Sunday, November 13, 2005

Enugu: the more you look?

We grew up in Enugu. We used to regard the place as a unique city. Surrounded by the rolling Udi hills and famous for its coals, the geography of the place and its natural bounty set it out as a special spot with serious economic and tourist potentials. It occupied a special place in our hearts amongst all the cities in Nigeria. As far as we were concerned no city in Nigeria could touch Enugu. Our slogan used to be: "make your money elsewhere, but come to Enugu to enjoy it". We always thought that Enugu was the ultimate place to retire to after one had done his bit in life.

Popularly known as The Coal City, what marks Enugu out is perhaps the people it breeds. The environment conditions the individual, they say; but Enugu was still recovering from the ravages of the Biafra/Nigeria civil war when we were growing up. Most of my childhood friends in those formative years also had what we used to refer to as 'Enugu upbringing'. This meant that you were raised properly. You had inculcated in you some virtues of nobility, including a strong moral character, intellectualism and respect for decency.

However, over the years, as Nigeria's socioeconomic and political climate moved from one 'bad weather' to another, it's not only the citizenry that have been left badly traumatised. The decay in infrastructure from city to city, north to south, west to east, leaves you with terrible psychological hangups. Enugu had more than its fair share of neglect. With the mass exodus of its youths in search of greener pastures elsewhere, this once beautiful city had become a ghost town.

It is against this backdrop that I felt a certain sense of pride when I learnt that Enugu State was awarded the top position in a recent exercise involving all the states in Nigeria, bar Bayelsa. This exercise was a performance rating of all the state governments in the Feral Republic of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It sought to establish the best performing state in the Federation within certain given criteria.

Following the generalised sorry situation in Nigeria in all areas of governance, this result had sounded too good to be true, especially the parameters and indicators that yielded it. In fact, I regarded it with some suspicion. I needed to get the right balance; another perspective to this that would keep it real. For some strange reason, I felt reassured when I read this article by Ejiofor Nwokolo in the Daily Independence - Enugu: The Limits of Propaganda. If you read this article to the end then you must feel my pain too. Doesn't reality have something in common with the truth? The time is nineteen after four, and this odd clock has many faces. Nothing has really changed.