By Chidi Nnadi, Daily Sun
At few minutes past 2:00 p.m. the veil for the Enugu Centenary celebration fell, giving way for a smouldering smoke that enveloped the conference hall of the prestigious Nike Resort Hotels venue for the unveiling of the centenary logo and lighting of the centenary torch.
The event scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. had the spacious hall filled to the brim at noon with people from across the nine states that made up the former South eastern Nigeria.
Before unveiling the logo, Governor Sullivan Chime went into history to reveal the Enugu of today.
“In the year 1909, Enugu came into existence following the discovery of coal by a team of British geologists led by Messrs Albert Kitson and Hayes. Since then Enugu has metamorphosed into the big city it is today.
“Within those 100 years, the city better known as the Coal City has not only served as political capital to several governments – Southern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, East Central State, old Anambra State, old Enugu State and the present Enugu State,” Chime said.
He, therefore, said they are celebrating a city with great significance, an enduring and rugged nature, which has stood tall in good and bad times.
He also said they are celebrating a city that means different things to different people, but which means also one thing to most of them, a home.
“So, today, we celebrate the city that held us all together, a city where I, like many others here today was born,” he said.
Chime recalled that when he came into office in May 2007, they met a lot of challenges ranging from infrastructural collapse, poor city sanitation, insecurity, incapacitated transportation system, among others, which they battled headlong.
“We discovered though sadly that if drastic actions were not taken we were at the brink of losing our dear city hence our aggressive approach to urban renewal and our effort to make Enugu a modern city.
“I am glad that today our efforts to renew, reclaim, recreate and restore Enugu are yielding fruits and that millions of people who turned their back to our beloved city are now returning home,” the governor said.
Indeed, the celebration of 100 years of Enugu, the Coal City, revealed how much Governor Chime has endeared himself to the hearts of many in the region in the two years of his administration as representatives of other states in the region present at the occasion praised him to the high heavens.
The praises started pouring soon after former Information Minister and Chairman of the Enugu Centenary Committee, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, reeled out the wonderful package his committee has put together for the celebration.
First to appreciate the Centenary celebration was the Special Assistant to Imo State Governor on Political Affairs, Dr Jasper Ndubuaku, who disclosed that Governor Ikedi Ohakim had sent him to ask where his government and the good people of Imo could come in, in the centenary celebration.
Besides, he said the Imo people had asked him to find out from Chime his success secret, saying that even when Enugu does not benefit from oil allocations, Chime has been able to turn the state around in a very short period.
Ndubuaku praised the ambitious programmes put together for the centenary celebration, particularly those that would aid in the preservation of archival materials that would be of immense benefit to posterity.
Equally excited was the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Chigozie Ogbu, who proclaimed Chime as a miracle governor.
Ogbu who represented Governor Martin Elechi said that what Chime had done in the last two years have elevated Enugu as the capital of Igbo land and the entire Southern Nigerian.
He saw the centenary celebration as one event that would not only be beneficial to Enugu and Igbo nation, but also to the entire people of the region who at one time or the other had their root traced to the Coal City.
He gave this as the major reason why all hands must be on deck to make sure the goals of the centenary are realized.
Ogbu advised Governor Chime to consider a situation where past Igbo leaders are encouraged to have residences in Enugu as a way of promoting the oneness the city enjoyed in the past.
Also the Ohaneze Ndigbo President, Chief Ralph Uwuche, who addressed the gathering in the Igbo Language, said the Enugu Centenary celebration is the dream of Ndigbo come true.
According to him, the centenary would afford the Igbo who, he said, are over 50 million to henceforth see Enugu as their gathering point.
The Ohaneze Ndigbo leader said what the Enugu Centenary has set to achieve would encourage posterity after the centenary to have access to information about their past leaders and how they lived.
Speaking, Chairman of the occasion and Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, said after he had listened to Nwodo reeled out what the centenary would achieve he had no doubt in his mind that a revolution would occur after the celebration.
The deputy senate president pointed out that Enugu had attained 25, 50 and 75 years, all landmark years, without anyone remembering to celebrate the city that has great past, saying that the 100 years would as well have passed unnoticed if not for Chime.
He noted that Enugu had served as a rallying point for the Southern Nigeria even at a point as the capital of the defunct Republic of Biafra, saying that the city is ancestral home to many in the region.
In his address, the Centenary Committee chairman, Nwodo disclosed that the centenary celebration encompasses the nine states of the old Southeastern region and would indeed at the end of the day unveil new opportunities in the city.
He gave out the activities lined up for the celebration to include school competitions, football competitions, as well as beauty pageant that is to give out N2 million as prize money to the winner. Already, Suzuki has donated a car for the Enugu Centenary queen who will not only pass as a beautiful lady, but most have other natural ingredients that make a young woman pass as one.
Another highlight of the celebration would be a cultural fiesta that would last for five days where two states of the nine states of the region would take a day to showcase their rich cultural heritage with the last day set aside for Enugu State to do the same.
During the period, he said, they have built in a musical carnival where Nigerian music and musicians would be on parade to entertain and motivate young ones, as well as arts exhibition.
On the Christmas Day, he said that a discourse on Enugu to be chaired by renowned Catholic priest, Monsignor Obiora Ike, would be flagged off.
Nwodo also disclosed that in the weeks ahead Governor Chime would be hosting corporate Nigeria to a breakfast where he is expected to enjoin them to come and partner with the state in the celebration which would very much expose their businesses to the world.
Besides, Nwodo said that his committee would leave things that would linger in the memories of the people as it has plans to renovate and set new monuments.
Already, he said they would turn the Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly building into a legislative archive. This project is expected to gulp N61.9 million.
Also the old Premier’s Lodge where the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe lived as premier would be turned into Zik’s Museum at N37.5 million.
According to him, this would become a tourist centre like the Arewa House in the North and would have in it all things that Zik used when he was alive.
Nwodo said that they are already in touch with Zik’s widow, Prof Uche, who has promised to give them the shoes of Zik and the bed he slept in as premier.
He thanked Governor Chime for re-purchasing the hitherto monetized lodge and relocating the motor park that was there.
Also they have plans to turn the New Haven road median into car parking lots at the cost of N19 million to help decongest the traffic caused by lack of parking space in the area. This would also help in generating revenue for the state as people would be asked to pay parking fees.
Also the state Ministry of Land has begun the survey of a place between Awkunanaw and Ozalla for the building of Nollywood village, a move Nwodo said would confirm Enugu as the Nollywood city of Nigeria.
He also said that the old Ministry of Works building in the secretariat would be renovated and made an architectural piece of history.
He said they would also keep alive the Onyema and Okpara mines just as they would build a tower to commemorate the centenary celebration with a sculpture of a coal miner onto of the tower, among other projects.
The state thanked immensely constructing outfit, Master Holdings Nigeria Limited for sponsoring the logo unveiling which gulped about N5 million.