Abakaliki, Ebonyi State’s alluring capital city, is arguably Nigeria’s best kept secret. It is hands down the most peaceful, fastest developing, and the most liveable city in Nigeria. Refreshing in its simplicity, outstanding in its infrastructure, and matchless in its general cleanliness, tranquility and orderliness. Whether you’re looking to vacation for a few days or settle down to raise a family, I can’t think of a better place in Nigeria to do this than Abakaliki.
For the young, young at heart, and fun loving, places of interest in Abakaliki are many, including the numerous enjoyment hot spots within the Stadium/Amusement Park Complex, hotels such as the excellent Clevero Hotel (easily one of the best hotels in Abakaliki, with its beautiful poolside bar), Osborne La Palm Hotel, and San Diego Hotel. There is also the majestic and very beautiful bar, club and lounge within the sleek Vista Sparkling Hotel. These examples are just a tip of the iceberg, as Abakaliki boasts of several other nice hotels, bars, and enjoyment centres littered around the city centre, where you can relax and unwind with utmost comfort, security, and peace of mind.
For those who prefer a different kind of recreation, alternative places of interest include shopping arenas such as the very beautiful newly opened Roban Stores (Robans) Abakaliki – which is the closest thing to Shoprite in Abakaliki city, the massive Panda Supermarket (Panda Shopping Centre), Vegas Supermarket, His Grace Shopping Centre and Supermarket, as well as fancy restaurants such as Vegas Restaurant, Crunchies, and so much more. It is worthy of note that the oven fresh and hot bread you would find at Roban Stores and Vegas Supermarket are world class, and this is something you should try out when you’re in the city.
There is also the lush green and beautiful Abakaliki Golf Club, right behind the recently renovated Abakaliki Township Stadium. Unwinding in the golf club in the evenings is not a bad idea if golf is your idea of recreation – not to mention the opportunities for social climbing and ‘coincidental’ encounters with the Ebonyi State Who is Who, including the State Governor himself who is a regular golfer here.
There is a sense of sanity that prevails in Abakaliki that is difficult to explain, and that is certainly not common in Nigeria. I particularly like the very central location of the Ebonyi State Government House right in the heart of the city, bordered by the state police command and associated government agencies in a busy intersection that links much of the city together (including Ogoja Road, Udensi Roundabout, Old Enugu Expressway, Onwe Road, and the Abakaliki GRA areas). The excellent road network connecting this city centre to other parts of Abakaliki means that there is almost guaranteed rapid response of the police and other security agencies in the event of any break down of law and order or emergency in virtually any part of Abakaliki city.
And you know what? The best thing about the city is not even its fantastic infrastructure (good roads and functional streetlights everywhere), excellent security network, or rapid development. The thing about Abakaliki and Ebonyi State by extension is the people.
There is an unmistakable air of contentment and orderliness among the local populace that makes the city unbelievably peaceful. Typically warm, law abiding, inclined to peaceful conduct, and generally laid back, the Abakaliki people are among the most wonderful people in Nigeria. This excellent conduct of the local people complements giant development strides and the organised policing network around the city (the best I’ve seen in Nigeria).
The very affordable cost of living in Abakaliki is also a great pull factor. Some of the very good hotels here (such as Clevero Hotel, which is a very lovely upscale hotel, even by Abuja or Lagos Standard) have standard rooms going for less than N10,000 a night. Renting apartments and flats in Abakaliki is also a painless undertaking; you can get very nice three bedroom and two bedroom flats in decent neighbourhoods, with all rooms ensuite, and with standard amenities such as running water and parking space, for roughly N350,000 and N250,000 respectively on average.
One downside I noticed though, is that there are no taxi cabs on Abakaliki roads. And in case you’re wondering, there is no Uber in Abakaliki city or Ebonyi State in general. Then again, Uber only operates in Lagos and Abuja for now, so there is no uber in Enugu or any other city in the South East at this moment. For those living abroad and probably accustomed to Uber’s convenience, it’s absence in Abakaliki does not diminish the city’s status as a haven to live and vacation in Nigeria.
Therefore, if you’re in Abakaliki for a short stay with no private car to take you around, your immediate options for commuting will be the ubiquitous commercial ‘Keke’ tricycles or ‘Okada’ motorcycles widely used for transport in Nigeria’s major cities. Admittedly, this mode of transport may not be very convenient for a certain class of people, and it may deprive you of some comfort and style when you go about your daily commutes as a tourist, visitor, or short term resident. However, in my experience, it is quite enjoyable going around Abakaliki city in this natural way, devoid of affectations of status and celebrity. It gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the spirit of the city, to feel Abakaliki’s natural pulse without the artificial filters that conventional taxis and uppity private transportation may present.
Thankfully, Abakaliki city’s relatively small land mass and the good road network makes it easy to move around in jolly fashion with a ‘Keke’ or ‘Okada’ as the case may be. You can share a ride to most of the popular anchor points and stops (such as Presco, Vanco, Spirando, Ogoja Road, Waterworks, etc.) for as low as N50 Naira in order to meet and relate with regular city dwellers, or you can easily hire a Keke exclusively to take you around or to take you to specific destinations, mostly for less than N500 Naira per drop. A major point to note is that the chances of falling prey to criminals while using public transport (such as tricycles or motorcycles) in Abakaliki are very, very slim indeed, courtesy of the excellent security ring and vetting process in place.
Nonetheless, if you’re a big fish and cannot condescend to use these ‘commoner’ modes of transport for any reason, then of course it is possible to make arrangements with hotel car hire services to take you around. Most of the top hotels in Abakaliki (including Clevero Hotel, San Diego Hotel, and Osborne La Palm Hotel) have private car hire arrangements.
Abakaliki is the safest city to vacation in Nigeria, one of Nigeria’s most beautiful cities, and one of the safest and sanest places to raise a decent family in Nigeria. By Nigerian standards, Abakaliki scores quite high on most of the most basic indexes for liveability – including infrastructure, security, and quality of life. Abakaliki city is without a doubt, a microcosm for the Nigeria of our dreams.
Do not take my word for it; you will have to visit Abakaliki city to experience this for yourself. It is only an hour’s drive from Enugu International Airport to Abakaliki city centre. Be warned though, that you might get sucked in by the city’s addictiveness – and you will be reluctant to leave.