (at 06.00!) by an encouraging text from the lovely Mr Dee, I decided to be even more extravagant with breakfast in my room. The excitement of All Bran with proper milk (not powdered as I have only known since being here) and brown bread was too much for me to resist (this is what a month in Naija has brought me to!!!). This with hot filter coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, ham (with a couple of olives on the side!), jam, yogurt and fruit platter I was stuffed and had the leave some. A treat that I really enjoyed after not having breakfasts since the beginning of my stay.

I can hardly believe that it’s June the first and in a few days time I will be heading home, back to my normality and all this, both the grandeur and the poverty will seem a million miles away. This morning though, is time to pack and head back to Mafoluku, Lagos and to leave this other side to Nigeria behind. I headed down to check out and to wait for Femi and Christa to pick me up. I went to use the toilets down in the reception and was taken aback that in the Hilton’s loos they had run out of toilet roll and then when I washed my hands there were no hand towels either! Certainly not the standard you expect or pay for, in a Hilton anywhere in the world.

I was picked up by Christa and Femi and we headed to the airport to catch the 11.30 flight. The roads (although still nothing like Mafoluku) were much busier than at the weekend and the familiar beeping of horns became more apparent and familiar. As we drove past the many huge and grand buildings, some being very impressive while others obviously built in the 1970’s looked some what dated in design, Christa pointed out what they all were. With these buildings obviously come influence and money and powerful people, which probably has a lot to do with the difference that has been achieved in Abuja.

As we headed along the fast running two lane road which leads to the airport, it was noticeable that work of some kind was in progress. Christa explained how they [the government] are spending a reported $1 billion dollars to widen the road, knocking down many trees on the avenue like road. For what purpose I ask, the road very rarely (according to Christa) has congestion. The existing road lighting apparently never works, maybe this should have money spent on this, or affordable housing for those along that route that are not living in adequate dwellings. Maybe this would be better spent on health, it was commented at the weekend that there were only two defibrillators in Abuja (one of those at the Hilton, so I would have been ok at least for two days). These are commonplace in the UK even Tesco are said to have them!

Nigeria, so many Nigerians have commented is run by many (hopefully and I am sure not all) corrupt people and things are often agreed depending on the size of the bribe and money that can be made from it. This is how a lot of contracts are won and why things are often not done. This I guess is at the heart of the countries problems. If this could be eradicated then things would be improved for genuine reasons and for the love of the country and not for the love of money.

This corruption is so rife, it can be seen by every police man that ‘keeps order’ everyone that is pulled over hands over a dash (bribe, money) and goes on his way, The law is not upheld but the police are on a fantastic earner, chaos continues and it is excepted and expected and nothing changes. This continues up the hierarchy of people in this country and this is probably the main cause of the problems, but how does this stop? Many will not admit its happening; I imagine many Nigerians reading this will not want to admit this is the huge problem that it is. My guess is (for what my opinion is worth!) until this is controlled in some way, shape or form, much of the unfair inequalities that people just live with because ‘that’s how it is here’ will continue.

We landed in Lagos and headed back to my hotel and the familiar sights and sounds of the chaos. Okadas dodging around us and yellow taxis’ many looking like their not fit enough to last the journey fill every gap. As I pull up in my hotel I am greeted by smiles and welcomes, more genuine than that at the Hilton, they know me here and many I know by name. Although I loved Abuja and everyone that I met that made the weekend special was great, I also have no regrets about coming back. People here are equally as generous and kind at heart, just that these people haven’t got the money, but their kindness is no less appreciated.

On return the internet was working well, thankfully so I was able to catch up online. Shortly NEPA was down, and the generator needed resting and refuelling. So rather than sitting in a dull room, I took my place outside, watching everyone going about their chores and greeting all that passed. I also watched a female lizard run to and fro, as always no one else took a blind bit of notice of her. Just as I was about to go in the heavens opened as I looked across at the security man he gestured me to wait and found a big umbrella and walked me the 10 meters to the entrance.

Speaking of kindness, I asked one of the men who is always pleasant, as I walked in if he knew where I could get Akara balls from. He said they won’t be cooking it till gone six, but that he would run out and get it for me. Just after six he came up to knock and asked how many I wanted, I gave him some money and said get himself some if he wanted. When he returned with it, he had even gone and got a plate to put it on and not left it in the newspaper everything here comes wrapped in. This is so typical of the kindness so many Nigerians have shown me.

Final Sunday in Naija - 31st

My last Sunday in Nigeria, I woke early after a not very sleep-full night, surprisingly so as this was the most comfortable bed I have slept in on my trip and the air con was silent. In part I was kept awake because I was struggling with the fact that I had paid so much for such opulence with staying in the Hilton. When I had left such poverty and the thought of what I could have done with the money that I’d spent on two nights. I tried to balance this feeling by weighing it up against how much this trip has actually cost me and after giving a month of my time here, is it wrong to be extravagant for a weekend?

We were to be at church for around 08.00, not an easy task when you have had an enjoyable late night. We left our hotel about 08.30 in the beautiful sunshine of Abuja. This service was at another Salem church (the same group as we visited last week), this like my own church in Dartford (Dartford community church) is not housed in its own building, and it is a new church plant and has been here for around a year. The congregation was a similar size to back home roughly 100-150. The service was very good and enjoyable, I knew a couple of the worship songs and they were at a speed I was used to. I even managed to keep up with most of the preach, either it was clearer or my ear in tuning in at last.

After the service we spoke to Joyce an acquaintance of Femi’s, who is also the Archbishops daughter. We were introduced to the Archbishop Sam Amaga who was a charming man and made us feel very welcomed; he has planted several churches and was in even in Lewisham, London for a while. We then met his wife who was delightful and also very warm, the usual photo session commenced and then we made our way back to the hotel.

Both going to church and coming out it was very noticeable that there were far less people walking about than you would see in Lagos heading for church. This is probably in part because there are noticeably fewer people here anyway. There is not the crammed full on feeling here with hundreds of people going about their business. Everything is more spaced out so many people drive or get green taxis (the small buses and taxis are not yellow here).

A few hours later we were picked up by Joyce and taken to their very luxurious home a couple of miles away. As we drove up the security man opened the gates and we parked under carports to avoid the sun. A spread of food had been prepared for us by the cook and freshly squeezed juice which was delicious. The house was large and very grand but there was also a warm feeling of love and it was certainly a family home and we were made to feel welcome.

Their hospitality was so generous; Joyce and Kella her younger sister decided that we needed ice cream and a film. They took us to into the local town to an ice cream parlour and we all had proper scooped ice cream which seemed such a treat. We then went to a small shopping mall had a walk around the shops and then went to catch a movie ‘Night at the museum 2’. The cinema chairs left a little to be desired as they rocked when we sat in them (just to remind me that this is still Naija). So much talking and laughing, two lovely girls a credit to their loving family, such a blessed afternoon and such great company!

They dropped us back at the hotel and we waited for Femi’s friend to arrive. His friend had hoped to host our stay but unfortunately the weekend we were able to do this trip, she had been out of town. When she arrived, she drove us down the road as Femi wanted me to try Suya another Nigerian dish cooked at the road side on a BBQ. Beef thinly sliced and peppered, there was also Gizzard (sort of like kidney) which I also had. I took these back to my room, which stunk it out. I ended up putting the rubbish in the bin in the corridor to avoid my room smelling in the morning (not sure if you meant to do that at the Hilton? But hey paid enough for the privilege!).

My overall feeling on Abuja is I loved my weekend here (short as it was). I feel it’s the sort of place that I could bring family to without them feeling so far removed from their comforts in the UK. It’s not got the shock factor that Lagos has when first seen. I am sure the problems with NEPA is as bad here as anywhere in Nigeria, which being in the Hilton is one thing you never notice, they have that well and truly covered. The golf course I understand is one of the best in the country. I would feel comfortable driving around here, where Lagos is certainly more challenging. I like the area and would hope to one day return, but I also feel Lagos is where I’m meant to be at this point.

Sorry for delay....Saturday 30th

It’s the weekend and time to chill out and have some fun. We have decided that today we would take an internal flight to Abuja. This is partly to get another view of Nigeria and partly to have some fun.

The last Saturday of the month everyone (at least in Lagos) between 07.00 and 10.00 has to tidy and maintain there surroundings as its ‘sanitation day’. This in turn means nothing much happens until after this time and then everyone hits the road (there wasn’t a noticeable difference in the surrounding; I guess most use it as a lay in!). This gave me time to pack up my belongings as I was checking out of my hotel until Monday.

Femi picked me up at the hotel, and the Manager Mr Solomon very kindly allowed me to store my luggage in his office. Mr Solomon is a lovely man and goes out of his way to help make my stay comfortable when ever able. We left for the airport unfortunately we missed the flight that we were hoping to catch, as it was boarding as we arrived (this flight was rarely on time). We then purchased tickets for Virgin Nigeria, this flight true to form was not running on time. This gave me time to grab a lovely Danish pastry and a coffee, the first I’ve had since arriving in Nigeria (those that know me well know how fussy I am with my addiction for a strong black filter and a ‘hot hit’).

Without too long a delay we boarded our plane, soon after receiving our complimentary cake and drink we were descending into Abuja international Airport (a flight of about an hour). As I watched out of the window the terrain was much greener and rural than that we had left, also more mountainous. This surprised me as I was expecting it to be very built up, but the city itself was about a 30 minute drive away. Departure was stress free we just walked off the plane, picked up luggage from the only conveyor belt and walked out of the building briefly showing the luggage label to a man on the way.

Femi’s cousin had kindly picked us up and drove us into Abuja. This had a very different feel to it, as we travelled on well made roads, passing small mountain ranges (granite hills I believe) and road side sellers, which were much fewer in number than seen in Lagos. As we entered the town there was no rumble, no derelict building, no Okadas and no potholes. There were green verges, tree lined roads beautiful buildings and space, a complete contrast to even the better areas that I have seen of Lagos.

As will drove up to the Hilton (this is where we had decided to stay) a huge building of about thirteen floors (10 accomadation), with its palm tree lined entrance, it felt like another world. As we entered the grand foyer, it certainly was another world (one that I am certainly not used to). As I handed over the money for my two night stay I thought I must be mad (for what I’ve paid for 2 nights paid for 6 at Sena). Then as I entered my room the quality was a far cry from that of the Sena hotel. Huge mirrored doors to the bathroom, soft comfortable bed, it just spoke luxury. The negative (some would say greedy side) is that very little is included in this price, no internet, no drinking water, they kindly fill a kettle and give you two complimentary tea bags and coffee sachets and the usual toiletries.

Unpacked and then we headed for pool side with netbook and coffee, it’s the place to be. A quick wash and change and then we were off to the IBB golf course. A friend of Femi’s, Faridah Wada, is the ladies captain, and she invited us along to the prize giving dinner for the tournament that had been played earlier today. This certainly felt like a different class of place and entertainment. The band played some high-life and there was plenty of dancing going on and of course we joined in. The food was great, goat pepper soup with meat in not just fat, and beef stroganoff with chewable meat, such a treat. The lady captain offered us a lift back to the Hilton but it was still early (she understandably was tired as she had been in the sun playing golf all day).

As we got back to the Hilton we decided to go into the Captains bar, to taste the entertainment and soak up a little of the atmosphere. The music was varied more high-life and plenty of reggae, plus others too. After a couple of drinks, (those that know me won’t be too surprised) I had to get up and into the groove! They tend to pick on members of the audience to get up and strut their stuff and (to Femi’s surprise I think) I did. He was keen to retire to his room (probably out of sheer embarrassment) but I had found a second wind and was not prepared to give in that easily.

All I can say at this point, on first impressions, is that Nigeria can certainly get it very right; Abuja is a fine example of that. It only became the capital in 1991. I’m sure as with any place it has its short falls, its deprived areas. On first impressions, this feels more polished, the bits that are right are very right not just money in the midst of chaos as everywhere I’ve seen in Lagos. No, it’s not that I am staying in luxury and am blinded to what is around me. In Lagos we went to the Pink Ball in a luxurious part of town, just along from the Hilton and more expensive hotels, but there was still mess, potholes and chaos. So why does it appear they got more right here, yet they haven’t managed to replicate it in Lagos?