As an undergraduate student, I had to study and pass several courses to be found worthy in learning and character for an award of a degree. Some of these courses were intriguing in their creative potency and my questing mind never rested in finding local illustrations for the predominantly western examples we were given. One of such courses I enjoyed was Urban Sociology and one of the interesting pieces of academic references was Louis Wirth’s classical “Urbanism as a Way of Life.” Initially, Wirth’s theoretical treatise failed to appease my search for local correlates, until I relocated to the Federal Capital Territory. Dressed in Wirth’s pince-nez, the variables of population, density and heterogeneity as indices of urban life have become more and more discernible as my observational spectrum becomes deeper and wider.
Having lived in Abuja for close to a decade, I have come to notice the dominance of human interaction on the basis of utility and segmentation, no matter how involved relationships might be. Within this context, Abuja, the insignia of the Federal Capital Territory, has assumed a conspiratorial status. Abuja, as a geographic area, is deeply a concept as much as it is an ecological space. It symbolizes the glitter of Nigeria’s appetite to deceive itself as a wealthy country and development-driven. It masks the eccentricities of individuals living decayed existence under the cloak of denial. Abuja, in terms of geographic space, is the reticular dermis of Nigeria’s organic corruption, the epicenter of the country’s decadent values. For each square metre of Abuja constructed on genuine sweat, there are thousands raised on fraud. Deceit is the tradition of the Federal Capital Territory, one that is nurtured and legitimized by subtle means, to be read, interpreted and understood by different codifications. Abuja epitomizes the artfulness of quintessential conspiracy that involves key players from both public and private sectors embroiled in dance steps that chart the drumming.
Every day in the life of the Federal Capital Territory is a deceit. It is this deceit that underlies the Federal Government’s plan to build a new city within the Federal Capital Territory to mark the centennial celebrations of Nigeria’s 1914 amalgamation. It is the same deceit that inspires approval for construction of a new banquet hall for N2.2 billion barely nine years after one was constructed by Olusegun Obasanjo to welcome Her Majesty Queen of England when she visited Nigeria for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2003. The FCT Minister’s attempts to justify the new banquet hall on the grounds of its proximity to the president’s office and unique utility construes the envisioning capacity of those who built the 2003 banquet hall as myopic. He is, inadvertently saying that Nigeria’s leaders lack the capacity to capture a ten-year vision, given that it is less than ten years since the last one was built. Standing on this implied indictment, isn’t it clear our Vision2020 aspirations are blurry? At least, members of my generation are living witnesses to the abysmal visioneering failures of the past such as “Health for all by the year 2000,” “Education for all by the year 2000,” “Housing for all by the year 2000.” It is hard to deny that we did achieve an unexpressed feat, “Corruption for all by the 2000,” given that Nigeria has become more corrupt since circa2000.
I am not given to ostentatious or overt celebration of any kind even when the event is worth celebrating. I feel the more an event is worth celebrating, the more sober the celebrant should be in reflecting the twists and turns of human existence. But that is my very personal opinion. Nevertheless, I am saddened by the Federal Government’s commitment to celebrate 100 years of whatever in 2014. The news of the celebration is reminiscent of that of Nigeria’s fifty years independent anniversary. There is the likelihood that Dr. Jonathan will enter history book as Nigeria’s owambe President, the one who has spent much of the resources of his presidency, in terms of time, wisdom, strategy and money to celebrating anniversaries. I certainly will be glad to celebrate one year of stable electricity in Nigeria. Maybe one year is too ambitious; let’s say One month. I’m sure some of you are thinking one month is still very ambitious. Let’s celebrate one week of stable electricity in Nigeria.
Having listened to the spokesperson of the Federal Government on the New City within the Territory, it is clear that this government is so much interested in any means that will increase financial leakage in the country than anything that would add value to the lives of Nigerians. The new city, according to Minster for Information, will be carved out of the Federal Capital Territory, so as “to create the enabling environment for new infrastructure development.” To him, the celebration is justified on the grounds that it will help him to showcase the impact made by Nigeria on the African continent and the world in general. It doesn’t take a wise person to see the conspiratorial underpinning of Federal Government’s posturing. There has to be a means by which certain fraud is committed under the cloak of transformation and celebration. As the Federal Government is embarking on this grand deceit, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory is demolishing estates assigned by earlier public officials and built by the middle class, to allow for re-assignment to those who didn’t benefit substantially from the fraud of the former officials. Even if the National Assembly makes noise about this, it is the case of the dance steps charting the sound for the drummers. They have successively owned Abuja and will continue over time.
I know that there have been distortions in the managing and implementation of the much-touted Abuja Master Plan. There is no perfect correction of this distortion, given the elitist avarice that characterizes the successive ruling class of Federal Capital Territory. But, my contention is this: does the new centennial city fit into the Master Plan of the Federal Capital Territory? It was never part of capital territory; it couldn’t have been. It would take so much vision to have included it, a lack of which the presidential banquet hall clearly validates. It is on this premise that one cannot deny the unexpressed intent of the centennial city as a subtle commitment to feed elitist appetites. One of the laws of growth is prioritization. History has shown that the Nigeria’s current leaders are much wasteful than those of the past. The picture of the future does not point to a slowing-down. I know history will judge all, but which side will it judge us? Will it judge us as being on the side of the wasteful lot, the visionless lot or the silent lot? Nigeria is a country in need of redemption. We are being dragged into decadence and fatalism by the seconds. The only path to redemption is the unsteady steps we decide to take today; otherwise, we might never have the chance to start tomorrow. This applies to the nation as much as to the individual.