It was Samuel Johnson, a reputable English writer, poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer that said in his work, Rasselas, (1759) that “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”
Yesterday, the social media was awash with the news of attempt by the Imo State Government led by Owelle Rochas Okorocha to relocate the Eke Ukwu Owerri market, heralded by the demolition of the present Eke Ukwu Owerri market, which has already become a political tool, which many have deployed to various ends.
It is important to note that relocation of the market in question is a matter of implementation of the city plan and has passed through the desk of at least one other Governor that lead the Eastern Heartland state. The current administration has also made previous cum unsuccessful attempts at carrying out this all important project. The fact that the matter has been subject of litigation lends credence to this fact.
Let me say (in self defense, maybe) that the reaction of people who don’t agree with action of the government is to pour invectives and spew impotent curses on whoever dares to attempt the alternative narrative. You are immediately mauled, pelted with e-stones and at least, reminded of your faith in an attempt to cow you to submission.
Most people think they become SAINTS by joining the Bandwagon. And so because it was a tensed atmosphere yesterday, I decided that I’ll speak on this matter when nerves are calm.
But in the meantime, the dead is never guilty even when as an unarmed civilian, they resort to pelt soldiers with stones.
Let’s ponder on this:
It was in August 2016 that Gov. Rochas Okorocha gave notice to traders to the effect that he is determined to relocate the market. But then he travelled out to see the daughter that put to bed, and rather than plan ahead on a course of gradual relocation, in case of necessity, people went to town with gist that “a ghost slapped the Governor”. His picture was all over the social media, most of the time, in a coffin. Tale bearers did an awesome job of painting a picture of how a southeast Governor was slapped by a ghost and flown in an air ambulance to India. As though that didn’t suffice, the phrase “who is that woman?” became a household joke, as stories had it that it was the Governor’s last words, upon beholding the “ghost”.
while all that went on, the issue of the relocation of the market was denigrated and relegated to the background as one of those government policies that is akin to a flash on the pan.
But the Governor waited till date. And yes, he didn’t make adequate plans to relocate the traders, which is a very low point of the policy implementation because the new proposed site is still under construction, but a serious trader who had August 2016 to August 2017 notice could have planned for himself, since it is the Government had failed to do so. And if not for their for the fact that they didn’t really intend to move, they would have partnered with the Governor, over the past one year, to develop the new site.
The traders were emboldened by the assurances from the indigenes that “nothing dey happen”, an indication of their readiness to confront the government in the event of the actual implementation of the policy. According to them, the market can never be moved because it is an ancestral market. You needed to see the faces of “Christians” who brag about how “the gods” will strike the Governor and those who agree with him to move the market.
This set the stage for the unfortunate death of the 10 year old Somtochukwu Igboanusi, a very sad but avoidable death. Sad because no policy of the government, no matter how enduring it seems, is worth the blood of the citizens. Avoidable because the traders had a final and well publicized 48 hours notice, but chose to wait and see what happens. It is even more sad because live bullets would not have been used for crowd control even though the civilians went out of their way to pelt the soldiers with stones.
The lies that have accompanied this incident is also worth being drawn attention to. People have cashed into the unfortunate incident to multiply the casualty figures in tens when actually none has proven any other such sad occurrence beyond all reasonable doubt. This has successfully distracted the world from the main Idea or issue which is the decongestion of the city and moving the market out of the city centre which will in turn attract development to other parts of the city.
Nothing will justify this death but Rather than resort hues, cries, insults and outright curses to anyone who expresses taxic support for the policy, or for airing their views rather than playing to the gallery, just to be people’s man, wouldn’t it be better to start working out a way forward, but… igbo n’agba ósó mmiri ma ocha ahu.
I have written this short piece, for want of time.
-Francis Udoka Ndimkoha