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The boys in my street were discussing politics the other day, somehow the matter veered off to Enugu.

Enugu? What about it? I asked the discussants. Ekene the 042 guy (acronym for Enugu people) who stutters a little took offence. Like a man on a mission to demonstrate his points, he rambled like this.

For all the beauty and scenery of Enugu, For all its lush hills, For all its mini skyscrapers, For all its lavish hotels and gloried Higher institutions of learning, Enugu is a Civil Service state.

Enugu’s population is 3,267,837 out of which 993, 620 are between the ages of 30-60. Some of them are fortunate to be employed by the government while a few are lucky enough to find a place in Enugu’s organised private sector.

There are however the unlucky ones who must hustle in Ogbete and other numerous big markets in Enugu- did I call them unlucky? It will shock you to learn that 80% of those palatial homes you see in Enugu is owned by these so called unlucky ones including the skyscrapers too.

It is true that the government is the biggest employer of labour which is enough to consign Enugu to the back waters of underdevelopment. People from Osun and Kogi should not take offence.

Somehow Enugu managed to escape this calamity. Ask me how? Enugu was fortunate to have many of her sons and daughters in dispersion or what you people call Diaspora. It is the remittances of these Enuguites which has turned Enugu into a construction joint.

There is a maddening craze of overdo. This is how our people converse among themselves. “Benjamin who stays in Abuja built a 5-storey building. When Tobe who does business In Lagos came home last December, he began the foundation of his house, a 6-storey building. Kelechi who recently came back from South Africa has commissioned his 7-storey building which also comprises a 4-storey boys quarters with great fanfare, pomp and pegantry”.

It is not a joke ohh. In the city center, its like there is a law against building bungalows and one-storey buildings. If you see anything less than 2-storey building, then its one of those rare ones that survived the Biafra war. Talk about Biafra in hush tones, the scars are yet to fully heal.

It will be preposterous, yes preposterous to assume that Construction is the live wire of Enugu given its stop-start nature. You only go to site so long as remittances keeps flowing isn’t it?

So what then is Enugu’s economic life blood?

If you take keke from the popular Holy Ghost Main Market, you will not have reached the University of Nigeria Enugu campus before you discover the miracle of Beer parlour and Bread factory Economics. This kind of economics will not be understood by those who went to Harvard University. But for those of us who went to the school of hard knocks will understand it fast fast. I will explain.

In Enugu, you will find different varieties, sizes, colors and types of bread. Haba! Enugu people like bread. Every corner you turn you will see bread in their different varieties displayed in different colourful and appetizing styles. Somebody was even saying that unlike in other states, Shoprite Bread is a minority player in the Enugu Bread-Ecosystem (allow me to speak small English, after all I have a Masters Degree).

None of the bread consumed in Enugu is imported, Nigeria can count that one as an achievement because it means a lot. It means that there are many factories which produce all the beautiful bread you see. These factories in turn employ people. The people you see selling bread earn their living from bread too. What about the people who sell the raw materials like flour, butter sugar etc? Don’t forget to include the Engineers who are engaged to service the oven and media people like us who help them advertise their different Breads.

Before you get to Kenyeatta you would have noticed Beer Parlours too. Enugu people and Hangout are like 5&6. Between one electric pole to the other you will find more than two beer parlours and they will be booming. It’s here that Enugu people arrange their multi-million deals, its here that they also cool off because the hustle can be unforgiving.

My brother, you will find all kinds of assortedly arranged meats, beef, fish, cow leg, head of goat, dog meat, pork and of course Nkwobi and Ugba the main course.

Sadly, most of these assorted meats and fishes are not produced or reared locally. But trust the spirit of Obiagu, Enugu people know where to find things that they do not already have. Materials sourcing is a booming business. Enugu traders travel as far as Ibadan to buy live Fresh Fish and Cockerels.

Enugu people no longer care if they can’t find work with the government or with the Banks. They will patiently hustle a little, gather a little money to open a bread bakery or beer parlour. Before long they will be building their skyscrapers.

Ekene finally rambled to the finish line. What a very interesting story. After hearing this story, the boys in my street have started collecting contributions so that they can fund their excursion to Enugu. One of them said he wants to bath in the waters of Akuke Beach, it was Tobi the critic who asked how about the Babes? Tobi is a pervert.

Anih Ambrose SDP wrote this piece. Ambrose is a Sustainable Development Expert. You can reach him at ambrose@swngr.com.ng

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