LIKE every great enterprise with goals and expectations, Anambra State’s founding fathers dream of having a prosperous, urban, commercial and industrial entity evolves as the state clocks 28 years today. Anambra State belongs to the class of young states in Nigeria but on the threshold of socio-economic transformation.
Suffice it to borrow the words of Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu; “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The ancient Chinese thinker whose original name was Li Er, may not have Anambra State in mind, but paints significant picture of the milestones Anambra has achieved in the last two decades plus.
The tremendous contribution of the state’s founding fathers’ vision of charting the state from ground zero of development to significance is commendable. Obliviously, there were daunting challenges when the state was created but was matched with vigour to surmount it. Created out of the old Anambra State, interestingly, the state is the second smallest in terms of landmass, yet the most populous and industrial state in the southeast geo-political zone of Nigeria and among the top most viable and richest states in the country. The history of Anambra State, whose slogan is ‘Light of Nation,’ keeps shining brighter.
When Anambra State was created on August 27, 1991, blessed with high proficiency in human resources, the state has pronounced developmental challenges. Under the old Anambra, except for Onitsha, the state had no sub-urban towns but had a sub–campus a university; Anambra State University of Science and Technology (ASUTECH), Awka Campus and one polytechnic; Anambra State Polytechnic Oko, two colleges of education were merged into one. The state now boasts of four private universities and two government universities. Besides Onitsha, the state has Awka and Nnewi and many other sub urban areas projecting into mega-city state. The three major cities are spread in the three senatorial districts of the state. As it stands, Anambra is moving into an all urban state; as no state in the Southeast geo-political zone match Anambra’s phenomenal growth trajectory.
28 years after its creation, the state is the most densely populated and the second most urbanised state in Nigeria, after Lagos. The state has a population growth rate of 2.3 percent per year and average density of 1.52 thousand persons per km2 with over 65 per cent of her people living in cities; making it one of the most urbanised places in Nigeria. The urbanisation initiative has taken development to some forgotten communities; opening those places up for development; ensuring that development got to the rural areas, which hitherto was neglected. The spate of development through adroit and proper management of scarce resources has made development to reach the hinterland. As it stands today, Anambra is almost there as an all-urban state. One key potential of urbanisation is to promote economic growth which indicates the growth of investments that drive the economy of the state.
The progressive emphasis by the past and present governors of making the state prosperous form the basis of the state’s vision of making her the first choice investment destination and a hub for industrialisations and commercial activities, with mission of a socially stable, business-friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth-creating opportunities.
Considerably, Anambra State has one of the most robust economies in the country and enjoys the title of having the highest literacy and lowest poverty rate in the country. The state’s economic growth mechanism accelerated with the creation of Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA). ANSIPPA, aided by the ‘Akulueuno’ philosophy which encourages ndi Anambra to think home regarding investing in the state has transformed trade and investment culture of the state.
Governor Willie Obiano in establishing ANSIPPA said, “the agency is a multi-sectoral master plan, designed to transform Anambra State with the key objectives of economic growth, job creation and urbanization of the state, which can be achieved primarily through an aggressive investment given Anambra State’s investment potential, as well as the state’s ability to attract investors through an improved business client. ANSIPPA has achieved tremendous success in attracting indigenous, domestic, and foreign investments.”
The state is proud to have a vehicle manufacturing company at Nnewi, ‘Innosin Vehicle Manufacturing [IVM]’ company; the only made-in-Nigeria vehicle manufacturing company. The company, whose purpose is to drive the Nigerian economy forward through industrialisation , technology transfer and job creation, manufactures trucks, SUVs, buses, sedans and even spare parts for the Nigerian army’s fighter jets. The company also has the vision of becoming Africa’s biggest manufacturer of made-in-Nigeria products.
No society thrives in insecurity. The state’s boost in economic growth, investments and the enabling environment, was enabled by tackling insecurity that plagued the state; thus bringing greater peace to the state. Anambra state’s creditable security network has made the state safe to attract more local and international investments into the state.
Anambra has the best inter-connecting road networks and one can reach any destination in a reasonable time. For instance, one can take off from Awka, the state capital and can get to anywhere in the state in less than one and half hour, except in riverine areas where the road network is yet to be fully rehabilitated.
Many ndi Anambra believe that Anambra State has progressed with tangible transformations, but must aim at the height that Lagos State enjoys and could even surpass it. An Advert Executive, Uzo Oramalu, says the state is cruising to the dreams we had during the movement for its creation. Like every community of humans, it has not reached perfection but he wants the state to look at the way Singapore measures in today’s global sphere, for the city-state that Anambra projects. “We must commend ourselves on the significant achievement of the state. I acknowledge the challenges before us. Our target should be modeled like that of Hong Kong, Taiwan or Dubai. We should be more futuristic with our projects. Anambra has all that it takes to achieve that.”
A schoolteacher, Chukwuma Obidiegwu, believes that the target of the state rests on administrative management and investing heavenly in education, particularly in science education. “It’s true that the state has recorded some success since its creation but the mode of doing business with most government agencies are not encouraging. Go to government agencies, it will take months to move a document or file from one desk or department to another. In some instances, you pay twice or three times of official rate or levy, whereas the receipt bears the official rate. A typical example is the Ministry of Lands. If you don’t comply with their demand, they won’t attend to your file, citing one administrative issue or another, except an order comes from above. In agencies like the Pensions Board, you discover that while assured of attending, nothing happens to it. In some ministries or agencies, instead of asking you to get some materials or items at once to save time and cost, you do it in bits. This and other administrative bottlenecks slow the target of expectation of the state.
“Secondly, education is vital and more emphasis should be placed in science education. India is a typical example. We know how much they celebrated the movie industry (Bollywood) two or three decades ago, but with more emphasis on education, India today is a reckoning force in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and medical science. Besides lifting millions out of illiteracy and poverty, it generates more revenue for the country than the entertainment industry. Nigerians engage the Indians on ICT and go there on medical tourism. Anambra should target the India experience, and it will distinguish us among other states in the country.”
An Awka indigene, Mr. John Nweke, supports the state aspiring to any height but believes that setting targets comes with meeting all the requirements where basic attentions are required. “Awka of our dream as a state capital hasn’t met our expectations. Many people claim that we don’t give land for government projects or that we resist government plan to develop the capital. We have no standard market, stadium, or park. Many inner city roads are deplorable and without streetlights. An average Awka person thinks on this line.”
For Innocent Nweka, from Abagana, in Njikoka Local Government Area, he loves the fact that his town falls within the Awka Capital Territory , but unhappy that since the state’s creation, the effect of such has not manifested in his community, except by signpost. “We are not after some gigantic projects in our town, not that we detest that but for the state capital presence, once you leave Awka, that atmosphere of a capital is lost. Whatever is good for Awka as a state capital is also good for Abagana.”
A farmer from Ugbenu, Awka North Local Government Area, Maduka Okoye wants not just his town but the local government opened up to other parts of state. “Often, we feel cut off from the outside world. We are agrarian by setting and want to be accessible from other parts of the state. We want more roads and basic amenities in this area.”