By James Eze (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In his critically acclaimed lecture titled “Anambra: An Emerging Start-up State and our Collective Challenge,” Prof. Chukwuma Soludo made a remarkable effort to capture the shifting development paradigm in Anambra State. I’ll quote the former CBN boss copiously here as a veritable background to the thrust of this article.
In his own words, Prof Soludo had declared – “The language of our politics and development must begin to change. Yes, all politics is local, but development that improves the life of all does not necessarily have to be village-based. We must invest in our urban cities, institutions and other shared public goods. Measuring the performance of a government exclusively by what it has done for “my village” needs to change: We have to plan for and transform Anambra as one mega city (less than 5,000 sqkm). We commend Governor Obiano for building state-level institutions. I drove through Awka at night from Enugu, and I couldn’t resist joking to a friend of mine from Awka sitting with me that “Oyibo abata Awka”!
Of course when the eclectic audience heard the punch line “Oyibo abata Awka,” they reeled with laughter; but the point had well been made. And what was really the point? To my mind, the startling point of Soludo’s submission is embedded in the punch line; “civilization has come to Awka.” The meaning of this statement can only be appreciated in the metaphorical sense because Awka has always been civilized, being one of the earliest places in Africa to master the metallurgical craft of blacksmiths. So, to my mind, the “civilization” that Soludo alluded to in this context directly speaks to the vastly transformed outlook of today’s Awka that has benefited from the two landmark bridges and the dazzling rays from the rows of streetlights that adorn the major ways of Awka. Of course it would be reductionist to look at that loaded paragraph only from the Awka point of view. Of course too, it would be almost criminal not to draw attention to his timely chiding of those who measure the performance of government exclusively by what project has been built in their villages. Nevertheless, it would seem to me that the game-changer in the emerging tapestry of development in Anambra State at the moment is Governor Obiano’s Light-up Anambra Project.
Now, one good way to discover the importance of this initiative which is passionately driven by Obi Nwankwo, the debonair commissioner for Public Utilities, is to imagine the Amawbia – Amansea stretch of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway which slices Awka in two, in pitch darkness; without light. The beauty of the magnificent flyovers would be lost; so would the dazzling road furniture that makes most Anambra roads look as though they were roads in the Western world. In truth, the Light-up Anambra Project is a major component of the Obiano promise to Ndi Anambra; the promise of excellence – a transcendental touch that leaves a lasting mark of class on man and matter.
Indeed the Light-up Anambra Project has bestowed a halo on the fast transforming Anambra environment. In simple terms, the initiative seeks to light up the three major cities in the state and other emerging hubs of economic activities. The objective is to enhance activities in the economic and commercial axis that dot the state and discourage petty crimes that usually fester under the cover of darkness. The campaign is structured in phases. The first phase which covers over 100 km of roads also covers selected streets and major ways in Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi. “We have finished the first phase. The second phase of 100 km is now on while the third phase of another 100 km will be done during the governor’s second term in office,” explained Obi Nwankwo, Commissioner for Public Utilities. According to him, Nnewi in Anambra South was the first to benefit from the project with the famous Orizu Road going live before others. In a follow up effort, seven other roads are being fitted out with streetlights in Nnewi at the moment. In Anambra Central, the entire stretch of the old Enugu Road from Boromeo Roundabout to Amansea at the border between Anambra and Enugu States has been covered with dazzling streetlights. “We are trying to complete the stretch from Upper Iweka to Head-bridge at the moment. Upper Iweka shines as bright in the night as London. This is because we are the first state in Nigeria to use LED for our streetlights. The common one is non-LED. We installed bulbs that are 200 watts in Upper Iweka. The place is so illuminated that all the criminals have run away,” Mr. Nwankwo explained.
Indeed, the project is slowly covering the entire state. Most inner city roads in Awka have been covered. Okpuno Road that stretches up to Amanuke Bridge has been covered. Similarly, the Expressway from Amawbia to Amansea has been effectively covered. The famous Abakaliki Street that hosts most of the city’s watering holes will be lighted up before the end of July. In Onitsha, the whole of Awka Road stretching to DMGS Roundabout with two Spurs to GRA and the Government Lodge has been covered. From Nkpor Roundabout to Obosi, Awada, Umuoji and from Nnobi Junction to Nnewi shall all be covered in the second phase. Then, 10 kilometres of road in Amichi shall also be lighted up. From Nnobi Junction to Nnewi will be covered as well as from Nnobi to Agulu. The stretch from Oye-Agu Abagana to Awkuzu Express and from Awkuzu Junction to Aguleri has also been marked out for lighting. Similarly the road from Oye-Agu to Ukpo Roundabout and to Abba Express shall be covered.
It is important to note that this list is by no means exhaustive. The ambition is to cover the State as a whole, cashing in on the seamless swirl of development, spreading across the state that makes it difficult to tell one town from another. Indeed, a first time visitor to Anambra State would have a tough time finding out when he leaves one town and when he enters another. The various towns that dot the landscape with bustling commercial activities in their centres seem to morph into each other and become indistinguishable as one journeys through them. This is made even more indistinguishable by a network of smooth roads that seamlessly connects almost every important town to its neighbours.
Interestingly, it is this interconnected spool of fast spreading urbanization with dazzling roads and bustling markets that Governor Willie Obiano has come to accentuate with the bright lights of the Light-up Anambra Project.
Indeed, it would be such a huge embarrassment for Ndi Anamabra not to have noticed just how much the state has changed in Willie Obiano’s three years!