Put together, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, has six area councils. By the way, these are equivalents of local government areas in states across the country. But that is where the similarity ends as the average area council in the FCT remains a glorified collection of settlements and are ages away from civilisation.
Before then, I must state that the territory called FCT or Abuja is currently made up of six area (local) councils, comprising the municipal and five others namely: Abaji, Abuja Municipal, Gwagwalada, Kuje, Bwari and Kwali. Each of the area councils is headed by an elected chairman with retinue of secretaries and directors in charge of several beats, suggesting that development will sooner overwhelm the councils before long. But since the creation of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, till date the fear that those ideals that informed the creation of area councils may not be achieved in the foreseeable future is beginning to strengthen by the day. For instance, in the dispensation of the last set of area council chairmen in the FCT, nothing worked. The immediate past minister had course to reorganise key directors and secretaries in the FCTA but all to no avail.
But don’t be deceived when you are told that Abuja represents some microcosm of power, influence, easy contract, organisation, security, instant wealth and Godliness. That is what the typical Lagos boy will call ‘BABANLA LIE’. That is because inside Abuja, cheats, thieves, indecent persons, fraudsters, fake contracts, procrastinating government officials, ungodly people, one-chance professionals, painted sepulchers, fake prophets, rising number of fake employment agencies, organised prostitution, gayism/lesbianism, gigolos, liars, cheating wives and husbands hold sway.
Yes. To the first timer in the ‘Centre of Unity’ as the FCT is called, the place is an Eldorado. But he sooner gets to realise that like vanishing sugar, every dazzling claim about the federal capital is akin to an adventurous man’s credit card without cash backing. Thus, what he holds and, maybe, carries about is ordinary plastic card, without an atom of credit worth. That is what Abuja really is today; as plastic as ever; fake city occupied by fake people pursuing dreams that are largely a mirage at the end of the day.
Ask the average vehicle owner in the FCT, he will tell you that almost all the auto mechanics in Abuja never properly graduated from their erstwhile masters, mostly from the south of the country. Like every other long-throated Nigerian, they troop into the federal capital with a few spanners, bolts, screw drivers and hammers as experts in Honda, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, et al cars. Before you spell FCT, a long queue of utterly destroyed vehicles line their make-shift shops; no thanks to fake and inexperienced mechanics all over the city.
In area councils a bit distant from the metropolitan Abuja, the situation is worse; the level of fakery and criminality there is miles ahead. For instance, while a sachet water vendor in the heart of the city can be said to be a bit honest, in the council areas, you may just buy unprocessed water drawn from a borehole and bagged as the real thing.
Need I state that to rely on the itinerant medicine vendor in such areas is as risky as standing in front of a moving IBB Spirit train of yesteryears! Fake and expired licit and illicit drugs are all over the place. They are publicly vended in the day time; at nights all descriptions of fake and banned drugs, including hemp, are sold in front of clubs and bars in Wuse, Garki, Lugbe, Galadimawa, Apo, Nyanya and Kurudu, in the metropolis and in the full glare of security officials. Or is it the local admixture of banned drugs called monkey tail? It is sold openly everywhere too. The same obtains in glorified villages in the councils.
To stretch the plasticity of the FCT and everything in it further, the overwhelming homelessness of most residents is alarming. Forget all the grandstanding about being an Abuja boy/girl. Renting a residential abode in the FCT is frustrating as the astronomical rates are destabilising. There is no government rent control agency/court as estate developers and others who bought houses from government/developers continue to rip off the have-nots.
In the forgoing, it is noteworthy that most of those who get the kick from being so addressed when they travel to their native homes once in a while know right inside of them that they live in some paradise not meant for the wise, as most are homeless Abuja residents who happen to be surviving somehow believing God that someday, mother luck will look there way.
Any how you look at this, everybody easily blames the government agency responsible for providing affordable houses for the teeming low and fast-eroding middle class residents.
The revelation early this week that the Federal Housing Authority, FHA, only delivered less than 40,000 homes in about 40 years across the country is revealing enough on this count. To rub it in, it was said that apart from the fact that the 40,000 houses were not delivered on a consistent basis of 1,000 homes per year, the long gaps between starts and stops clearly indicate the need to change how things have been done in the FHA if planned objectives must be achieved in the FCT and across states.
A quick note here is the fact that poor town planning, including accompanying infrastructure, dominate the FCT council areas with haphazard arrangements that make movement impossible except to the criminal-minded who easily wind their way around the largely non-descript buildings, especially at night when most residents ‘hit’ the town (metropolis) for various purposes ranging from the mundane to the not too sublime. And by early morning, they find their respective ways back to creepy abodes waiting for night to fall again.
But while the day lasts, and because they lack what could easily pass for a home with a roof to lay their heads, the ‘joint next door’ hosts them to shots of ‘monkey tail’ amidst wraps of hemp and short bouts of sleep/nap.
It is a common understanding in Abuja that the number of young men and girls that parade the streets at night outnumber those you see during the day. While the latter is awake and at work, the former remains indoor, sleeping or overindulging themselves waiting for nightfall, when their respective trades would begin. What a somewhat role reversal!
Is there any way out of this frustrating development in a supposed modern capital city? I really cannot say; and neither can I proffer any suggestion as to the way forward. Have many other writers not done more in this area? Who knows? Some may have long concluded that the FCT administration is weakened by the day, by the increasing hydra-headed developmental issues thrown up here.
Put together, they go to strengthen the fact that the pipe dream called Abuja is real. It is fake; and it is plastic.