analysisBy Tosin Omoniyi
Kuruduma, located in highbrow Asokoro area of the FCT, is what will typically stand as an urban slum. A visit to the village reveals filth and poverty in the highest form.
But Asokoro is known for other illustrious attributes. It accommodates some of the finest architectural masterpieces in form of buildings and landscape. The ever glowing ECOWAS building beckons enchantingly at night to passersby and motorists. A massive array of government lodges, state liaison offices and embassies dot the landscape, perhaps to complete the elegance of the district. That is to exclude the numerous banks and corporate organisations that have their stunning edifices in the long winding streets. A government owned hospital is also located here. It is unarguably one of the vibrant spots in the capital city, where the wealthy and upper class congregate to reveal their wealth, and also weigh it against those of others in the privileged class.
But right at the tail end of the large acres of wealthy owners' paradise, lies an enigma. Kuruduma hosts thousands of residents, both the indigenous Gbagyi tribe and the non indigenes. Its closeness to the city centre makes it a prized location for many low income government workers, who find the housing units cheap and affordable. The presence of the ubiquitous Keke Napep operators who dart in and out of the enclave, to pick and offload passengers from the central AYA junction, makes commuting equally easy for the residents. But the condition of living in this village is sordid and less than habitable. However, for the average resident, it is like the proverbial, 'half bread being better than none.'
Chika Onuh, a commercial phone operator, perhaps best exemplifies the general feeling amongst residents of the area. "Accommodation is cheap here, very cheap. I live in a two bedroom flat with my husband, and we pay N30,000. That explains why most people rush into the area. And the fear of demolition appears to have retreated after so many years of harassment from the authorities. Of course, when I visit the Kuruduma 1 part of the town, I notice that it is much better than this area, but it is more expensive to get a place there. I have been here for over one year now, and I have no regrets," she says enthusiastically.
Kuruduma is divided into 1 and 2 sections. Many residents say life in the Kuruduma 1 area is much better, as they enjoy some basic amenities which are absent in the second part.
"Kuruduma 1 residents enjoy uninterrupted power supply unlike us here. They also have water supply. They are much closer to the city centre, maybe that is why they enjoy such amenities. But for us here in Kuruduma 2 we have never even seen the blink of light since we came here. Everybody powers their energy needs by using generating sets. If not for the electricity situation here, it would have been a very good place to live in.
Despite the setbacks, Kuruduma enjoys a boisterous night life. There is big market which residents say is open at all hours of the day. There are numerous night clubs dotting the area where pleasure seekers may turn to at nights. It is even said in some quarters that it has become a magnetic spot for the seekers of pleasure, as hundreds of sex workers displaced from the numerous streets of the city by FCT's anti prostitution policy, have found solace in the neighbourhood.
Christopher, who just came into Kuruduma from a sister ghetto, Mpape, says he prefers the village to his abode in Mpape. 'Of course, they are both ghettos, but here you still get a feel of being close to where it is happening. From here you can easily get into town to get fun, and then even feed your eyes on what it is like to be rich. If not for the light situation and the ever pressing fear of demolition, there is nothing wrong in staying here,' he says light heartedly.
With the constant fear of the arrival of bulldozers and the ever present environmental degradation, coupled with massive filth in many parts of the community, Kuruduma best exemplifies how an urban slum can indeed thrive in a glowing section of a modern city.