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Awka (Igbo: Awka)

Awka (Igbo: Ọka) is the capital of Anambra State, Nigeria with an estimated population of 301,657 As of 2006 Nigerian census. The city is located about 400 miles east of Lagos in the centre of the densely populated Igbo heartland in southeastern Nigeria.

The West-East Federal highway links Lagos, Benin City, Asaba, Onitsha, and Enugu to Awka and several local roads link it to other important towns such as Ekwulobia, Agulu, Enugwu-Ukwu, Abagana and Nnewi. Strategically, Awka is located midway between two major cities in Northern Igboland, Onitsha and Enugu which has informed its choice as an administrative center for the colonial authorities and today as a base for the Anambra State government.

History
Awka is one of the oldest settlements in Igboland established at the centre of the Nri civilization which produced the earliest documented bronze works in Sub-Saharan Africa around 800 AD and was the cradle of Igbo civilization. The earliest settlers of Awka were the Ifiteana people which translates into people who sprouted from the earth. They were farmers, hunters, and skilled iron workers who lived on the banks of the Ogwugwu stream in what is now known as Nkwelle ward of Awka.

The deity of the Ifiteana was known as Okika-na-ube or the god pre-eminent with the spear and the Ifiteana were known as Umu-Okanube or “worshippers of Okanube”, which evenutally became shortened to Umu-Oka and eventually Oka and its angicized version “Awka”. Over time, the town become famous for metal working of a high level and its blacksmiths were prized throughout the region for making farming implements, Dane guns and ceremonial items such as Oji (staff of mystical power) and Ngwuagilija (staff of Ozo men).

In pre-colonial days Awka also became famous as the home of the Agbala Oracle a deity that was said to be a daughter of the great Long Juju shrine of Arochukwu.

The People
Awka comprises seven Igbo groups sharing common blood lineage divided into two sections. Ifite Section, the senior section, comprises four groups, Ayom-na-Okpala, Nkwelle, Amachalla, and Ifite-Oka followed by Ezinator Section, which consists of three groups, Amikwo, Ezi-Oka and Agulu. Each of these groups has a number of villages. All together, Awka comprises 33 villages.

Awka people today as in traditional times are well travelled. In ancient times demand for their skills as blacksmiths had Awka people travelling throughout Nigeria making farming implements, household tools and guns. Each village had clearly defined trade routes. For example, people from Umuogbu village plied their trade in Benin and in the Urhobo and Itsekiri areas, Umubele were stationed in the Igala areas in modern day Kogi state, Umuike and Umuonaga in present day Abia and Rivers State, Umuenechi in the Kwale and Isoko area of Delta state, and Umudiana, Okperi, Ugwuogige stationed in Calabar area of today’s Cross Rivers state.

Climate
Awka is in the tropical rainforest zone of Nigeria and experiences two distinct seasons brought about by the two predominant winds that rule the area: the southwestern monsoon winds from the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern dry winds from across the Sahara desert. The monsoon winds from the Atlantic creates seven months of heavy tropical rains, which occur between April and October and are followed by five months of dryness (November – March). The Harmattan, also known as Ugulu in Igbo, is a particularly dry and dusty wind which enters Nigeria in late December or in the early part of January and is characterized by a grey haze limiting visibility and blocking the sun’s rays.

The temperature in Awka is generally 27-30 degrees Celsius between June and December but rises to 32-34 degrees between January and April, with the last few months of the dry season marked by intense heat.

Economy
The economy of Awka city revolves primarily around government since many state and federal institutions are located there. Awka hosts the State Governor’s Lodge, State Assembly and State Ministries for Health, Education, Lands, Water. The Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) a TV and radio station are located in the city centre. A number of federal institutions including the Central Bank of Nigeria (which has a currency centre in Awka), the NTA Awka media station, and branches of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Federal Road Safety Commission, Nigerian Immigration Service, and Corporate Affairs Commission are also present in the city. The city also has some highbrow residential areas that include the popular Udoka and Ngozika estates.

Festivals
The Imo-Oka festival is a week long festival of masquerades and dances held in May at the beginning of the farming season in honour of a female deity who it is hoped would make the land fertile and yield bountiful crops. The festival starts with Awka people visiting the community of Umuokpu with masquerades and it ends with a visit to the Imo-Oka stream on the final day which is heralded by a heavy rain that falls in the late afternoon.

There are four major events performed during the festival, the ede-mmuo, ogwu oghugha, egwu Opu-Eke and Egwu Imo-Oka. Egwu Opu Eke is a rich cultural dance performed by female worshipers of Imo-Oka shrine which includes priestesses and ordinary women alike decorated in colourful costume dancing in the market square in honour of the deity controlling the shrine.

The Imo-Oka festival showcases a variety of masquerades (mmanwu) from sinister ones which flog spectators to friendly ones which sing or dance. The masquerades are believed to represent the spirits of Awka ancestors coming from the land of the dead for the festival.

Hospitality
There are decent and classy hotels in Awka to take care of visitors and dwellers who want to relax and catch some fun. These include Best Western,Parktonia,Trig Point,Cosmila Hotels,New Jerusalem,La Luna hotels amongst others. Various fast food chains like Crunchies,Nourisher are available to cater for the junk folks. The Shoprite franchise is currently building a mall in Awka and this will be ready soon. Night life is also quite active as Nite clubs like Kofi,Lounge 24, Cosmila night club etc abound in city.



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