For long, Awka, the capital city of Anambra State, had looked anything but like a capital city, despite attempts by previous regimes to change her outlook. While it can be argued that previous regimes had tried their best to give her a new look, those attempts paled into insignificance when compared to the material and human resource base of the state. The difficulty in giving Awka a new look can be attributed, among other things, to the nature of the city which was not designed to acquire its capital status.
In neighbouring Enugu State, for instance, the city was planned by the White colonialists, such that one can traverse the entire city with ease. Many of the existing major roads in Enugu were also built in the era of the Old Eastern Region. Therefore what the state government does is to maintain those roads while constructing new ones, mostly as link roads and new layouts.
Awka does not have such luxury. There is virtually no space for expansion within the town, meaning that no meaningful expansion can take place without people losing their property. That leaves the area along the Enugu/Onitsha Express as the only place open to development within available resources.
The Willie Obiano Administration has already taken a bold step by the construction of three flyovers in that part of the city which have gone a long way in changing the look of the city. That is commendable.
However, rather than resting on its oars, the government should go a step further by embarking on a holistic development of the Enugu/Onitsha Express area of the city. This can be done by constructing link roads to every major street in the city, as well as good drainage systems to eliminate the havoc caused by flooding during rains.
Also, the vast expanse of empty land along the Enugu/Osha Express should be made available to private developers to build housing estates, while government can equally map out some as industrial estates. Above all, a whole new city can be planned in that area to accommodate the rising increase in population.
Awka may never be like Enugu but at least it should be made to look like what people usually refer to as ''Small London''. Already the prevalent security has become a solid base for a smooth take-off of whatever developmental plans the government may have, especially given the likelihood of more private sector participation as a result of the security in the state.
Planning a new city within the capital city is possible with enough political will. It will not be completed overnight, but it should be started, just like the way the Capital City of Abuja was started and completed to rank among the most beautiful cities in the world.
But before the ambitious development plan for such a new city within Awka City, can take-off, the existing roads in the city should be tarred in order to attract investments and make life comfortable for the residents. The tarring of the roads in the Okpuno area has already transformed the place.
Also all roads leading to major industrial areas should be tarred in order to encourage others to invest here. The industrial area in Agu Awku where many gas companies operate, is a case in point.
Yes, Awka may be small compared to other capital cities, but it can certainly be made better enough to compare with the best. The journey of a thousand miles, it is said, begins with a single step. That first step should be made now.