BY JAMES MADUKA
It was a crispy Saturday morning on August 1. Lawrence Kemdi, a renowned geologist of Igbo extraction, hovered at the balcony of his exquisite mansion located along the prestigious Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
At the center of the sizeable balcony, stood a beautifully carved wooden table and an armchair. Kemdi pulled the chair to a comfortable position and lowered his lanky frame into it’s soft leather. Just then, a neatly dressed steward walked in. Briskly, the steward displayed an array of stainless jug, Coffey bottle, vessel bearing nondairy milk, honey jar, hot water flask and a set of tea cup before his master.
Leaning forward, Kemdi made for himself a cup of rich Coffey. Intermittently, he took a sip from the steaming cup while fresh morning breeze from the nearby Lagoon smacked his trim body. From that vintage position, Kemdi regarded the stream of traffic on Admiralty Way and exotic skyline of Lekki Phase 1. His calm mien betrayed his love for the adorable ambiance and peace which his affluent neighborhood offers.
He had actually spent most of his productive years living in cities and sophisticated environments. Having spend over 23 years in America and Europe, he returned to Nigeria; and settled in Lagos to continue his rewarding career in multinational oil firm. In the next two years, Kemdi would have to take a compulsory plunged into retirement. All along, he had planned to spend the evening hours of his life in his home town and among his kinsmen. The thought of numerous challenges associated with going back to his remote village switched Kemdi’s pleasant countenance,
Why did his mood change? He said: “Once in a while, I had spent annual vacations in my home town. But as good as it is to unwind amongst my kinsmen and enjoy the comfort of my family mansion, I always felt that an essential part of me is missing. Everyday needs of life, which ordinarily are not far fetched in urban settings, are not easily accessible in typical Southern Eastern villages. There is also the issue of poor social amenities coupled with what I call local discomforts which includes home people or relations seeing a returnee as a threat.’ he added.
With a wave of hand, Kemdi picked up his cellphone from the Coffey table and dialed an estate agent’s number: “How much does a plot cost in that new estate -Lush City, Aba.” Moments later, he instructed the person at the other end of the line; “Send your account details, I am paying for two units right away.” That was how Kemdi’s long held dream of retiring to his village and to his people was jettisoned. Sunday Telegraph investigation revealed that Easterners living in the diaspora and those who relocate back to their roots actually share the same frustrations.
According to Justin Okenwa, a human resources professional, “This has increasingly become the greatest challenge of many urbane Easterners, especially retirees and those who wish to relocate back to their roots for peculiar reasons. I definitely prefer to live in a nearby city when I retire, and visit my village to spend my weekends. It’s sure not good for me to start learning how to cope with challenges of life in a rural setting, in my old age. Not after several years of city life.”
“I have already bought a plot in Lush City Phase 2, Aba. It’s less than one hour’s drive to my home town; and I am glad I did. This does not in anyway diminish the fact that every Igboman holds ownership of a befitting family house in his place of birth closely to heart,” Okenwa explained. He finds a soulmate in Akpan Ekere, from Ikot Ubo, Akwa Ibom State. “One shouldn’t gamble with life in retirement. That’s why I desire to spend my retirement within an organised estate, Ekere said . He disclosed that had acquired a plot for his retirement comfort at Lush City Estate, Uyo. “Surely there’s no way I will miss the civilised life style I have grown used to,” Akpan explained.
Why exactly do Ibos and their south southern neighbours find going back to their villages and living among their kinsmen an uphill task? Property whizkid and Managing Director of PWAN Plus, owners of Lush City by Cedarwood, Julius Oyedemi, explained that until there is a paradigms shift in house ownership pattern, many Easterners and South southerners living in cities, will continue to find it difficult to retire to their native homes. “Our experimental estate in the commercial nerve center of Abia State – Lush City Phase 1 Aba- witnessed huge scramble . We actually sold out all plots within four weeks, Lush City Phase 2, Aba, is also fast selling out and third phase is loading. Interestingly, 90% of those who invested into Lush City exclusive estates are Igbo’s living in the diaspora. Good number of accomplished professionals living in different Nigerian cities, business people and politicians also joined in the scramble for Lush City,” Oyedemi disclosed.
During a recent facility tour of Lush City Aba and Uyo, our correspondent found out that Lush City innovation in the South East and South South regions was carefully targeted at creating ideal environmental and orchestrating a change in the life style of the people. “Our primary objective is to spark off development in the region and enhance the lifestyle of the people positively. We want to clean up the streets, and have it filled with people of positive minds. Lush City is a revolution intended to use real estate to improve South East South South, by planting cities.
“We believe that South Easterners travel far and wide. Why should they come back to their own place and the best they see are isolated edifices spotting a predominantly remote village settings? While we are not saying that a village shouldn’t be a village, we want to ensure that South Easterners and residents of neighbouring communities are be able to enjoy good infrastructure, portable water supply, ambience, recreational facilities, security and elevated lifestyle that they enjoy in various cities where they reside,” Oyedemi said.
He continued: “The Igbos have done so much but they are enjoying less. They have built lots of exquisite mansions scattered in their villages and town. Incidentally many are scared to come back home due to the absence of urban lifestyle that they enjoy in the cities. That they have beautiful houses doesn’t make isolated family mansions in villages and towns a city. A collection of those houses having adequate social amenities, recreational facilities, good infrastructural base and linked to sprawling pockets of towns and villages make up a city. We are creating an environment whereby there will be a show of creativity, innovation in the South East and south south through Lush City revolution. At the end of the day, both the typical natives as well as the cosmopolitan easterners can have a feel of ambience, security and enhanced lifestyle back in their home town.
“When you travel oversees you find out that even the way you talk, the way you dress, the malls and places you visit, everything you come in contact with is just attractive; and all these things contribute to your lifestyle. “We want such environment in the South East and South South regions. Lagos and Abuja are already urban cities, with the vital contribution of the real estate sector. Several estates implies several developments, Oyedemi added..
Chief Okosisi Ochingwa, a dealer in stockfish in Ariaria Market, Aba said; ” This is a welcome development. He observed that tremendous self developmental projects and infrastructures are taking place around Osisioma area of Aba where Lush City Phase 1 is located. According to Ochingwa, the place was a virgin land when PWAN Plus arrived. “Now the place is growing fast. People no longer call the location by its original name. They now call it Lush City. So Lush City has become a land mark. Also, the government of Abia State has began to improve infrastructural development in the area,” Ochingwa said excitedly.
At the moment, PWAN Plus has replicated Lush City in Abia State, Imo State, Akwa-Ibom State while Cross River State and other neighbouring States are in the pipeline. The firm’s MD stressed that the initiative was careful created to rule the South East and South South real estate sector. “Like the name implies, it is sprawling. Lush City is already established in Owerri, Imo State, We have Lush City phases 1, 2 and 3 in Aba, and Lush City Umuahia is loading. The first phase of Lush City, Uyo Akwa-Ibom State is fast selling while plans to launch Calabar Lush City has reached advance stage. So it’s a revolution to spring up cities in this region, to turn things around so that the people here will embrace urban lifestyle,” he further explained.
It is hoped that the initiative will accomplish a lot more in the regions.
“If our South eastern and South South brothers can find such comfort back in their villages and towns, their home economy will definitely improve. Commerce will receive tremendous boost because people will have the need to buy, sale and more money will flow in locally. Now we know that by the time smart cities are replicated security will become something that will be appreciated rather than an issue.
“This is because the cities will have top notch security arrangement, residents of the surround communities will also benefit from tight security and government too will complement the efforts. We want to encourage urbanisation, quality lifestyle, technology, enhance productive capacity by turning desolate places into new urban settings.
“Precisely, the Lush City revolution will deliver the paradigm shift in the living environment of the people from a predominantly remote community to satellite towns adequately linked with social amenities so that someone who lives in Owerri can comfortable do business in Umuahia and return to his or her base the same day. Our plan is to use real estate to ignite development in the South East and South South. This will surely eliminate the dilemma our Ibo brothers who are desirous of relocating back to their villages experience. As you can see, Lush City project is already to bringing back Ibos in the diaspora,” Oyedemi related.