Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

12 Nov Written by  Kimberly Ward

The Fallacy of Abuja Signs

The sign at the top of the derelict building in Wuse 2 said Ultra Modern Supermarket, but it clearly wasn’t. A modern supermarket would be a brilliant white and gleaming inside and out with glass doors and floors and a soundless glass elevator in the middle of the sprawling expanse of the well-manicured shopping space.

An ultra modern supermarket would be even more impressive, with robot store assistants, moving walkways, automated checkout points and touch-screen LCD walls throughout playing adverts of moving images from which enthusiastic voice-overs call out the names of regular shoppers, imploring them to “visit the Apple store today for a replacement iPad, Mr Musa Majid,” in the style of futuristic Hollywood blockbuster 'Minority Report.'

Then there’s the International School at Mabushi with neither a staff of cosmopolitan tutors from Brazil, Italy or Canada nor a student body consisting of children of diplomats and ambassadors from around the world chattering in diverse languages and accents. I don’t believe that French or German is even taught as subjects and strudels and paella are not served in the lunch room to cater for the young but multinational palettes in attendance. Did the curriculum include Baccalaureate or GCSE exams? So how is it international?

And at the Famous Hair Salon in Apo, there was no long queue of excited customers from all corners of the land waiting outside, eager to get their hair done at the legendary establishment they’d heard so much about from the news. The reputation of this modest, unassuming store did not precede it, and it did not look like a nationally-celebrated bastion of Nigerian hair-design, boasting first ladies and celebrities on its months-long waiting list.

The Electrical Industries nearby was also a let-down. Instead of a mighty factory housed in a sprawling warehouse where electrical products were manufactured by hundreds of uniformed employees arranged in rows upon rows, all wearing safety goggles and earplugs and bent over tables of noisy mechanisms emitting sparks, it was only a grey roadside building, with no deafening machinery-crunching noise nor huge trucks loading and unloading mean-looking equipment outside attesting to the industry going on inside. Maybe it was the head office.

The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church was the greatest disappointment: it wasn’t situated atop a mountain, not even a hill, and there were no flames flaring out from the roof or spontaneously combusting from the pulpit at the behest of a prophetic preacher.

As for miracles, it was probably of the internal and private kind that is not obvious to the human eye. Certainly not in the vein of a missing leg growing supernaturally to the surprise of its owner and onlookers, as a thigh bone connected to the shin bone bursts out of the once empty and pinned up trouser-leg, steadily emerging in real time and soon covered by tendons and muscle, then fresh skin, finishing off with toes sprouting out one by one.

And at the end of it all,  no immensely elated, former cripple takes tentative steps at first with his newly evolved leg, then grows bolder and starts hopping and running to shouts of praise from the astonished worshippers. Alas, there was no mountain, no fire and no obvious miracles, only an average congregation gathered in a non-descript building in a non-exciting part of Abuja.

Such signage of misinformation and unwarranted hyperbole exasperates rather than impresses. And although ‘Once OK but now Abandoned City Shopping Centre,’ Average Nigerian Education for 100% Nigerian Children School, Apo Hairdressers, FCT Electrical Store and Abuja Christian Church don't have quite the same ring to it, it is better to advertise what you really are to prevent disappointed clients who are (mis)-led to expect more.