From the beginning of time, every distinct people or nation have had a capital where their culture, economy, politics and social networks are anchored.
It is therefore urgent and necessary that the Igbo create a functional city capable of sucking in a huge population, and creating jobs and opportunities. A research of other major cities revealed interesting possibilities. Mumbai in India with a landmass of just 468 sq km has a population in excess of 12 million, while Delhi with a landmass of 1,484 sq km has a population in excess of 15.9 million people. The research findings demonstrate that the Southeast can create a regional capital with a population in excess of 15-20 million in a landmass of just 1000 sq km. Interestingly, the Igbo are the only major ethnic group that lacks a major and befitting capital city, while they have ironically contributed in building other Nigerian cities.
A regional mega-city and capital has the advantage of concentrating substantial economic resources in the East, creating more security for the Igbo by reducing migration to other areas where they could become victims of ethno-religious conflicts, and a substantial improvement in population demographics as many who had migrated and helped to augment the population of areas outside the southeast, will now be primarily domiciled in the East with all the political advantages which had hitherto accrued to other areas where they had domiciled.
In 1939 Enugu was named the first ever capital of the Eastern provinces which endured until 1951. It became the capital of the Eastern region between 1951 and 1967 when it became the capital of the then Biafra. At the end of the war, Enugu became the capital of the East Central State. Following further state creation, it became the capital of the old Anambra State and subsequently Enugu state. Enugu has thus been historically bestowed with the destiny as a capital of the East which is yet to be fulfilled. The regional capital project is therefore a plan to create a mega-city and regional capital for the Southeast in Enugu. The project will involve an ambitious regeneration of significant parts of the city and the construction of new planned complexes.
Build, sell and recycle, is a concept that simplifies the relative ease, and cost effectiveness with which a whole new modern city can be built. As the name indicates, all it involves is to source the initial capital, build the modern housing complexes, sell them with a modest profit, recycle the initial capital and build another set of housing complexes. Using this simple method, a whole new well planned city can be built in a short time at a profit to all the stakeholders. It is a win-win situation which will enrich the state in the short and long-term.
The existing six regions present an opportunity for the people of the Southeast to construct a regional capital that will be the seat of policy and decision making for the region and where they can, to a large extent, concentrate development initiatives to nurture and create a proud and befitting mega-city capital. The following highlights will indicate practical steps that are required to rapidly create a befitting capital city for the South East:
- A master plan of a scenic city lined with trees should be drawn up by qualified architects with major roads, flyovers, city ring road, central business district (CBD); well developed housing complexes, industrial parks, green parks etc. At least 50% of land planned for residential properties should be zoned for “high-rise complexes in structured estates”.
- Creation of a South East Capital Development Board in partnership with private investors, with each state of the 5 states and the Igbo Diaspora under a Diaspora solidarity development fund contributing to its annual development budget.
- Major roads in the regional mega-city and encircling ring road can be constructed in a cost effective way under the public private partnership scheme. The ring road will link all the major axis going into and coming out of the city centre in a circle with one half in the North side and the other half in the Southside. An interconnecting tollgate between the north side and Southside should be installed by the public private partnership scheme to recoup their investments.
- Rail link or tram way should be constructed in the long term within the regional capital city under a well planned urban transport scheme in partnership with the private sector.
- Regional mega-city should have an imposing gate on approaching the outskirts which should comprise of large edifices with arches, statues, a fountain and an electronic signpost which would read a designated welcome message.
- Well developed housing estates by both public and private investors should be conceptualised and created. Such luxury homes and apartments in well planned estates should be sold at a profit, and the capital recycled to begin another housing development. This recycling chain of property development will create a construction boom, which will in turn create thousands of jobs.
- Some of the profits from the sale of luxury homes by public developers should also be recycled to build low-cost housing or town council houses for the poor, low- income earners, and displaced persons, while still retaining and investing the initial capital in the construction of luxury homes and apartments for the affluent. Private developers given land at subsidised rates should dedicate at least 5% of houses or apartments in any given estate to town council houses for low-income earners. In this way, profits or gains from the rich will be continuously recycled to build houses for the poor.
- Creation and development of a luxury Diaspora Village and a complex in the mould of ‘Beverly Hills’ targeted at film stars, football stars and other celebrities.