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.