By Mathew Onwuasoanya
ANAMBRA’s seismic evolution over the last 31 years bears heavy metaphorical similarity with the narrative technique in T. S Eliot’s Journey of the Magi. But unlike Eliot’s preference for a reflective monologue, Anambra is waxing on multidimensional plot. Hence, from cultural rebirth to social re-engineering, political reorientation to economic transformation, the state conflates diverse memes while beautifully snuggling away from analogue era into a digitized 21st Century economy.
Perhaps, nothing tells Anambra’s odyssey more than its evolution into a business hub and competitive market. From Onitsha as just one commercial centre where everyone gathered, Anambra has expanded into a three-traffic market that places Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha (of course teeing up to Nkpor, Ogidi and Abagana) in vantage position of opening trading windows on Aguleri, Ihiala, Ekwulobia and Umunze, such as establishment of model international markets in Oba, Awka and Nnewi, for instance, that catalysed these non-contiguous communities into satellite towns connecting to her drive towards a mega-city state.
Yet, exploit of Anambra indigenes, both home and in Diaspora on national and international parameters models Anambra into a global brand in human capital development which constantly ploughs back their managerial skills manuring the state. The story of Prof Chukwuma Soludo and Chief Willie Obiano, for instance, speaks to this narrative. This point does not ring hollow, because it deflates yesteryear predictions particularly from hitherto neighbours in old Anambra that tipped the new state for apocalypse – predicated on self-destruction ‘prophesied’ to arise from chaotic exchanges among blocs – whereas Anambra is continuously coasting to sustainable stability, despite initial teething problems posed by electoral barons and merchants seeking to cast their familiar spirit of godfatherism inherited from old Anambra on the new state.
Anambra has also become the first state in Nigeria – if not in Africa – where automobiles are locally produced by an indigenous entrepreneur, from manufacturing to assembling, with operations of Innoson Venture Motors in Nnewi. Why should anyone expect anything less when Anambra possesses rich historical tapestry shown, for instance, in Igbo-Ukwu and Ezira archaeological excavations stretching back to 9th Century AD?
On the political front, the state has posted many feats that need not recalling for want of space, including producing Nigeria’s first female governor in Dame Virgy Etiaba, while driving contemporaries, even older states, green with envy. From acute sterility in facilities on sports and entertainment sector, the state becomes home to three FIFA-standard stadiums in Nnewi, Rojeny Games Village in Oba, Idemmili Local Government Area and lately Awka Township Stadium, where raw talents are honed into world beaters among Udoji United FC, Gabros FC, Jasper United, FC Ifeanyi Uba and Anambra Warriors despite ‘inheriting’ only defunct ASESA Warriors at inception. Logistics are also on top momentum for establishment of a film village. Does this not give new traction to the never-say-die Igbo spirit?
Taken from another dimension, it also says so much on the level of general physical infrastructural development in the state within a split second, literally. Or what should anyone say about a state whose workforce, immediately after creation, hurtled to their duty posts from neigbouring states because accommodation was non-existent but today, not only is accommodation available, it is also affordable for majority of workers. The same scenario is playing out on road infrastructure, all because successive administrations put their markers down to bring this sector up to speed by investing in housing estates, with Udoka, Ngozika, AHOCOL among others as pilot scheme in Awka capital city alone, leveraging on public-private partnership initiatives that have delivered over 10,000 housing units in Onitsha, Nnewi, Oko, Neni – and continues to deliver in housing and road construction.
There is also a conscious effort to prioritise hard-to-reach areas in developing physical infrastructure. Hence, from construction of Anambra’s longest bridge measuring 280 meters long, across Omambala River as part of a 42-kilometre road Aguleri oilfields to building two other bridges through Umueje in Ayamelum and Umudiora in Anambra West Local Government Area and two other bridges with a five-cell culvert in Awgbu – Ndiukwuenu – Awa – Ufuma in Orumba Nort Local Government Area as well as asphalting over 102 rural roads, the state is investing in the future.
Today, Anambra has built world-standard airport in Umueri Cargo and Passenger Airport despite playing pivotal role in the establishment of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. Anambra has built an International Convention Centre (ICC), Awka to mark up physical infrastructure.
Only in 2015, Anambra conducted the first-ever aerial geographic survey in South East Geopolitical Zone for digital mapping of the state as a postscript or bye bye to paper work land policies.
Maybe, the bull’s eye here is that Anambra is posting these feats despite paltry federal allocation because oil price was in tatters. This leads to a natural question. What is fertilising Anambra’s fine fettle? And the master stroke is simple, not rocket science. Looking inward rather than going cap in hand, digitisation of internally generated revenue (IGR) administration proved a cash cow by not consistently increasing monthly from N500 million to N1.2 billion with N2.2 billion in view at a point – until recent drop fueled by sudden distraction from non-state actors and other global dynamics, including COVID-19 and Ukraine-Russia war – but also gives the state a head start on job creation with target on 250,000 direct and indirect jobs. This is how digitisation profits everyone – state, people, system – haring through on result since what is derived is ploughed back with accountability and due process.
This redounds to governments’ success in providing round-the-clock security of life and property that ticks the boxes in overall development across others sectors – for which Anambra had received laurel from far and with many states coming for peerages or outright mentorship – until recent nationwide uptick in violent agitations.
Agriculture was also taken to a higher notch with successive administrations introducing cutting edge policies that tick all the boxes in mechanised farming to make agriculture and agro allied business attractive, particularly to the youth., with set goal of being within top-three agriculture states in Nigeria.
Hence, it took not time for Anambra to become an exporter of farm produce to Europe with wholly indigenous rice brand known as Anambra Rice literally chasing others out of markets as traders’ favorite and consumers’ staple, from Eke Awka to Eke Ekwulobia, Nkwor Umunze to Otu Nkwor Onitsha, among others.
Governments encouraged farmers through soft loans and other incentives providing counterpart funds to attract national and international development agencies such as Central Bank of Nigeria (through Anchor Borrowers and Value Chain Schemes), USAID, DFID, AfDB among others to partner Anambra farmers in Agricultural Development Programmes (ADP) projects.
Oil has also been discovered in commercial quantity in Anambra estimated at over one billion barrels of crude oil and 30 trillion cubic feet of gas positioning the state as 10th largest oil producer in Nigeria to fuel the state’s gas-to-power initiative in partnership with a private developer. And this is no fluke.
Anambra is also investing rapidly in the education sector – in both manpower and infrastructure – with the results turning in from all direction as students in Anambra basic schools best their rivals in NECO and WAEC examinations and extra-curricular meets at both national and international meets.
In youth empowerment and employment, successive administrations have effectively trained over 50,000 youths in diverse skills and crafts under different phases with Technology Incubation Centre in Nnewi facilitating as Agricultural Training Institute of Anambra State Polytechnic, Mgbakwu is doing.
Truly, it has not been a roller coaster but with new roughages provided by Gov. Chukwuma Soludo in line with his vision for transforming Anambra into a prosperous and livable homeland, the state will soon become Nigeria’s postcard in development benchmarks. Who says Anambra will not become Dubai of Africa?