Onitsha: A Great City On The Niger.

By Chinedu Eborah

Onitsha is an alluring and inviting city. It is located on the eastern bank of the Niger River, in Anambra State, Nigeria.

Onitsha is the first city this writer visited as a young boy, before moving to the Coal City, Enugu, as a young starry eyed undergraduate.

A metropolitan city, Onitsha is best know as an economic hub for commerce, industry and education.

Onitsha hosts the popular Onitsha Main Market, the largest market in Africa - in terms of geography, size and volume of goods and trading activities. It was founded in the 15th century.

The irrepressible Chief, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first indigenous Governor General of Nigeria and President of Independent Nigeria, was a native of Onitsha. He was the Owelle of Onitsha till death.

The constitutional monarch of Onitsha is the regal and magnificent, Igwe Nnamdi Alfred Achebe, "Agbogidi" the Obi of Onitsha.

The Onitsha Main Market is a major attraction to people across Africa and beyond. So, as a boy living in Asaba, a boarder town to Onitsha, I used to feel blessed being able to easily jump into a commercial bus and arrive in Onitsha in less than 20 minutes.

Infact, the Niger Bridge was the only significant divide between the bubbling city of Onitsha and the sleepy town of Asaba.

Now, so much has changed. Asaba the capital of Delta State is a beehive of activities. Onitsha has grown, but has become insecure, noisy and so has lost its serenity.

As a consequence, migration is towards Asaba from Onitsha, and commuting to Onitsha from Asaba can take several hours to accomplish because of the activities of touts and irresponsible uniform officers that makes commuting herculean, expensive and boring. Onitsha has lost its splendour.

Onitsha is dead.
According to the new Anambra State Governor, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, "Every visit to Onitsha leaves one with interesting insight, some good, and some others bad. Sadly, our dear Onitsha is dead. Killed by the twin evil of social recklessness and laxity in law enforcement".

The Governor however expressed hope in the resurrection of Onitsha. Thus, "Like the carcass in Ezekiel's prophecy, I believe these dry bones shall rise again".

He notes that Onitsha is a melting pot of Igbo commercial ingenuity. "Onitsha is strategic, not just to Ndi Anambra but to Ndi Igbo", he said.

The Executive Governor stated that his interaction with landlords in Onitsha, Inland town and adjoining conurbations was exciting, as the people are hopeful and willing to become progressive partners in the task of resurrecting Onitsha.

Soludo affirms that the Truth is, the "Nwa Otu" spirit of Onitsha is undying.

As a businessman, I have visited the Onitsha Main Market uncountable times. Infact, there are times I travel to Onitsha every other day, either to buy goods, or hold business meetings with partners and clients.

The Onitsha man is a proud man and he has enough reasons to be. He is steep in tradition, even though the city is Metropolitan and the people educated.

As one approaches Onitsha from Asaba axis, there are significant places to note. First is the River Niger bridges, one old, the other new.

The old one presently in use is the link between Southeast Nigeria with Western Nigeria, beginning from Asaba. The bridge was completed in 1965.

The new bridge, almost ninety percent complete will be commissioned soon to ease movement of travelers. It is probably the most keenly anticipated Federal Government project in the entire South East.

As you cross the bridge and behold Onitsha, you will notice on your left, the famous building materials market, Ogbo Osisi.

From Ogbo Osisi you will link the commercial hub of Africa, the Main Market. However, moving to the Main Market through this route in recent years have become totally unpleasant, with the road dilapidated and almost impassable.

The main market attracts probably the largest number of business tourists in the whole of Eastern Nigeria.

The Onitsha Monarch's Palace, and the annual ceremony where the Obi of Onitsha renews his rites and vows to his subjects: The Ofala festival, is often a beehive for anyone who wishes to visit the wonderful city. Visitors are availed a marvelous display of Onitsha culture and traditions.

The All Saints Cathedral in Onitsha is a sight to behold. An architectural masterpiece and marvel. A real experience to see and study.

The Chuka Ikpeazu Memorial stadium is a place of keen interest to lovers of Sports and leisure.

The famous Ogbunike caves is located in a valley blackout by tropical rain forest a few kilometers from Onitsha. The caves have spiritual significance. The " Ime Ogbe" celebration is undertaken every year to commemorate the discovery of the caves.

The Rojenny Tourist village is a tourist heaven located along the Owerri - Onitsha expressway. It resides on a large expanse of land, with eye catching attractions. It is worth a visit.

Also, Obosi, Ogidi and Oba are suburbs of Onitsha that hold various and significant tourist attractions.

The Onitsha airport which was recently commissioned for flight operations is a great sight to see and has opened up the city to tourists who may wish to fly into the city from anywhere.

Onitsha will continue to grow in statue and significance. The lamentation and expression of hope by Governor Soludo gives me this confidence and assurance. All Ndi Anambra need to do now is wait for His Excellency's next steps.