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Heading for an-all-urban state

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LATE minstrel and egwu ekpili music maestro, Chief Akunwata Ozoemene Nsugbe was right with his analogy that likened Onitsha, the commercial hub of Igbo land, to a city that is growing like the cowpea crop which brooks no boundary barrier while twirling its foliage around in leguminous grandeur.

When he came up with this choral philosophisation, Onitsha was only knocking Nkpor in Idemmili North Local Government Area,  into its trading modules along the commercial town’s way to opening up more towns for business. Today, Onitsha is expanding along a two-dimensional paradigm in which from its northern coasts,Ogidi, Ogbunike, Umunnachi and Umudioka towns have all become urbanised parts of a mega Onitsha city with just Abagana in Njikoka LGA separating Onitsha from fusing with Awka, the capital of Anambra State.

On its eastern front, Onitsha has since emptied its commercial frontiers into Obosi, in Idemmili North LGA and Oba, in Idemmili South LGA, with only Oraifite in Ekwusigo LGA remaining for Onitsha to meld wistfully with Ihialla on one hand and the Ozubulu-Nnewi industrial axis on the other. If this journey of urbanisation had taken less than quartre of a century to come this far, the momentum of next phase is better imagined – given added impetus of globalisation.  But by the time its postscript is written, the three strategic towns of Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi must have been linked together to form one mega city that will instantly dwarf Lagos – taking all towns along the way in their wake.

That’s why, apart from popping champagne at an auspicious time as today when Anambra is adding another year to clock 28, thinking caps should be worn to ponder on manifestoes and blueprints that will set the state on the pathway to actualising this dream. And to paraphrase Frantz Fanon who said that every generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, Anambra State can not afford to dawdle any longer on the clear and urgent mission of aggressive development.

The templates are here already like the bright minds or intellectual infrastructure. Enough of sitting on the fence to bemoan past stillbirths that seem to inexorably held up an endowed land in paradoxical stagnation, poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. Now is time for radical rethink that ticks all the boxes in entreprise, industrialisation and technical networking. If the American development model is esoteric in a 21st century world, the Asian tigers or Chinese models may be adapted to suit local climates. Reformist leaders in China set-up the first special economic zone and industrial park in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong in 1980, with other towns as far and wide as Guangzhou, Jiangmen, Guangdong and Zhaonqing taken along in the Shenzhen initiative in no distant time to trigger economic revolution which made China the second largest economy in the world – reduced the number of people living in poverty by more than 500 million between 1981 and 2007, according to a World Bank report.

A spectacular aspect of the Chinese model is that it achieved industrialisation feats through a policy of setting up cluster industrial parks with special incentives where goods such as shoes, handbags, furniture, plastics, toys, clothes and other low tech goods are produced. Fortunately for Anambra, manufacture and distribution of low tech goods is an area in which Nnewi and Onitsha, as well as self-made clusters in the state have demonstrated much potential in breweries and bottling plants, vegetable oil processing and refining plants, feed milling plants, metallurgical and plastic plants, furniture making factories, pharmaceutical manufacturing, soap and cosmetics industries, as well as auto fabrication.

Anambra State can similarly be (re)launched on industrial revolution to become the largest economy in Nigeria and beyond if this simple but proven pattern is seamlessly adapted, where there is no need to reinvent the wheel, when only remodelling an industrial prototype that worked for China is required to activate rapid industrialisation and urbanisation on Anambra State by the year 2040.

Strategic investments should also be made in agriculture where Anambra State boasts of arable lands that drives even China green with envy in comparative cost advantage terms. In doing this, farm settlement schemes and agricultural extension service should be reactivated to help nudge those belts of agrarian town in Awka North LGA, Orumba North and South LGAs, as well as Anambra East and West areas into an-all-urban Anambra State, while not toying with the crucial role to be played by uninterrupted powers supply in stimulating this drive. This is where the eight new electricity substations to be built in different parts of the three senatorial districts, under a technical partnership by Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) comes to issue.

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