• Friday, December 08, 2023
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‘Onitsha’: Dynamics of rapid urbanisation


Sunny C. Nwachukwu

The mega-cities of the world are basically characterized by so many factors ranging from infrastructure development, (high-powered architectural designs of very imposing edifices/buildings and magnificent network of roads; airports, river/seaports, electricity/power stations and utility like water supply) to diverse social amenities strategically located and tailored to suit various occasions and respective social functions and services. The flavor that caps such a system (mega-city) to its completeness is the daily economic activities that characteristically occur ceaselessly as her “sights and sounds”; with a superlative ‘driving force’ on the human traffic that populate the specified locality; engaged round the clock in their respective callings.

There is no gainsaying the fact that, “life is all about relationship”; which of course (directly or indirectly) involves ‘services’ flowing from either directions in the course of maintenance of life, attached to a mutually agreed consideration, the pecuniary benefits. This driving force spurs man to strive and compete positively, ultimately amounting to productivity in the economy. From a micro point of view, a productive man contributes to the economic growth of the system (no matter how insignificant the impact). Whether it is in the public or private sector, this driving force pushes man to search for “greener pasture”, thereby manifesting by way of drift of massive human traffic in a particular direction to a specified locality or spot considered as very conducive, convenient and comfortable in the course of life’s existence and activities. The concentration of humans resulting from the above dynamics determines the pace or speed of growth of any particular locality; be it a hamlet (by rural dwellers) or a city (by urban dwellers). Most importantly, these dynamics are never manifested over a locality without the endorsement from ‘above’ by the arm of the divine Being, our Father in heaven (the eternal Creator) who originally has ordained (blessed and destined) it to be.

In the course of visionary planning for a better urban future, the United Nations (UN HABITAT) just recently carried out a project, photographing the dynamics of fast growing cities, in the world. This global photographic campaign undertook and conducted by the United Nations agency was primarily to capture the contemporary dynamics of the city, with a special focus on the interaction between citizens and their urban landscape. This brings us to the head of the matter, the ‘driving force’ and various locations within the confines of the sovereign entity called Nigeria. Now, how could it ever be imagined under the sun that “Onitsha” in Nigeria could have been picked and classed among the five fastest growing cities selected around the world in this twenty first century? It is indeed amazing! It might interest us to know them at this point. They are namely, Johor Bahru in Malaysia; Tetouan in Morocco; Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil; Hunchun in China and finally the last but, not the least, our own dearly beloved “Onitsha” in Nigeria. What a feat? When the above mentioned locations have been recognized by the world body and classed as epitome of fast growing and dynamic intermediate sized cities, worldwide! Who can annul it? No one, because heaven has it already recorded. No wonder, the former president,  Olusegun Obasanjo was engulfed in total bewilderment when he sighted Onitsha in one of his early visits, from afar and started asking about what he was seeing (mirage or what?). A supposedly war-torn city being seen recently as if it were a city in Japan or Singapore, wow! Though unexplored by the past governments, Onitsha still remains the habitat of the majority of both the past and the present world-class business moguls, take it or leave it! The historical records are there for us all. Please permit me to also make a reference to a publication in the BUSINESSDAY of Monday 24, November, 2008; page 16 captioned “Proposed free trade zone in Anambra”. In that write-up, I posited a lot of facts regarding Onitsha as a globally renowned commercial nerve center, and the supposedly economic lost-glory to the nation; which was shortchanged to the present Dubai in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) for more than three decades now. This of course, I recounted was partly as a result of share negligence and lack of visionary economic planning by the past governments. I also made mention of the issue of crime. All hope is not yet totally lost because, I believe very strongly that, the government can still make amends, most especially now that the nation is stepping into another phase and season of glory, JUBILEE, when recovery and restoration of the lost-glory is effected; more so, now that the nation is singing the mantra of vision 20-2020. Thank God that the dredging of the lower Niger (Onitsha river port) is completed, and also the sitting of the second Niger Bridge project, in view. The Federal Government must not renege or be myopic at this point in time that we need to muster all potentials that would lunch the nation into her rightful place at the global marketplace, come 2020. We need action!

Onitsha naturally, is strategically located at the “gate” of the Eastern part of Nigeria. It controls both spiritual and socio-economic potentials for the nation and therefore should cease to be neglected by the Federal Government. Onitsha will be showcased to the entire world, along side four other cities of the world at the up-coming fifth session of the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro; and also at the Shanghai World Expo, come 6th of October, 2010; by the UN HABITAT.