Douglas: The shame of Owerri 



THE deplorable state of Douglas Road at the centre of Owerri is a huge embarrassment to Imo State. Both residents and visitors alike are appalled by the terrible state of the strategic city road. With hordes of unruly traders struggling over every available space, the entire road is filled with all manner of ramshackle used to display assorted wares for sale. The result is the perpetual gridlock that now defines Douglas. Trailers, cars and innumerable tricycles compete for space on the seriously constricted road. Luckily enough, commercial motorcyclists (Inaga) have since been chased out; otherwise, Douglas would be total bedlam.

The stretch of Douglas from Ama JK down to the Wetheral Road junction (off Emmanuel College) has been turned into a huge city incinerator, where piles of garbage burn day and night without ceasing. The epicentre is the section facing St. Paul’s Catholic Church. The obnoxious stench, emanating from the burning garbage heaps lined up on the decrepit median, constitutes a serious public health hazard. Sadly enough, nobody is talking about the adverse effects the daily exposure to carbon monoxide is having on the citizenry.

The air quality in Owerri is sickening as a result of the obnoxious fumes spilling from the smoldering garbage. Douglas Road is so dilapidated, messed up and abandoned. Neither the federal authorities that rightfully have responsibility over the road nor the Imo State authorities that have jurisdiction over the road seem to bother. The question is for how long is Douglas going to be left in its present appalling state? Something has to be done to give Douglas a facelift and bring succour to Owerri.

The anarchy and chaos on Douglas are nothing compared to the bedlam that was Oshodi in Lagos, which Governor Fashola confronted overnight and transformed. Prior to that, Oshodi was, for decades, impassable, as all the highways that passed through the axis were completely blocked by street traders. Nobody thought that sanity would ever come to Oshodi. Different administrations in Lagos – military and civilian alike – did nothing on Oshodi. It was not until former action Governor Babatunde Fashola took charge that the unthinkable happened.

Lagosians woke up one morning to see that Oshodi, the hitherto impassable jungle of Lagos, had been cleared in an overnight operation by an unprecedented task force. Stern-looking soldiers and mobile policemen were stationed all over the market. The same action was replicated in several parts of Lagos metropolis, where street traders had taken over access roads and streets. That marked a new dawn in Lagos. The roads that hitherto had been swallowed by street traders were opened up. If sanity could be restored to Oshodi and other parts of Lagos like that irrespective of the complexity and diversity, how much less Douglas and its adjoining streets?

It is from that angle that the task force recently deployed by the state government to clear Douglas of traders is a step in the right direction. But how forceful and effective is the task force? And what plans are on ground to simultaneously rehabilitate Douglas and the adjoining streets to demonstrate the seriousness of government? It is not clear to what extent the action of the task force would bring sanity to the monstrous Douglas. This is not the first time that the traders had been driven away and yet they staged a comeback. That is why the present effort should be approached differently for a lasting impact.

Governor Okorocha’s administration took off with massive urban roads rehabilitation in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe. At the same time, rural road projects were embarked upon in each of the 27 local councils in Imo State. Many parts of Owerri have been given a facelift by the opening of access roads. Governor Okorocha should extend his roads development programme to Douglas. Within the next four years, a facelift on Douglas would be a lasting legacy for his administration, the way Wetheral Road remains a legacy for the Mbakwe administration.

So far, the effort of the state government to relocate the traders to the Relief Market, even with a promise of free stalls has met with stern resistance. But the obduracy of the traders stems from the fact that there has been no counter obdurate force by government. The problem on Douglas Road took roots because over the years, the traders were allowed to occupy the road and nothing was done to stem it, which amounts to an assault on the city.

Besides, somehow, the two city markets – Owerri Main Market and Ekeukwu Owerri – have coalesced into one big amorphous market that has spilled unto Douglas and its adjoining streets. Consequently, Ekeonunwa, School Road and all the other access roads linking to Douglas have been taken over completely by the stubborn traders. That has given rise to endemic traffic gridlock in Owerri. It also raises the question of urban management in Owerri.

It is incomprehensible how the entire sector of Owerri Central Business District (CBD) has turned into one big chaotic market that constitutes an obstacle to the efficient running of the city. The ugly state of affairs on Douglas betrays the efforts of the state government to give Owerri a facelift. A drive round parts of the New Owerri Capital, World Bank and areas around the Concorde Hotel, shows a different scenario; indeed, the commendable effort of the state government to transform Owerri.

Douglas is the main arterial passageway at the centre of the Imo State capital. As such, it should be the cynosure of attraction for shopping, sight-seeing and tourism, as in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, the shocking state of the road over the years leaves much to be desired. It gives the wrong impression that the authorities are unperturbed.

Certainly, the decay and chaos on Douglas raise questions as regard urban management. There is no doubt that Douglas presents a negative picture of governance in Imo State, irrespective of whatever strides the administration is making to transform Owerri. Governor Rochas Okorocha should seize the opportunity, under his rescue mission, to rehabilitate Douglas and remove the shame this road has brought to Imo State.

•To my esteemed readers, this column will go on leave for a few weeks.

  • Boboke Nemesi

    Akpabio the shame of Akwa Ibom. Here’s Why:


    By Otobong
    Sampson, Uyo

    A few days
    ago some of Udom Emmanuel’s supporters on Facebook reacted to a series of
    reverses suffered by their principal at the election petition tribunal by
    making an emphatic declaration that if the tribunal cancelled the governorship
    election result in Akwa Ibom State, Udom was sure to win the inevitable re-run.

    declaration of supreme confidence in Udom’s chances in any re-run election
    comes from a well dated appreciation of the balance of forces on ground in Akwa
    Ibom State even as at now. Things have changed dramatically since April 11,
    2015 when the last gubernatorial election was to hold in the state.

    Let’s begin
    the preview with a look at Udom in his capacity as a politician within the
    context of Akwa Ibom. Udom is no political force of significant weight in Akwa
    Ibom State. Left to find his way in the political labyrinth of the state, Udom
    will be lost in no time. Even after two years since he was brought home from
    Lagos on a special mission of political surrogacy, Udom has failed to come into
    his own. He has no identity of his own, has no original view on anything and
    has no political base of his own.

    so-called Udom administration was set up by ex-governor Godswill Akpabio and is
    staffed by Akpabio’s men. Akpabio appointed Udom’s chief of staff, secretary to
    government and permanent secretary, government office. Udom heard of the
    appointment of the three men on state radio as any other Akwa Ibom person and
    grumbled to his sympathisers like an infant whose candy has been snatched. The
    principal officers of the state house of assembly are Akpabio’s men.

    Udom is in
    office, not in power. He has no significant following and even the little
    support he has is bound to evaporate as we intend to show shortly.


    As it is
    well known, Udom was imposed on Akwa Ibom people by Akpabio through the force
    of arms with the connivance of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, using INEC under
    Akwa Ibom resident electoral commissioner Austin Okojie as the undertaker.

    If a re-run
    is ordered in the next few months, Udom won’t have Akpabio to railroad him into
    power again. By the re-run period, Akpabio will be too busy trying to save his
    neck from the noose of the EFCC, if he will not be in actual prison. With the
    ex-emperor out of the way, Udom will be nothing more than a jester on the
    political scene.

    Even if
    Akpabio will be around to participate in the re-run, he will be pretty much an
    ordinary man, shorn of all the accoutrement of power. More importantly, he will
    not have a sitting president as his enforcer.


    The fraud
    that was forced upon Akwa Ibom people in what would have been a governorship
    election of April 11 was facilitated by corrupt police force, the SSS and INEC.
    INEC was in charge of the paper work. It made sure sensitive election materials
    such as result sheets, ballot papers were released ahead of election date to
    the PDP, while denying polling units those same materials on Election Day for
    fear that the electorate would vote for the opposition. Besides,
    INEC subverted every aspect of the election process to clear the way for the
    PDP. The electoral body declared no results at the polling units as demanded by
    the law; it did not allow collation of results in most parts of the state. In
    the end election results were cooked for the PDP and we had the abnormally of
    437,128 people accredited to vote in the election while the state INEC reported
    actual votes of 1,22,836.

    The police
    and other law enforcement protected Akpabio’s private army so that they could
    cause maximum disruption and intimation of the opposition. They police were
    also used to effect arrest and illegal detention to clear the coast for the

    The re-run
    will be conducted without the connivance of INEC and law enforcement for the
    benefit of the PDP. The election itself will be a special poll, being the only
    one or one of two or three states that will go to the polls on a chosen day.
    Going by the precedent set in Osun and Edo, to name two, the headquarters of
    INEC and the security forces will relocate to Akwa Ibom. The implication is
    that there will be election in which the people will vote and their votes

    The power of
    the people to elect their governor will be reinstated. The APC and Umana Okon
    Umana will be natural beneficiary of the normalcy that will ensue because the
    grassroots in the state belong to APC.


    factor that will help swing the election away from Udom and in favour of the
    APC is the contradictions in Udom’s camp. The contradictions have manifested in
    two ways: the cry among Udom’s supporters is that monkey de work,
    baboon the chop. This is in reference to the peculiar reward system in
    the Udom camp. Udom has overlooked most of the local guys who worked and even
    maimed and killed for him in preference to his Lagos friends and associates for
    whatever little patronage he could hand out, given his constraint as a lackey
    of ex-governor Akpabio, who still determines who gets what.

    The second
    level of contradictions is the constraint mentioned earlier. Udom has no real
    power even though he goes by the grand title of governor. Of the 22 names
    awaiting confirmation of the state house of assembly for the position of
    commissioners (20) and special advisers (2), only four of them came from Udom.
    Eighteen of the nominees came from ex-governor Akpabio; 13 of the 18 names that
    Akpabio brought served in his last cabinet. The story in town is that Akpabio
    has reinstated his last cabinet because they are expert at rigging, and would
    therefore fit as square pegs in square holes in the event of a re-run.

    For the two
    deleterious developments of discrimination against local supporters and
    externally imposed constraint by the ex-emperor, Udom’s supporters are seething
    with anger that they are not being empowered by their principal. The anger,
    which is as yet muted, may blow over in open rebellion and defection, thus
    cutting away from whatever support base is left for Udom.

    There is
    even another risk. Udom is daring Akpabio by seeking freedom from the control
    of the ex-emperor. Yesterday in The Nation, Udom apparently authorised a loud
    complaint and supplication to his master that he ought to be given his freedom
    after two years of service as an articled page. Those who know will tell you
    that Akpabio does not brook such impertinence. The chance is that Udom might be
    punished for seeking to free himself from tutelage contrary to his contract of
    servitude. He might be cut adrift and left to fend for himself. However, a more
    realistic analysis suggests that the ex-emperor cannot even move that much
    against Udom since he is banking on Udom’s continued occupancy of the Hilltop
    Mansion for the safety of the Akpabio dynasty.

    unvarnished truth, though, is that Akpabio is an ex-emperor without clothes,
    too handicapped to swing the tide in favour of his boy.

    Udom is,
    therefore, likely to go into any re-run as a candidate who is shorn of most privileges
    that were available to him the last time around. He will have no total control
    over state resources, apart from whatever he would amass in the months he is at
    the Hilltop Mansion as an illegal occupant.

    prospects are pretty dim, contrary to the naive projections by his uninformed

  • Cassidy Iwunna

    Okorocha is the boy,boy of the hausas now.they have turned douglas by Mbaise road oshodi of Ino state yet the government turn the other way for fear of making the hausas their masters angry.