Is Awka a City or a Town

By Mercy Okoye

I love Awka. I love her not-so-rowdy environment and a host of other things about her. But I have one problem and so does every youth I believe I am speaking for.

A colleague of mine walked up to me one fine morning and said with agitation “Mercy, I live in a lodge where water leaks through the wall when it rains or anytime the borehole is being pumped. Faeces and water waste from a next door neighbour enters into another’s room; and yet we pay #85,000 as rent.

But the one that vexes me more is that as big as Awka is, we don’t have much job opportunities here. Please could you write about this?” I smiled within me, not because she was funny but because I could relate. And I believe most of us out there can relate as well.

I also happen to have lived in a self-contain where our landlord refused to fix our sock pit. we had to stomach the torment of the ooze from the sock pit until we gathered money on our own (though the landlord after much delay later brought a token to support us).

But yet we paid, #105,000 as rent-so sad. Tenants have been left to the fate of greedy and cavalier landlords who despite their high charges still fail to provide comfort to their clients. Standard of living is also very high in Awka. Basic amenities like foodstuff, accommodation, clothing have tripled in recent times. Although, lately everything seems to be expensive in Nigeria at large but it appears to be worst in the eastern part of the country.

Looking around Awka City, you ll agree with me that the dominant companies around here are hotels, restaurants, clubhouses, supermarkets, small scale photography studios and very few media houses. And most of these companies don’t pay well.

Worse, they make their staffs work their fingers to the bones with little or no motivation. So, if you are a graduate looking to work in a multibillion company, you have options to either move to Nnewi, Enugu or relocate to Lagos, Abuja or any of these metropolis cities.

What’s so special about Lagos or Port Harcourt if not for their rich diversities in commerce, entertainment and foreign investments. What then is the problem with our own very Capital City, Awka? They say population is an advantage that attracts both local and foreign investors.

Would we say Awka is deficit of employable and productive populace? Awka is surrounded by higher institutions that churns out able bodied and gifted youths in hundreds and thousands yearly. She’s surrounded by tertiary institutions like Unizik, National open University, Oko Poly, Anambra State University(Ansu) and co. When youth keep migrating with the talents and abilities within them, imagine the damage this is doing to Awka’s economic growth.

Global organizations like World Bank, World Economic Forum have repeatedly emphasized that human capital development and technology is the best key to conquer poverty in Africa. Unfortunately, Statistics has it that Nigeria is one of the countries that has the lowest index of human capital development in the world. Did you hear that. Almighty Nigeria? So shameful.

Anambra State has the potential to become the Lagos of South East if only the necessary things are put in place. Her Election is around the corner and we have the power to change things through our votes. I told my friend that the only Governor I’ ll vote for is the one who has Human Capital Development as one of his core agendas. I guess we all know who he is.

Thankfully, some good-headed youths have taken to developing themselves by acquiring productive skills like videography, photography, coding and what have you.

Another possible solution is if our Igbo brethren would bring their investments home. Igbos are adventurous in nature. Thus they always go out and establish their nest outside. But Is it not rather too shameful that we are busy developing other states but leave our own states undeveloped?

Which part of SouthEast would you confidently say can compete with Lagos or Abuja in terms of infrastructures, technology, commercial diversities? I trust that if a good number of Igbos would bring their investment home coupled with their Midas touch, the whole of South East will be hot cake! Nnewi town is already leading that example. Good Job!

The Anambra State government have a huge role to play in this by investing in human capital development programmes for all and sundry, especially Youth. There was a time Governor Willie’s Administration came up with The Yes programme to train and financially empower Anambrarian youth, which is a good move.

The training did hold but till today we haven’t seen or received or heard that somebody received any fund for business. Accountability matters in government. Whether the fund was not disbursed or was actually disbursed but entered the wrong or favoured hands is what we don’t know. It’s well o.

Also foreign investments, the culture of training youth on technological innovations (Japan is doing wonders in this area), sophisticated Infrastructures (good roads, light…), should be put in place to encourage economic development. Local investments should also be promoted through fair tax policy and formulating policies and programs that would help their growth. Not only in Awka, but in Anambra and SouthEast at large.

The Nigerian government should cease giving monopoly of production of some goods to some favoured set of people but rather make the license open to all. I leave it at this.

We solicit for a cheaper and comfortable accommodation. The agency in charge of this should please look into this. Government should look into the root cause of hike in prices of commodities in Awka and Anambra State and tackle it.