I occasionally read naijablog, the blog of an English expat living in Abuja. Sometimes it reminds me how two people can live in the same place but see it in a different way.
For example Jeremy is quite fond of saying that the Hilton is Abuja’s city centre, maybe this is true if you’re an expat or an ultra-rich Nigerian. As I saw Abuja it had several smaller centres, spread across the different districts.
For example, for the part of town close to Radio House the centre was the square outside the Garki Area 7 Shopping Centre (UTC). During the day this was mostly a car park for the surrounding shopping complex, with a few small stalls selling videos and phone accessories on the road side. In the evening there were suya stalls and young people playing basketball, pool and table tennis. Sadly, last time I was in Abuja it was fenced off and something was being constructed on it, a loss of a useful public space.
Other districts have their own centres, although the demolitions in Abuja have damaged or destroyed many of them. Wuse Zone 4 had it’s collection of shops, restaurants and bars demolished last year but people still congregate in the area in the evening. Garki Area 2 has a small market and shops around its Shopping Complex.
It seems these centres were designed-in as part of Abuja’s master plan, each district having a “corner shop” or “shopping centre”. The current interpretation of the plan is that these should be (yet more) ugly shopping plazas rather than open, public spaces.
I don’t know the more upmarket parts of town (Wuse II, Maitama, Asokoro) very well but they too probably have some kind of “centre”, you just have to look around you and maybe sometimes walk rather than driving from place to place in air-conditioned isolation.