Parks where love is GREEN
BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU & EMMA UNA
CALABAR, the Cross River State capital for some people is an acronym which stands for, Come And Live (Love) And Be At Rest. It is impressive and distinctive in outlook for which even a first time visitor would readily agree stands out among other state capitals in the country.
The hospitality of the people is equal to none in the country, no wonder so many young men who find themselves in the city find it difficult to leave. Sometimes they end up getting married to calabar women.
Cross River State, especially the Efiks, the Efuts and the Quos, have the best cuisine one can think of in the country. What do you think of Afang, Edikaikong, Mkpa nkwukwo, you can name them. And mind you dog meat is a very special delicacy to the people. It is served on special request and the eating is with utmost respect. The only snag in the state may be cash liquidity.
The state is more or less a civil service state, meaning that majority of the residents are civil servants. About 76 oil wells which abound in the state at the Bakassi Peninsular were recently ceded to the sister state of Akwa Ibom after the Federal Government willingly and effortlessly handed over the disputed oil-rich peninsular to the Cameroon in compliance to the International Court of Justice, ICJ, judgment in 2002.
But despite this obvious challenge that adversely affected the resources of the state, it is a place that with little resources, one could explore a lot and enjoy the hospitality of the people, the culture, food, security, serene environments and of course the warmth of their women.
It does not end with the people. Part of the culture here is to be clean , maintain clean environment and showcase cleanliness as an enduring culture. It begins with personal hygiene. The Efiks have raised this culture above bar.They are so clean, neat and so lovely that visitors or non-indigines who fall in love with them end up with them either as life partners or inseparable spouses.
Some women from other tribes whose men leave for Afiks claim that their men do not do so in their true senses. They try to accuse Calabar women of fetish acts which lure the men. But that’s far from the truth. The truth is that Effik women charm you with love and a life of cleanliness that you simply get attached to their service in all ramifications.
Aside their elegance and sexuality, the Efik woman is clean inside and outside and this is romantically alluring. Generally, Calabar women are a mark of the attribute that makes the city special.
The next is the serene, spik and span environment in the city that is
adorable and highly cherished by the residents who delight in showcasing it as part of their existence while the government too flaunts it at every given opportunity to visitors who throng the city to hold seminars, workshops and conferences.
To attain this impressive and outstanding status, painstaking commitment, enormous resources, and round the clock attention is daily invested into cultivating the lush atmosphere. Calabar has, for long, been an attractive place to dwell following its rivers and seas that surround it and transport some natural feelings into one. The rainforest gives the city high rainfall which spews forth fresh and cooling air all year round.
Essentially, the first seeds of the clean and green that pervade the entire Calabar landscape today were sown by a veteran journalist, Mr. Clement David Ebri, who during his short- lived administration as governor of Cross River State during the General Ibrahim Babangida transition programme in 1992, imported ornamental trees which he planted along major streets across the city. But it must be on record that before this time Calabar’s culture of cleanliness and natural surrounding had been deep-rooted.
Roundly criticized then for importing plants which “abound in large numbers in our forests rather than establishing industries that can employ people”, Ebri remained undaunted and today those plants have grown to become big trees with large branches which form a canopy over major streets and avenues in the city. The canopy formed by these trees shade off the sun from pedestrians who walk to offices and other places.
Taking a cue from Ebri, Mr. Donald Duke who became governor in 1999 imported grasses and additional ornamental trees with which he painstakingly cultivated all over the state capital. To make room for aesthetics on lawns and parks, he purposefully pulled down illegal structures and shanties which littered the town and often obstructed a beautiful view of the streets.
Like Ebri, he was pilloried for “pulling down shops and business arcades from which people earned a living”. He was roundly disliked by many for being what they called ‘inhumane and sadistic”, but like most great men and women who have a vision for their states, he doggedly stuck to the master plan to transform the state capital and other urban centres to a cynosure of beauty.
He engaged a horde of women to plant the grasses and sweep designated areas like streets, the Millennium Park, the Jacob Esuene Stadium grounds and surrounding areas, the Margaret Ekpo International Air[port, the grounds of the Old Residency Museum and several other spots across the length and breadth of the city. It is such that Calabar city is so clean today that you hardly see litters, not even sachets of pure water on the streets. To the residents, cleanliness is a culture.
To ensure the maintenance of the beauty of the parks and fields, he established among others, the Waste Management Agency, the Calabar Urban Development Agency, the Ministry of Environment and the Urban Renewal Programme. Each of these agencies had a definite responsibility and task to discharge towards the maintenance of the spik and green environment in the state capital.
The Calabar Urban Development Authority is charged with the responsibility of keeping the streets and parks clean by deploying women each morning to sweep the dust and debris that accumulate on the streets and parks.
The harem of women engaged by CUDA numbering about 3,000 are split into groups of between five to eight and deployed to the streets headed by a supervisor to monitor their activities every morning as they sweep their designated portions assigned to them.
One of the street sweepers, Mary Effiom who sweeps a portion along Goldie/Amika Utuk street told Vanguard that she has been sweeping the streets for over six years now and her take home pay has slightly been increased owing to her dedication to duty.
“Some of us are paid 6000 while some are paid 5000 Naira every month and the money has been helping to buy food for my family and purchase some petty items that I sell in front of my family house at Palm Street. It is not my main job and I find time to do it and other things.”
She said though the pay is small it helps her meet some basic needs for the upkeep of her family since her husband is late. “My husband died in 2005 and there is no one to help me but this CUDA work gives me something every month and I have to thank them because it helps” she said in Efik
The Waste Management Agency has the responsibility of evacuating the waste from the dustbins which are located at the end of every street. They operate in the mornings and at nights and convey the refuse to the dump site which is located outside the town. The Agency takes charge of the special refuse disposal vans imported for that purpose.
The Ministry of Environment on its part takes responsibility of the ecological needs as well as planting grasses and tress.
Effectively, through this coordinated approach, places that were once deluged with rubbish and weeds were turned to lush relaxation centres. For instance, in the past, outside the runway, the parking lot and the administrative block, the entire surroundings of the Margaret Ekpo International Airport were taken up by over grown weeds and wild grasses and nobody ever thought of relaxing in such areas at the time.
Today, however, the entire place has become one big revelry spot, particularly at night, as lovers besiege the place for a drink and smooch one another in alluring and comfortable ambiance produced by the lush environment.So is the Millennium Park and the Old Residency Museum where couple from other places, soon after their wedding vows, rush down in their wedding regalia to take photographs in the picturesque environment.
Mr Christopher Egari, the Secretary of the Calabar Urban Development Agency told Vanguard that maintaining the lush environment is quite demanding and costs a lot of money, but the benefits outweigh the financial implication as apart from providing a healthy living atmosphere for the people, many areas which were hitherto avoided have been opened up and businesses are thriving in those areas.
He said Senator Imoke, the current governor, has sustained and expanded on what his predecessor, Mr Donald Duke started by importing waste disposal trucks and sophisticated gadgets to evacuate refuse from the streets and this has kept the state as a reference point in maintaining a good environment in the country. “Many organisations and international agencies have found Calabar and other cities in the state a perfect centre for events like workshops, seminars, conferences and retreats because the atmosphere is alluring all year round”.