George Onyejiuwa Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The dream of former Imo State governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, to transform the state, especially, Owerri the capital, to “small London” seems to be slipping away before him as many of his legacies especially those structures constructed as part of his administration’s urban renewal programme are gradually collapsing.
Some of the fancy legacies already wearing out include the roadside rails, artificial palm trees, Christmas decorations, pillars, amusement parks, roads, streetlights and the artificial waterfalls. These aesthetic structures, which were supposed to be a blessing to residents, are fast becoming dangerous sites.
Residents woke up July 31, to behold another collapsed infrastructure of the past administration. The gigantic multi-million naira waterfalls located at the entrance of the Freedom Square at the Warehouse Roundabout, Owerri, crumbled like a pack of cards. Daily Sun gathered that some police officers and street hawkers who normally took shelter around the edifice escaped by whiskers.
Okorocha had on assumption of office in 2011, erected the Freedom Square in significance of the freedom of Imo people after years of assumed captivity in the hands of the previous administrations. To him, the square was supposed to serve as a place for agitators to protest and criticise the government without inhibition.
“This Freedom Square has been dedicated as a free zone to all Imolites to come and speak their minds without having the fear of being molested or arrested,” he had stated during the inauguration.
But sadly, the place was turned to a viewing centre, as a matter of fact; it was a beehive of fun for football fans during the last World Cup. Not just that, it degenerated to a rehearsal ground for students and group preparing for government functions.
Perhaps, that was why the former governor had to add colour to the Freedom Square by attaching an artificial waterfalls to the entrance of the place. This again, made the place tourists’ site for residents who took delight in taking photographs there.
But just like every other shoddy work of the past administration, the blocks of the waterfalls tumbled like the waters in the artificial spring. A lucky survivor of the incident who did not want his name mentioned recanted his experience to our correspondent:
“We were just relaxing by the side of the waterfalls when suddenly we heard a cracking sound. We never thought it was any harm but just like an instinct, we found ourselves away from the waterfalls. It was just then that we heard another sound as we watched the waterfalls collapse.”
Mixed reactions trailed the incident. Mr Obioma Christopher blamed the fall of the structure to use of substandard products: “We are not surprised some of the projects done by the past administration are leaving with them; none of them was built with correct materials.”
Another resident, Mrs Gladys Ogadinma, attributed the fall of the waterfalls to the use of inexperienced contractors: “That is the kind of thing you see when you don’t allow the right people to do the job. What do you expect when people use ordinary shovel and head pan to construct a road? Thank God we are leaving to tell the stories.”
Chibuzo Onuegbu, a sculptor, noted that artificial waterfalls are not built with just hollow blocks and cement but with chippings and chemical cement so that it is quickly eroded as water is being pumped through it.
For Dr Harold Onumuo, chairman, Imo Youths Assembly, the former governor was interested in impressionistic projects that have no economic value to the people: “He started with 27 general hospitals which were never completed. Even the health centre in his community, Ogboko, was abandoned. Rather he prefers impressionistic projects like the Akachi Tower and the so-called Freedom Square, just to waste the state resources.”
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Emeka Ihedioha on Media, Steve Osuji, said: “This is just an example of the poor quality finishing of the past administration. Look at the roads, buildings and other projects they embarked on, it is a shame. But the good people of the state will now see in this present government, solid projects that could stand the test of time.”
However, Special Adviser to the former governor, Sam Onwuemeodo, debunked those views. He accused the new administration of deliberately destroying the works done by the immediate past government:
“They are the brains behind the destructions. They know they could not achieve what the governor achieved in eight years. We have over 1000 verifiable projects. Everybody knows what Owerri used to look like and now.
“Look at the beautiful rails and pillars used in beautifying the roads, they are removing them today. They are only envious of our achievements.”
It might not be out of place to say that the Ihedioha administration has embarked on operation check “Okorocha’s projects.” With the help of technocrats, the governor has embarked on checking and carrying out integrity test on the bridges constructed by Okorocha with a view to preventing any eventuality that might come with the largely poorly executed projects.