Uchechukwu Orji: Posted to Abuja For my NYSC & Here Are the Lessons I Learned

So when I heard that I was posted to Abuja for my NYSC programme, I was happy, like really happy. I actually wanted to write ecstatic but who am I kidding? Travelling is top on my list of things I don’t like to do. But Abuja though? The travelling would be worth it. Mind you, I had no idea where I was going to stay or anything at all but who cared anyway? This was the capital city babbyy! So after my NYSC Camp (which was brutal and to me, plain unnecessary), I was ready for life in the big city and after months and months of careful study and observations, I arrived at these wonderful conclusions about Abuja.

Accommodation is not a ‘joking sturvz’
So when I got to Abuja, the plan was to stay with my aunt. But life happened and I could not stay with her anymore. Thus began my almighty search for accommodation. Trust me guys, this search was the ultimate! I virtually went to all the hidden nooks, crannies and “koros” of Abuja. At first, I thought I could get a house in the central area but when I heard that a small self-contain apartment was going for 750K, I was like “phadin? You say wetin?” My two bedroom apartment in the university wasn’t even up to a fifth of that amount. Anyway, after some very serious search, I finally got a self-contain apartment for 150k at karu area. It was far from town which I didn’t like but since my father was neither the CBN governor nor any governor for that matter, I kuku carry myself go there.

My Baby is DOPE
My impression of northerners while in the south was that they were very conservative people. However, after meeting a lot of them, it re-iterated the statement of my very wise Hausa friend (when I asked him if northerners were as conservative as I thought) “my dear, our conservatism has been greatly over emphasized”.

So in my opinion (I’m not talking generally), a lot of northerners are freeaakkyy. Hard drug usage was so rampant here that after a while it began to look normal. Since most northerners are muslim and islam expressly forbade alcohol but did not expressly forbid drug consumption, a whole lot of northerners I met were heavy drug abusers. Even the southerners who lived there too were users. It was quite strange to me; because while in the south, “igbo” smokers were considered deviant or wayward. Here in the North(or middle belt as Abuja is called), it was very normal to see a nicely dressed young man or young woman puffing away at his/her cigarette or whatever drug caught their fancy. It was here I even learnt the names of different drugs such as SK, marijuana, ecstasy, shisha, codeine, rophynol, different pills upon pills

Prostitution is the IN-Thing
So, I thought I already had relative experience with prostitution since I was born and bred in lagos. Even on the road to my law school, Lagos campus, you would see prostitutes of various shapes and sizes advertising their wares. In Abuja though, I found out that prostitution was on a way different level here. In most of the streets of Abuja every night, prostitutes of different sizes and colours would line up showing off what their mama gave them and trust me, these girls would do anything for that money.

Once I even saw some dressed in the full hijab regalia and asked a friend why she wasn’t advertising like her counterparts. He responded that some northern men found complete exposure distasteful and thus preferred the fully covered up ones. He mentioned that sometimes these girls would flash their potential customers so they could see what their money would get them. As if on cue, the supposedly covered up hajia actually flashed my friend. I just took a large gulp of my malt and belched. Wetin person no go see for this Abuja sef?

The Doctrine of Double Daddies
“Runz” was something else here. In short, you were expected to have a Daddy somewhere taking care of your financial needs. Once, two of my friends, and I (all female corp members) were stopped by VIO officers. We knew we were wrong because my friend who was driving, had not renewed her papers. But we were broke and had nothing on us, so we put on our best crying face and started begging for mercy. We were asked to bring three thousand Naira as bribe, hungry looking corpers like us whose only claim to riches was the car which had suffered its own fair share of wear and tear.
We just increased our begging skills. The officer was so surprised and he was like:

Officer: So fine girls like you no get three thousand
We: Ahhh! No money oo. NYSC has not paid us for two months. Check our bag sef, we no get money. If we get, we for don give you tey tey.

Officer: But Daddy should have sent you money nau.

We: Nooo! In short our parents have stopped giving us money now that we are serving.

Officer: (slyly) ehn, even if your daddy at home has not paid, the other Daddy should have paid nau. This is Abuja oo. You should know one Daddy who can make calls for you. See, if you knew somebody now, you won’t be going through all these trouble.

To cut the long story short, he graciously offered to take us to his office to meet some “daddies”. He even promised me a well-known senator if I would agree. I can only imagine the commission he would get for introducing the “daughters” to the “daddies”

Northerners are Nice People
Ok, they are really nice! In the south, I was a bit scared of Northerners because I felt they were butchers. I mean, when you see that aboki neatly slicing off suya with that carving knife, you can only imagine what that knife would do to a ripe human head.(Ok, I have an hyper active imagination). Also, I never got to mix with a lot of northerners so the only opinion I had were the usual stereotypes. And truthfully, they were a bit scary.
However, on interacting with them, I found out that a lot of them were really nice people, always ready to help. Then once you threw in a few hausa phrases like “yaya aiki”(how is work) or “sai gobe?” or ina kwana(hope I got that right?), they would even be more eager to help you with whatever you need.

Some other things you may need to know about Abuja are:

1) The most popular hangout spots are open air gardens. So if you are a newbie, it’s advisable you take your mosquito repellent cream along with you because Abuja mosquitoes are actually small vampires!

2) Transportation is relatively cheap here. So if you are moving around town, the maximum amount you should pay is five hundred naira for a cab drop. If you decide to follow “along”, you should pay at most, a hundred Naira.

3) Since the population of Abuja is really small, you are very likely to meet the same crowd at any “turn up” spot.

4) Sunscreen! Sunscreen! Sunscreen! Spf 50 and above. Abuja sun does not smile. I didn’t know this so after the NYSC camp, I was three shades darker than usual. Nobody told me to bring sunscreen the next time I came back. Also during harmattan, its very dry and cold. I had really bad cough when I was there because I kept inhaling dust. Face mask (the one doctors wear) is the answer. It protects your nose from the dusty atmosphere.

5) Please, never be around the central mosque when it’s time for prayer. The traffic jam you would experience would put the lagos mainland-island traffic to shame.

6) You are going to hear the word “toh” a lot. I think it’s the hausa version of “ok”

So, here are a few of my eye opening experiences in the course of my brief stay in Abuja.
So what about you? Have you ever been to a new place? Tell us about your experience. Were your expectations watered down? Were the stereotypes exaggerated or underestimated? Tell us more.