Governor Okorocha renames Orlu Road to Akanu Ibiam Road
By Austin Echefu
Not deterred by the criticism that trailed his renaming of Maria Assumpta Avenue to Muhammadu Buhari Road, Governor Rochas Okorocha has renamed the popular Orlu Road to Akanu Ibiam Road.
The Orlu Road begins at the Warehouse Junction, where the state government says the Maria Assumpta Avenue begins.
The new Akanu Ibaim Road joins the Muhammadu Buhari Road, Nnamdi Azikiwe Road and Dee Sam Mbakwe Road, that were renamed from Okigwe Road, Wetheral Road and Maria Assumpta Avenue.
While Imo people have not criticised the renaming of Wetheral Road to the name of former Governor of the State, Dee Sam Mbakwe, Okigwe Road to Nnamdi Azikiwe Road and The People’s House Road, the renaming of the Maria Assumpta Avenue to Muhammadu Buhari Road has raised a lot of dust until the state government reverted to the old name.
But purportedly speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church in Imo State in a letter to the Knights and Ladies of the Church, Sir Steve Nwokeocha, who identified himself as 1st Trustee, KSJI, Abuja Grand Commandery, said that the Catholic community in the State considered the renaming of the Maria Assumpta Road as an affront, describing the development as of serious concern to the Church.
He explained that his letter was a result of “the invitation of His Grace, Archbishop Obinna of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese,” where he had “joined a high-level meeting that he (the Archbishop) 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”.
He said that: “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.
“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”.
He 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.
“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”.
Sir Nwokeocha added 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”.
But the state government has also apologised for the renaming of the Maria Assumpta Road to Muhammadu Buhari Road, saying that it was done in error.
In a statement by the Commissioner for Information, Prof Nnamdi Obiareri, the state government said: “All inconveniences occasioned by the initial oversight or error of wrongly installing a street sign suggesting a renaming of the street is highly regretted.”
But the government in the statement said that the Maria Assumpta Avenue was not touched in any way as the government never intended to do so.
“This is to inform the public and particularly the highly respected body of Roman Catholic Faithfuls in Imo State and beyond that Okporo uzo Assumpta or Assumpta Avenue Owerri stays”.
The government added that it did not have the intention to rename the Maria Assumpta Road, stressing that “At all material times, it was never the intention of the Imo State Government to rename the said strategic road which spans from Assumpta Cathedral (beginning from the Holy Family statue built by the Rescue Mission Government) and terminating at Warehouse House Roundabout Owerri.
“Okporo Uzo Assumpta or Assumpta Road or Avenue is symbolic for both religious and historic reasons in Imo State and these facts are not lost on the Government and people of Imo State”.
Also, in a press release by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Sam Onwuemeodo, on Wednesday, the Governor said that the Church had claimed that “the cheques of N50 million the government gave to them for the renovation of their Cathedral bounced when they actually cashed the cheques, adding that “There was no refuttal from them over the false story of bounced cheques and there was no thank-you letter to that effect”.
He added that the Church was also behind the remour that the Governor was going to Islamize the state.
The CPS added that “During the campaigns for the 2015 election, it was this particular clique that branded Rochas Okorocha Alhaji in Government House and Okoro-Hausa. They also came up with the allegation that the Chapel in Government House was a Mosque.
“They did not also show any sign of gratitude to the government over the N450m given to the mission schools”.
According to him, “the opposition to Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration in Imo only exists on the social media. This is the fact. The social media has become their own tool and they have been doing it unwisely, ungodly and unintelligently”.
He also noted that “The latest of their balderdash was the claim that the government has changed Maria Assumpta Avenue to Muhammadu Buhari road, for which they, as usual, claimed that Owerri was boiling”, adding “that some people who should know better and detach falsehood from the truth at times fail to do this. And that is the reason we are now responding. Otherwise, we cannot be spending our God-given time responding to frivolities”.
Described the letter from Sir Steve Nwokeocha, 1st Trustee KSJI Abuja Grand Purportedly Commandery, to the Knights and Ladies of the Catholic Church as a sham and unfortunate, he noted that “In the first paragraph of their thrash, the name was Steve Nwokocha, and while signing their kind of letter, the surname changed to Nwokeocha. And these elements could not tell the readers which “Church Leadership Members” the claimed letter was read to…The whole thing was a scam. And some folks in the Church of Jesus Christ were behind it. It is unfortunate”.
According to him, the “Muhammadu Buhari Road begins from Government House Roundabout and ends at the popular Orlu Road Roundabout. Maria Assumpta Avenue begins at Control post Roundabout and stops at Warehouse Roundabout. The indications are all there boldly written for all to see.
“Those behind this ungodly step were playing dirty politics. Hence, they talked about Owerri boiling, because they have seen or heard that most of Imo people who came home for the Christmas were shocked to see the high level of transformation in the State especially in Owerri, so much that most of them confessed that they could not recognize Owerri again. Which is true”.
He also said that “for the avoidance of doubt, if the government has got any reason to change the name of any road in Owerri it would go ahead to do so without succumbing to blackmail or intimidation. And also take responsibility. These people should be made to understand this fact.
“It is equally important to once again appeal to this particular elements to always pursue peace and ensure peace as enjoined by God and not to always fan the ember of trouble or crisis.
“In Igboland, there is what we call “Ofo na Ogu”. In other words, for you to pursue someone over an issue you must be on the sides of truth, justice and equity. When you do not meet these natural conditions, you hit the rock. A word should be enough for the wise.
“Governor Okorocha does not believe in division of any kind. And that is the reason he has been monumentally and equitably developing all the parts of the state. Scratching him won’t make any difference. In 2019, God-willing, Imo people will, as usual, decide who will take over from the Ogboko born governor. And there is nothing anybody can do about the Governor”.
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