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?