Shortly after I returned to Abuja with my wife, I learned something unusually funny about the rich. I had a friend who had a boutique at Wuse market. One day, at his shop, a young man came to buy some shoes. You could tell that he was from a very wealthy home. He picked up seven pairs of shoes and paid for them. The least amongst the pairs cost him forty-nine thousand Naira. I was alarmed! Somewhere at Idumota in Lagos, you could buy each of those pairs for not more than seven thousand Naira. How my friend convinced him to pay that much was quite stupefying. Later when I confronted him about it, he said something that registered in my head. “If I tag those pairs for ten thousand Naira each, those guys won’t buy them. They hate to buy the things that the poor can also afford.” He remarked. “What happens when they find out the actual price somewhere else?” I probed further. “You must learn to understand the rich here,” he replied matter-of-factly. “They don’t think the way you think. Even if they find out that the shoes are cheaper elsewhere, they will think those were of inferior quality. I used to have shoes covered in the dust here until I learned to play by the rules.” That sank deep into me but because I was not a ‘buying and selling’ kind of person, I didn’t think it was going to be of any relevance in my social affairs until something rather strange happened to me months later. Before the close of work at the office one day, I got a call from a woman who wanted to know a few things about TOEFL classes. “I heard you prepare students for TOEFL,” she asked. “Yes ma,” I replied muttering a silent and fast prayer in-between my breath. The caller told me she’d got my phone number from one of my students. She wanted me to come to Asokoro where she lived so we could talk about it. “I will be there before 5 pm,” I said rather chirpily. At that time, I had just two private students for TOEFL classes. One was paying twenty thousand Naira monthly while the other paid me thirty thousand. My meetings with them were usually three times every week. I hoped to charge the new client, not more than what the two were paying. By 5 pm, a cab brought me to the client’s house at Asokoro. It was a big house buried in a network of trees and flowers; a very beautiful and reserved environment. Stern-looking security men made me sign on a visitors’ book at the gate before directing me on how to go. A tall lanky fellow of about twenty-something was playing basketball alone in a court made at a corner of the house. He paused when he saw me – thank God he did. Sweating profusely and with a ball in his hand, the lanky fellow approached me. “Good evening sir,” he said. “You must be the TOEFL teacher my mother contacted today.” “Yes,” I nodded. “You’re welcome Sir,” he stretched his hand and we shook hands like old-time friends. He pointed at the door and told me how I could find his mother. I was only three feet away when he beckoned to me. “Sir,” he narrowed, “it just struck me; how much do you want to take from my mum for the classes?” I told him thirty thousand Naira a month; for three-times-per-week classes and that made him chuckle sardonically. “You can’t tell my mum that. No, you can’t...” he shook his head. “Okay, I could consider taking twenty-five.” I found myself playing the down-to-earth. If the deal didn’t sail, it would be quite tormenting for me because I needed the money. The young man laughed cynically when I said that. “Mum will not hire you. She will consider you incompetent. She’s contracting you for me.” “Okay,” I stared at him like the way you would when you were told for the first time that you were an adopted child. “What do you suggest I tell her?” He wiped his sweaty face with his vest. “Sir, if you mention anything less than a hundred thousand naira, my mother will just tell you that she will call you. And she will not. I like you already that’s why I am telling you this. It’s like you’re new in Abuja.” I thanked him for the prompt eye-opener and proceeded to see his mother. I met the woman in an exclusively furnished sitting room making a call. She pointed at a chair and no sooner had I sat on it than a lady served me a glass of cold juice. For what seemed like an eternity, I waited for her to finish her call. When she was through, she came and sat in a chair opposite mine. After the formal introduction, she asked how much I was going to charge for my services. “Two hundred thousand Naira monthly Ma,” I said and it was followed by an exclamation. “Ha, why is your own this expensive? No one has charged me as much as that before. It was my friend that recommended you. That boy is just sixteen years old.” I was shocked to hear that the boy I met outside whom I had presumed to be above twenty was just sixteen. Was he been fed with fertilizers? “My charges are high but I deliver Ma,” I blinked ignoring my thoughts. “What matters is the end result.” She looked at me keenly as if to be sure that by my demeanor I was worth what I was asking for. Thank God I was well dressed. “Mr. Japheth, I will pay one hundred and twenty thousand Naira.” What she was offering was huge; enough to pay for four candidates but I had to play by the rule; the rule that the Abuja bourgeois has set for themselves: it can’t be the best unless it’s expensive. “I don’t think I can take less than one hundred and fifty thousand Naira,,” I mumbled. “You know it costs a fortune to come here for the classes.” She made a face. “You don’t have a car? Well, my driver can come and pick you from anywhere so long it’s within the city capital and bring you here for the classes. I am paying one hundred and thirty thousand Naira please.” It was a good bargain. She asked if I wanted the money immediately or after I had spent the first month. I said I could do with an advance payment. “Do you know where we could buy textbooks for him? I heard there’s a new edition.” She said when the house help brought her handbag. “Yes,” I replied. “You could find them at Wuse market.” “No, please you will help me to buy them. The last teacher got him three different types for sixty thousand last time. Do you think the new editions will cost more?” I didn’t know what to say. This whole thing was like a dream to me. The most expensive TOEFL text at that time was not more than four thousand Naira. Why would anyone take sixty thousand for three? My lips were about to move when I remembered what the young man had told me outside. Play by the rules Japheth. Play by the rule. The voice in my head was loud enough. “Sixty should be okay ma,” I found myself saying. She handed me a wrap of one thousand naira notes in neat bills. I was managing to steady my legs when she counted forty pieces from another wrap, put it back in her handbag, and handed me sixty thousand Naira for the books. “This is for the books.” She said. “The one hundred thousand is your advance. Please I am counting on you to give him the best.” “I will Ma,” I heaved. Minutes later, I was out of the building, and never in my entire life had I felt like a criminal as I felt that evening. All that I kept muttering to myself in the taxi that took me home was; “Welcome to Abuja dear Japheth. Welcome.” I taught the boy for four months before he sat for the exam and I was glad that he passed and made it to Europe but that experience left me with the solid knowledge that Abuja was a land of artificial opportunity branded by a lot of people living strange and fake life!