The Naija Experience!
It has been two weeks since I landed in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. And the best way to describe my first two weeks is OVERWHELMED! While the way of life in Abuja will be easy to settle into, the work will be by far, significantly more challenging. South Sudan was a new country and the political parties often sought the advice and assistance of IRI and its staff. Nigerians are a proud people and often looked upon as the elder sibling in Africa. There is a lot of pressure from other African countries, from European nations and the United States for Nigeria to “get Democracy right.” There were numerous accusations of fraud and significant levels of violence surrounding the 2011 elections. The Nigerians have been working since 2011 to prepare for the 2015 elections but institutions still lack the funding and capacity to ensure free and fair elections.
The government continues to struggle with the security threat of Boko Haram. It’s was reported this week that since last Sunday (June 1), the group has killed hundreds of people in the northwestern states of Nigeria. In one instance, the group appeared in a town dressed in military uniform and told the people they were there to protect them, only to turn their guns on the people and slaughter them as they were fleeing the chaos. The number of people who were killed is hard to estimate as the entire village fled into neighboring Cameroon. The situation in northwest Nigeria is becoming desperate as Boko Haram continues to target vulnerable citizens and government institutions.
This weekend, I spent the day at the Hilton Hotel sitting by the pool and enjoying a very American meal – pizza and a Coca Cola – actually, it was a Coke Zero. I was initially warned about the food in Nigeria but I have tried on multiple occasions to give it a chance. To me, the food is too spicy. Nigerians make everything so spicy that it lacks flavor and you don’t enjoy the taste of the food. Chicken, fish, potatoes, rice, etc.it is all too spicy to enjoy. So I was happy to eat an overpriced pizza at the Hilton Hotel.
The exchange rate is 160 Naira to 1 dollar…typical hotel prices for a soda and pizza.
I was invited by a colleague to attend a Nigerian church. Nigeria is a very religious country, divided evenly between Muslims and Christians. Muslims live in the north and Christians in the south. In Abuja, I have seen more churches than mosque, but it is not hard to locate a house of worship. The central city district of Abuja houses the National Mosque and National Christian Center, monuments to the impact of religious institutions on the lives of Nigerian citizens.
A quick photo after the church service.