Mimi Mwiya: Abuja Is Too Pretty To Be A Capital
In Zambia, if you want a calm, picturesque experience in a city that’s calm, without too much traffic congestion, you go to Livingstone. If you are looking to get things done, albeit in crazy traffic, if you are looking to feel the pulse of the Zambian nation, if you’re looking to see where the economy is built, you go to Lusaka, the capital.
In Botswana, if you want a calm, picturesque experience in a city that’s calm with warthogs peacefully crossing roads along with the people, you go to Kasane. If you want to feel the pulse of the people, see where the nation’s economy is built, where things are done, despite crazy traffic, you go to Gaborone, the capital.
In Namibia, if you want a calm, picturesque experience… Well, visit the entire country, all of it , you can take your pick of either one of our towns! 🙂 But, if you want to experience all of Namibia’s calm, scenic beauty in just one place, you go to Swakopmund. And if you want to see our version of hustle and crazy traffic, you go to Windhoek,the capital.
In Nigeria, Lagos is where you go to feel the pulse of Nigeria, it’s where the hustle and bustle is. It’s where you’ll find the crazy traffic that sets most African capitals apart from the non-capitals. In my admittedly uninformed opinion, it’s where the Nigerian economy is built, and so I’m perpetually confused by the fact that Lagos is not Nigeria’s capital city. Yes, I know it used to be, but that it no longer is, is my concern.
As I was preparing for my first trip to Abuja, I remember a lot of people telling me how much calmer than Lagos I would find it, this was expected to be a selling point.
On the way there, I remember seeing these beautiful rocks that literally had me holding my breath. I found that Abuja is almost completely surrounded by those pretty rocks, where ‘calmer’ failed to be a selling point, the rocks succeeded.
Firstly, Abuja is not calmer than Lagos, all it does is give the illusion of calmness. In fact, I think as a city it is all just one big illusion. Now, the reason Abuja’s illusion of calmness doesn’t excite me is because all of Namibia has about 2.3 million people, of that 2.3 million, only about 400 000 or so are in the capital, so when you compare it to other African cities, Windhoek will always come out pretty calm.
So if I wanted calm, I would have stayed in Windhoek o, I did not come to Nigeria looking for calm. Abuja confuses me. I feel like it’s an attempt at a cross between the calmer picturesque smaller cities we go to for pretty pictures and to get away from the business of building the economy, and the chaotic hustle and bustle of real capital cities. I feel it is an attempt that fails. It does not come off as having the best of both worlds, but more as being neither calm enough nor chaotic enough, just lukewarm of both.
Whereas Lagos makes me want to feed off the energy of the ever-on-the go Nigerian, Abuja makes me want to sit in a pretty garden drinking an even prettier cocktail.
The buses there feel like they’re only imitating the purpose they are trying to serve, the plenty taxis that can take you almost anywhere feel only like a part of the charade too. Like, the idea was to have a convenient, orderly, always-on-the-go transport system, but I think the order is lacking. I think only the Uber cabs and okadas are truly remarkable, as far as transportation in Abuja goes.
The street vendors look out of place, they don’t blend in like they do in other capital cities. Abuja feels like where we’d send the muzungus to do touristy stuff so they don’t get in the way of the capital’s business.
There was an attempt to make Abuja more organised/less chaotic than Lagos, only problem is, capital cities aren’t meant to be un-chaotic, their niche is to function amidst the chaos, it’s what sets them apart.