The JJC’s guide to living in Abuja
The first time I visited Abuja, it was for love. Not love for the city but love for a man and I do believe that’s a good enough reason to travel miles and risk one’s life, yes? Yes. When I eventually fell in love with the city, it was partly because I was in love with a man who was in love with the city. It’s like loving a certain football team because one’s lover is in love with it. However, love between man and lady fell apart but did not take with it love for the city (Too many ‘loves’ for one paragraph I know, I love to love).
I thought I knew what it meant to work for money because, well I have never been a lazy girl when it comes to working hard for money. I brought to Abuja my business experience which I had gathered from my 7 years stay in Benin and my 1 year in Benue state. Abuja laughed at me.
I remember once when I drove into town from the airport and took a quick glance at the gas gauge. I noticed I needed to top up the fuel and it was getting late so I stopped to ask a man to direct me to the nearest filling station. He told me that I had passed the nearest one and that the next one was very far but if I could do a reverse and drive one-way, I could go to the fill in station behind me.
I did not want to take such a risk because I was not on a one-way drive but I still really needed to top up. While negotiating what best decision I could take, two other men came to meet the man, he told them what the matter was and they agreed with his suggestion that I do one-way on a busy highway. That’s when I heard the statement again from one of them, for the umpteenth time, “you no get mind, this car too big for you sef”. I did not lose my temper, no. I simply drove away smiling because in Abuja, everyone is a small girl who does not wear makeup and fancy clothes but has the audacity to have a tiny frame.
Here I learned that no one takes anyone serious who does not look like a rich man. Many times, my sister had tried to no avail to put so much makeup on my face and style me before I stepped out. She soon gave up and I soon got frustrated because no one would listen to me when I went to lobby for contracts. I looked and still look like a little girl.
Abuja is changing me. It teaches one to spend time and money on appearance, to pretend to be someone else who has it all even when he really stays in a cramped up space and while Lagos teaches you you to ‘hustle’, Abuja teaches you how to ‘package’ your hustle. The packaging is what people buy.
For anyone who has thoughts of moving to Abuja to start a life, take this as a free tutorial on what you must do to blend in.
1. Dress well: This is a no-brainer and a tough thing to do if you’re used to the quick Lagos life or like me, the easy Benin life where no one really cares about your looks. You could in those cities, start your day by throwing on a Tee over dirty Jeans and a pair of flip-flops. Here you have to ensure that even if you opt for a casual look, you do not look ‘cheap’. You cannot afford to overlook your dressing. Your clothes must flatter your body and your flip-flops belong to your bathroom no matter how fancy. The saying that you are addressed by the way you dress holds true in this city. This was a hard lesson for me and I learned it after I was told that I would not go with a certain team to see a certain man who may have given me a certain contract and the reason was that I was not dressed in a certain way. You also do not want to be wooed, for ladies, by drivers and security men so take time to dress well.
2. Make-up: Powder, lipgloss, anything…just makeup. It does not matter if you are male or female. Whether you are going to the backyard store or to your bathroom or to the mall, ensure your face is looking bright because you do not know where you’ll have to pitch a business to a potential investor. Always make sure your hair looks neat.
3. Always have specific answers: You know how you meet someone and he asks you what you do and you say, ‘well, I do many things’? Stop it! Hold it! What exactly do you do? No one will take you serious when you say you do many things. Even if you have not started doing something, call yourself by the name you’ve always dreamed you’d be called. You have to sell yourself and you can’t do this by being unsure of what your profession is.
4. Learn the art of connecting: This is almost like number 3 above and yes, connecting is an art. We meet people everyday and make connections. You must seize every opportunity to let people know what you do. Many meetings I’ve attended in Abuja always end with a connect session which is even more important than the ‘item 7’. Your business card must be with you at all times and you must learn to smile even when you are extremely upset.
Abuja has good roads, so good you may not realize you’ve been over speeding. Mondays and Fridays, the thieving FRSC officials are always on the look for free money so they stop cars and accuse them of beating traffic light. If you know you are innocent, do make sure your doors are locked and your windows are wound up. Do park your car and lock it if you must attend to them but if you forget these rules and they manage to enter your car, you don’t have to bribe them. No one will fine you for beating traffic light. It still hurts that I fell into their trap and listened to the jargon they said about me paying a fine. No fines please.
If you must drive at night, don’t stop your car to do aproko. Car thieves are everywhere. Park your car in secure locations and like me, put your big handbag in the boot.
If you won’t be driving, ensure you take my father’s advise and ‘la oju e’, Open your eyes. One-chance people are everywhere. Don’t contribute to discussions between passengers no matter how tempted you are to join in. If you sit by the extreme right or extreme left, hold on to your purses, bags or wallets. Some silly boys have started snatching bags and running into the bush.
This is for the ladies and some men.
Remember how Abuja people package? Good. Don’t fall for a guy because he drives a G-wagon. Speaking of G-wagon, these Abuja people make it look like taxi. Anyway, it is possible that the guy wooing you borrowed the car from his friend’s father because he has to look good and package well. That he gave you his business card and is speaking British English does not guarantee that he is real. That he wears agbada and talks like a big man does not mean he is rich enough to be your sugar daddy. Do your research or pay me to do it for you.
I have never really bothered to find out what a man specifically means when he says ‘let me take care of you’ but I do know that many Abuja daddies like to say it. That statement is like an anthem for them especially when they sense that you are new in the city. Be very careful.
These here are some really important things to do if you want to have a fairly easy stay within your first few months in Abuja. I love this city and pray hard everyday that I marry a man who loves to come back to Abuja after we tour the whole world. I’ve learned tough lessons here, made good friends and am now starting to really enjoy living the life of a spinster.
First published here.