OUT OF THE BOX: Easter Holiday In the Eastern City On the Hill, By Majeed Dahiru
The beautiful and clean city of Enugu, with its lush green and mountainous vegetation, gently undulating landscape, combined with a record of low crime rate and zero ethno-religious crisis, sets Enugu ahead of other state capitals as the most peaceful and habitable.
By Thursday April 13, the hustle and bustle in and around the capital city of Abuja was noticeably reduced. Vehicular traffic was unusually light along Ahmadu Bello, Ademola Adetokunbo, Aguiyi Ironsi and other major motorways in the city. The next day, Friday the 14th, the city centre was practically deserted as most shops had closed business. This wasn’t an ordinary day – it was Good Friday, a public holiday and the commencement of the Christian celebration of Easter. Throughout most of Christendom, Easter is celebrated with solemnity and a sober reflection on the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, the Messiah. Events surrounding the celebration of Easter, beginning with His crucifixion on the cross of Calvary, his subsequent death on Good Friday and resurrection on the third day – Easter Sunday, are the fundamental basis of the Christian faith.
Christ Jesus, the messiah, sacrificed his own life that mankind may have everlasting life, by taking away the guilt and the inherent iniquity, while exemplifying how to fulfil the spirit and essence of the law, not just as symbolic letters. In place of retribution in the Law of Moses, Christ Jesus, the messiah ushered in the era of the grace and mercy of God in abundance. Most significantly, through the teachings of Christ Jesus, the good news of God’s Kingdom was taken outside the nation of Israel, a people who pride themselves as God’s (Yahweh’s) only chosen people, unto the gentiles, a people hitherto considered as unclean (uncircumcised) heathen worshippers and condemned to eternal damnation. Through the gospel of Christ Jesus, the Abrahamic monotheistic faith was carried into to world by the chosen apostles. The good news of the gospel of Christ Jesus was a bright light that has illuminated every dark corner of the earth.
On the morning of Saturday April 15, a day before Easter Sunday, I remained in bed after waking up early, as usual, to observe my Fajr prayers, trying to figure out how best to spend the Easter holiday. I didn’t have to think about this for long as my thoughts were disrupted by a phone call. Without looking at the caller identity, the voice on the other end, which was calm, soft but firm, as usual, was unmistakably that of Hon. Patrick Asadu. To my delight the call turned out to be an invitation to spend the Easter holiday in the eastern city on the hill, Enugu. I gladly accepted the offer and off to Enugu I went. Hon. Asadu is an alumnus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka medical school, with a long and meritorious public service career. From a local government administrator to a commissioner and currently a ranking member of the federal House of Representatives, representing Igboeze/Nsukka federal constituency of Enugu State.
Having been elected into the House for a record three consecutive terms, Hon. Asadu eminently qualifies to be addressed as a seasoned politician. I met Hon. Asadu through Hon Muhammed Kabir Ajanah, a mutual friend, who is also a member of the House of Representatives from my native state of Kogi, and ever since it has been a cherished experience. Hon. Asadu chairs the very vital House Committee on sports, harbours and waterways transportation. His approach to public service is with the same efficiency as is obtainable in the private sector. Working closely with him reveals a very hardworking and amiable gentleman. He appears to be a master political strategist, planner and team player. These qualities are evident in his ability to delegate duties and responsibilities among members of his staff working together as a close knit family. Whenever he gives you a task, he monitors you closely. However, his method of monitoring is devoid of command and control but essentially a guide towards making you achieve the desired objective. He is quick to commend a good job and reward hard work before the sweat on your brow dries up. With the right people in place, government can indeed do business and do it well. The verdict of his stewardship so far in public service is evident in his two consecutive returns to the House by his people, who he is representing for a third term at the National Assembly, as earlier mentioned.
My journey to Enugu, which was supposed to be a period of rest and merriment however turned out to be a working holiday. Due to the closure of the Abuja airport, I had to travel to Enugu by road. After journeying for about five hours through Kogi and Benue States, we eventually arrived the northern part of Enugu State. As we approached the famous University town of Nsukka, I noticed an appreciably better stretch of road networks leading into Enugu metropolis. I also observed well-constructed roads with street lights leading into hinterlands and adjoining rural communities in and around the Nsukka section of the State. I was not alone in my observations. A discussion among my fellow commuters commenced around these developments. One of them, an indigene of the State simply identified as Kene, who clearly had the advantage of knowledge of the State, guided the conversation. He said, “the new governor is working. He is transforming the long neglected but important town of Nsukka into its deserved status as a flagship urban centre”.
There appears to be a systematic integration and assimilation of non-natives into the Enugu society by extending economic and political advantages and privileges to all Nigerians who desire to make Enugu home. There is that unmistakable “Enugu identity” that every resident of the city takes pride in.
I was a bit surprised considering the general non-performing reputation of most state governors. I couldn’t wait to explore the historic city of Enugu but was more curious to know about the developments I observed on my way into the city. I needed to know the extent of developments within the long neglected Nsukka axis. Arriving in Nsukka town, I had been welcomed by an unprecedented urban renewal effort anywhere in Nigeria outside a state capital, with several kilometres of quality roads already completed and more under construction. Particularly noticeable was the Opi/Nsukka township dual carriage way with street lights stretching over 11 kilometres. The governor is replicating these feats simultaneously in all parts of the State. From Orji River/Udi axis to Enugu metropolis, beyond Nike to ninth mile, is the same story of massive creation and expansion of existing infrastructure. Most spectacular is the expansion of the ninth mile end of the road, with the construction of mini bye-passes to ease the usual heavy traffic flow. Rapid urbanisation of rural settlements appears to be his strategy at integrated development of the entire state. With one of the smallest federal allocations, it is a commendable feat to have achieved so much with little in a short period of time.
The massive network of roads and other physical infrastructure within the city centre are well maintained with an efficient waste management and environmental sanitation system by the state government. The beautiful and clean city of Enugu, with its lush green and mountainous vegetation, gently undulating landscape, combined with a record of low crime rate and zero ethno-religious crisis, sets Enugu ahead of other state capitals as the most peaceful and habitable. In this era of the inability of most states to pay salaries, the prompt payment of workers’ salaries is surely a big achievement. From the feedback I got on the streets of Enugu, the current administration of Ugwuanyi pays Enugu State workers their salaries regularly on the 25th of every month.
A major attraction to Enugu is the people, the diversity, the enlightened sophistication and the warmth. Enugu as the capital of the old Eastern Region is heavily populated by the Igbo ethnic group from across the five core Igbo states. However, there exists sizeable Arewa and Yoruba communities that have been there for over a hundred years, dating from the days of colonial coal mining activities. There appears to be a systematic integration and assimilation of non-natives into the Enugu society by extending economic and political advantages and privileges to all Nigerians who desire to make Enugu home. There is that unmistakable “Enugu identity” that every resident of the city takes pride in. The people are happy and are largely pleased by the leadership style of the Ugwuanyi administration. Silent achievements speak louder than noisy government propaganda. Governor Uwuanyi’s most efficient public relations agents are the people. With a highly favourable rating, the success story of the governor so far is told freely by the people, whose lives have been affected positively.
By the time I set out to return to the city centre from my mini tour of the Enugu country side, it was dusk. As I rode into Enugu city, enjoying the rhythms of my favourite highlife band, Oriental Brothers international, I was welcomed by the beautiful night scene as the major motor ways were brightly lighted by rows of street lights.