Owerri Roundabout Traffic Extortionists and Motorists




Before I could understand what was amiss, four acclaimed traffic control officers emptied into my car in one full swoop. One of the uniformed men in the process of trying to force his way into the car destroyed the door handle. Location was Aba Road/Whetheral Road by Emmanuel College, Roundabout, in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, South East part of Nigeria.

Dazed by the sudden forcible influx into the car by the unknown persons and still in a transfixed state because of their mesmerism, I killed the car engine and halted when, I was ordered to park well outside the major road by the traffic control officers, who somehow, showed crack within their ranks, judging from their schismatic disposition while dishing out the orders.

By the time I realized that I have been trapped into the well arranged dragnet of traffic control officers that used to hook motorists in Owerri into parting with cash before they are allowed to go, I vigorously fired back and called their bluff. There was an attendant hubbub on the road as I refused to give way while demanding to know the offence warranting their surge into the car. The ruckus on the road heightened as my supposed captors increased the schism within them. They quarreled over who should be entitled to “handle” my case. In the process, I asked them to quit from the car and settle their differences outside but without a parting request from one who said in battered English “Oga please settle us nah, we no fit waste time here for nothing” I turned a deaf ear to the request. The confusion on the road led to a built up traffic with other motorists blasting their vehicle horns.

Irked by the increasing hold- up caused by the encounter, a suspected superior of the traffic team walked up and asked his pugnacious officials to move away from the car and allow me go before, another one retorted with; “Oga even without anything?” The “Oga” who stood in front of the vehicle mocked them by replying English; “una de blind oooh, e be like una no see the man car, say na Journalist, na Press man nah and we work together with them. Make una leave am make him carry his wahala go” Their “Oga” expression also in foul English may not be unconnected to Press tag and the accompanying NUJ stickers pasted at the windscreen of my car. Quietly, they alighted from the car and pulled out before I proceeded with the movement.

The Naze/Whetheral Road Roundabout wasn’t the first encounter with the notorious Owerri Traffic officers as there had been previous encounters motorists and my humble self experienced. There is hardly a day road users do not witness disturbing encounters with the bellicose Traffic Wardens and other quasi security outfits, stationed at the major roundabouts in the state capital.

There are about six major roundabouts in Owerri municipality where traffic is experienced during heat hours of the day. In each of these points, traffic control officers comprising the Police Traffic Wardens, Civil Defense Corps and the Imo State Civil Guards are stationed to ensure free flow of traffic. Instead of going by the rules of engagement, the actions of the officials are in contrast.

Against the expectations of road users, the main job of the traffic officers is to hang around the roundabout, wait for a slightest opportunity to rush on to a vehicle, stop the driver for a supposed offence and before one could seek explanation, they will enter inside and demand for bribe.

On the way, negotiations will commence and the victim irrespective of any charge would be made to cough out various sums of money to regain freedom.

One common feature of Owerri Municipality is the presence of Roundabouts. From Onitsha and Portharcourt roads comes Control Post Roundabout. Down into town from Control Post is another major one; the Orlu Road/Assumpta Avenue Roundabout. Inside town are Govt House/Whetheral/Okigwe Road Roundabout, Okigwe Round/IMSU Round about, Fire Service Roundabout connecting Mbaise/Egbu road and the Whetheral Road/Aba Road Roundabout where the incident occurred.

From the new Naze- Alaba Spare Parts Market, I drove into town through the Naze-Aba road Roundabout to encounter a haphazard traffic on the fateful day. Because of the closure of the main Douglas Road stretch by the present government for reconstruction, I moved round but the treachery of the Traffic Officers played out. Instead of giving signal for the new direction of movement as a result of the reconstruction, they pounced on me.

I am aware that several motorists undergo such harassments and undue exhortation on the road in Owerri. It has become a tradition to behold traffic officers pose to observe defaulters only than control vehicles for easy movement.

Concerned authorities in the state and top officials of the Police, Civil Defense and Imo Civil Guards are expected to wade into the matter to sanitise the operations of Traffic Control officials in the State.































The return of this section of my weekly column will be heralded by the controversies trailing the impeachment of the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere.

But, please permit me to explain that BABA-NA-BABA Political Vibes has been an integral part of the back page of Trumpeta every Thursday, courtesy of my humble self. With special focus on political developments in Imo State, its debut was in 2014, a year before the 2015 general elections. The political commentary previewed the build ups and developments before the election, hence it was known as BABA-NA-BABA 2014 POLITICAL VIBES. 

The fast approaching 2019 election entails that the commentary returns to accompany the regular sister piece, AGWODINUJU, at the back page. Please join me to welcome back the title.

Ironically, the theatre of absurdities characterizing the impeachment of the Deputy Governor will form the second and final part of the work started a fortnight ago.

The impeachment saga which has been of public discourse does not need elaborate explanation again having being in the front burner of discussion in the state.

On Monday, after Madumere in a bid to use the judiciary stop the impeachment agenda, obtained an order from a High Court, Owerri, asking the panel set up by the Chief Judge, to stop further proceedings pending the determination of the main suit, the number two citizen of the state lamented that due process was not followed in the removal process before he was consequently axed.

Apparently angered by the judgment and in another move to do the icing on the cake, the Members of the House, for the umpteenth time, hurriedly gathered at the Assembly complex, to once again, relax the rules for the final execution of the impeachment.

According to House Rules of the Imo State Assembly, Plenary Sessions are for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, while other working days are for other legislative oversight. But of late, Mondays have always been a decisive day for the lawmakers to go for a kill in the course of prosecuting the impeachment program. It would be recalled that it was on a Monday the House rules were relaxed for the lawmakers to sit and suspended four of their colleagues; an action seen in several quarters as the first salvo fired to begin the plot.

It was not surprising that the last Monday of August 2018, was another remarkable day as the lawmakers hurriedly assembled, lowered the guidelines for Plenary Session again and had the Deputy Governor impeached after claiming that they received the Panel of 7 man report that found their victim culpable in the allegations leveled against him.   In his place, a career civil servant and Head of Service, Callistus Ekenze was nominated by the governor before, the House gave approval for his swearing-in.

Another melodrama ensued on the Tuesday date of the swearing in ceremony at Government House, venue of the scheduled events. Government officials, including the governor and the Deputy Governor in waiting, Ekenze appeared and waited for the arrival of the Chief Judge, designated to conduct the affair. After hours of endless wait, tension grew when information filtered in that the show had been canceled, based on the earlier order given by the Owerri High Court restraining the impeachment process before the House members acted. A frustrated governor, through the media aide issued a press’s statement explaining the details.

There is no intention to delve into the quagmire of what next for the Office of the Deputy Governor vis-à-vis the Madumere impeachment and Court induced non swearing in of his replacement, who before he was cleared to hold the position, served as workers’ headman in Imo civil service. As at the time of this write up, no clearer picture of who is next to Okorocha in ranking has appeared even as divergent views continue to trail the cancellation of the swearing in exercise and resultant constitutional commotion.

Irrespective of what would become the outcome, it had become official that Madumere has been impeached by the state legislator. Either he is in office based on judicial remedies because nature abhors vacuum or Ekenze steps in by commission or omission, the record book has entered it that under Okorocha’s watch, the House of Assembly sent the Mbieri Mbaitoli born prince out before their dual mandate of four years expired.

The exit of Madumere is significant in several aspects. Aside from erecting Okorocha above other governors, especially those at the helm of affairs of the state in the past as one who during his tenure had his Deputy impeached on two occasions, it marked the end the jealous and flamboyant relationship both had in the past.

Except for those not familiar with their trajectory, Madumere and Okorocha are political Siamese twins, until recently, events leading to 2019 election instituted asunder. Their affinity went beyond politics and had blossomed before the desire of Okorocha to became Imo State number one citizen manifested in 2011. Madumere, undoubtedly, remains the best person to write about man known as Okorocha, considering the number of years of their political romance, working relationship and intimate to explain further here. How the two met and cemented a memorable relationship may not be necessary attachments, but suffice it to state that they have been partners in progress for over 20 years. Before they came into Owerri for the governorship arrangement, Madumere was Okorocha’s Chief of Staff and forerunner in spheres of life. Their affinity may have led to the outburst of the embattled Deputy who while reacting over the allegation of ex convict leveled against him by the lawmakers in their items of misconduct, claimed that the detention he earned in life was in the course of defending the interest of the governor.

Before Okorocha became governor, accessing him was through Madumere, the Chief of Staff. One of the first official appointments Okorocha made when he came into power was announcement of Madumere as Chief of Staff. It would be recalled that before the governor was sworn in, Madumere issued releases to banks to stop financial dealings with the Ohakim’s administration as Chief of Staff to the then incoming governor, Okorocha. At the removal of Agbaso, he was upgraded to the position of Deputy Governor from Chief of Staff and Okorocha didn’t hesitate to pick him as running mate for the second term in 2015.

The bubble got burst in the whole affair as time for succession plans commenced. With the constitution knocking out Okorocha for continued stay in Government House in Owerri having served two tenures, choice of who takes over is the root cause of the altercation. When it became obvious that the choice of the governor for a successor in Douglas House (Govt House), is his son in-law and now the Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, Madumere wasted no time to “chart” a new course for a political direction. To many watchers of the development, it was more of a harakiri since he is at the mercy of the governor who gave him the platform to reach the stage of Deputy Governor in political progression after that of Chief of Staff. His dumping of Okorocha’s Rescue Mission platform became suicidal.

Before now, there were signs that Okorocha won’t hand over to his Deputy. Associates of Madumere are fully aware of this hidden truth when the governor began subtle measures to undermine the interest of his deputy. In 2015 when the governor embarked on the quest to become Nigeria’s president, he gave a surprise package to Imolites, especially his Madumere and other die hard followers from Owerri zone, when against all expectations, it was his in-law, Nwosu who pocketed the APC ticket before he (Nwosu) handed it over to his father in-law (Okorocha) that lost the Presidential ticket to Buhari. Madumere was not in the picture of that arrangement. Grapevine sources had it that despite his second in command status in Rescue Mission, he was an outsider to the deal. Subsequently, he was carefully kept in the cooler and gradually ostracised in the act of governance. Unlike the past where Deputy Governors of the state were handed few ministries to control by their governors, Madumere had no ministry to supervise, than an insignificant agency, a recent probe of its financial dealings by the security agencies was conducted. He was “spare tyre” personified as Deputy Governors are regarded.

In the suspected earlier clampdown on Madumere, strong indications of a deliberate ploy to weaken his financial muscles emerged when the subvention to the office of the Deputy Governor and imprests to operate as number two citizen of the state nose- dived. In the past two years, his office suffered starvation leading to loss of key staffers and aides who dumped his office for fear of hunger. Against what his predecessor received, Madumere’s office got a lesser pay that rarely catered for the financial demands of the Deputy Governors Office. Even political structures that attempted to come up and give him support faced annihilation while the various pseudo campaign organizations and movements linked to Nwosu survived and blossomed greatly within the Okorocha political family. It was this observation that led a former House of Reps Member and past ally of Okorocha, Uche Onyeagocha, to accuse the governor of making Uche Nwosu “dispenser of state favour” ahead of other followers in government.

More so, politicians who identified with Madumere were handed persona non grata in Okorocha’s administration. They were denied appointments and perceived to be against the ambition of the governor’s son in-law. More pronounced is the case of a commissioner and TC Chairman sacked for the suspicion that they are linked to the Deputy Governor. A political platform, the New Era formed to pursue the governorship bid of Madumere died a natural death due to suffocation from Pro-Okorocha protagonists.

To give Madumere soft landing and perhaps gain his support for his choice candidate for governor, Nwosu, Okorocha publicly offered Madumere Senate position of Owerri Zone. His utter rejection of the Senate grant and removal of the trademark muffler, he regularly spotted round his neck during their rosy days with Okorocha incensed the war of attrition. The last straw that broke the camel’s back resulting to the coming of the sword of Damocles on the Deputy Governor was his joining forces with the Imo APC Stakeholders; a coalition of party leaders opposed to Okorocha’s suspected hijack of the party structure and imposition of son in-law as next governor of Imo State. Not ruled out is his subsequent his desire to run for governor against the wish of his political soulmate and master.

Their systematic breakdown of ties culminating in the present cankerous affair somewhat adds more feathers to claims from Okorocha’s haters who persistently accuse him of lacking value for good relationship. The governor has been receiving volleys of shots for failing to keep to terms of agreements with erstwhile political soulmates.

The family of his first victim of impeachment, Jude Agbaso is yet to end their lamentation over the alleged betrayal of trust experienced by the former Deputy Governor in 2013, two years after their political romance with Okorocha commenced. What of his first set of commissioners in 2011, in the person of Ejike Uche, Steve Ahaneku, Ogueri Enwerem ( Ukwu Ose) and Obinna Duruji who were instrumental to his ascendancy into Government House through several fronts but today are no longer in the comfort zone of the governor’s political kingdom?  The story of the   former APGA chairman and now a Senator of Anambra Central, Victor Umeh who was in charge when Okorocha rode through the back of the party in 2011 to become governor is pathetic. Only recently, Umeh opened can of worms by alleging that the governor can’t be trusted in a political deal.

A clear testimony of the governor’s unhealthy relationship with close acquaintance after blissful outings also manifested in the diatribe with the former Speaker of the House of Assembly and Deputy; Benjamin Uwajumogu and Donatus Ozoemene respectively. In 2013, Uwajumogu, the presiding officer in the House danced to the tune of Okorocha by leading his colleagues to impeach the younger Agbaso. Three years after, the centre can no longer hold as the Senator representing Okigwe Zone (Uwajumogu) and the governor are involved in deep political warfare added to necessary verbal crossfire frightening dimension. Same for the former Deputy Speaker, Ozomene, a strong member of the APC Allied Forces. Ozoemene has to resign from Okorocha’s appointment. Readers may also be aware of the unholy friction between a front line politician in Imo, Ifeanyi Araraume and Okorocha . In 2015, Okorocha reportedly ran to the two- time senator who represented Okigwe zone, for a political assistance to achieve his second term ambition. Okorocha was said to have visited Araraume’s Onitsha road campaign office and MCC Road Owerri private lodge to seek re-election support from the former who had dumped PDP for APC after losing the 2015 governorship primaries of the party in controversial circumstance. Few years after, their relationship has gone sour. The development forced the Senator at a recent party function, to reveal that all those who were instrumental to Okorocha becoming the governor in 2011 and second missionary journey in 2015 are no longer with him.   The aforementioned may have induced Okorocha to choose his son in-law as a successor and is trying to built the APC structure around Nwosu indicated in the line-up of those that emerged members of the party’s executive in the fresh Congresses conducted two weeks ago. By next week, this commentary will enter into the next stage titled; AFTER MADUMERE, WHAT NEXT”, as events unfold in the days ahead.