You may not agree with my take on this,and I perfectly respects your right to disagree, also I understand the very fact that you may not be seeing what I am seeing because of certain fixations on all that is wrong,which would prevent you from seeing all that is turning right. All the same, you are entitled to your views. In the last two months, I have visited Enugu and Owerri, and this is my opinion.
In 1995, the cosmologist Carl Sagan expressed concern about the trend toward a society in which “clutching our crystals and religiously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in steep decline … we slide, almost without noticing, into superstition and darkness.”
This is more true of the situation in Nigeria today, even though other parts of the world are not excused from this attitude, but it is most pronounced in Nigeria and Africa.
More recently, British polymath Dick Taverne warned that “in the practice of medicine, popular approaches to farming and food, policies to reduce hunger and disease, and many other practical issues, there is an undercurrent of irrationality that threatens knowledge-dependent progress, and even the civilized basis of our democracy.”
I agree. Early August, I visited Enugu and spent a week. That was the first time I was visiting that State and spending quality analytical time since I left Nsukka as a student close to two decades ago. And I saw opportunities people are running away from. When I listen to people, even very rational and highly educated people complain about lack of opportunities in some Nigerian states, I laugh at their ignorance. Any society that boasts of a population that is more than 2 million has all the opportunities in the world. Opportunities are as a result of people having needs, and other people meeting those needs.
On my way to the airport in Lagos, I spoke with a colleague from Enugu State who called up her cousin who drives one of those so called ‘Sullivan Taxi’ to pick me up. Enugu is a beauty to behold,its serenity is as alluring as captivating,especially for a Lagosian. Everything is done at a human pace,even soliciting for patronage from the taxi drivers,unlike what I am used to. The people are friendly,humble and not in a hurry.
I was most taken in by the young taxi driver that took me to the White Leaf Hotel, Upper Chimee where I stayed. He was so friendly,helpful and endured my incessant questioning by supplying answers intelligently, which prompted me to ask him his level of education. It turned out that he has a HND. I took him on how to be a HND taxi driver, first as someone who plies the airport, he should have a call card and have all the contacts of the hotels in town,their rates, and facilities available. I also told him he can enter into business relationship with the hotels, and also open a facebook page to advertise his business. He was so thankful.
From my findings, the issue of security is being well handled.The State is today far more secured than it has ever been in the last 10 years. Enugu is one of the States where I saw Police vehicles ( Kia Cerato instead of the normal Toyota Hilux) that are so neat without dents and all were fully equipped with modern communication gadgets.The roads are neat and in good condition. With the international airport, I think this is time for the hospitality industry to raise their game, the city deserves at least 2 five star hotels. Its transportation system is one of the best in the country, 80% of its taxis are so neat and they are all airconditioned, and it costs just N500 to take you from point A to point B.
Moreso, it is a very livable city, a place to raise kids and have a quiet family life.The business opportunities in the city is boundless,what is needed is people to take small risks, go the extra mile but above all have a positive disposition, and believe things are getting better,as sure they are.
A week ago, I was in Owerri, the Sam Mbakwe airport is also wearing a new look, thanks to the good works of Princess Stella Oduah. But I found the cost of airport taxi in Owerri quite exorbitant. For someone who always have someone pick me up, it was a shock that a 20 minutes drive could cost N6000.With five flights daily, there is no need for the price to be that exorbitant. I saw opportunity while still complaining. From the Owerri-Aba highway, I saw signposts indicating that the dualisation of the road will soon start( by Arab Contractors). From Nekede Junction, I also saw the 3 km dualisation from the city to the junction by Rochas which is good, also instead of driving down to Emmanuel College before a detour to Whetheral Road, the taxi driver took a new( dual carriage, complete with street lights) ring road to connect to Whetheral.I also saw the new connecting roads in many other places. And work is going on at the Flyover at Amakohia,when finished it would ease traffic in the area.
I asked about everything, from road infrastructure to electricity to education to security and cost of living. The city was neater than it was the last time I visited early this year. But we need to do something about the ubiquitous Keke, as it is slowing down the traffic in the city. Any investor who sets up a taxi cab company in Owerri will make a kill. At Rockview Hotel, where I lodged, I would say that I was impressed by the standard set at that place,moreso it is heart warming to note that Chief Vincent Obianodo (Young Shall Grow) could pump in billions of Naira into that edifice.It met international standards and it is a right step by investing homewards.
From those I interacted with at the State secretariat, to the receptionists at the Council of Traditional Rulers office off Aka Nchawa road, to the woman I ate Ofe Oha( one of the best Oha soup I have tasted in a long time) at Christ Church, to the Keke driver that took me to Ikenegbu, and the shop attendant at Amakohia, all were unanimously positive about the security situation in Owerri. According to them, it has never been this better in a long time. I drove around town late at night,and there were other crawlers out in the rainy night too,which contrasts my experience two years ago when at 8pm,the roads were cleared of people.
Owerri has not scratched its potential yet, the city is very promising. It has all it takes to be a melting point of the South East and muchmore. Everywhere I went there are people in their thousands,and that signifies a big market. Owerri people like good things and they are also willing to pay for good things, thats why there are super markets, shopping malls,eateries, beautiful hotels all over the place.Its potential as a services and hospitality industry hub is huge. If this present security situation is sustained and improved on, other aspects would surely be looking up.
We are no where closer to where we should be, but I do not think our yesterday is better than our today.