I arrived in Abuja on Tuesday 28th 2017, it was 11am local time but it felt like it was 2pm. It was hot, hot with more than enough humidity. I didn’t feel it until I got out of the terminal to pick my cab. As they say here, somebody was “fetching me” from the airport. First, I was in a connecting flight, 8 hours of travel through Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, before I could find myself in Nigeria, my entry port – Abuja.
I headed straight to immigrations, – the guy who decides who walks in and who doesnt. I have my invitation letter printed, with a copy of passport bio page of the friend inviting me. No questions asked, a few people shouted on the que “visa on arrival” and there I was, with all my papers and my passport. In a small office at the terminal, a visa was manufactured, for $25 dollars. Without questions.
With a visa on my hands I went back to the counter, for the entry stump. The gentleman at the booth looked at me, then at my passport. Can I see your return ticket he asked, so I placed it on his hands, he looked at it then he asked for my invitation letter and confirmation of where I was staying. The Hotel. At that moment I remembered 4th of December at O. R Tambo International, when I was almost denied entry to South Africa, I had to tell the immigration officer it was my third visit to the country.
I was staying at an Airbnb, I had no confirmation of hotel and I believe Airbnb is not a hotel, so I passed. Then he asked for my yellow fever certificate, for a second there I was thinking, it should have been the first thing to ask. I finally got my passport stamped and picked my luggage and finally kissed the sun in Nigeria. I waited a while to be “fetched” it was a long while. I looked for a cool place to wait but it was unthinkable luxury at that moment. So I removed most of the clothes I was wearing to adjust to the weather, then from a distance somebody shouted my name. Thn started “Life in Abuja”
My friend who has been here for a week now narrated to me how he first arrived in Abuja, with no invitation letter and no hotel confirmation. He did have a visa. He had arrived from Nairobi and the only thing he could present to the immigration was himself and his passport. I have since picked a few visa experiences from those who were traveling from other countries for the CMS Summit Event. One friend from Poland said he was asked at the Nigerian embassy in Poland to pay express mode, that was additional money on the visa fee and after he paid for it, the gentleman just pocketed the money on his face.
With all the drummer behind me, Abuja is a great place. If you are from Nairobi, used to roads full of traffic from 5am, this city, gives you peace. I hear Lagos is like Nairobi, people who have lived in Lagos and are now in Abuja say, they aren’t cut for Lagos, they they are at peace in Abuja. The road network works well, it’s while though with very little creativity. Nigerians live big, and you can see it here. The presidential visa is build under the biggest rock in Nigeria, what is to be a tourist attraction now a no go zone-protected area. We had a view of it from the Venture platform, a startup incubation company we visited for a tour.
At venture platform, we came face to face with entrepreneurs wanting to make it in Nigeria, with different products on innovation. This young and have found a home at venture platform. I have been in many places like this but this place, provides accommodation for the people who travel from far and they want to see their dream materialize. I have loved my stay here, I have loved to food and the people. Taking my uber-ride everywhere, a trip to the market, and 4am dush to the airport. All this has been worth every moment. I have made good friends, people I will work with for many years to come. I did not have an opportunity to drive in Nigeria, they drive on the wrong side-the left side.
Other that that, it has been amazing stay.