Night life at Jabi and a telltale of Abuja!/

As my good friend drove towards a hotel located in a cul-de-sac behind Mr Biggs, Jabi, Abuja. I spotted one of those familiar relaxation and drinking joints. Although later events had me interact with the spot, I was immediately uncomfortable. I kept pondering… why wouldn’t these people ever learn? I couldn’t help but recall that quite a number of such resorts have been targets of our brothers gone berserk  -  Boko Haram adherents.  Bombings at the United Nations office within Nigeria’s Federal Capital city and its outskirts like Nyanya and Maidala were fresh in my mind.

I had to cast my mind back to the miraculous escape of my own younger sister during the Christmas 2011 bombing of St Theresa Catholic, Maidala.  Being a devout Catholic, she and her kids had attended a vigil in the church and were too tired to go to church early on Christmas day.  Rather than the 6.00 am Mass, her household opted for the 10.00 am Mass. Being dark minds, the assassins needed the cloak of darkness and struck at dawn on the day of merriment …Christmas day!

So, I am somewhat at home with the pains the Boko Haram sect is capable of inflicting. My family escaped pains, but then, thousands of my fellow countrymen have been needlessly dying - consumed by an acerbic war imposed by our brothers - fiends.

I had to perish the thoughts, rebuking myself over the needless fear.  Abuja has for long had a break from Boko Haram attacks. Especially since the new sheriff arrived town and started calling the shots - our beloved President Muhamadu Buhari  (wishing him speedy recovery). Even then, I was wondering why the fear? Doesn’t the Bible tell me ‘’I will not die but live and see the salvation of the Lord”? I prayed, binding whatever environmental demons were lurking around and for the city that never again would it be victim of terror attack.

I had the priviledge of knowing about Abuja as far back as four decades ago. My elder brother worked in a firm of town planners who were steeply engaged in laying out and developing the city. However, my actual interactions with the city commenced in the mid- 1980s. Ever since, I have had a fair share of interactions with this city which former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon penciled as replacement for Lagos. He explained that Lagos, the then capital city could easily have been overrun had Lt Col Odumegwu Ojukwu and his Biafran forces successfully attacked from the Atlantic Ocean.

I remember the first sight of Zuma rock and its prying “eyes” on the Abuja – Kaduna highway. Abuja is a land of unpitying sunshine, which naturally cause heating, and thus weathering of rocks like Zuma.  Ever since, I have made countless visits to Abuja. I have had occasional visits to Maitama and Asokoro. My friends there are most times too busy with the business of governance. Some have also toed the path of the rich. They have ascended some new class and status and abandoned their friends of yester years. For these snubs, I remind them of that wise reminder from our own Okirika Dame, the mercurial Dame Patience Jonathan –“There is God oh’’! He who hath an ear let him or her hear. 

You may not invite me to Maitama or Asokoro, but I am okay. It’s safe where I am. Lagos where I live is working. We should be okay, but for the darkness that the powers that be in Abuja perpetuate. You may even have all of Aso Rock to yourself, no pain. I am content with being far away from those demons that Reuben Abati claims lurk in Aso Villa.  That reminds me, I should be positive that my brother Pastor Femi Adesina is doing something about those demons. They have wrought more than enough havoc. There shouldn’t be worries over our President Buhari. He would soon recover - a  virile proof that at last those wicked demons in the high place of Asokoro aren’t invincible after all.

I have seen that good and ugly in this city, which enraptures and irritates. In Abuja you will be greeted by glitz and glamour. Yet in contrast, you will also see the irritating and really ugly. You will realize in this city, that indeed all animals are equal but some are more equal. You will see a yawning gap between the rich and the poor. You will see clear class distinction and wonder why the planners of this city sowed the seed that has blossomed to poverty and pain for some, then riches and opulence for others. You question the rationale in failing to keep a brother; rather you humble and have him accept his lot when he could have been helped! 

Why would the rich think they are safe when throngs of the very poor surround them? How they delude themselves! Isn’t it foolhardy thinking they can actually do without the poor? Pray, who would clean their homes, keep their gardens, drive them and their kids, cook their meals etc. And they want to have them that shortchanged? Can’t somebody please remind them that should the poor fight back, they can make the rich to also cry?

Perhaps this story would be useful lesson for the Abuja rich and their collectives elsewhere. Once upon one of those my trips to the interesting city, I met with a friend who had just been rescued from kidnappers. Gosh! Whatever is happening to my beloved nation? Kidnappers are on the prowl. Dear Lord, deliver your people!

Mon’ami told a chilling narrative of his fate in the hands of his captors, a part of which I share. His captors’ gunshots hit the official SUV he was riding in, forcing them to halt.  His assailants bundled him out of the van and trekked him for over two hours into the jungle, safe and far away from law enforcement agents. He explained that his captors kept reminding him that they were victims of poor governance that he and his cohorts in Aso Villa visited on the less privileged.

Despite his ordeal during the nightmarish encounter, mon’ ami, a truly rational mind couldn’t help but agree with his captors that the nation could be easier to live in. Since his miraculous escape, my friend rather than being dispirited, is the more persuaded to keep contributing more than bits to have the country safer for us all.

Of all the well laid out parts of the Abuja municipality, Jabi has a popular renown. Most first time ingression into and egression from Abuja by road is through Jabi. Thus, most visitors come in contact with Jabi as they arrive the neighbouring motor park in Utako District. Jabi is said to be fast acquiring a status beyond some relatively older settlements. It has it’s share of beautifully architectured residential and commercial buildings, well laid streets which thankfully, are adorned with trees. There is picturesque landmark in Jabi, the lake and of course, the very beautiful shopping mall that houses the South African shopping brand – Shoprite.

Beyond Jabi are networks of wide expressways. The smoothness of the roads has sometimes implied pains to the city. Several drive at considerable speed, not only endangering, but actually maiming and forcing a number to an early grave. Fortunately, the Federal Road Safety Corps and related agencies are responding to the challenges.

No doubt, this city, located in the Guinea - Sudan savannah is fitting to serve as the nation’s capital.  If we have regrets about the doom that the oil boom implied, Abuja need be a worthwhile consolation.  The loss of the Niger Delta is Abuja’s gain. Abuja is growing to being a heartening relief that the seat of the Nigerian government is compliant with the global request for greenness.

Back to my Jabi “joint” story. I was to later tread the same  “joint” which had sent shivers down my spine. I had an unpleasant disappointment from a dysfunctional Point of Sale (POS) machine and opted for an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) located opposite the needlessly dreaded “joint”. I needed a few necessities that I was positive I could fetch from the place.  What I met surprised.

I found at the  “joint”,  a beehive of activities. There was plenty of music in the air.  There was a dexterous disc jokey who held his audience captive. There was a competition for attention by a live local band. As expected, the atmosphere reeked with smells of alcohol and countless brands of cigarettes. I suspect even the forbidden too. It was a tale of the absurd. Several loud speakers blared deafeningly. The louder the beats, the greater the pleasure and fun the customers seemed to be deriving. Are these people in anyway concerned about the pains that Buharinomics imply? Not at the time!

There were tens of brisk businesses being conducted at the night market that developed arount the “joint”. It actually spiraled a dozen or so plots whose allottees had momentarily abandoned to the informal market. Here is a manifestation and triumph of the Nigerian entrepreneurial spirit. There were suya, fruits and food sellers and a number of petty provision stores. Those who sold alcohols provided pepper soup to lure their customers late into nights.  Of course, there were men and women at the different levels of drunken stupor. There were as well, women of easy virtue who were dexterous in the game of caressing men if they are to maximize gains from their clients. There were close to fifty cars in the location. As one drove out, the other took over. This relay is norm and the cycle went on till late into the night. Pity the wives and children of these men who bear brunt of dads gone drunk!

Lest I forget, there was of course Christian music and the gospel message canvassing for space in the airways. What a place to preach or make business out of the gospel! Aren’t some businessmen truly courageous and incurably optimistic?  

As I departed the joint, I saw an unforgettable sight of a fellow Nigerian - a lean and bent middle-aged damsel who was making a livelihood from refuse bins. It was a sorry sight of neglect of a fellow citizen in the land of the rich. It was obvious that her family had long abandoned her. Painfully, for this forgotten citizen of Nigeria, her own ways aren’t strange. She is just passing through life the way her challenged mind dictated.

That said, I have also had a feel of outta the city centre. I am familiar with Gwagwalada, Kwali, Kubwa, Dutse Alhaji, Bwari and Nyanya. The inhabitants of these satellite towns are a good mix of the Nigerian middle class spiced by brethren in the lower rung rendering different services from transportation, construction, sales of electrical and electronics, foods, fruits, name it! 

The level of confusion and disorganized setting of these settlements would amaze. Couldn’t these cities have been mapped out and at least a modicum of sanity enshrined? Any wonder why Mallam Nasiru El Rufai  during his time as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory constantly had the bulldozers in business?

I have had cause to visit Nyanya and the eviron. I could relate with the places, the hold ups made me feel at home as if I was in my Eko gan gan! At Nyanya, I recall a case of a callous Tricyle driver. Young boys were jumping from his speeding Tricycle.  Each boy landed on whatever side of his body. The stunt play took me by surprise. I was sore afraid that the boys would sustain injuries. To my surprise, each simply rolled, pulled up and smiled at his bravado!

I couldn’t bear the callousness of the Tricyle rider. I encouraged a chase of the Tricycle at least to speak some turunchi (English) condemning the act and possibly attracting law enforcement agents.  My mission in the regard was impossible. First, I was not in control of the bike rider. I was merely a passenger. Secondly, he wondered what the heck was my worry about a phenomenon that was a norm thereat! This painful memory of that unconscientious act in the conundrum of a city called Abuja would remain horrifyingly evergreen in my memory!

One other commentary – Abuja and the invasion of cattle rearers! As far back as the mid 1980s, I visited a colleague Agriculturist in Kwali. Mid of my visit to his farm, my friend suddenly got agitated. It didn’t take long to appreciate what was amiss. A herd of cattle had invaded his farm, tearing and consuming his maize field. He was livid with rage. He gave a hot pursuit, couldn’t get the Herdsmen, but seized a few calves and rams. I recall that he reported the erring herdsmen to the Alkali (local chief), confident somewhat, that he would obtain justice.  Today, herdsmen (they provide our beef) are still in the kind of business in our city, Abuja!

Niyi Egbe, an Agriculturist and media practitioner lives in Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.