When you talk about Okrika in Nigeria, what immediately comes…
By Uchechi Moses
Akwa Ibom State located in South Eastern Nigeria has above 5 million residents. Currently the highest producer of crude oil (she is the top recipient of allocation denoting her status as the top producer), has 3 major ethnic groups namely: The Ibibios, Annangs and Oro people. Popular “cities” (according to Nigeria’s standards) include Uyo (capital), Ikot Ekpene, Eket, Abak and Oron Town - which actually it is. The state in recent years has been developing rapidly (thanks to Godswill’s Uncommon Transformation). Famed for her cuisine (yes, Akwa Ibom women know how to cook), damsels (albeit beauty is subjective, but truly the lasses/women are beautiful), hospitality, road infrastructure, liveability (Nigeria’s standards), serenity and a plethora of others. However, what outsiders and unfortunately most residents do not know that she is the next big thing in Nigeria and the greater Central Africa region. Here are FOUR reasons why Akwa Ibom is the next big thing:
Compared to neighbouring states, she is a paradise. Residents can confidently walk at any time, any day in the state – with a sense of being safe. The state has a low crime rate from Liverpool Road and Grace Bill Road in Eket to the Oron-Nwaniba Road axis in Uyo to Eyotong road and Eyo Akan Street in Oron and environs to Ikot Okoro Road in Abak, and Old Stadium Road in Ikot Ekpene. The state government through cooperation with law enforcement agencies have vehicles and personnel placed strategically in the state to forestall break down of law and order. Additionally, the people are less active compared to her by-dwellers, critics might see this as a sign of timidity or subservience. However, this is what makes the University of Uyo to have low existence of cult groups compared to neighbouring institutions or the state owned Akwa Ibom State University cultists’ activities at a low ebb to contiguous states’ universities - where in some places cultism is a hobby and fast becoming a profession. Putting it into perspective, it is safer to walk around Ikpa Road or Ikot Akapden Road or Grace Bill Road or Chubb Road or Hospital Road than anywhere East of the Niger – any time any day. In corporation terms, Julius Berger has her third base in Uyo apart from Lagos or Abuja (Nigeria’s two most popular business places). Without sentiments, Akwa Ibom state can be said to be the SAFEST state East of the Niger. Yes, as you rarely hear or experience violent protests. Whether pro or anti-governmental.
Kudos to Godswill Akpabio who literally and unarguably turned Akwa Ibom into somewhere worth living and investing in (which was actually his job). Also to be recognised is Victor Attah, the planner and architect (most projects came off from his designs). The roads, fly overs, bridges, drainages, schools, hospitals, stadiums are top notch (Nigeria’s standards). Constructed by the numero uno construction firm in the country. Everywhere is literally a construction site as the government races to meet the expectations of her residents. Unfortunately neighbouring states have not been able to match the pace, quality (Here, Akwa Ibom wins hands-down) and spread of what she has done within the last decade. For instance, I once travelled to a neighbouring state last year and I nearly cried. The roads have deteriorated, pot holes everywhere, refuse abandoned at every nook and crannies and to think I spent my formative years there. Ironically, this state was the cynosure of the average Akwa Ibom resident. Even other states in the wider region infrastructure cannot match that of Akwa Ibom. The infrastructure are not just new but properly and adequately maintained – periodically.
The average Akwa Ibomite is peaceful and hospitable. Though there are ethnic differences here and there (just like every other part of Nigeria). However, that does not diminish the hospitable nature of her residents (indigenes and otherwise). There are no attacks on non-indigenes’ businesses, lives and properties. You have the Igbo traders and industrialists virtually everywhere in the state conducting their businesses without fear or harassment. The Yorubas, mostly domiciled in Eket and environs can attest to the hospitability factor of Akwa Ibomites. What of the Hausas? They have their businesses mostly in the Uyo metropolis flourishing without harassment or disturbance from unscrupulous individuals. Foreigners and other groups alike. Yes, this is how things should be done in sane places. But with the current upheavals in the country, Akwa Ibom is a beacon of hope of hospitality and tolerance.
LAND MASS/POPULATION SPREAD
Albeit she is 30th on the list of states by area. However, she is sparsely populated. Meaning land is cheap and can be easily acquired for either commercial, residential, agricultural or industrial purposes. From the northern local government area of Ini to the southern Ibeno to the western Ika and eastern Uruan. The state has the requisite space for every purpose.
Happy 30th birthday Akwa “Abasi” Ibom State!!!
Uchechi Moses writes from Uyo.