The Nigeria Discussion Continued

Patrons of the bar may recognize Eccentric Yoruba from her blog, Curiosity Killed the Eccentric Yoruba, and/or from her articles on the Blasian Narrative, where she specializes in Sino-African history and social relations.  She was kind enough to answer a few key questions about Nigeria which may interest Black American readers, and she's in the process of co-building a website dedicated to articles, interviews, videos and pictures about daily life in Abuja, Nigeria.

Where do you live?

I live in Abuja, the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) of Nigeria.  Abuja is Nigeria's planned capital and was made the capital in the 1970s, before that Lagos was the capital of Nigeria. Lagos remains the commercial capital of Nigeria.  To be more precise, I live in the Utako District which is a quiet neighbourhood (boring to some) not too far from the city centre.

What are the demographics?

Abuja is very diverse. You can find someone from every single Nigerian ethnic group in Abuja. The indigenous people are Gwari, some of whom are Hausa-speaking (though I've only just recently met two people who are indigenous to Abuja). There is also a small community of foreigners, from other African countries, from the United States, Europe and Asia.  While a lot of foreigners in Abuja work in embassies, others work in the oil sector. In Abuja, we have West Africans, white Europeans, and some Asians who call the town home because they have married a Nigerian man or woman. Predictably, there is also a growing number of Chinese residents, I was surprised to find out that I have Chinese neighbours, apparently a year ago there was just one Chinese man, now there a four and on my way home from work I've seen the same Chinese man taking his baby for a walk.

Administratively, Abuja is part of Northern Nigeria (I know that Northern Nigeria tends to be stereotyped in news outlets as majority Muslim thus backward and evil and needless to say such a view is wrong in all sorts of ways). Abuja is relatively 'free' as most Nigerian cities go, I believe majority of Nigeria's diverse cultures are present in Abuja, some may find 'Nigerian culture' restricting but the rules generally do not apply to foreigners (and I mean like you don't have to worry about your mother's friends seeing at a nightclub, dancing like there's no tomorrow).

In terms of language, most people in Abuja speak English, however this is Northern Nigeria so it pays to speak some Hausa. I must stress that not everybody in Abuja speaks Hausa, but chances are if you go to the open air market, the people that sell you goods will be Hausa speaking merchants. Those employed at restaurants and bars may be Hausa speaking. As a Hausa friend tells me 'learn to speak Hausa so people will not cheat you at the market'. Also Pidgin English will take you far, if you speak with a foreign accent, again some people will try to cheat you. Using myself as an example, when I don't speak Pidgin I get charged higher for services that don't have marked prices because it is assumed that I am a foreigner or a 'butty' (meaning I come from a wealthy home).

What do you do for a living?

I am currently an intern with Consultancy Africa Intelligence's Asia Dimension Unit (http://www.consultancyafrica.com). I write papers monthly on topics relating to political and socio-economic relations between any Asian and African country. As I also work with the social networking team, it is time for a shameless plug, please follow Consultancy Africa Intelligence on twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/caiafrica) and facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Consultancy-Africa-Intelligence/161891903839851).

Please help our numbers grow.

What do you do for entertainment?

Most of my interests are centred around reading; I am a member of the Abuja Writers' Forum and attend other literary and arts events happening in Abuja as soon as I get wind of them.

I also hang out a lot; it is called 'yawo' in Hausa. So I like to yawo. Abuja, and Nigeria in general, is a place you can truly enjoy when you know other people. Hanging out with friends is more enjoyable in Abuja for me than elsewhere. We go to the galleria and to trendy restaurants, just to hang out. Events in Abuja are mostly passed through word of mouth, which is why knowing other people is very important. I also attend cultural events when I am able to, just last week there was the International Film Festival (and I only knew about this because my cousin learnt of it through work and I told my friends about it). Similarly there are trekking and climbing activities that happen again when you know people.

My weekly entertainment changes depending on what is happening, so for example this week I visited my Aunt at home because Monday was her birthday. On the 5th and 6th, the Korean embassy will be hosting some events to join Nigeria in celebrating her independence (1st October!) and I'll be in attendance. A secondary school friend will be returning to Nigeria after years in the USA so I will be taking her around town. There is always something or the other to do for fun.

I go to the gym; to work out, eat the delicious healthy dishes (there is a restaurant near the gym, owned by the same person) and enjoy the free wireless internet available in the lounge (there's also a spa in addition to the gym and restaurant). I also enjoy shopping, but mostly for food and African fabrics.

What job opportunities are commonly available?

I will address this from the non-Nigerian perspective, as for a large number of graduates here finding a job is not easy.

The petroleum sector is very lucrative, maybe moreso outside Abuja but most major companies have a branch here.

Be business savvy and it will take you places in Nigeria. I am constantly advised to take a business venture along with any office job I may hold. I believe tapping into the growing middle class tastes will also be lucrative. Nigerians born abroad, who have returned go on to set up restaurants that serve 'foreign' food and they make a lot of money. Also others have gone into the entertainment industry, to become actresses or musicians. I have friends and family who constantly travel to the USA, Turkey, Dubai, southern China to buy clothes, furniture, shoes etc which they bring back to sell in Nigeria. I have been offered money to write for people.

There are so many opportunities here, it may be tasking, trying to locate them and getting enough sources to find them but they exist.

What is the view of Black Americans? How are they treated where you are?

There are all sorts of extremes here. I know people who love Black Americans, people who are ambivalent and people who hate Black Americans. Most Nigerians are friendly, too friendly sometimes, but some will be fascinated by your being Black and foreign.Yet others will view Black Americans as 'cool'. While others will be welcoming and accommodating of Black Americans and praise them for 'coming back home'. Some people will regard you as competition and they will be jealous of the fact that you hold an American passport. A friend was telling me once about how her friend from the university she went to in the USA (I believe it was Howard) moved to Lagos and in a few months had a serious relationship with a very eligible Nigerian bachelor. My friend was jealous of this Black American woman and even if she didn't say it, I could tell it was due to her being American (like 'we' Nigerian women are suffering to get married and she had it so easy).

I want to take this opportunity to say, if you're a Black American in Nigeria, or another part of West Africa and locals laugh at you or you feel they refuse to accept you, please, please, do not take it personal. If you are called 'oyibo' (white person), this is not an insult. It is because you'll most likely be seen as a Black person with 'foreign' i.e. Western attitudes, accents etc. If it makes any difference, my friends and family constantly call me 'oyibo' and since this is Abuja 'baturiya' (Hausa for white woman) because they feel I 'act' like a foreigner and that my attitude is not Nigerian enough due to the things that amuse me etc. So please do not take being called 'oyibo' personally.

What opportunities are available for them?

I am yet to hear of a Black American that decided to relocate to Nigeria and had a rough time. Though I will admit that I have not heard of many Black Americans relocating to Nigeria. There is a TV show shown daily here called Tinsel, and a few months ago a minor character was introduced, she was Black and had an American accent. My cousins and I debated whether her accent was fake and concluded that she must have been a Nigerian woman born and bred in the USA. I caught an episode of a talk show, Moments with Mo, dedicated to foreigners who call Nigeria home and the same actress was featured. It appears she is Black American and moved to Lagos with her four kids. I was surprised to hear this, I kept asking myself why she decided to relocate to Nigeria. I still can't recall her name, and searches are proving fruitless.

As there are all sorts of embassies, international organisations and companies located in Abuja, including the UN, ECOWAS, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, ActionAid etc. My uncle works with organisations against HIV/AIDS owned by the USA and he has told me that these companies pay more to have a doctor from the USA work anywhere on the African continent rather than the other way round. He was initially looking to head to the USA for work before he found this out and decided to stay put in Nigeria. I did not know that Nigeria was giving members of the African diaspora indigene cards, that is good news because with an indigene card you can work for the Nigerian government. Jobs in ministries and parastatal corporations are well-paying and have lots of benefits (such as housing, travel per diem etc).

To me, a well paying job means around N200,000 monthly which is approximately $1,266. Some of those international organisations actually pay staff up to N500,000 ($3,165) monthly. I personally know people who earn that much and this does not include yearly housing allowances which can be more than N1million. If you are coming from abroad with a degree, there is no reason for you to expect any less than N200,000 monthly.

This advice may be unorthodox but I'm going to say it, use you advantages and make them work for you. And coming from the USA, you have a lot of opportunities in a rapidly developing, forward-looking country. If you're a non-Nigerian in Nigeria, the kind of opportunities available to you are different from those available to me. As a Nigerian who has been educated in Europe, I have more opportunities available to me than the average Nigerian who schooled within the country. Do not regret to use any opportunities available to you.

Most Nigerians deal in businesses of sort and Abuja people love effizy and paparazzi, this means they love showing off, looking good and being in the 'happening places' even moreso than other people in Nigeria. Young Nigerians who have spent years abroad are opening spas, beauty parlours, coffee shops, cake making businesses, smoothie parlours event planning companies, SEX SHOPS etc. These business people travel abroad frequently, buy clothes, shoes, electronics, Brazilian hair, furniture, ANYTHING, return, sell them and usually make profit. The Abuja middle class is affected by Western tastes and most of the time, we can't find the stuff we enjoy abroad easily available here. Do you know that there are also online businesses dedicated to helping Nigerians order from stores in the USA and London? Basically you place an order with them for an online store that is not open to Nigeria and you pay them to collect the goods in either the USA or wherever and have it delivered to your Nigerian address. I have had family friends buy from Amazon and IKEA in such a manner.

Girl, thanks for stopping by the bar, and thanks for the photos!

The gym she goes to



JB's Grill





The Galleria

Fashion show at the Galleria

Designer in the back.

The Amber Lounge

Salamander Cafe

Comments

  1. Completely off topic, but r u that ankhesen mie from Abagond's page("Ankhesen Mie Lexicon") ? I'm Louie Jacuzzi. Pleasure to meet your page. Guess I'll have to get a website.

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  2. Really cool. I like the gym my mum has just got some land and is thinking about building a gym.health spa in Lagos

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  3. The pictures do not need words but I enjoy the questions and the answers. I have read some of Eccentric Yoruba's writings at the Blasiannarrative and I always walk away with more knowledge. I would like to go home and I would definitely like to see what Abuja is about since I mostly only hear about Lagos.

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  4. Interesting......maybe I need to look into this more...thanks for the information.

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  5. Love these pictures..makes me want to go there.Of course int he states, they'll never show us the truth like this

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  6. Point of correction.
    Abuja was made the official capital until early 1990's.
    I am was a young child when all the ceremonies and transfer of the seat of the capital was made.

    There were endless debates on the effect it would have on business in lagos, which had sea, air and road transport which made it great for business but insecure as a capital. (too many routes for attack, after all the sea is how the Brits came to conquer in the first place)

    Abuja was planned in the 80's and made official in the 90's.

    :)

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  7. Great interview, and I like the pictures you posted.

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  8. Great interview. Thanks for sharing some of the business and career opportunities.

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  9. Ankhesen...

    Could you possibly correct the article or point out to eccentric Yoruba that there's an error in the article?

    I know it seems quite a small thing, but many people view your blog, someone is going to end up quoting that incorrect fact ..
    Much obliged :)

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  10. This was a great read, I follow her blog and admire her work. I really like how these types of posts can help us to understand and build diaspora links.

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