Anambra State marks her 29th anniversary today. The state has seen it all from political instability to economic stagnation at her infancy stage. Today, Anambra is coasting high in monumental feats; becoming a model for good governance, with amazing economy setting to rank amongst global elites. In this special package entitled, “Strengthening, Stimulating Economic Roots; National Light explores tenets that inspire her towering stature. Enjoy the package
COMING into Southeast from Delta State, through the only existing bridge across the Niger, a city hewn on multiple four-storey lines, bisected by a well paved four-lanes expressway comes into view. One wonders if anything associated with this city turns out four – Onitsha is the city, Anambra is the state.
The architectural structure of this city indeed is a beacon of sophistry and activities there-in a burst of commercial artistry. More to the peculiarities of the city are clusters of markets, to the count of four in less than every four kilometers spread- a trade mark feature of the state showcased in puristic form at the gateway city of Onitsha.
Could anyone need further lessons on how those lines of four-storey structures came about? The answer is clear from the beehives of activities and volumes of trade in the markets scattered around – trade is the pillar upon which their wealth is built.
This is not just Onitsha phenomenon but indeed the culture setting Anambra State apart in the journey to industrial revolution of the Southeast and Nigeria at large.
To drive the identity home, one needs just a cursory count of market settings in the environs and extrapolate what drives the state to heights when others are fumbling.
From the foot of the Bridgehead, at the right-hand side, there is a modern textile market sprawling from the lower bank of the River Niger. The volume of trade in the market not only gives traders financial freedom but provides state government appreciable revenue through tax and levies.
Adjacent to the textile market lies an expanse of industrial clusters with Hero Brewery Company, Orange Drugs and Best Aluminium Companies leading the lines of other industries located in the area.
About 100 metres away from the textile market through the expressway, is located an ultramodern electronics market and a few metres takes one to another massive wares and utensils market – the Ogbo-efere Market. A hundred metres further is located the Plastic Market and the same distance brings one to the Iron and Steel Market – Ogbo-Rod , while paces toward Upper-Iweka takes one through Okpoko Foodstuffs Market and further down to Relief Market.
On the opposite side are Tools Market, Timber Market and Film Market, while a 200-meters distance from the Timber Market brings one to the popular Ogbo-ogwu Market (Drugs Market).
Onitsha holds significant population of ndi Anambra, as well as ndi Igbo from other states in the region, therefore; what happens in Onitsha shapes the overall outlook of the region, not just the state; at least economically.
Arguably, attributing the lines of four- storey buildings in the metropolitan Onitsha to product of their ingenuity in trade summarises why the state’s history cannot be wholly told without trade.
According to the Chairman, Eke-Awka Market Traders Association, Emeka Agumadu, “Igbo are known for trade and no one can take trade away from the Igbo.”
Interestingly, Anambra’s dynamism in their trade culture has opened up their entire economy; giving the state government latitude to cruise towards Vision 2070 with strong optimism.
With a population of about 4.2 million according to 2006 National Population Commission’s data and population growth rate of 2.21 per cent per annum, unemployment ratio in Nigeria then was 3.65 per cent. If the rate remained constant, it means Nigeria’s unemployment ratio today would have been in single digit but it got worse than that estimation, leaving current unemployment figure at 21.7 million, translating to 28.6 per cent, according to Nigerian Bureau of Statistics but out of this figure, Anambra State has come fairly well with only 13.1 per cent unemployment record currently out of 2.25 million working population.
The indisputable fact from the analogy is that Anambra, despite having its chunk of the ratio has managed the situation appreciably without relying on federal government’s interventions. The question is: what would have been the situation of the state and its citizens if they had relegated their trade to the background?
Nigeria suffered economic recession in 2016, but the state maintained steady and strong economic progression as if it was not part of the country heavily engrossed in recession.
Today, there is a paradigm shift from the traditional merchandising at designated locations called markets, to electronic business transactions system. Ordinarily, naive minds may read with quick conclusions the end of a reign for the state with its numerous markets and possibly a dawn of turbulent time.
Perhaps, the maxim that the strength of the tiger is most tested in the face of threat to the kingship of the jungle comes to the fore here. Anambra started a silent revolution in the trade sector long before others thought of any systemic change. They began adoption of new approach to trade system with decentralisation and decongestion of existing markets that had reached their optimum in human and material accommodations over a decade and half period ago.
In Onitsha alone, aside from Main Market, reputed for being the biggest market in West Africa, Anambra has moved to create more competing markets that will continue to strengthen its high ranking in trade and commerce and sustain her status as investors’ choice in Africa.
The Building Materials Market in Ogbunike, sends a good message to other states that in merchandising, it can only be a catch-up game with Anambra or watch her from a distance if one can’t match the pace. The newly sited Nkwellezunanka Shoe Manufacturing Market signposts a quest for African dominance in trade and commerce and Anambra’s poise to become investment hub of Africa in the coming decades. These structures would not be any waste but would be a springboard to keying the system into digital model.
In lighting the 29th candle for the state, it is imperative that some tenets that had given her ground to excel be strengthened. Trade is specifically providing the live-wire for the recorded feats.
Expectations are that ventures such as film industry, publishing industry and others lost to rival environs such as Lagos State, where significant number of ndi Anambra established these businesses will soon return back to the state.
While Vision 2070 is contemplated, the current market structure must reflect that direction. Anambra State markets have leveraged from the Choose-Your-Project initiatives of the present government to build toilet facilities in many of the markets in the state.
Spokesperson to Chairman, Eke-Awka Market, Charles Anierobi, summarised the immense benefits of Chose-Your-Project policy thus, “through the government intervention, we now have functional office administration, solar lights as well as running water in Eke-Awka.”
Some markets can boast of access roads now as opposed to what obtained some years back. Nnewi people cannot forget in a hurry the horrendous state of the Bank Road- a major road leading to the Agbedo Spare Parts Market that has today become a smooth road facilitating easy access to the market.
In Onitsha, the Northidge, Venn and New Market Roads, have made access to Main Market easier, courtesy of the state government people oriented projects. In Ochanja, the roundabout, Izuchukwu as well as the Woliwo Roads make trading worth engaging in the area.
However, in thinking Vision-2070, markets in the state should be gearing to have adequate facilities that guarantee more comforts while trading is going on.
The Tanabang Textile Market in Jakarta, Indonesia, has a big garage at the upper deck of the three-storey building. It provides parking lots to over 2000 people in the market.
At Mangadua Plaza, also in Jakarta, the basement of the air- conditioned four- stories market is used as parking lot and hardly can any vehicle be spotted parked at busy areas within the market surroundings.
These conditions are possible in Anambra if strategic plans for the actualisation and the will-power are there. When capital flights of ndi Anambra who set up businesses in Lagos, Abuja and overseas are routed homeward, the envisaged turnaround of Anambra into African Dubai will be achievable even before the clock tolls on 2070.
To make this a reality, government in power, as well as succeeding ones must roll their sleeves to work like work has just begun.
Indeed, Anambra has come a long way in breaking many grounds of accomplishment. Therefore, as the state makes her entrance into the third decade, the celebration calls not for gloating on achieved goals but strategising on further achievable feats. The illuminating radiance from ‘Light of the Nation’ state must continue to pathfinder the country’s strides into global power.