Muhammadu Buhari Road: Catholic Church Spoil For War With Okorocha
There are indications that the Catholic Archdeaconry of Owerri is set for war with Governor Okorocha over his renaming of the popular Maria Assumpta Road to Muhammadu Road.
The Maria Assumpta Road is a major road in Owerri, linking travellers from Port Harcourt Road to Owerri and Onitsha Road to Owerri.
The major road which was named after the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, located at the popular Control Post, Owerri, essentially serves as the entry point to Owerri, including Okigwe Road, Douglas Road, Wethedral Road, Akwakuma, etc.
Some Catholic faithful said the Maria Assumpta Cathedral is more than fifty years old, and that it was built by Israeli Engineers.
The Maria Assumpta Road is also part of the Bank Road where many of the commercial banks in the capital city of Owerri are located, and terminates at the Government House Roundabout, linking Wetheral Road and Okigwe Road respectively.
Apart from renaming the Maria Assumpta Road, the Governor also renamed Okigwe Road to Nnamdi Azikiwe Road, which also terminated at the Orji Flyover, even as he also renamed Wetheral Road to Dee Sam Mbakwe Road, while also naming the Douglas House Road, which used to house the Department of State Security (DSS), the State Police Command and Shellcamp Police Station, to The People’s House Road.
The Governor also erected four brickboards bearing the new names of the roads at the Government House Roundabout.
However, the renaming of the Maria Assumpta Road has triggered off controversy as the Catholic Church is spoiling for war with the Governor.
According to a statement issued by Sir Steve Nwokeocha, 1st Trustee, KSJI, Abuja Grand Commandery, on Monday, the Catholic community in the State considers the renaming of the Maria Assumpta Road as an affront.
According to Sir Steve who said he was “reporting officially” to the Knights and Ladies what he referred to as “this matter of urgent national and particularly Catholic concern”, decrying “The change of Maria Assumpta Avenue, Owerri to Muhammadu Buhari Road by the Imo State Government”.
He explained that he was reporting “officially because at the invitation of His Grace, Archbishop Obinna of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, I joined a high-level meeting that he chaired on the matter after Mass on Sunday, December 24, 2017 at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri, Imo State. I therefore have the mandate of the meeting to alert the KSJI at the national level and also to brief the KSJI SSP and SSP Ladies Auxiliary. The decision was that all Catholics in Nigeria should be alerted which is why this post here, however, I shall deliver some reserved details directly to the SSPs KSJI & Ladies Auxiliary”.
According to the statement: “An imposing/conspicuous brick-board has already been erected directly facing the entrance of the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri to herald this new Muhammadu Buhari Road”.
He added that “For those who know Owerri very well, Maria Assumpta Avenue is the expressway in front of Maria Assumpta Cathedral, leading to Owerri City Centre from Owerri – Port Harcourt Road and also intersecting Owerri – Onitsha at the entrance of the Cathedral. It is a strategic road that channels all traffics from Port Harcourt and Onitsha directions into Owerri City. Maria Assumpta Avenue is as old as the Maria Assumpta Cathedral itself.
“Maria Assumpta Cathedral is not only the greatest man-made strucure in old Owerri, and perhaps still so in modern Owerri and therefore is of monumental historical significance to Owerri people in particular and Imo State in general but it is also a Catholic edifice of a ‘world heritage’ status. To now locate such an edifice on a road that bears the name of an Islamic leader has been interpreted by the Church as a desecration of the Catholic Faith and by extension, Christianity and what it holds dear the most. Ironically, the roundabout at the entrance of the Cathedral where the new name of a road was erected has a giant monument of the Holy Family”.
Sir Steve also noted that “Maria Assumpta Cathedral is not just for the Owerri Archdiocese but it is also the headquarters of the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province which extents to Abia State.”
Revealing the feelings of the Catholic community in Imo State, he said that the “Catholics in Owerri, especially parishioners of the Cathedral, had a sad Sunday and boiling is the right word to describe the feeling of the Church right now. His Grace the Archbishop of Owerri in his homily described the development as an insult to the Catholic Church, a slap on the face of the Holy Family, and a disrespect to Holy Mother Mary whose name is on the Cathedral.
“Therefore, logical reactions have been planned and Catholics nationwide are required to be part of the action, but most importantly not to work at cross-purposes. Rather, they are to seek accurate information/updates and work in accordance only with the Church. As I remain a member of the Archbishop-led Committee, I will do what I can to send in updates here when necessary. Our SSPs will also be direct leaders in this struggle and will equally provide leadership and information as they deem necessary”.
He further explained that “For the avoidance of doubt, the Catholic Church is not opposed to naming all the roads in Owerri after His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, if the will make the Imo State Governor happy and help his political aspirations, but it can never be the Maria Assumpta Avenue. Therefore, the reaction of the Church has nothing to do with politics or even Islam but simply the preservation of its own Faith and heritage”.
However, the renaming of the Maria Assumpta Road has attracted reactions from Imo people.
According to Godwin Ezeji, the “Naming of Assumpta Avenue to Muhammed Buhari Road is a costly mistake by Rochas”.
He added that the renaming of the road “is a disrespect to the Catholic Church in general and Owerri Catholic Archdiocese in Particular. The Cathedral is a symbol of our Catholic faith and a gateway to the state capital, it is as old as the state”.
He called on the Governor to reverse the name to its original name while naming Spibat Road or the dual carriageway connecting old Nekede to Aba Road to Buhari Road”.
He also noted that “There is no Muslim that can change the name of a road named after a mosque to any person’s name, he (the Governor) should learn to listen to advice and not to act too fast always”.
For Mr. Agunwa Nzeribe who is also a member of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State, the renaming of the Maria Assumpta Road to Muhammadu Buhari Road is ploy by the Governor to curry favour from the President.
According to Mr. Nzeribe who is the Director of Media of Destiny Organization owned by Senator Ifeanyi Araraume who is running for the governorship election in the state in 2019: “I am a member of APC and from Oguta LGA of Imo State.
“As a Catholic, action of our governor in renaming Assumpta Avenue to Muhammadu Buhari Road is unacceptable but we must treat it with caution.
“What stops him (the Governor) from opening an entirely new road and name it after our dear President, same way former Governor Ikedi Ohakim did (Yar’adua road)?
“I just forwarded the message from one of our faithful brothers to my Muslim brother and benefactor, his advice in respect of this unwarranted renaming by Governor Rochas Okorocha should be taken into consideration”.
He added that “Governor Okorocha has lost the favour of President Muhammadu Buhari and Presidency, stressing that the “Recent visit of Mr. President to South East where Governor Okorocha never played any significant role is still fresh in our memory and it speaks for itself”.
He also said that “Governor Okorocha in a desperate bid to install a crony (stooge to actualise his 3rd term bid) as his successor come 2019 recently claimed Director General of Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organization 2019 for South East when Mr. President is yet to make his reelection intentions known to his party and the Nation.
“Governor Okorocha as a con man purposely did the renaming to curry favour of Presidency.
“Governor Okorocha in his right sense knows that Catholic Community must revolt against such renaming, as such could attract sympathy of Presidency to himself”.
He admonished the Catholic Church that “In view of the above, I advise we play with caution. He (the Governor) is no longer loved by Imo People, and he is playing to the gallery to ensure that he wins the favour of Presidency to enable him install a preferred candidate as his successor.
“We should ask ourselves what made him stop the unveiling of remaining statues he moulded at new Owerri”.
Mr Nzeribe also noted that a name is only useful for identification, saying that “Everybody in Imo State knows that road as Assumpta Avenue until recently Banks took over both sides of the road from Douglas Road Junction, thus the new name Bank Road.
“Change Wetheral or Douglas Road to a new name, residents, commuters, commercial drivers, etc will still call and know/identify the roads by its original names.
“As his days are numbered, I implore all Imolites to tarry for awhile in order not to jeopardise chances of desired change Imo people are yearning for come 2019”.
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