Growing up in the village in those days, we always cherished the dream of going to Enugwu Ngwo to celebrate our Christmas and New Year. People in the village hardly knew much about these festivals. It was those in the city that actually celebrated them.
At least, they would cook rice and other delicacies there, which we hardly ate in the village. It would equally afford many of us the opportunity to feast our eyes with different Christmas masquerades like Ulaga, Ojionu, Okwonma, Agaba, etc.
Thus, as soon as the school session for the year was over, some of us who had relations living in Enugu would, the next day, troop down to the motor park to wait for a vehicle that would take us to the Coal City. We could wait for endless hours before either an Austin or a Bedford lorry would arrive. They were the only commercial vehicles that took passengers to Enugu.
The blaring of a horn signalling the arrival of a vehicle would put everybody on alert. When the big vehicle finally arrived, we would all struggle to clamber up the lorry, to see if we could secure a place to perch. If we were lucky, we could make it up to the second class coach, which of course, carried a higher price than those who secured their sitting position at the third class, and even those sitting close to the tailboard.
What gave us serious concern each time we were going to Enugu was how to pass through the Milliken Hill. A hill of over twenty sharp bends, with beautifully scenerio, whenever we were going down or up the hill, we would be told to keep our mouths shut and to maintain absolute quietness, else the Mammy Water who lived heard our voices and pulled our vehicle down the valley, as she had done with several other vehicles that fell inside there.
In those days, there were two big billboards, one at the foot, and the other on top of the hill, which read: “Better be late than the late”. I think that warning is still relevant.
The Milliken Hill was named after a British colonial civil servant, Mr. A.B. Milliken, an assistant engineer, who led the team that constructed the road in the early 1920s, using conscripted local labourers. A. B. Milliken was also a member of Enugu Township Advisory Board, when the City was declared a Second Class Township by the colonial government in 1926.
The Milliken Hill was the only route to Enugu, capital of the then Eastern Region, coming either from the western part of the country through Onitsha, or from Northern Nigeria. It was a very busy and important road. During Christmas period, you could see long queues of vehicles climbing up or down the hill, creating serious gridlocks.
When the Enugu-Onitsha Express way into Enugu was constructed around the 1980s, many people virtually forgot about the Milliken Hill. The road was abandoned. No maintenance, while erosion began to eat deep into the two sides, and in particular, the valley end. Those who must necessarily pass through the road, saw a lot of hell. They cried times without number to the authorities to come over to “Macedonia and help them”, but nobody listened to them.
Some few years ago, a feeble attempt was made by a federal agency to rehabilitate the road, but this came to nothing as the effort was said to be marred by politics.
With the serious dilapidation of the Enugu-Onitsha Express way, and in particular, the Ugwu Onyeama end, which the Federal Government has abandoned, it became obvious that there could be no more entry into Enugu from either the west or the north, unless something seriously urgent was done.
Now, by rehabilitating the Milliken Hill road up to Ekochin Junction, or the Ninth Mile Corner, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, has killed two birds with one stone.
First, Governor Ugwuanyi has restored the colonial legacy of the Milliken Hill as an important tourist attraction. Apart from its sharp bends that resemble that of Obudu Cattle Ranch of Cross River State, viewing Enugu Coal City on top of the Milliken Hill, particularly at night, that is, if the EEDC has not gone to their usual sleep, is a very delightful and interesting scenerio
In the same vein, Governor Ugwuanyi has created an alternative route in and out of Enugu, to significantly reduce the human suffering at Ugwu Onyeama end of the Enugu-Onitsha Express way which the Federal Government has criminally abandoned.
The Governor therefore deserves a big applause for this magnificent milestone which will significantly easy the transportation problems into Enugu.