Smelling “Otokoto” in the air

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It was Julius Mgbeokwere who rightly captured Governor Rochas Okorocha when he wrote a piece under the headline, ‘Imo State – a State where anything goes,’ which was published in the Nigerian Horn of April 12, 2013 at page 10. At a point, Mgbeokwere maintained that, “Governor Okorocha of Imo State does what he likes, how he likes it and when he likes it, while everybody watches like people who are bewitched.”

However, Mgbeokwere didn’t realize that the ominous silence was extremely revealing since His Excellency relishes playing demigod. Regrettably, His Excellency forgot that his overblown image of the Greek god, Zeus has never saved anyone from a self-inflicted calamitous end. History, always uncanny, has a way of repeating itself, if its lessons are not sufficiently learnt. This is the reason why the unfolding events in Imo State remind me of “Otokoto 1996.”

For those who are not conversant with the “Otokoto 1996” saga, I will take the liberty to get down to the real nitty-gritty of that saga in attempt to arrive at the message, which I want to deliver in the raw. Methinks that Otokoto has gone beyond the moniker of any particular man. This is because, in the lexicon of Imo jargon, the catchphrase, “Otokoto 1996” refers to the evil of abduction, kidnapping, ritual killings, and lawlessness that eventually consumed the perpetrators of the carnage.

In fact, the Otokoto saga was full of isolated and hit-or-miss incidents that made “ndi Imo” living in Owerri wonder in horrified disbelief. This situation was more complicated than “ndi Imo” had at first realized. It was in due course that “ndi Imo” became aware of their worst fears. This happened when the State was plagued by snakes swallowing another (agwoloroibeya).

I witnessed this ugly incident in my village when it was pervasive across the nooks and crannies of Imo State. It reminded me of the 10 plagues, which the Egyptians suffered when Pharaoh could not heed to the warning to “allow my people go.”

Significantly, the “agwoloroibeya” was a tell-tale clue or sign that the land of Owerri (in particular) was desecrated. Unarguably, the hostage-takers went to the extent of trying to abduct a corpse from a mortuary in Owerri. Also, children were reportedly missing in certain supermarkets, and children’s playgrounds in Owerri.

In addition, prostitutes, hawkers, and strangers were easy preys that met their waterloo at hotels in Owerri. In certain cases, human remains were found in a house and in a shop in Owerri. In view of all these incidents in Owerri, terror was struck into the hearts of “ndi Imo.” Thus, nightclubs and late-night shopping were no longer fashionable. In short, “ndi Imo” became increasingly safety conscious while in Owerri.

Sadly, the “money-grabbers” killed with impunity. They bribed or bought their way out of punishment. Nevertheless, their cups overflowed when a young boy, Master IkechukwuOkonkwo who hawked groundnuts was abducted and beheaded. With the passage of time, the land of Owerri yearned for cleansing. There is no doubt that the blood of the innocent child from a very poor background cried for justice.

Indeed, Ikechukwu proved to be “God’s power” when “ndi Imo” were miraculously moved to rise with one voice to destroy the ill-gotten properties in Owerri. Also, the “money-grabbers” were brought to book. Later, they paid for their crimes with their lives through firing squad, while others that bagged death sentence died in prison custody. Despite all their ill-gotten wealth, they were buried in unmarked graves never to reincarnate or be remembered.

This was how Owerri, a capital city that acquired reputation in generosity to visitors was almost destroyed by self-serving “money-grabbers.”

At this point, it is instructive to note that Owerri had begun to experience another nightmarish living condition. This time, it is no longer about the “money-grabbers,” but about a “land-grabber” with voracious and indiscriminating appetite for land acquisition.

Here, I wouldn’t want to delve into the details of this land acquisition through the mindless demolition of homes, work places, churches, ancestral markets, filling stations, graves, shops, business areas, and even government buildings and structures.

The anguish and hopelessness occasioned by this unwarranted demolition of peoples’ properties in Orlu town, Okigwe town, Umuaka, Amaraku, Ahiara, Uratta, etc without any iota of compensation has put many people at death’s door.

This self-righteous “land-grabber” of our time has shown that he came for a destructive mission, but chose to deceive “ndi Imo” with rescue mission, free education, urban renewal, etc. I don’t want to digress because I am concerned with a particular demolition job at Owerri where the residents and indigenes have learnt a difficult lesson. Of special interest is the demolition of Ahia Eke-ukwuOwerri, which will linger in the memories of “ndi Imo” for a long time.

And, there is no overemphasis here because the ancestral market deserves it. There is no way its importance can be compared with other places that have been demolished in Owerri, such as Orlu road secretariat, Imo library, Ministry of Works, Mbari kitchen / Imo State Arts and Culture, Ama J.K. Recreation Club, Imo Hotels, and countless others.

Without mincing words, the Ahia Eke-ukwuOwerri is the climax or mother of all demolitions. This spectacular market was the largest, biggest, and greatest industry or factory in Imo State. It offered goods and services at affordable or cheap rates. Also, there were varied products. Indeed, the ancestral market attracted enormous investment, the destruction of which has ruined millions of families.

What will the thousands of traders and shop owners do in order to eke a living in this hard economic recession period? Sadly, the purported relocation site is reported to be a marshy land overgrown with bushes. With no compensation, how can the displaced shop owners cough out #3million to acquire a shop at the new site? And, as schools have reopened, how would the displaced traders be able to pay the school fees of their wards who are in private schools? The questions are endless.

Obviously, the demolition of Ahia Eke-ukwuOwerri attracted wide reactions and condemnation because of its importance in the lives of millions of “ndi Imo.” As I earlier said, it deserves overexposure and overemphasis because the demolition resulted in the most pathetic scene where the gruesome pictures of dead bodies were displayed notwithstanding the fact that the “land-grabber” played it down from newspaper publicity campaign.

In the social media, it was a common sight to notice a young girl in her teens crying helplessly with blood all over her clothes and pretty face as her younger and handsome brother of 10 years old christened Master SomtochukwuIbeanusi lay dead. By this singular act, the “land-grabber” recorded his name in the infamous book of Imo where there are the likes of the “money-grabbers” of Otokoto saga.

I thank God that “ndiOwerri” listened to my clarion call for prayers, which was published in the Nigerian Horn of Monday August 28, 2017 at the back page. These special prayer sessions started at “UgwuEkwema” on Friday September 1, 2017 where the elders wept at the graveside of their founding father, OwerreEkwemArugo of the 14th century.

Also, they called on the ancestors for a repercussion for the wicked acts of black Saturday August 26, 2017. Moreover, a mass was conducted for the purpose on Sunday September 3, 2017 at the Assumpta Cathedral Church, Owerri. The 10-day event ended on Sunday September 10, 2017 at the Transfiguration of Our Lord (CATOL) Cathedral Church, Owerri.

From the foregoing, “ndiOwerri” have played their inviolable role. The rest will be completed by the innocent blood of Master Somtochukwu, like that of Master Ikechukwu, which presents a true case of “ofonaogu.”
Sir IWUALA (07039096666) wrote in from Owerri, Imo State.

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