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Anambra State@24, what must be celebrated?

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Anambra clocked 24 years old! At 24, every male and female citizen is constitutionally and legally qualified to marry or bequeath to a spouse for a marriage;

vote and be voted for anywhere in the globe. So how well has Anambra State fared since its creation by the then Head of state and government, Gen. Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida? Comrade Okechukwu Onuegbu, a public affairs analyst, critic and online publisher, in this thought provoking article explores the truth.

It is no more news that the present Anambra State with Awka as capital has clocked 24 years old. Recalled that the Old Anambra State which comprised of the present Anambra Enugu and Ebonyi States was founded in 1976 from part of East Central State, and then had Enugu as its capital, while the current Anambra State came to the fore on August 27, 1991.

Anambra as a name was historically derived from ‘Oma Mbala’, the native name of the Anambra River, a tributary to great River Niger; while Nnewi, Onitsha and Ekwuluobia are her industrial and commercial hubs. Little wonder, Onitsha main market is reputed as the largest of its kind in the West Africa sub-region.

“Light Of The Nation” as fondly called, Anambra shares boundaries with Imo and Rivers States at South, Kogi State by North, Enugu State to the East, and Delta State to the west.

Official records show that Anambra is the eighth most populated state in Nigeria, second most densely populated state in the country after Lagos state, with the population of 4,055,048 (as 2006 census claimed), and literacy rate of about 70%, covering an area of 4,416sq Km with tropical rainforest vegetation, humid climate and a temperature of about 87F and rainfall of about 152cm-203cm.

The state is further referred to as the center of Nigeria’s metalwork and carving industries, and among her natural endowments are gas, crude oil, bauxite, ceramic, 100% arable soil, bronze, iron, copper, and pottery works as revealed by archaeological excavations at Igbo-Ukwu, Ezira, the ancient Kingdom of Nri, Uzu-oka (Awka craftsmanship), and others.

An enclave of culture and tradition, Anambra has hundreds of tourists’ attraction sites such as Agulu Crocodile Lake; Ogbunike Caves listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site; Igbo Ukwu Museum; Niger Bridge – Gateway into Anambra ; Agbanagbo Ezu-na-Omambala (Confluence of Ezu and Omabala rivers) at Aguleri; Obu Gad at Enugwu Aguleri; Ini Eri (Eri Grave) at Aguleri; Ini Iguedo (Iguedo Grave) at Nando; Odinani Museum at Nri; Agwuve Trinity Tree at Enugwu Aguleri; Rogeny Tourist Village at Oba, etc.

Also, each of her community has annual cultural event/festival and unique masquerades known for, among which were  Imo-Awka, an annual festival celebrated by natives of Awka, the state capital;  Ijele Masquerade-listed in UNESCO Archives as Intangible cultural element; New Yam Festivals/Afia oru festival; Ajana-Ukwu and Igu aro festivals; Izaga (the longest juju) masquerade; Amanwulu and ozo Festivals; Olili Obibia Eri (Eri Festival) in Enugwu Aguleri; Uzoiyi Festival Umuoji; Nkpokiti Umunze Dance (International renowned dancing troupe); Onwasato Ebenebe, etc.

However, Igbo language is the lingua franca or mother tongue of Anambra, but majority of her citizenry speak English language fluently, while the few non-literate populace understand and speak ‘pigeon/broken’ English. On the other hand, a small group of Igala-speaking people exists in Anambra West LGA of the state, excluding other non-Igbo speaking residents in the state, who often communicate in their respective languages.

Consequently, it is understatement to describe Anambra state as one of the most literate states in Nigeria having made the best results in both WAEC and NECO (Senior Secondary School Examinations) for two consecutive period since 2011/2012 academic session till date, with highest number of JAMB candidates going after the limited number of spaces in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, and had also emerged victorious at other academic competitions.

In the state are government/public, private and missionary elementary, secondary and tertiary institutions and vocational studies, but the renowned include the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka; Chukwuemeka  Odumegwu Ojukwu University (Formerly, Anambra State University), the Federal Polytechnic, Oko; Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe; Tansian University, Umunya; Madonna University, Okija; National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Awka Study Center.

The indigenes of the 21 Local Government Areas’ State and 179 communities are addressed as ‘Anambrarians’, and reputably known with one of their special characteristic of resourcefulness which make each to carry on a most animated business and other relationships with people who come across them, thereon making their survival to be dependent on both inter and intra peace, harmony and uninterrupted flow and exchange of ideas, goods and services.

Like every other Southeastern States, Anambra is a republican society where decisions on security of lives and properties, socio-cultural development, and others are taken by the people, of the people and for the people through their unions-Age grades, Umuada/Umuokpu (a group of illustrious daughters of a kindred or village already married), Youths, etc, elected representatives called Ichies (representatives of villages/kindred at King’s cabinet), Town Union executive led by a President General, and the custodian of office or Traditional Ruler, Igwe/Eze (the king).

Politically, the Light of the Nation has produced 12 Governors namely; Navy Captain Joseph Abulu (August 27, 1992-January 1992); Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezife of the Social Democratic Party, SDP (2nd January 1992-17th November, 1993); Police Commissioner Dabo Aliyu, November to December 1993; Colonel Mike Attah, December 1993-21st August, 1996; Group Captain Rufai Garba (August 21, 1996-August, 1998); Wing Commander Emmanuel Ukaegbu (August 6, 1998-May 28, 1999); Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP, May 29, 1999 to 29th May, 2003).

This writer, who was a victim of Mbadinuju’s a year of closure of secondary school, recalled that the administration was marred by heavy problems associated with godfatherism and culminated to teachers’ salary which was withheld for a long time leading to a ten-months industrial action/closure of all the government secondary schools in the state; and introduction of N3000 school fees per term thereafter; multiple demonstrations by CAN and other associations where teargas sinister reportedly rain as heavy downpour; activities of Bakassi boys and murder of the then Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, Barrister Igwe and his wife; etc.

However, Dr. Chris Ngige of PDP, took over from Mbadinuju on May 26, 2003, but was later removed by court in March 2006 as Mr. Peter Obi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA dragged him to court on charges of electoral malpractice, which the Court of Appeal in Enugu asserted that the 2003 election victory was fraudulent, and restored Obi’s mandate for a fresh four year tenure, thereby changing the expiration of Anambra State governorship position and the electoral time table.

But Obi was in turn ousted by a faction of the Anambra State House of Assembly on November 2, 2006 and replaced by his then Deputy, Virginia Etiaba, the first female Governor in Nigeria. And on February 9, 2007, Mrs. Etiaba handed power back to Obi after the Court of Appeal had nullified Obi’s removal.

On April 14, 2007, however, governorship election was conducted at Anambra, and Dr. Andy Uba of PDP was declared “winner”, and got sworn in on May 29, but was later removed from office by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on June 14, 2007, who replaced him with Peter Obi on the ground that Obi’s tenure had not ended, meaning there was no vacancy in the government house. Then, towards the end of his four year tenure, Obi was re-elected on Saturday, 6 February 2010 guber poll for a second term of four years, after a hot gubernatorial contest.

Presently, Chief Willie Maduabuchukwu Obiano of APGA, who won the November 16th, 2013 gubernatorial poll is at helm of affairs of the state executive after been sworn in as Governor on 17th March, 2014; even as 30 Honourable members currently representing the 21 Local Government Areas of the State at the State Legislative chamber (House of Assembly) with her third female Speaker, Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu; while the State Judiciary has Hon. Justice Peter Umeadi as Anambra State Chief Judge.

Equally, the state has 11 House of Representative members namely; Hon. Anayo Nnebe, PDP-Awka North/Awka South; Hon. Madubueze Peter Obiano (APGA-Anambra East/Anambra West) Hon. Eucharia Anazodo, the First female Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly and member representing Aguata Federal House of Representative (PDP); Hon. Ikpeazu, PDP-Onitsha North/Onitsha South; …PDP-Orumba North/South; Hon. Onyema Chukwuka, PDP-Ogbaru Federal constituency; Hon. Obinna Chidoka, PDP-Idemili North/Idemili South; Hon. Okechukwu Eze, Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency; Hon. Gabriel Onyewife, APGA-Oyi/Ayamelum Federal Constituency; Hon. Chris Azubuogu, PDP-Nnewi North/Nnewi South/Ekwusigo Federal Constituency; Hon. Emeka Anohu, PDP-Ihiala Federal Constituency.

Also, three senators representing the three Senatorial districts of the state at the National Assembly are Sen. Uche Ekwunife (PDP-Anambra Central); Sen. Andy Uba (PDP-Anambra South); Sen. Stella Odua (PDP-Anambra North).

Likewise, Anambra State is blessed with so many world renowned indigenes such as Prof. Chinua Achebe, best known for the classic, Things Fall Apart; Prof Ben Nwabueze, a constitutional lawyer; Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the only man whose name appeared in the Constitution of his country (Nigeria’s Republican Constitution of 1963); Dim Emeka Ojukwu, the Biafra warlord; Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi; Emeka Anyaoku-the first black Secretary of the Commonwealth; Engr. (Chief) Marcel Nchekwube Azodo Manafa, the first African General Manager of Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) and the first Igbo chartered Electrical Engineer.

Others include Chinyelu Onwuorah, a British Labour Party politician, and first female British MP of African origin; Professor Samuel Okoye, first black Africa’s PhD holder in Radio Astronomy who along with Antony Hewish of the University of Cambridge discovered the radio source of Crab Nebula neutron star; Loius Odumegwu Ojukwu, first Nigerian Millionaire and first president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange; Philip Emeagwali, winner of the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize for Supercomputing; Prof Chike Obi, a Mathematician famous for his work on non-differential equations, developer of a special solution for Fermat’s Last Theorem, and winner of the 1985 ICTP Price, etc.

But how well is her citizenry faring since inception? It is worth to note that although many people, especially those in the governance may claim that all is well, poverty and unemployment somehow hold the state hostage deducible from the crimes rate ranging from kidnapping, robbery, cars snatching, land dispute, cultism, prostitution, bribery and corruption, and others ravaging the nooks and crannies of the state despite the efforts by her past and present administrations to address the ugly menace.

This is even as the state with annual population growth rate of about 2.21 percent per annum, has over 30% of her people scattered across the globe in search of greener pasture, while about 50% excluding the poor immigrants overcrowd the urban areas such as Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi sequel to the devastating impact of bad governance, infrastructural decay, ecological problems, environmental degradations, deathtraps road networks and pedestrians walkways, epileptic power supply, among other unavailable basic social amenities at the rural areas, which also abound in the so-called urban areas mostly characterized with unregulated building patterns and exorbitant house-bills, non-functional over advertised built pipe borne water, poor sanitations and mountains of garbage, multiple taxations, uncontrolled street trading and hawking by the aged and under-aged elementary school dropouts, child abuse, chaotic and hike transport systems/traffic congestion, and noise pollution.

Hence a clarion calls on the state government and her partners to shun sycophancy and extravagant spending on social events, celebrations and programmes. Therefore, Governor Obiano and his executives need to cut-down the cost of governance through reductions of the number and amount usually expended on their SAs and SSAs, convoys, existing and non-existing programmes of less effect with a view to channeling the state’s “meager resources” to human, capital, rural and urban development through provisions of basic amenities and infrastructures, vocational and skills acquisition centers, and other empowerments to her populace in reality (not in print or electronic media).

Relatively, the lawmakers, while making relevant laws and motions, should constantly embark on oversight function to ensuring optimum service delivery, as the judiciary doubles its effort to providing justice to all, especially the thousands of awaiting trials lying at our various prisons.

Similarly, to curb the menace caused by proliferation of hotels and eateries in the state, the wealthy and philanthropies of Anambra State extractions, should bring home the wealth of experiences they used in developing other states and countries to building functional industries, companies and other needful rather than hotels so as to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths and students graduating annually within and outside the state tertiary institutions.

This will not only invite both foreign and local investors into the state but shall also provide enabling environment for the literates and non-literates to adequately utilize their potentials-skills and talents for wealth creation, self-sufficiency, and overall development of the state and the nation.   

But despite the hurdles, Anambrarians and their residents, the church, the schools and the associations should expedite actions towards imbibing cultural and moral virtues, entrepreneurial skills and traits to overcome stress or challenges into their members, who are the backbone of the society. I am proud of my State, Anambra.

God bless Ndi Anambra. It is well with the Light of the Nation! Happy birthday to my dearest state!

Onuegbu is an indigene of the state and also, a young Journalist, Author, Actor, Poet, Playwright, Novelist, Wed-developer/Designer and Blogger. He writes from Awka via okeychris60@yahoo.com, www.news48hrs.com  

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