Veteran journalist Ben Okezie, aka Civilian IG embarks on a nostalgic trip to Enugu and his many adventures reporting news from the Coal City.
I still vividly recall my experiences as chief correspondent of the defunct Concord Press of Nigeria. I held sway in the old Anambra State, with its capital in Enugu. My areas of coverage are what is known today as Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states. This was between 1983 and 1986.
Recently, I experienced what turned out to be a nostalgic trip to Enugu State. Although popularly known as “Coal City,” the dividends of being a mining state is absent, like the Niger Delta area, where oil is daily being produced. That is not the story in other countries with abundant natural resources. It is such injustice that breeds agitations that challenge the security of those areas.
Driving into Enugu aroused nostalgic feelings in me, right from Obollo Afor junction. This was where, in the days of former Police Commissioners Amos Dangana and Chief Johnson Odu, armed robbers routinely ambushed northern traders. The police chiefs however put a stop to their activities, a campaign that provided news for media houses.
It was the starving of “outside media” of news that led to the formation of the Correspondents’ Chapel in Enugu.
As we drove into Enugu, I could not find my way around town as before. Development has caught up with the city, thanks to the governors who achieved this feat.
Such rapid development in the state capital would expectedly attract youths from the rural areas. So it did. It also attracted lots of motorcycles, which often aid various types of crime as well as crimes like “one chance,” kidnapping, robbery and other associated criminalities. These vices come with the type of development I saw in Enugu.
It is not all success stories however. The sight of Abakpa-Nike gave me goose pimples as I discovered that the suburbs are yet to be integrated into the city’s general development plan.Tweet
Nostalgic feeling! Everywhere I turned, the story seemed better than before. National newspapers had their branch offices at Edinburgh and Obiagu Roads in Ogui New Layout. Obiagu and Edinburgh were our own version of London’s Fleet Street. In those days, you could stroll from one end of the street to the other to visit The Daily Times, Standard of Jos, Tide, Guardian, National Concord, The Punch, The Observer, Tribune, Sketch and News Agency of Nigeria. The bureau managers for these newspapers constituted the membership of Enugu correspondents’ chapel.
I found that Obiagu Road has been transformed; it was hard to locate my former Concord office.
In my time in Enugu, nightlife boomed. So also did crime. I also found the new GRA very impressive and commendable with new hospitality outlets fast springing up. When hotels spring up as they are doing in Enugu, it is an indication of a peaceful environment. This means the police are up and doing.
As early as 5.00 a.m., as I was on my way out of the Coal City, behold policemen were all at their duty posts. Wonderful! You can’t see policemen on the road in Abuja that early; those you find are probably playing eye service because they suspect the Inspector-General of Police is routed their way or because someone higher than the IGP might be passing by. The Enugu Police Commissioner, Mr. Ahmad AbdulRahman, must have done a lot of internal overhauling to get such high discipline among his policemen and officers.
I stopped at a police post and pointedly asked the Divisional Crime Officer if they still operate the usual “returns” to Oga at the top. He looked at me and emphatically said, “Please join the police and try it in Enugu Police Command and see what would befall you.” Truly, this was confirmed, that there has been a drastic change in the course of my interactions with a few motorcycle riders, bus and taxi drivers.
It is not all success stories however. The sight of Abakpa-Nike gave me goose pimples as I discovered that the suburbs are yet to be integrated into the city’s general development plan.
With a governor whom the people love to call Gburugburu, meaning “all round,” it could only mean that development would go ‘round’ when he starts focusing on the development of the suburbs around Enugu? He has to do this, after all a larger percentage of the state’s workforce reside in these areas.
Again, if such areas are not developed, they become breeding places for criminals. Criminals love congested areas. They love places where there are no contact addresses.
It was also surprising that Enugu, which is the headquarters of electricity power distribution in the South East, is yet to inject steady power into its development programmes. At Uwani Police Station, I witnessed how the divisional police officer (DPO) was struggling with another officer to turn on the small generator, and you ask, how come the state government is not looking at how to upgrade all the 38 police divisions in the state? Such collaboration can help in the overall security of the state.