IN AWKA, ARTHUR EZE AVENUE OF MANY TALES



   
                            IN AWKA, ARTHUR  EZE AVENUE OF MANY TALES 



     Flooded Arthur Eze Avenue
                                                            
One street in Awka, Anambra State capital sits in a world of its own. It exudes seriousness in the daytime and gravely quiet as the night wears out. On a typical day, the extremes of this street choke with human than vehicular presence, sometimes, goods compete with humans for space. The street is not the most recognised or inhabited but stands out. The vibrancy on the street depicts bustling and hustling of its commercial nature. The street, particularly, where it opens has no respect for status; here the ambience requires you wear toga of the average person. What matters is your bargaining power.  
               
The street is neither the longest nor the most beautiful in the city of Awka, but one of the busiest. It may not be the liveliest place to hangout at night, (though, brisk sensual transaction takes place in front of some hotels here) but records one of the highest, perhaps the largest volume of business transaction in the daytime than any other street in the state capital. The street does not feature in the environmentally threatened list, but remains the most flooded of the major streets in Awka metropolis. Welcome to Arthur Eze Avenue, Awka, Anambra state.  

The street is vital to the economic development of the city, but lacks structural arrangement and groans from neglect during rainy season, while residents and commuters whine. Flood other than holdup makes passage through street dreadful. The flood knows little fury when the sky opens up. When it rains, the occupants of this street hold their heart in their hands. For commuters, who must pass through it, the experience is worst than imagined, particularly from the Onwurah intersection to UNIZIK Junction. It has become a perennial malady since the urbanization of Awka began twenty-five years ago. Two weeks ago, on my way home, I saw a colleague marooned in a pool of water. Not far from him, another man drenched in rain patched on structure nearly covered by flood.

Arthur Eze Avenue stretches from the popular Eke Awka Market, the city’s biggest market and terminates at Enugu-Onitsha Expressway at the UNIZIK Junction. On this street, you find the largest Catholic Church in the city. In fact, no church in the metropolis boasts the numerical strength of St. Mary Catholic Church. The street also houses Tracy Hotel, one of the city’s oldest hotels in the city, and other notable hotels such as Choice and Ubatel among others. It has an extension of one of Awka’s oldest and renowned pharmacies, Joez Pharmaceuticals. Emmaus House, one of the city’s biggest event centres is on this street. 

Except for those who transact business on this street, many people have passed the street on several occasions without the knowledge of its name. It is not strange when you mention the street’s name to some people for them to ask of its location, yet it remains one of most notable streets in Smith City, as Awka moniker states. Sometimes, in your description of the street, you have to mention the UNIZIK Junction, the most popular spot in Awka, (A stranger or wanderer can’t miss its location) or the swarming Eke Awka Market for the street name to register, though, located on this street, the market register more popular than the street name. 

 It is rare as a woman to have shopped for foodstuffs number of times in Awka without visiting the market. Eke Awka is Awka’s biggest market; it once was a cemetery for St. Mary Catholic Church. If the city of Awka reminds you of its origin, you see some of its remnants on this street behind the fence of the famous Igwebuike Grammar School, who of recent have been relocated Old Timber Market.   

Navigating this street during the daytime particularly during the rush hour requires some patience. Everybody wants easy access to the road at the same time but the narrow nature of the street complicates issue for commuters and public transport operators. For those in Awka, before the state was carved out of the old Anambra State, the street now known as Arthur Eze Avenue was formerly called Achalla Road, because it leads to Achalla, a town in Awka North local government of the state. It was renamed after Chief Arthur Eze, a foremost businessman from Anambra State.
As then Achalla Road up to the 1980s, it serves as a narrow passage that connects other towns in Awka North local government area through the neighbouring Okpuno town. Back then; this strip of road has an ambience of boulevard, though narrow, trees line both sides of the road and buildings were not close to the road.

The old Timber Market that also serves as Building Material Market is also situated on this street. No place in the city will you find goats and fowls to buy than on this street. The market for goat lies within the old Timber Market, while that of the birds is at Eke Awka Market. The abandoned Awka Stadium project which construction commenced over 15 years ago is tucked away on this street. Except for the signpost that reads SMITHCITY FC, and the amateur clubs that trains there, the bush-overgrown stadium breathes no life. 

As the street ages and business volume surges, it road becomes narrower by the day. There are virtually no demarcation between the road and many buildings on this street. Where the road terminates is entrance to many shops and buildings. Structures and shops have encroached into the shallow drainage system in places it existed. With the relocation of the Timber and Building Material Market to Enugu Agidi town, along the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway to decongest, the area swells with congestion than before. The once greenery space at St. Mary Catholic Church now packed with rows of shops. 

Other than flood, traffic jam and congestion has becomes a common place, particularly at the Eke Awka Market axis. To decongest the place, the state government made the Court Road intersection to the market a one-way road - meaning no vehicle plies the road from the market to Court Road intersection, other than those from Unizik Junction or any other road through Court Road intersection. But did little to halt the gridlock at rush hours. More irritating to commuters these days is the traffic holdup caused by vehicles off loading goods on the street, sometimes this heavy-duty vehicles breakdown and make passage difficult. Today, it is not strange for the street residents to block passage for ceremonial purpose, causing gridlock and when that is sorted out, the road may remain closed for the rest of the day. This result to vehicles taking to alternative routes to get UNIZIK Junction or Aroma Junction, one of the easiest places to get connected to other parts of the city. 

John Okeke, a building contractor frowns at the situation of the street when it rains, “It is a nightmare for you to have your car broke down during the rainy season on this street. I experienced it sometime ago, because of that when it rains; I look for alternative route to my destination. I don’t understand why the government has not solved this problem for over 20 years.”

A resident of the street who gave his name as Chukwudi, blames state government, particularly the agency in charge of urban development for the twin headed problem facing the street, “Why won’t flood threaten the street, when a narrow and busy street as this has no drainage system, what do you expect. If proper policy articulation is in place, tell me, shall we be talking of flood on this major street. Shall we be talking of structures erected near drainages? Government agencies in charges of urban planning have failed us. They have not done their job.”


IN AWKA, ARTHUR EZE AVENUE OF MANY TALES                                IN AWKA, ARTHUR  EZE AVENUE OF MANY TALES Reviewed by Emeka Chiaghanam on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 Rating: 5

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