Saturday, 26 February 2011

Owerri: whenever the president visits

Joachim Ezeji
Is it that Governor Ohakim is insensitive or that his managers are stupid? This remains the pertinent question on the lips of many Owerri residents last Thursday when President Goodluck Jonathan visited the state. A similar scenario had played out last October when the president also visited.

Many Owerri residents as well as visitors were mouth agape to rationalize why they have to be kept on traffic jams for scores of hours simply on the lame excuse that the president was in town. Important and inter-connective roads and streets such as MCC/Uratta , Wetheral, Government House/Shell Camp, Bank Road and Okigwe roads were locked in traffic clampdown simply because President Goodluck Jonathan was in town.

Just on the afternoon of Wednesday, 23rd February, traffic on these roads were clamped down for several hours. As if that was not enough, agents of the government especially security agents (police and civil defence officials) repeated the same the next day, Thursday, 24th February 2011; as Owerri residents woke up to the shock of blocked roads. The result was that workers got stranded while economic ruin was consequently inflicted on the people and the state.

For me, it was a bad day. I already had series of appointments in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, and was to travel there that day. It was hell for me as I had to trek all the way from my office on Mbaise road to Arugo Park. No Keke nor any other means of transportation was available to risk that distance as the roads were utterly blocked. Even when I managed to secure one, it got stuck mid-way, leaving me with no other option than to trek.

While these high handedness lasted the average resident complained. It was obvious as you passed across. In groups residents queried the wisdom of the government in totally stopping vehicular movement for several hours without any prior notice or warning. People wondered why a government that claims wisdom and vision failed to come up with a contingency. People also wondered if all these symbolised government’s contempt for the people.

The implication of the events that played out while the president was in the state last week did not really amuse anyone except perhaps the governor, his visitors and their lackeys. Perhaps it enabled them to showcase that they are really in charge, as they would, while those traffic logjam lasted would often break into those frustrating traffic with their sirens and mobile escorts. But what ever it meant to them or however they saw it, to those of us on this part of the fence, it simply portrayed third world backwardness and emptiness.

In civilised societies, what the government would have done was to announce contingency plans and give a time to it. In those climes, the government would have strictly put the clampdown on a time frame of may be an hour or an hour, and this would have revolved specifically within the arrival time and departure time of the president. Anything beyond these would have come with a serious apology, but not here where peoples’ fundamental human rights means nothing to the government.

A government that sincerely values and extends utmost regards to its citizens would never have done what the Ikedi Ohakim did last week. If what happened was a reflection of how those in government think , then the state would never progress. How on earth could roads be shut down for several hours without notice. Even after the error (?) occurred, government never bothered to say sorry.

Perhaps the government should be reminded that in as much as we wish Mr. President well; not all of us are PDP members. The President was in the state for a private affair, and that was a campaign programme of his party. The rest of us who are not PDP members need not be punished on the account of that. It smacks of high level arrogance, stupidity and insensitivity to punish the rest of us as a result.

Ok, look at it, the entire MCC/Uratta road was shut down while the Shell camp/Government House bye pass gate was shut down. Sadly, these were done without any prior notice. The result was that people arriving to pass through any of these roads got stuck. And with it came disappointments and frustrations.

I had driven right through the Egbeada Estate road to the Amakohia and High Court axis, but had to veer off at the High Court area to pass through the Government House/Shell camp gate, but was turned back at the government house bye pass gate. A gate that was put in place by Governor Ohakim. I did turn back to drive through the back of Government College/Works layout to Okigwe road. The resulting traffic jam on the closed axis of Wetheral and Ikenegbu spilled over to Okigwe road. The result was a long traffic jam all along Okigwe road/Wetheral round about to IMSU round about. I managed to cross the Okigwe road round about unto Samek road and then struggled through Aladimma and Ikenegbu, yet could not access my office as the MCC/Uratta road was shut on the orders from above. Why?

All these depicts nothing more than third world antics and highhandedness. It can never happen in civilized countries such as the United Kingdom. It happens here because people who accidently found themselves in power consider themselves superior to others. Perhaps they wander in the illusion of immortality and power drunkenness forgetting that all positions in life are transitory.

I am compelled to request that Owerri roads and it festering traffic jams should become a top priority for the government. While we wait for the engineering solutions of new road, bridges and fly-over, the government should do residents and visitors the favour of not constraining available space for any reason whatsoever. No body is really above the law, and in this context, the government must subject itself to the rule of law and nothing less. A management authority for the existing roads and traffic should be put in place to permit free flow of traffic at all times.

It is benumbing to see high ranking government official and even ordinary government drivers simply because they have government number plates drive against traffic while the ordinary citizens or residents remain on traffic queues. The Imo State Government should be reminded that no society thrives in a midst of official quagmire and disorderliness concocted in disguise.

As the count down to the 2011 elections continues, the government should not despise its citizens. The government exercises authority on behalf of the citizens. No government is superior to its citizens. The government in Imo State should reappraise its style of governance and management of critical concerns, and put the citizens at the centre of it all.

Certainly the President is all ways welcomed to Imo State, but if his coming will inflict difficulties on the people, then he should as well not come, as we would be better off without him. During Chief Achike Udenwa’s time as governor, then President Olusegun Obasanjo did visit. Ironically, there were never such level of frustration and blocking of roads, so why now?
Long live Imo State!

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