Abuja, I think, is rather like the idea of Nigerian nationhood: as much an aspiration as a reality. The dominant view when one enters the city from the west – where the airport is; also, it happens, where both MSF’s office and its expat residence are located – is of two large and dramatic religious structures: the National Mosque, and the National Christian Center. These two elegant and dramatic buildings, situated in line with each other on the central axis through what will (one hopes) some day be downtown Abuja, strike me as quite emblematic of that which is Nigeria, that which is Abuja. As much aspiration as reality, they seem to say that these two great monotheistic religions do – or is it can? or might? or should? – cohabit peacefully in this nation. As these photos will attest, though, Abuja is a city very much under construction, very much still in planning. One could imagine signs saying “pardon our dust while we reconstruct the national nerve centre and create a symbolic capital with which all our multidudinous ethnicities, tribes and regions can feel comfortable, of which they can all be proud.”

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