Africa: Enugu Unity Park in Nigeria, Gov. Ugwuanyi’s Unsung Tourism Legacy

Enugu

Before now, whenever I am on a visit to Enugu, I only drove past the long stretch of pine woodlands in between the famous WAEC bus stop and Okpara Square stretching into the Enugu government house grounds of Bisala Road without a bother.

However, one night as I drove past again, I noticed a mighty sculpture of a lion at the well-lit park and shuddered.

So when a friend asked me to join him to Enugu Unity Park for a meeting the next Sunday, it was a rattle of excitement on my entire body system which couldn’t be bottled in. I itched to see that lion which I saw glowing at night more clearly and closely. I couldn’t wait to see firsthand what other things that are tucked into that parcel of land which is cut short by a gigantic court building at the other side.

I urge you to very kindly follow me as we tour Enugu Unity Park, magnificent leisure and tourism edifice gradually earning Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi fame and positive commendations.

In fact, I concluded after my so call unauthorized and uncommissioned tour that Enugu Unity Park is indeed one of Governor Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi’s unsung legacies. And considering the number of visitors milling around, into and out of the park especially during the weekends, then those thinking like me seem to be correct in their thoughts.

As you enter the gates of the park and look left of its well paved lawns, a white plaque beholds you and reads; Developed and commissioned by Governor of Enugu state Rt. Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on May 29, 2021. This is more or less a warning not to make the mistakes of ascribing its foundation to the wrong person.

At first there was an instant confusion on my part as to where to begin my tour. I wondered whether to start from under the belly of the lion, the most popular area of the park which stares at every visitor inviting photo shoots or to walk the lawns. I ended up starting with a round and about tour of the entire arena through the lawns reaching all the four far ends of the park. It struck me that one might get lost to his companions in this expansive park. And I did get lost to my friends requiring a phone call to track me.

I watched with delight how families after families, friends after friends, groups after groups, took spots of choice inside the expansive park to relax in leisure without the bowels of the park complaining of being full. The arena basically swallowed the thousands of visitors and seemingly wiped its mouth clean showing no traces. The space was ample enough to contain all the visitors who streamed in and filed out. The long stretch of dual carriage Okpara square serves as a car park.

You should have been there to see how the shed of dry pine leaves and foliage caused by the humid end of year weather created a surreal feeling.

Noteworthy are art works of monumental proportions littering the park. No one can miss the biggest of the artworks being the two storey Roaring Lion on concrete created by ace sculptor, Okay Ikenegbu of the Institute of Management and Technology Enugu.

I gathered that the Roaring Lion houses two fully air-conditioned conference halls and it looms large where ever you were in and around the park.

Other notable sculpture pieces decorating the Enugu Unity Park are the soccer tapping elephant, the crowing cockerel as well as other abstract sculpts.

I also saw artificial streams, grooves and waterways all ingeniously created into it.

Children are also put into great consideration in leisure issues so there is children – only section with swings and all forms of Hangover where parents filled all the spaces.

I saw many groups in meeting sessions, families and friends in lunch session while some lovers found slightly flower- hooded corners for romantic chats in the free- entry leisure atmosphere littered with concrete seats and benches.

Investigation revealed that the park closes to the public at 6pm daily.

Again, I gathered that visitors are allowed to bring along their food to share but not alcohol.

It is interesting to note that while at the park savouring and marvelling at the initiative of providing such a free leisure atmosphere for the people on that Sunday evening, a siren blared. The sound of the siren grew louder and closer and behold it was the man they call Gburugburu sauntering into the park to see the extent of its continuous development. He was clad in his usual white with a few of his retinue of aides and security details. Like a doctor on ward round, he met, spoke with and interacted with many patrons of the park including children.

I learned from a regular visitor to the park that this visit has been regular and unscheduled since the park was commissioned and without doubt underscores the interest he has in the leisure project.

A source also hinted that the park has not yet reached the level of the vision Gov. Ugwuanyi envisaged for it which is reason for his regular visits.

The governor’s entry interrupted a meeting I was setting up with star actress Ndidi Obi of Nneka the pretty Serpent fame, head of the management team overseeing the park to ask her how far.

However I left with many lessons which include that; Enugu people itch for family outing leisure spaces as has always been from time when street parks dotted the city like; Ngwo park, Onwudiwe park both in Uwani, Ejindu Park at Coal camp, Osadebe street park, Edward Nnaji park in New Haven and Abakpa, Murtala Mohammed Park around Aria road / new market and the famous Polo park which has now become Shoprite among others.

I also learned that Governor Ugwuanyi is determined and tenacious when it comes to pursuing things after his heart albeit very subtly. And one of the things after his heart has to do with arts, entertainment and leisure.

I also learned that if not his tenacity, the governor may not have invested in many artists and sculptors to produce and mount the many giant artworks in this park or on the artisans employed forever in the ongoing constructions and maintenance.

If Gburugburu were not tenacious and determined, he may not have created time to visit the project every now and then to see progress of work.

Again Gburugburu is a lover of humanity who seems caged by government bureaucracy and red tapism and wants to meet with the people every now and then.

I learned as well that the Enugu Unity Park affords him a momentary weekend escape and the opportunity to see the people and interact even if it was once in a week..

As the journey to 2023 when he vacates office continues and as the era of counting achievements and blessings come and if some of his other achievements do not count for him, then the Enugu Unity Park may just be one of Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s everlasting legacies which if maintained by coming administrations would speak for him always. It resonates with the people. Wholesomely.

By Fred Iwenjora

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