Gburugburu: My Trip to Enugu
By: Deji Yesufu
(This article was first published in November 2018 after my trip to Enugu State)
My biggest ambition for the year had been to take my book, Victor Banjo, to Eastern Nigeria. I thought that if I have written a book against the cessation call by the Indigenous People of Biafra from Nigeria, there was no better place to tell the story than in Igbo land itself. So I reached out to friends in Enugu and the trip was planned. November 2, a Friday, I was on my way to Eastern Nigeria to discuss my book with the people of Enugu. This would be my first trip to Eastern Nigeria.
Prior to going to Enugu, my mind had been filled with all kinds of misconceptions about Igbo land. I had people around me who were certain that I was going to meet a certain death in the East. “How dare you go to the East and criticize Ojukwu?” I was warned. It was not that I was not afraid; I think the sheer thought of adventure overshadowed all my fears. I was however afraid of being kidnapped; so I never broadcasted my location on social media throughout my stay in Enugu, except when I was at public meetings. I would learn during my stay that kidnapping is history in Enugu.
Mentally, I was prepared for the close to ten hour trip from Ibadan to Enugu but by the time we were leaving Awka, I was beginning to get desperate. We entered the city of Enugu at about 6:30pm and the first thing that took my breadth away was looking at the vast spread of the city from the heights of the Milliken Hills. It was a beautiful sight to behold. The State Government of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had only recently refurbished the road that snaked through the hills at the entrance to the city and had provided lightings and barriers against cars falling off the edges. The sight of the city from that height put a hunger in me to see more of Enugu from that moment.
I must commend the hospitality of Enugu people and their kindness to strangers. Unlike Western Nigeria where many people tend to fear being used for fetish purposes, the few people I asked directions of in Enugu were always very gracious to help me out. My host had instructed someone to drive me from the motor park to the house. After a few minutes, I found him and then headed to my place of abode.
Enugu is an ancient city in Nigeria. It was the capital city of the defunct Eastern region in the colonial/post independence years. Since those days, Enugu city has developed considerably to a modern city state that is arguably one of the most organized cities in Nigeria. One must testify to the ingenuity of successive governors in the state that have given priority to construction of roads in the city. Enugu road network are so well done that I could say that in my ten day stay in the city, I did not meet one single hold up. The efforts of successive state governors to build Enugu is even more commendable considering that the state is not an oil producing state. They are clearly using their meagre resources very well.
Independence Lay Out, Enugu, is the heart of the city. This part of the city is a real beauty. It houses many of federal and state government buildings. I was at the Michael Opara square, right at the middle of Independence Layout, on the last Saturday of my stay in Enugu. There I met hundreds of Enugu city dwellers who had come out early in the morning to exercise, jug and to generally keep fit. It is the first time in my life to see a whole city giving premium to a vital matter of health and fitness. I was told by John, my friend who took me around to see the city, that even military and para-military personals join in this fitness work that take place every Saturday at the Michael Opara Square. Following my experience there, since arriving from Enugu, I have kept a daily fitness schedule here in Ibadan.
One high point of my stay in Enugu is in discovering the phenomenon called Gburugburu. Gburugburu is the nick name of the present Governor of Enugu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Gburugburu means “everywhere”. I understand it is a name of a chieftaincy title that he holds but it portrays in real fact the kind of person that he is. Ugwuanyi is a big fellow with a big heart. He is generally regarded as a “performing” Governor. Enugu State, since 1999, has been led by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The party has succeeded in zoning out the governorship seat to the three Senatorial zones in the city. Ugwuanyi is from the northern senatorial zone, Nsukka. In spite of the work he has done in Enugu, he has also helped to improve the infrastructures in Nsukka.
John took me to Nsukka for a burial. It was a delight driving from the town of Opi to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, on a road that Ugwuanyi had only recently built. The commercial aspect of that city had opened up a great deal; making it easy for transporters coming from the North and Benue State, to connect through the city unto Port Harcourt.
Then there is the night life of Enugu city. I was told that Enugu is only second to Owerri (Imo State) in night party ridding. Hotel business is a booming business in Enugu. In fact there are seasons that hotels are fully booked in the city. Enugu folks love life and they live it to the fullest. There is very little crime and the people are very hardworking. There is also the booming estate business in the city.
I personally have not seen as many estates anywhere else as I saw in Enugu. It seems to me that everyone is either building a house or has built a house in that city. The city is a massive construction site. John told me that some two to three years ago, people of Eastern origin suddenly awoke to the consciousness of building their own region. So even though many do not live in these houses, except at Christmas, everyone owns a house back home in Enugu.
My book had been written around a central theme that Nigeria is better together than divided. I saw this theme play out in practical terms while I was in Enugu. Not for once was I discriminated against because I was Yoruba. In fact the very moment anyone learnt I was a visitor, everyone made efforts to ensure that I was most at home in the city.
At the Centre for Memories, were I gave my first book reading on Saturday 3rd, 2018, I was guest to Prof. Rena Okonkwo. She is a retired Professor of History from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She did a brief review of my book with the guests and then I was invited to speak to them. Ms. Adachukwu Onwudiwe and Ms. Florence Ugwu of the Crater Library and Publishers, coordinated everything around my literary works in the city. I remain greatly indebted to the duo.
On Saturday, 10th of November, I was guest of the Enugu Literary Society at Radio Nigeria, Enugu. Mr. Ken Ike, the Zonal Director of Radio Nigeria Enugu, was my host. He led me through a series of questions and answers on my book, as I sat before scores of guests who had come to the program that evening.
The event that evening is probably one that I would never forget. The Enugu Literary Society is a forum that holds every second Saturday of each month at the Radio Nigeria and it has writers come to talk about their books. They have students from Secondary Schools, who are interested in Literature, come also to both talk about their own writings and to listen to published writers. As I sat and watched these young people talk and ask questions, I knew that Eastern Nigeria was already sowing seeds of greatness for its future. Other regions of this country have a lot to imitate from them.
My trip to Enugu had come within a few days of my annual leave. It is the best holidays I have ever taken in my life. Enugu is a city you would want to visit or even live in. What I saw in that city is a pointer to a great future that awaits Eastern Nigeria and the whole country in the days to come. There is a sense in it that my trip to Enugu was a kind of gburugburu around Eastern Nigeria – it took me everywhere I never dreamt I would go to in that region of this country.
Deji Yesufu is the author of the book Victor Banjo. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org