A city finds peace in its night clubs despite years of political turbulence By Chinweoke Obi
Girls dance the rumba smoothly under blazing music from stereo systems powered by diesel generators. In the more daring night clubs, the girls are naked; they peel off their clothes and coyly tease the men to unfathomed arousal. Then amidst the large number of empty bottles of alcohols and the gluttonous bite at spicy fried pieces of meat or any of Nigeria’s famous pepper soup, sex triumphs as in all nights. This is not Las Vegas or the red lights of Europe. This is Awka.
There are no neon lights here like in Las Vegas or Dubai. The streets are not all paved. In Awka, capital of Anambra State, south east Nigeria, potholes and dusty lanes are common sights though the politicians claimed to be building roads everyday. They have been making the claims since 1999 when Nigeria returned to the polls to put a civilian back to power. The testimonies of failures are in Awka as they are in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital, and in Ibadan, south west Nigeria, touted as Africa’s largest indigenous city and several other Nigerian cities where craters and unlit streets define eight years of democratic rule.
But Awka is also the warring field where political iconoclasts have gone on misadventure to put an illegitimate government in power for nearly three years through gerrymandering; unseat a reigning governor for two days through bloody antics, until they finally got cowed through the power of the law courts which installed the legitimate government of Mr. Peter Obi, astute banker and former chief executive officer of Fidelity Bank.
Peter Obi has been in power for nearly three years through the ruling of the courts. But he has had to contend with endless conflicts which make the rustic but urban setting of Awka one of the most politically charged cities in Nigeria. The godfathers are restless in Awka. They seek for power and the control of economic resource in this state where one of Literature greatest icons was born: Chinua Achebe, the master storyteller. He penned the immortal works Things Fall Apart and the other two novels Arrow of God, and A Man of the People that make up the trilogy depicting Africa through colonial history to its immediate past after the departure of its colonial masters.
Peter Obi put the judicial system to test after the 2003 governorship election in the state which rigged him out of power and installed the favourite of the godfathers. The court gave Obi his mandate two years after and well after the turbulence in the house of the godfathers had split the political family of the ruling party. Obi is from the opposition party.
In the night clubs in Awka, they talk about the political crises, the court battles, the violence by political gangs, the obstinacy of Peter Obi, the recalcitrance of the state legislative house dominated by the party of the godfathers, and the snail speed at which development is taking place. Politics and social entertainment mixed very well at nights in Awka. In a state that has gained notoriety for its violence and stagnant growth, sex and nightly drinking binge seem natural pastime to ease stress and tell the godfathers Hark!
Small town Awka has very few developed commercials centres, nearby Onitsha owns that glory as one of Nigeria’s most thriving commercial cities. Awka is largely populated by civil servants, students of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, and traders from the thriving markets in Onitsha who make up patrons of the more than ten hotels, about four night clubs and numerous highlife joints that feed on the generosity and violence of the politicians many of whom have their base in far away Abuja where Nigeria’s political wheel is oiled.
The night clubs and hotels offer some economic strength to Awka; daily the city invites crawlers from neighboring towns wanting some gist, dance, drink, music and girls. Inside the highlife joints, Rex Lawson with other godfathers of Nigerian highlife music is resurrected by budding and old artists still figuring out how to produce the much elusive hits. If dancing won’t come easily, you could mesmerize your taste buds with the local cuisine; the famous goat meat pepper soup or the much popular ‘Nkwobi.’
Almost all major hotels have their own clubs including old schools, where you listen and dance to oldies. The big attractions are the strip clubs; girls strips to nudity, mimics sexual scenes on the floor while pornographic films unreel from the big screen. Patrons move in and out of nearby dim-lit rooms to burn off the orgy.
The clubs open from Wednesdays through Sundays. They are patronized mostly by politicians, traders and students. The entry fee to watch girls strip is not so high. For less than $60 you have all the night to feed your eyes on naked bodies and also have raw sex on the bargain. Not so high a price. But for the majority of the civil servants in town, it amounts to a 15-day wage. The politicians and traders are not completely part of the depressed economy here. The economy is bad but not so bad to get cheap sex from retinue of students, fun-loving girls and prostitutes mostly from far off locations such as Benin, Asaba, Enugu and Port Harcourt. For them, Awka may be all rust and craters and a place where politicians pull the trigger at will. But it is also one place where you could have fun with some peace of mind.