EVEREST EZIHE, Owerri
Going round Owerri metropolis, one will certainly say all is well in terms of good network of roads and partially workable drainage system. The story is certainly pathetic when going through Imo State University (IMSU) Works Layout axis and its environs of which Odunna Crescent is worst hit.
Ironically, these are areas tagged Government Reserved Area GRA which is domiciled by nouveau riche, senior citizens, elder statesmen, astute politicians and professionals of repute. The architectural design of buildings in these areas speaks volume, unfortunately flood and poor roads network have made each of the multi-million naira property worth less than a kobo stock in the property market.
Sympathetically, these areas have been environmentally abused for over twenty years, with residents on yearly basis especially during rainy season like now subjected into psychological trauma and feeding on breads of sorrows.
Many have been rendered homeless and properties worth millions of Naira lost to the flood and series of administrators of Imo State only paid lips service to the plight of the people affected. What an irony of fate as these multi-million mansions and duplexes have certificates of occupancy and building permits from Imo State Government and the owners still pay taxes and levies to the government hoping that one day the Pharaoh who know Joseph will be enthroned.
Most of the areas have lost accessibility and have become a hide-out for miscreants and hoodlums just as reptiles, snakes, frogs, lizards, water hyacinth have found residential abound.
It is imperative to note that, if nothing urgent is done in the next two years, these areas which are less than a kilometer to Douglas House, Imo State seat of power will record negative headlines in the media and its close neighbours may likely suffer the worst ecological disasters. A stitch in time saves nine.
One man who is worst hit by the environmental hazards is, Dr. Josiah Odunna, a world-class retired Gynaecology consultant, a consummate politician, an elder statesman and a nationalist who due to his contributions in the development of the state and the nation at large the road in that area was named after him as Odunna Crescent.
This US-trained medical guru to demonstrate his appreciation and acceptance of the honour done to him by Owerri Municipal Council for naming a road after him, in such a high profiled residential area, in early 90s he happily built a paradise on earth family residential duplex. As of today the retiree is squatting in his farm house with his family in Owerri but to enjoy convenient a times, he often travels to his home town Ochii Ogwa which is about 25 kilometres to Owerri Metropolis as he stressfully on daily basis commutes to and fro to meet up some socio-economic activities.
Read him as he sings his own songs of sorrows while narrating his ugly experiences on the road named after him.
In 1994 1 and Owelle Rochas Okorocha were elected members of Constitutional Conference, while I was elected to represent Mbaitoli Ikeduru Federal Constituency he was elected to represent Ideato North and South Federal Constituency, we were 10 members elected to represent Imo State in that Constitution Review/Amendment Conference and I was made the leader of Imo team. So if they called for leaders of the team from each state for crucial deliberation or meetings. I was the one representing Imo State in all the caucus meetings. Thus as a leader, before we left to Abuja I hosted meeting with all the successful delegates from Imo State in my house at Odunna Crescent and Okorocha was in attendance with his aides, so he knows that road and its flood problem as far back as 1994 and subsequently he was attending crucial stakeholders meetings hosted by me, thus in 2002, because we have known ourselves closely and he knows my abilities & capacities, he approached me to be his Presidential Campaign Director-General, an offer I patriotically accepted and meritoriously served him even though we eventually lost out to then President Olusegun Obasanjo, it was within the period that I knew Eze Prince Madumere, who is today Okorocha’s Deputy Governor as he came back from America to join the campaign team. I gave him office space and desk at the unity House Abuja which was the presidential campaign headquarter.
I built that magnificent duplex in 1992, I knew, It was flood trapped but I taught that with my status in life that if I enter there, I will attract goodwill from government that will help to ameliorate the living conditions of the residents including me and those within the environment, unknown to me that my thought in a state like Imo will be an illusion and mere wishful thinking.
It was more disheartening that within this same early 90’s, Chief Evan Enwerem of blessed memory was made a Governor under NRC and as top notcher of the party I contributed immensely in making him a governor. There is an agreement between me, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Late Nze R.O. Onyenobi and Governor Enwerem at Late Chief John Anyaehie’s house in Works Layout, Owerri. There we agreed that Chief Iwuanyanwu should bring out certain amount of money to support Chief Enwerem. You know, Evan Enwerem never worked nor agrees with Chief Iwuanyanwu politically but I smoothened the relation and facilitated the meeting, their we resolved to make Chief Enwerem Governor and when Evan is Governor, Chief Odunnna will be Secretary to the State Government, but later on when Enwerem became Governor. He renegade on the agreement, Rather Chief Enwerem made one Chief Ebere from Obowo the Secretary to the State government, and unfortunately Chief Ebere died in Office.
Dr. Douglas Achunolu, the then Deputy Governor to Chief Enwerem revealed to me what their government did to me as he was showing regret. Dr. Achunolu told me that when Chief Ebere died, that he reminded Chief Enwerem on the need to engage Dr. Odunna as the secretary to the state Government but Chief Enwerem bluntly refused by asking him “DO you want me to put a snake under my pillow?”
So that was how I lost out that opportunity and it was as a result of his erroneous perception of my relationship with Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu.
This was how I equally lost out the opportunity of seeing the road been rehabilitated and re-constructed despite my efforts in making Chief Enwerem Governor and pleading for him to rehabilitate and construct the road. Then after Chief Enwerem came Chief Achike Udeuwa, Chief Udenwa was of PDP and I was a Chieftain of APP, the PDP government bluntly refused to do something about the roads despite members of the neighbourhood association cried out. That place was being called Ndigoro Aba flood disaster. Again, I lost out during Chief Udenwa’s era and then came Chief Godson Ohakim of PPA cum PDP regime, the road was regularly and adequately discussed in most of governor Ohakim’s Exco meetings.
All the state government could do was to adopt palliative measure of grading, so that Dr. Odunna will get to his house. Then, since Governor Okorocha came in 2011 as the Executive Governor of the state, the government has been making mockery of the road. It is unfortunate that with my high profile political status and an elder statesman and a patriot of repute, I am still talking of the environmental hazards of my residential road, a road the government magnanimously named after me.
When Chief P.C. Onuoha who just joined Owelle Rochas Okorocha, his residential road in Owerri is now paradise on earth, yet on my level, I cannot access my house. So for the five years Chief Okorocha has been on the saddle nothing tangible has been done on the roads despite my relationship with him as the former Director-General of his Presidential Campaign Organization, moreso he knows that the end point of the flood terminates at my residential Duplex. Besides, members of my community, that is the neighborhood and its environ association on 2nd January 2012, paid Governor Okorocha solidarity cum courtesy visit in his ancestral home at Ogboko in Ideato South Council area of the state.
The delegation comprised a member from Ideato Nation – Chief Obioha, a member from Urualla, the Governor’s adjacent neighbor, Accountant Okwara, Rtd Surveyor ….. , Dr. Mrs. Eronini the former Accountant-General of Imo State, Prof. Ednah Njoku of FUTO and Governor Okorocha’s political son- Emma Maria. When we got there and he saw me, I am sure he was surprised and may be worried what former National Secretary of APP could be looking for in his House. He gave my group respect and preference as he made sure we saw him earlier than scheduled.
I was the spokesman and we pleaded with him to help us reduce the unprecedented hardship we suffer as a result of emptying of flood from some parts of Owerri into the Crescent. After narrating our sympathetic ordeals he called one of his aides, Ukwuose and told him to make sure he visited that area once they got back to Owerri and access the expect ed job to be done. Sincerely speaking once he returned from the New Year holiday, he visited that place and soon after that, the Governor embarked on bold reconstruction work that really affected the flooding. To demonstrate his seriousness he often came with a helicopter that hover while inspecting the neighborhood and it’s environ. He announced his efforts in tackling the erosion.
These involved Works Layout area coming from IMSU junction to Shoe Factory. Then the Mbieri axis which Barr. Kezie Ogazie is credited to for attraction of its construction and rehabilitation was emptying its flood at the junction end of the road. He said he was going to build the largest pit at the extreme junction of the road as a way of emptying the flood. To achieve his objective, it was obvious he would demolish some upstairs structure around there so as to have enough space for the pit that could checkmate the flood.
Unfortunately, Dr. J.I. Umunna’s upstair was affected and we saw him demolishing the upstair and when they finished the demolition, they started digging the pit and at a point they stopped. While they were digging the pit, the members of the neighbor thought it wise to equally make there own little contributions of opening the road with over N2m they raised as levy and free will donations. The essence was for our own road to equally empty in that pit, unfortunately, at a point the engineer stopped us by saying that if we open the road the water that will be gathered from the pit during the raining season will over run road.
That the volume will be far more than the volume coming from our own area and the whole thing will pack up and there will be flood disaster, thus, because of it we stopped further action and they finished working and after that year only God knows what we suffered as no resident could near the area. I thank God I have a farm house were I was squatting but later I moved down to my village Ochii-Ogwa, from where I was committing to the village on daily basis. You know the cost and health implication of this. It became so strenuous on me and I felt it is time for me to retire from medical practice having being into medical practice for over 40years. Infact I retired after 44years of meritorious practice. Each time it rain, the flood passes the first decking of the duplex I have suffered a lot of psychological trauma and economic waste due to the state of the road. As a result of this, the residential houses there have become a hideout for miscreants and hoodlums. It is demeaning that in a place I have given my life, I have worked for Imo state, I have worked for Nigeria, I have been an elder statesman and a politician of repute. In 1999 gubernatorial election Chief Rochas Okorocha came to my residential house in Odunna Crescent with lorry loads of policemen, surrounded the entire compound with video cameras alleging that I was rigging elections in my duplex as I was in APP and he was in PDP supporting his kinsmen, Chief Achike Udenwa. That night, I was in the parlor with friends that visited as we were celebrating my birthday and they assumed we were rigging elections. They were beaming light intermittently, taking photographs and asked my security to open the gate which I objected as they were many and dangerously armed. The person that saved us was Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and the Commissioner of Police, because at a point I rang Chief Iwuanyanwu that my house has been besieged complaining that Chief Okorocha and his men have taken over my house as they surrounded everywhere, so Chief Iwuanyanwu went to the Commissioner of Police who accompanied him round 9-10pm to my house, when Commissioner of Police arrived, my gate was open. The Commissioner of Police gave an order that the day is too late to start searching my house. He directed that they should take me to police station that night to make a statement and allow me to go back to my house, and that early morning they should search every where as they manned my house that night and in the morning once it’s 6am they should search my house and that was how I slept with police men in my residential duplex.
They turned upside down every property in my house and at the end, there was nothing incriminating and they wrote same. It is unfortunate that after all these treatment and even as his former Director General of his Presidential campaign ambition, he has bluntly refused to hear my cry and that of my neighbourhoods.
It is a misnomer, he has equally abandoned the pit project and said he is now channeling the flood to Nworie River through the newly constructed Amakohia fly over. The reason is that he has an interest as he has built his Owerri befitting residential home in SPIBAT.
He channeled the big road from his gate to end at that pit. Since he is not building the pit again, I understand he is constructing a big gutter after 200ft from the pit and the gutter will carry all the flood water to Nworie. I pray and hope Governor Okorocha does that, you know he is bold, courageous and resourceful, you can’t remove these things from him. He thinks out whatever he wants to do, his thinking may not be agreeing with yours but he goes out to do what he has planned to do. I pray that what he has planned will solve the problem of flooding in Odunna Crescent and it’s environ. If he can recall all I did for him in life, he shouldn’t look back in constructing and rehabilitating that road with adequate drainage system. It is a right as a senior citizen, elder statesman and a credible politician. Why must I shade tears at 75 before my state government gives my residential area preferred attention?