The lower part of my face was trembling slightly as I did my best to keep a straight face. The taxi headed for Area 3.
I looked around and saw a hill across the road and behind, as the taxi moved away on clean, well-demarcated roads. I would find out later that hill was Kukwaba Hill, and I would enjoy many a meal in one of it’s numerous bukkas later, but that day I was just fascinated by everything.
I noticed bright flowery plants on either side of the road. I raised my head a bit and noticed walkways. Like, real walkways, paved, hedged by plants! Was I in Nigeria?
The pace was unhurried, clean fresh. There were few cars on the road and even fewer pedestrians. The sense of peace was all pervading and I wondered if somewhere between Ibadan and Lokoja I had been abducted and taken to a totally different planet. Was I in Nigeria??
Don’t blame me. My experience of Nigerian cities up to that time had been limited to Benin, Warri and of course Lagos where I was living and working at the time. I’d spent my teenage years in Benin GRA, and I’d been to Ikoyi to visit people. Benin GRA was great and clean and nice; Ikoyi was beautiful and organized and well-laid out but this was different. This was not a “big man” neighborhood kind of vibe; it was more like, “I am-not-pretending-to-better-than-anyone-this-is-how-I-really-am”
Do you get it? Abuja was gently welcoming in a totally unpretentious, yet proud way. She was like a shy virgin sitting in the village square, totally aware of her beauty but equally unfazed by it. And I fell in love. Hard.
All too soon, the taxi ride came to an end. As I alighted at Area 3, Open University, I knew I had found my City.
I was never going to leave. I was home.