My Case for [Physical] Planning in Awka Etiti
Owelle Inno Anoliefo
On December 25th 1981, during my youth service year, I presented a paper titled “ My case for planning in Awka Etiti” to the Awka Etiti Action League [AAL]. For the youngies in the house let me contemporize before I delve into the substance.
The Awka Etiti Action League:
Awka Etiti Action League was the association of Awka Etiti’s illuminati in the 70s/80s founded by the late Justice Lawrence Anoliefo to galvanize ideas for the rapid development of the town. It was a think-thank that conceived the strides the town made in the period. Membership comprised Awka Etiti graduates and undergraduates. Some of the active names in the association then included Pharm B.K.C. Chukwurah, Odera Obiukwu, Gab Akajiobi, Aneli Chikeluba, Fab Mbanefo, Mathias Ezekobe, John Isikaband, Pat Ezeli, Joe Martin Uzodike, K.C. Chukwurah, Mike Ezudenna, Martin Obi, Ik Obiukwu, Sab Nsofor, Okey Udeaja, Ebele Enemuo, Bar Onyeukwu Nwadike, Bar Peter Maduabum, Dr Francis Ezisi, Patrick Odilibe, Isdore Mbakwe, Sylverene Ojukwu, Greg Ojukwu, Mike Ejiofor, Dr Aron Ezisi, Emeka Mbakwe, SMO Nnoruka, Jerome Chikeluba, Dr George Udenkwo, Lawrence Okeke, Ben Okpaleze, Sylvester Muodumogu, Dr Nath Okafor, Basil Ochuba, Obiora Nzewi, Inno Anoliefo, and many others not mentioned, many who are no more.
Strides of Action League:
To the credit of action League was the idea to reconstruct the Eke Market from the thatched and dilapidated huts it was after the war to the lock-up shops and open stalls that are themselves being demolished and reconstructed in controversy today . Those lock-up shops and stalls were the cynosure and envy of our neighboring towns in the 70s/80s. Yes, that scrappy old woman was once the toast of young men in her time.
To the credit of the Action League was the production of the first compendious history of Awka Etiti which took 3 years of rigorous research to compile but which unfortunately till date remains in an unpublished format. The Action League team that produced the master piece was headed by Pharm. BKC Chukwurah. I mention, as an aside, that a young man in his early 20s, then a student of IMT Enugu, was drafted to the team as a mentee [such was the thinking to make the young learn]. That young man was Ebele Enemuo, today Ohamadike Awka Etiti. I dropped a copy of the draft history at Awka Etiti general library as part of my bequeathal to the place. I do hope it can still be found there as pilferage has been the lot of the place ever since. The library has since been rendered decrepit by successive A.I.U regimes. Story for another place.
To the credit of Action League was the publication of a magazine titled “The Awka Etiti” edited by Gab Akajiobi with me as assistant editor. Copies also deposited at the library.
To her credit also was the setting up of a scholarship scheme that was aiding indigent Awka Etiti students and much more.
There was a symbiotic relationship between the then Youth League led by Francis Ezimuo, the A.I.U led Christopher Chukwudum and the Action League led by Justice by Justice Anoliefo and it produced immense results which as mentioned included the reconstruction of Eke Market. The Action League prepared the recipe, the Youth League did the cooking and the A.I.U did the dishing. Back to my case for planning.
My Case for Planning:
It was a seven page document adopted by the league after presentation but kept in view [till date]. My thesis was for the physical planning of Awka Etiti so that generations after us will inherit a seemingly ordered environment. As I deposed, the lesson of community development and growth has shown that any town/city that is not planned over time suffers strictures and decays. I needed not be a professional town planner to know this. To pre-empt the problem I proposed a community owned/executed physical planning or orderings in the town since rural areas like Awka Etiti was not then in the scheme of government and may be a long way in being, before which we would have irreparably messed up the town. I will come back to my thesis but again for the young ones in the house, some background note so they can appreciate the context of the proposal.
Context of the Proposal:
Awka Etiti of 1981- some 39 years ago was quite different physically from what you see today. The beautiful houses that dot our landscape as you walk by were not there. Beautiful houses then were few and in between in a typical stretch of road. Planning our terrain then was easier because there were less physical encumbrances. It was in this milieu that the proposal was made.
I emphasized then that by physical planning was meant not the wresting of anybody’s land but to authoritatively advice on the setbacks and positioning of perimeter fences and other set outs that would otherwise encroach on spaces meant for road construction, expansion and other uses. I give an example of the consequence of an idea not taken.
The Ejighnandu Road Delima:
The Ejighnandu road, considered a death trap today [at last count known to have consumed about 9 lives with scores injured] would not have been so if the proposal was acted upon. This was because in the 70s/ 80s virtually all the houses built at the edges of the road which thwarted the recent normalization by government were not there. Today, to standardize [not to talk of dualizing] the road from Iseke/Nnewi to St. Joe Catholic Church end will involve costly demolitions, and leaving it as is [as it seems to have been left] remains invitation to accidents. This dilemma would have been avoided if the needful was done. It is already being muted that the Nnobi-Igboukwu road would be dualized. You can imagine the demolitions that would occur on the Awka Etiti stretch if that comes to be. Again, avoidable by the sense of planning postulated.
Awka Etiti 50 years hence:
Our town is still evolving and growing. I predict that in the next 50 years we would have peaked. By then hardly will we have free land spaces as we have today. I posit that we can still think planning from where we are today and save us from bequeathing to our offspring a physically chaotic environment.
The Changed Context of my Proposal:
The context of my proposal 39 years ago when we were not in the scheme of government planning-wise, seem to have changed. Awka Etiti today is in the eyes of government. She falls within the 10km radius Nnewi city planning boundary prepared by Anambra state government in collaboration with UNHabitat in 2008/2009[ Report on www.unhabitat.org]. This means that Awka Etiti is in the scheme of the state government as regards enforcement of building regulations. It therefore makes sense that the town embarks on the preparation of its own local physical development plan and getting ready for government or better submit same straight to state government for adoption.
Summary of Benefits of Planning:
I am not unmindful that the concept of planning is wider in scope than I have applied. In general terms, planning can be described as the establishment of goals, policies and procedures for physical, social and economic development of a people. I seem to have dwelt on only the physical. The social and economic angles are even more crucial. What stops us from galvanizing our intelligentsia to articulate a 25 or 50 year socio-economic development plan that can catapult us as a people into a consolidated realm of growth. Even Nigeria today is on that path. This is the gap the moribund Awka Etiti Action League would have filled. Can another Action League arise to fill this gap? I don’t have the answer.
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