It was rough for the inhabitants of Owerri, the Imo State capital, on Saturday, August 26, 2017, when Governor Rochas Okorocha’s henchmen stormed in. Their aim was to demolish the Owerri aborigines’ local market, which was instituted by their progenitors, like in every other community in Igboland.
The state government wanted to relocate the market to another site, according to the so-called master plan of the city. It had also given a quit notice to business men and women, who use the market as a trading point. As soon as the quit notice order expired, Gov Okorocha stormed in, together with his army – mainly trained-to-kill Nigerian soldiers, drawn from the 34 Field Artillery Brigade, Obinze, near Owerri. The deployed soldiers are mainly of northern extraction, Gov Okorocha’s Hausa cousins. So, no mercy.
Nigeria is a dysfunctional nation, as well as most of its leaders. In order to relocate a market, the governor satisfied himself with three bloods – young and members of future generation. As the bloods trickled through his oesophagus, we could hear the sound of it, as he swallowed hard, with a loud gulp. Kwim!
By the socio-economic and cultural organisation of Igbo people, community markets are extremely important signposts, which point to their profound anthropology. It is foolhardy to expect that Owerri people, including the business men/women and traders, wouldn’t resist the attempt to delete their history.
Eke-Ukwu Owerri is an important signpost to the history of the people of Owerri. Igbos do not commission their market places, as if they are shopping malls; they do institute their market places, as if they are missions/ministries. The sentiment is, therefore, that the market places connect them back to their progenitors – the Ancestors. Igbos are profoundly religious, even with their commerce and industry.
The government was therefore wrong, when it couldn’t exhaust all consultations necessary for the project. The government was wrong, when it assumed that there wouldn’t be any forms of resistance to its gambit. It was also wrong, when it stormed the private space of Owerri people, like paratroopers. It was in this process, on Saturday morning, that innocent souls were needlessly murdered in cold blood.
Whereas infrastructural development is very essential in Imo State, there should be an equivalent booming economy to match it. In Owerri, people are hungry. Whereas there is genuinely No Need to relocate the Eke-Ukwu market place of Owerri people, there is great need to build shopping malls by the government, in order to satisfy the demands of the present day civilisation. Whereas there is No Need to quit traders at Eke-Ukwu place to the ‘‘new site’’ by force, there is always a civilised way to lure them to the new market site. The civilised way is by incentivising the new place in order make it attractive – the colouration of ‘‘a convenient alternative’’, as against the use of brute force, as in Animal Kingdom.
For instance, a very high tax regime at Eke-Ukwu market place (or no tax regime at the new site) can set traders scampering seamlessly to the new site within six months. The introduction of [high] value-added tax (VAT) at the market place will make shoppers think twice. Or, car park charges, London-style, introduced around the vicinity of the market place can scare daylights out of those who go there to shop. There were so many ways to go about it, if government chose the path of civility, in order to provide smooth migration.
Unconfirmed report says the government claimed that the market was a hideout for criminal gangs, such as armed robbers and kidnappers. In any case, knowing criminals’ hideouts is an important craving for those who genuinely fight crime. If they actually knew it, then they should have dealt with it. Simple!
Another unconfirmed report says the government plans to build a school on the ground of the market place. Government claims that the market was responsible for the heavy human and vehicular traffic. Well, that’s why it is market. The world over, wherever there is market, there is always traffic. But the governments of those places don’t fold their arms. They provide state-of-the-art traffic control. One such control to traffic is good roads, which includes a flyover. Such controls also include traffic and road use signs. The entire wasted funds on abandoned street gate projects in Owerri, plus the cost of Christmas décor and other frivolities, could provide funding. A stand-up comedy government can’t fritter away huge budgets on frivolities and turn around and cry foul or run amok.
Regarding the purported plan to build a school, it is also a bad idea, as there are many schools within that locality. One, although not as severe as the market place, schools attract heavy traffic. Two, for a land-grabbing and private-school-mad governor, it is profound wisdom when Solomons eye their governor suspiciously.
Taking a clue to city development and traffic de-congestion, no one knows it like London. London is supersaturated and cannot expand any further. At worst case, London demolishes, reuses and rebuilds or restores. Despite the City of London’s super-saturated status, London leaves its landmarks intact. One such landmark is the Borough local market, located under the overhead railway line, at London Bridge station.
Borough market is Londoners’ Eke-Ukwu Owerri equivalent, instituted by their white progenitors, which ministry continued on to this day. Nothing could demolish or relocate the Borough market. Not even the constant train metallic noise, the about fifty million daily train passengers’ exits nor the most recent terror attack there could diminish it. London Administrators provided some traffic solutions to it.
Governor Rochas Okorocha knows this Borough market place, because he comes to London often. There are many more such market places in supersaturated London.
There is an important lesson to be drawn from London’s example, and probably from elsewhere. Governments can relocate businesses and traders to their gigantic shopping malls, but never can they relocate instituted local market places, which are like shrines and antiques. Despite their civilisations, countries like United Kingdom, South Korea, Germany and Japan still reserved their signposts.
One can now see that it is baseless to have deployed brute force to confront defenceless people. On that Saturday morning, when Governor Okorocha – who runs the state like a stand-up comedian – detailed the armed security personnel to Eke-Ukwu Owerri, he was indeed desperately thirsty. And after few hours of cussing-fussing, the man of vaulting ambition satisfied his soul with those lads.
Next question please!
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