Every existing village in Igbo land has a market. Ekeonunwa market; otherwise called Ekeukwu Owerri belongs to indigenes of Owerri, the natives of Imo State capital.
However, as optainabled everywhere in the world, the market is open to all buyers and sellers from any part of the universe. Therefore, Ekeukwu market Owerri does not only belong to the people of Owerri, as many families across the world depend on the market for survival. Instructively, if you ask any living soul in Owerri today, no matter how old, when Ekeukwu Owerri began to operate, he or she cannot give that answer because that market is as old as their forefathers.
The market which started as a small gathering for the fore bearers of Owerri Nchise had blossomed by the year, to its present status, until the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha against court injunction and counsel rolled in the Bulldozers to obliterate the heritage of Owerri people, which their forefathers handed over to them.
Every Owerri man attaches much fraternity to the market, which stands as not only as the cultural and traditional index to them, but also their major source of income, since there are no factories in Imo State.
And fortunately for the Owerri man, they all live around the market that you will find it difficult to distinguish “Ekeukwu Market” and compounds of many families of Owerri origin.
This brings me to the next question? Where is “Ekeukwu market?” Is it the old park which has since been converted to a shopping mall? This is because it is difficult to indentify “Ekeukwu Market” because since the transformation of Owerri to a State capital the little market has turned into a sprawling shopping zone, covering nearly the entire streets that surround the market.
Therefore, when the State government decided to demolish the market, did it take into cognizance of the fact that “Ekeukwu Owerri” cannot be figured out accurately at this present time and age.
In this case, if you remove the Area called “Ekeukwu Market” what happens to the surrounding areas that energize what we see as “Ekeukwu Market” which is just a small spot occupied mainly by Book sellers and Drug stores.
I have lived all my life in Owerri and witnessed when Ekeukwu Market was always caught up with fire at regular intervals, until it was modernized with block stores and not corrugated sheets any more.
So, I know that “Ekeukwu market” include Tetlow Road, Christ Church , Okorie, Odor, Njemanze Streets, Old Market Road, Old Okigwe Road, Uratta, Edede Streets, Royce, Osuji, Ihugba,, Kagha, Oparaugo, Chikwere, School Road, Nwodo Streets etc.
In this case, what would demolishing the Old park now called “Ekeukwu market” do to the security of Douglas Road and the entire State Capital, which was one of the reasons Imo State Government gave as the cause for the demolition of the market?
These adjoining streets, now turned to full blown markets, are the “suppliers” of activities you witness at “Ekeukwu market”.
Therefore, ravaging Ekeukwu market without removing the “arteries” which are these surrounding streets, is a futile adventure.
It therefore follows that if the Imo State Government is serious in removing “Ekeukwu Market” it must demolish these mentioned streets, which serve as the conduit through which Ekeukwu market exists.
But any attempt to invade these streets now is like Palestinians invading Israelis Gollan Heights.
This is because, what many have failed to realize is that Ekeukwu market has natural inhabitants that live in it, due to the natural expansion of the market which met these families in their abodes.
For instance, the Njemaze Royal Dynasty virtually has their ancestral home inside the market. So do the Okories, Ujas, Odors, Amadis, Anyadikes, Osujis, Nnawuchis, Ekeonunwas, Meres, Ndukwes, Elekwachis etc.
These families have been existing in their present abodes for centuries till now. So, would you tell them to quit?. To where? When most of their lands around New Owerri have been taken over by the same State Government.
Talking about the will power to remove the Ekeukwu market. It was not as if previous administrations did not have the Balls to remove the market from its present position. But these past administrations considered various factors, and realized that it would cause more spiral damages to the State than remove it.
This was the reason the Ekeukwu market still exists in the Owerri master plan. Rather than demolish, experts suggested modernization and rehabilitation, so that the indigenous people would not be up rooted from their homes.
Such ancestral markets exist in others States in Nigeria. There is the Oba Market in Benin City, Edo State.
Rather than demolish the market located at the centre of Benin City, the Government constructed a bye-pass Express Road, and allowed the Edo heritage to remain.
In Lagos, the Tejusho market at the Island remains where it is but with some modernizations and sanitary strict rules guarding the traders.
Even in England, there is the Shepherd market in London that exists at centre of the town.
Looking at the Ekeukwu scenario, the Government should have taken into consideration the cultural and economic consequences of uprooting that economic centre point of the State.
Apart from Ekeukwu market, there is no other viable major Economic base in the State capital. That market employs over one million citizens from across the globe.
And over two million people depend on that market to transact businesses and for survival.
Many manufacturers in Rivers, Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River up to Benue States rely on Ekeukwu for the sale of their products and produce. And Imo State gains from being the channel to take these products to the buyers.
With the market shut down now, these manufacturers would seek for alternative outlets to distribute their products and Imo citizens will lose many jobs under this situation.
There are families that have lived on Ekeukwu market for over fifty years. They have about the fourth generations in their shops due to generational handover. Now, what do such families do?
At “Ekeukwu market” what Owerri people answer is just the name as the landlords and collect pittance as levies paid by sellers hawking or displaying their wares on the road.
The real owners of the market are the millionaires; Government Appointees and top officers and Business men who own the shops and rent them out to the Traders.
How many Owerri indigenes own a shop at Ekeukwu? The shops belong to their Orlu and Okigwe consins who have the money to construct or buy the expensive shops and then rent them out.
Nearly all serving or past Appointees in the State have one or ten shops in the market.
Therefore, when Government destroys “Ekeukwu Market” it does not spell much doom on the Owerri indigene. But all they are crying for is their heritage and not for economic reasons as such.
The main loser is the Government, who has sent out thousands of people into the unemployment market, when it is the major assignment of Government to put food on the table of its citizens. And unfortunately, those who created employments by themselves in the market have now been rendered redundant by same State Government.
What it implies is that the issue or insecurity which Government gave as the major reason for demolishing the place will back- fire. Because more criminals have been “manufactured” with the demolition which has rendered thousands jobless.
The Government should brace up and up its ante in the area of security as more hands have been pushed into the underworld.
And again, the Imo people are confused about the main reason Ekeukwu market has to go. We hear of insecurity, we hear the place would be used as a school, we hear Hospital, we hear shopping Mall etc. So, what is the true position?
The Ekeukwu saga has also exposed the current administration in Imo as giving no respect to due process, but obeys only court orders that it deems fit.
It bits Imo people how Okorocha has refused to conduct local government elections that would have boasted the State’s economy at the grass roots and reduce crime in the State since six years now he came into office, but blames the court for an injunction on the exercise.
Yet, Same Government, came dead in the night to demolish the only existing factory in Imo State today; “Ekeukwu Market”.
Let me state here that there is nothing bad in Government introducing new ventures and ideas. However, had the Government finished the Egbeada Site, with standard facilities in place, I bet you the Traders would have moved in droves without resistance.
But in this case, the Traders were afraid of getting to Egbeada and become stranded because the place is not in order.
And again, when the Okorocha Government asked operators of former Ama JK to leave, it promised to build a state-of- the-art motor park in its place. But six years after, nothing is happening in that site.
Now, do you blame Imo people, when they take Government pronouncements these days with a pinch of salt? So, that is the matter surrounding Ekeukwu market and the Trader’s vowed not to move, until they were “moved” on Saturday August 26, 2017.