One of the flourishing states in Nigeria is Anambra. Here, you can find a few of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in Nigeria with net-worths reading well into hundreds of millions of dollars! No jokes. It is, therefore, little wonder that people from Anambra are often described as “money lovers” or often classified as chronic “money makers”. In the heartland of this prosperous state is its capital, Awka. With over 300,000 residents, Awka is a small city situated between Onitsha and Enugu; two major thriving cities in Eastern Nigeria. There are so many unique things about this great small city. However, I’ll only be sharing ten of these things with you here.
- Awka was best known for its production of metal tools useful for agricultural purposes before the colonial days. It boasted of the finest blacksmiths in sub-Saharan Africa and was the place where Igbo civilization was nurtured. The first settlers were hunters, farmers and blacksmiths. These blacksmiths were so skilled that they were sought after throughout the region and beyond. They also made the town famous for quality ironwork and agricultural tools.
- Did you know that Elephants once populated Awka? It’s hard to imagine seeing a herd of Elephants walking past Aroma junction but in ancient times, elephants walked the surface of Awka proudly. The part of the town where the elephants most populated was named Ama-Enyi. The elephants would also gather to drink at a pond they called Iyi-Enyi. The inhabitants of Awka hunted these elephants for their highly-valued Ivory tusks which were kept in every home and served as a storage for medicine. It was also a symbol of their patriarch diety Okanube.
- The Prestigious Nnamdi Azikiwe University, popularly known as Unizik, is situated in Awka. About 10% of the entire Awka population is consisted of students because of this extensive student community that totals up to about 36,000. Aside from a private university in the Awka district which has a total student population of less than 500, known as Paul University, Nnamdi Azikiwe University is the only other tertiary institution in Awka. The lesser the better perhaps, as Nnamdi Azikiwe University ranks amongst the top ten best universities in Nigeria.
- “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. I’m certain you’ve heard this phrase many times before now. In fact, you may have used it yourself more than a few times as a growing adolescent emphasizing and debating the importance of having some leisure time despite the over-demanding nature of our educational system. As an adult, you must have muttered it to yourself quite often after a hard day of work where all you’d intended to do was just go out and chill!
The people of Awka seem to be letting us know that they are very well acquainted with this phrase and might even be abiding by it more aptly than other people. If you are a tourist accustomed to the hustle and bustle of cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt or even the neighbouring Warri you will be in shock to find most public spots and shops closed by 8 pm in Awka. Unless you happen to find yourself around areas close to the universities, do not expect to see a shop open after 8 pm or even public transportation available. Awka people take rest seriously.
- If you’re a foodie, like me, you can rest assured that the cost of feeding will not put a dent in your pocket in Awka. The place boasts of fresh and very affordable food. So many things might be bothering for you but having to buy food won’t be one of them. Most restaurants in Awka sell fresh, tasty food that would make you wonder if the meal you’d had wasn’t underpriced because of the richness of the food. For a town which produced the best agricultural tools, as well as also being an agricultural trade centre, I wouldn’t expect any less.
- The hospitality of Awka is something that can never be overemphasized. Yes, they have a wide array of hotels that can cater for your lodging needs properly but you should expect to be pointed in the right and best direction if you’re a lost tourist driving through the city of Awka. Its inhabitants are friendly, hospitable people who would readily cater to a stranger.
- Awka boasts of a lot, as a small city. It is even more thriving than most neighbouring cities. In spite of this, however, if you are a techie or someone who can hardly function without wifi, that can be a problem for you as there is hardly a network connection in Awka. Unless you are lucky enough to stay in a place with a good network connection, your wifi may hardly function in Awka.
- One very noticeable thing in Awka is that everyone seems to speak Igbo – the native dialect of the Awka people. Expect to be asked a question in Igbo or to be given an answer in it. Awka people are proud of their heritage and the general speaking of their local dialect is just one way to show it.
- Awka boasts of producing some of the top richest men in Igbo land and even the whole of Nigeria. This is because the people of Awka are hardworking people who have an intense drive for generating money.
- Awka is a festive city. However, the most prominent festival in Awka is the Imo-oka festival which lasts up to two weeks. As a city renowned for its agricultural produce, this festival is hosted to mark the beginning of the farming season and so starts in May. It is held in honour of a female deity of land fertility. The festival ends on the last day with a visit to the stream which is named after the festival or vice versa. Typically, a heavy rainfall pours by the afternoon of that day.