When Governor Willie Obiano took over the reins of leadership in Anambra State in March 2014, he assured Ndi Anambra that the clamour for a capital city that would reflect their pride and glory would be seriously addressed by his administration. “We shall re-design and remodel Awka to meet the structural and aesthetic requirements of a 21st century city that we can all be proud of,” the governor had promised in his inaugural address.
Three years down the line, Governor Obiano has given a serious shape and form to his promise. Awka is certainly a better place now than it was when he was sworn in. As in all the various areas he has left his imprint on, Obiano’s approach to building a 21st Century out of Awka is strategic. During the first retreat he organised for his executive council members to prepare them for the tough task ahead shortly after he was sworn in, Governor Obiano showed them the “before” and “after” photographs of Dubai. The Team saw Dubai when it was a wreteched desert with no landmark and then the new prosperous Dubai with its dazzing opulence. They marvelled at the contrast. Obiano told them that what they had seen was the transformative power of dreams. He assured them that it was well within the vision of his administration to achieve same for Awka.
Today, the three gleaming flyovers in Aroma Junction, Kwata Junction and Amawbia Junction bear witness to that vision. The sparkling streetlights on broad highways assure us that change is indeed possible among us and wait for it; the International Conference Centre that is rapidly rising from its foundations in Agu Awka raises our hope that a 21st century city is springing from the once sleepy blacksmiths town of Awka.
In the words of Arc. Mike Okonkwo, who heads the Awka Capital Development Authority (ACTDA), the emerging Awka capital city with its glamourous aesthetics is a “Dubai-inspired city.” According to him, the change that is currently sweeping through Awka did not come by chance. The first decisive step taken in this direction was to order a comprehensive aerial mapping of the Awka Capital Territory with precision aerial photography. This step laid bare the geography of the territory at a glance and made planning seem like a walk in the park.
Although the current recession has held much of Nigeria down in almost two years, it has not knocked life out of Obiano’s dream of a befitting capital city for Anambra State. The administration’s resolve to forge ahead with the Awka International Conference Centre is borne out of the determination to keep an eye on the prize regardless of the daunting odds. This singular project is an idea whose time has certainly come. It has always seemed an irony that after twenty five years of coming into existence, Anambra does not have a befitting conference venue.
Yet in all of the South East and probably South South zones, there is no state with a higher volume of social activities on a weekly basis than Anambra State. The Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre that has served as the leading venue for serious gatherings does not have the profile that reflects what Anambra should have. It does not fit into the mental picture of a conference venue for the homestate of the Great Zik, Chinua Achebe and all the illutrious sons and daughters of Anambra State.
If the iconic flyovers speak to the fierce ambtion of the Obiano administration to transform the state into a prosperous entity by drawing heavily on the enterprise and resilience of the people, the new International Conference Centre announces the resolve of Anambra to claim its place as the centre for idea generation and incubation. The 5000 seats capacity centre comes with a grand entrance foyer with an atrium, a sub-dividable grand auditorium/ballroom, an exhibition hall, meeting rooms, a green room, storage spaces and associated spaces.
“The design task of the International Conference Centre is to create an instantly recognisable landmark – an iconic structure; at the terminal point of the future extension of the new Millennium City axis,” said Arc. Okonkwo. In his own words, the Conference Centre “aims to represent the city’s vision of itself as a cosmopolitan city with excellent infrastructure. In other words, “the new complex will not – as usual – simply occupy public space, but rather act as a basis for a new urban story, changing of ideas and for the construction of a prosperous future.” Indeed, there is no doubting the ambitions of the centre. Willie Obiano is not given to half measures. So, there is a subtle intention to plant the image of this landmark centre in the mental landscape of the people. It just had to look totally different. The parking lot is planned, as an eye-popping space hemmed in by manicured greenery and has a capacity for 1,200 vehicles.
In line with Obiano’s promise to build a city that will reflect the essence of Ndi Anambra, the emerging capital city is planned, as a multi-nuclear concept city. This means that the city will evolve with different precincts representing different themes. The Millennium City, which is being planned for Agu Awka will be anchored on the Three Arms Zone. So, it will host the entire machinery of government as well as the residential quarters of government functionaries and other illustrious citizens – the upper crust of the society.
There is also the Entertainment City, which is thematically planned to evolve around Nollywood with the new Golden Tulip Hotel playing a leading role in its evolution around the place where the hotel is located. Then there is the Education City, which is being planned around Nnamdi Azikiwe University with the ultimate plan of an eventual linkup to the University of Agriculture at Mgbakwu.