UNBELIEVABLE: BBC World News Insults Nigeria on Twitter

Below is an article written by Alex Preston for BBC News

When one of Nigeria’s long line of military rulers, General Olusegun Obasanjo, seized the land on which Abuja was to be built in the late 1970s, he could hardly have imagined that the city would remain unfinished 35 years on.

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Abuja has a makeshift, haphazard feel to it: A place of bureaucrats and building sites, its streets eerily empty after the buzz of Lagos or the enterprising bustle of Kano.

It is one of the most expensive cities in Africa, and one of the most charmless.

The skyline is dominated by the space-rocket spires of the National Christian Centre and the golden dome of the National Mosque, facing each other pugnaciously across a busy highway at the city’s centre.

Its other striking landmark is the vast construction site of the Millennium Tower, which, if it is ever completed, will be Nigeria’s tallest building.

The skyscraper was intended to mark Abuja’s 20th birthday in 2011.

UNBELIEVABLE: BBC World News Insults Nigeria on Twitter

Now delayed until who-knows-when, hugely over-budget and the subject of numerous official investigations.

All the people of Abuja have to show for the billions invested in the project are two stunted fingers of scaffold-clad concrete.

I had been in Abuja for three days – about two-and-a-half too many – when my friend, Atta, a sociologist, picked me up from my hotel.

We drove out towards Aso Rock, the monolith looming over the presidential palace.

On either side of the road there are complexes of bulky, imposing mansions, most of them unfinished.

UNBELIEVABLE: BBC World News Insults Nigeria on Twitter

Some had empty swimming pools; others had mock-Tudor timbering, but were windowless and often roofless. Atta told me that 65% of the houses in these developments were uninhabited, put up only to launder Abuja’s dirty money.

Like the Millennium Tower, these grandiose schemes are ruins before they are completed, bleak monuments to a city built by kleptocratic politicians on stolen land.

We pulled off the Murtala Mohammed Highway at Mpape Junction, and immediately the road deteriorated.

“I am going to show you the real Abuja,” Atta told me, as his car struggled up a deeply-rutted dirt track.

A warm wind from the desert to the north – the Harmattan – whipped clouds of red dust around us as we climbed through rocky scrubland into the hills.

UNBELIEVABLE: BBC World News Insults Nigeria on Twitter

People began to appear on the streets – men carrying ancient Singer sewing machines, women balancing baskets on their heads.

We entered a vast shanty-town of shacks with corrugated iron roofs, slums stacking to the horizon.

Nissan minivans scuttled past – they are called “One Chance” buses, as they barely stop on their manic journeys through these uncharted streets.

Crowds thronged between skinny cows, beneath posters advertising beaming televangelists.

Dance music blared out, interrupted by a muezzin’s call to prayer. Bright-eyed children kicked footballs about.

This was the home of the Gwari people, the original inhabitants of the land where the capital was built.

Hundreds of thousands of them were summarily evicted in the 1970s, and now scrape a living in the hills.

Abuja is itself a Gwari word and, although the city of generals and politicians below us had barely 700,000 inhabitants, two or three million people live in these shanty towns, many of them Gwari.

The Gwari people continue to fight for compensation for the land wrested from them by the Obasanjo government, land now worth more per square kilometre than almost anywhere else in Africa.

We got out and walked through the smoke and dust towards a row of shacks. In one of them, a woman knelt on the ground plucking a chicken, a man above her leaning on a makeshift bar.

Frank and Mary

They were Frank and Mary, Gwari people in their thirties, children of one of the thousands of families originally evicted during the foundation of Abuja.

The four of us sat in the shack sipping Fantas, staring out at the swarming life of the shanty town: Motorbikes and cattle and people, all of them through a veil of reddish dust.

“I trained as an architect,” Frank told me. “I have an education. But I do not have money, I don’t know the right people.

So I work here with my sister. In Abuja, money defines everything.” I ask him about the empty mansions lining the roads into the city.

“That is pseudo-Abuja, a false place. It’s unjust – we should be living in those houses. Instead…”

He gestured to the squalid lean-to that jutted from the back of the bar. Mary looked up from her chicken. “Life here is difficult,” she says.

“Often we can’t see across the street because of the smoke and dust. If it rains, you can’t move for the mud. But we pray hard.”

Frank pulled out a CD. It was Fela Kuti’s Suffering and Smiling. “This,” Frank said, as the music coiled out from an ancient hi-fi, “is the compressed statement of Nigerian society.

We suffer, but we smile. Nothing will change until we get angry, until we stop smiling.”

A storm was coming in, red clouds rolling overhead and thunder crackling down the valleys.

Frank and Mary stood waving to us, the music playing still, as we drove off down the hill, towards pseudo-Abuja.
Source: BBC News

30 Comments

  • It is not an insult but just saying the reality on ground. This will definitely continue as long as the poor masses remain divided by religion or sectionalism. The few rich will continue to maltreat us until we stand up to fight for our right. Isaac. K. I says:

    So, good and humble people of NIGERIA , LETS UNITE AND FIGHT AGAINST MARGINALIZATION!

  • There is nothing insulting about this piece. All he said about Abuja are true. Abuja will still remain unfinished for the next 60 years, thanks to our corrupt leaders.

  • You can’t compare Abuja and NY, Amsterdam, London, Paris. What d BBC did was to make mockery of Nigeria’s capital. Its a shame that BBC is making irrelevant reports abt Abuja. I will urge BBC raggamufians to resign cos their report is absolutely loopsided.

  • Pleeeeaaaaaaasssssseeeeee,this is not an insult he was merely saying what he saw which is the truth.Did he lie in anything he said? think about it

  • What is insult in this story? So now even our Nigerian Jounalists takes the TRUTH to be an insult? Abeg make una re-write the heading of this story to be: FACTS ABOUT ABUJA

  • The truth hurt doesn’t It!? I only wish our politicians were reading this……..this editorial clearly shows what our socoiety is today, the gap between the rich and the poor.

  • THAT WAS JUST A HEADLINE TO THEIR DOCUMENTARY PROGRAM CALLED ( FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT) SO IT’S NOT THAT THEY ARE INSULTING NIGERIA”

  • Nonesense, absolute rubbish, how many countries of the world don’t have slumps. Its insulting to say muzzies call for prayer u fool.

  • Very impressive write up, the fact that u find it insultive means we nigerians are living in this mess, insult or what ever u want to call it, what’s not tru about this write up?! Nigerians are weaklings they can’t fight for what is right, we oppose unions that fight for a better tomorrow, we kick against anyone who fights govt just becos the initial price we pain causes us pain, we re blind to see the greater good, we don’t plan for tomorrow we only think about TODAY

  • True and apt description of Abuja the so-called capital of Nigeria. Couldn’t have put it more succinctly. The shame and mockery is not ours d ordinary nigerian’s it is d shame of our politicians and anyone who has ever led dis country in any capacity ever.

  • Truth they say is bitter! This is absolute truth,nothing here is insultive. It’s time for all and sundry to wake up to this reality and salvage our dear country from political decadence!!!

  • BBC never had any good story about Nigeria. If they are not taking on pastors they are on other things negative. The best documentary BBC has on Nigeria is how Nigerians go to church because of poverty. They seem to be angry that we go to church as if we have no right to be Godly as they in Britain have the right to be ungodly. No BBC documentary about Nigeria is concluded without mentioning church and pastors. We should ignore their cynicism and continue to build our lives.

  • the truth is always bitter to hear…..dont retaliate or be nervous else be brave and restore the glory of our country……great NIGERIA

  • This is fair write up,nigerians have over the years been deprived of good standard of living Yet money is being squandered trying to make Abuja a so-called small heaven at the detriment of the citizens.

  • The story is factual but written to ridicule Nigeria – the BBC makes it a point of duty to ridicule and belittle Nigeria as much as it can, whenever the opportunity presents itself. On the other hand the BBC takes a supportive compassionate tone to stories it covers in East Africa especially from Kenya.

    While other media have exposed how Kenyan soldiers looted Westgate Mall while searching for the terrorist, the BBC has largely ignored the story. If this was Nigeria, the actions of the soldiers will be front page news on the BBC. So the BBC has inherent bias when covering Nigeria.

    This is not to excuse the corruption and callousness of Nigeria’s ruling class. This is just to say the BBC is full of s%*t. What gives it the right to only look for the negatives in Nigeria and always ignore the positives. It should clean its own prejudicial attitude before lecturing others…

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