By Ejike Anyaduba
A feckless sot (he has since enjoyed himself to an early end) once declared that Awka would never develop. For a time this claim seemed certain of fulfillment as successive governments in the state did little to alter the trend. Consequently, Awka tottered in neglect as the road to its attaining the status of a capital city became one hell of a winding path.
None of the previous governments saw the need to embark on holistic development of the town. Awka was so barren of growth that it almost became a byword for stagnation. State capitals created alongside it took time to develop while it stalled. Landmark projects were virtually non-existent. It was so bad that travelers - even passersby - claimed they passed Awka unnoticed.
Even journalists from Lagos who were in the State to familiarize with development efforts of the previous government did not express different opinion. In almost one breath, they asked where the state capital was. To rub it in, when they arrived Onitsha north council headquarters they declared it as more befitting of a State House. It took almost a rehash of the story of large scale destruction of government properties, including the State house sometime in 2003, to explain away the poor condition of Awka. As was expected very few of them were taken in by that. Most demurred and dismissed the story as lacking merit.
The story of Awka capital city was one told with a tinge of regret. Perhaps, a lot of people took for granted that the capital of Anambra state must rank among the best in the country. Unfortunately, that was never the case as the famed blacksmith town tottered in progressive decline. Policy framework of the previous administrations appeared not to favour development of Awka just as some known factors also militated against it. Neither its prime location (Awka is located midway between Enugu and Onitsha) nor its rich history as an administrative centre for the defunct colonial administration in the east could advance its fortune. But more than that, private developers (at least Anambra can boast of highest number of them) appeared unimpressed with the idea of going Awka. Lack of physical infrastructure, insecurity of life and property as well as land racketeering contributed to deny Awka its due. Consequently, a good number of potential developers headed west and pitched tent in Asaba.
But all these problems are gradually petering out. The decisiveness of the Obiano government in handling the situation has upped development ante in Awka as well as the entire state. It can be said with a measure of pride that travelers can no longer claim to pass Awka without noticing it. In less than two years in office, the Obiano government has changed the face of the town with a promise to nestle it on a comfortable range among the best in Nigeria. But for the immediacy with which construction started at various sites in the capital city and the progress so far made, many would have dismissed the governor’s promise of transforming the state as political talk.
However, he is yet to renege on the promise which he made to ndi Anambra when inaugurating members of the board of Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACTDA) early in his administration. Among other things he charged the board to draw up a capital city that would favorably compete with Dubai, and never to be limited by funds.
Already three state-of-the art bridges have sprung up in Awka to alleviate the traffic condition of the town and for aesthetics. The bridges, designed after the Hanging Bridge in London, were adorned with floodlights that illuminate most of Arroma junction at night. Elsewhere in the town, a new State House is under construction. It harbours the Government House, the Governor’s Lodge, the House of Assembly and Judiciary Complex. When completed the Three Arm Zone will finally erase the pains of past controversies surrounding its building and will give more impetus to the city. Housing estates are also being constructed for different cadres of civil servants. This time they are built by the state as against past construction which favoured individual efforts to the detriment of few of such estates. There are also interconnecting roads and curbsides fitted with street lights and beautifully adorned with flowers.
It has been argued that but for the peculiar virtue of Obiano’s constitution these developments would come in vain - they are not only undertaken but are being sustained on the double. Under another governor it is unlikely that work will still be ongoing in most sites given the economic situation in the country. But work resumed early January in all the sites with quality adjudged a cut above past efforts. The quality of work helps to open a window into the personality of the governor as a man who cuts a dash in his behavior.
There is a common understanding that if allowed eight years in office the State will outclass many and favorably compete with others noted for their excellence. On account of this Anambra will be bequeathed with a very strong state that will ward off sleaze and engender a viable economy. Obiano will also have denied the inveterate drunk and other naysayers the chance to run along with a damn verdict.
Given the achievements of the government in less than 2 years, and under excruciating economy, it is churlish for detractors to continue to disparage it. Continuous aspersion on the government can whittle down its effort and deny the state an opportunity for growth. If progress was the reason behind the clamour for the creation of Anambra state it behooves everybody, including opposition, to support the lofty objective. Obiano has demonstrated both in speech and action that he is determined to drive a change that will place the state on a pedestal of excellence. Ndi Anambra as a people with high entrepreneurial spirit and strong impetuous drive for success, need his magic to seize the moment.
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