A week to end of the month of August, 2017, stories about Imo State dominated the reading spaces, especially in the social media, where the demolition of the popular Owerri main market, otherwise known as EKE UKWU Owerri, became the epicenter of discussion.
The micky-mouse game between Owerri indigenes the owners of the state capital opposed to the removal of their ancestral market, with traders on one part and the state government at the other end, ended on a dramatic note, when government bulldozers backed by gun-totting security operatives forcefully moved into Douglas Road, housing the Eke Ukwu market. A tinge of theatrical displays erupted midway during the escapades of the earth-shaking machines which moved into the market on the historic Black Saturday of August 28, 2017. Reports of the death of a 10year- old boy, identified as Somtochukwu Ibeanusi filtered in.
Reports have it that the unsavoury incident became part of the anti-climax of the topsy-turry Owerri, the Imo State capital witnessed on the fateful day.
Surprisingly, the Okorocha administration, a week ago, declared intention to rename the famous Douglas Road after the slain Somtochukwu, who it may be argued died in the course of government’s use of force to get rid of the traders from the location.
The late Somtochukwu, the only son of the parents, who are business operators with about four shops at the Eke Ukwu Owerri market plaza, was reported to have gone to assist the family evacuate the goods of the parents from the shops before he met his untimely death, arising from the higgledy-piggledy that ensued. There are different accounts to the cause of the death, but family sources indicate that the late teenager suffered bullet wounds on the head that sent to him early to grave.
Immediately the news broke out about casualties trailing the use of military men to embark on demolition of market, Imo State government media unit and their paid egoons started releasing insipid reactions to not only shift blames, but also deny culpability in the resulting hodgepodge that has became a sad tale in the Ekeukwu demolition story.
A melancholic spokesman of the governor, suspected to be suffering from media misfit paralysis, began to drum out fatuous rendition of press releases in a puerile effort to absolve government of blame.
In the first instance, government denied that no one died and described the gory pictures of Somtochukwu and a pathetic surving sister as an event that happened years ago in Port Harcourt, River State. As if the garrulous media man of Okorocha was under a spell to continue paint the image of the governor black in the eyes of the public, he quickly dished out another squalid attempt to deceive the public that no one died. His trademark show of contemptible lack of moral and ethical standards while polishing the image of the governor and Imo State government manifested again in another third press statement in a row within 24 hours, arrogantly claimed that Somtochukwu died as a result of cult activities somewhere at Mbaise road, a kilometer distance to Ekeukwu market on Douglas Road where shots oozing from gun nozzles trigger happy of soldiers, police and civil defense operatives boomed. For those not closer to Owerri to witness what could be termed as a dress rehearsal to the Operation Python Dance (Egwu Eke 11) launched by the Defense Headquarters) in the South East States, two weeks after the incident an unbiased report aired in AIT, a private TV Station, to highlight the demolition tells a better story of what transpired.
An evidence that death was recorded in the Ekeukwu demolition was when the Commissioner of Police, for the Imo State command, Chris Ezike confirmed to the Independent Newspapers Publishers Association, INPA, that the command received a report of the death, forcing his man to investigate circumstances surrounding the death that occurred same day the market went down. The police command confirmed collecting the tally of the mortuary from the family, where the late Somtochukwu was deposited, for autopsy.
Even as the police is yet to come out with official report on what killed Somtochukwu, the Imo State government surprised even their die hard critics to state that the 10year- old lad will be immortalized. The volte face of Governor Okorocha who while addressing traditional rulers and leaders of Owerri Nchi Ise disclosed that the new structure to be situated at the site of Ekeukwu Owerri and new Douglas Road will be named after the late Somtochukwu. The latest posture besmirches the integrity of the present government in Imo State having denied earlier.
Despite repeated denials embellished with concocted lies and half backed truths to escape blame, Okorocha regurgitates when the same buggered media Chief of the governor in the latest statement informed the public that “Owelle Rochas Okorocha has said that the boy would be honoured by the state government, adding that Douglas Road and project that would be built at Ekeukwu Owerri site will be named after him”. Going further, Okorocha was quoted to have said “Government has decided to honour Somtochukwu although the boy’s death was confused because an action can’t be taking place on Douglas Road and the person died at Mbaise road. No matter what happened, whatever be the case, since that boy died within that period of liberation, that boy must be honoured.
“And for the fact that the whole of Owerri leaders are mourning him, wore black even to Catholic and Anglican Church. And if Owerri leaders can mourn a boy from Nnewi, Anambra State that shows that there is something great about that boy”.
However, more ironical in the theatre of absurdity surrounding the latest posture of Government House, Owerri to Somtochukwu death is the self- destructive attributes contained in the statement released by the media aide who quoted Okorocha to have said “so far every actively in that Eke ukwu and Douglas road, the boy (Somtochukwu) will be honoured, because he died on the day of the event. That boy is more important than any Eke or Afor, Ekeukwu or Ekenta. So both the Douglas Road and project to be sited there will be named after the boy, Somtochukwu. The project will be named Somtochukwu and the roads, Somtochukwu road in line the way all are mourning that boy”.
From the foregoing, there is an indirect admission of guilty if the last sentence
“…..all are mourning that boy” is considered. The decision to name the project to be sited at the location of Ekeukwu and Douglas road after Somtochukwu despite repeated claims that he was maimed at another location called Mbaise road, further exposes the double standard applied in the general management of the boy’s death. One wonders if it was only the Somtochukwu that died on the day of Eke ukwu demolition for the state government to consider only him for such immortalization. And why would the State government after castigating certain political leaders and office holders for identifying with the family of the deceased, come up with desire to honour his death. And why after mocking Owerri zone people for declaring one week of mournful mood join to now mourn the untimely exit of Somtochukwu? Only time shall tell.