In the past, Owerri the Imo State capital used to be a beauty to behold both in the area of environmental cleanliness and good drainage system.
In fact, former governor Sam Mbakwe who is now late, was attributed to have done so well that since he left office in 1983 following a military coup, it has been difficult to get any other person to either beat or even equal his record.
However, every other governor that came after Mbakwe tried as much as he could without disorganizing the Owerri master plan, which for long kept the city decent.
But the coming of the immediate past governor, Rochas Okorocha brought about a lot of negative things, not only to Owerri but to the whole State. For instance, during his second tenure in Office, he started what he called Urban renewal which substantially disorganized the Owerri master plan.
In spite of advice from professionals on the best way to go about it, the former governor insisted in doing it in his own ways, which at the end of the day brought us to the mess we are all facing today in Owerri.
Okorocha’s government indiscriminately destroyed originally built drainage systems, which was constructed by competent civil engineering companies and instead brought in amateurs who knew little or nothing in projects of that magnitude to replace the strongly destroyed ones.
Since then each heavy rain in Owerri usually result in massive flooding which sometimes render a complete neighborhood comprising many streets homeless.
The last few weeks of July and part of August 2019, were very trying periods for the current administration of Chief Emeka Ihedioha, not because the people revolted, but for the huge flood that visited Owerri municipality and other communities.
The problem is not only restricted to the menacing flooding, residents of Owerri and commuters, also faced the inconvenience of destructive craters on virtually all the municipal roads and highways in the state.
It could be recalled that instead of blaming the palpable shoddy jobs he was doing on the roads, Okorocha rather preferred to blame what he called “acid rain” that was falling in the state. However, many still believe that the main reason Imo had sub-standard project during the regime of the immediate past governor was due to non-involvement of professionals in the execution of projects, poor handling of projects, absence of engineering drawings, no environmental impact assessment tests and more.
As a matter of fact, the immediate past administration never deemed it fit to assemble professionals to help in proffering solutions to the problems facing the state and the citizenry. Beyond these facts, economic activities slump, vehicles were damaged. Wares, homes and properties were submerged and destroyed by the rampaging flood!
As the outcry concerning these poorly done projects continued to grow and Governor Ihedioha having became worried himself decided to summoned a meeting of Imo professionals in the engineering field, to discuss the flood menace and how to effectively tackle it.
While Kicking off the meeting, the Governor stated: “I believe it is necessary that we seek the views of our patriotic citizens. We will always give them the platform to come and make inputs and bring professional ideas, because I understand the precision of which engineers deal with problems. “We have noticed collapse of bridges as a result of no reinforcements. We are having critical challenges on our roads. We are in a society where those who have failed want to drag us down.
“It makes sense for us to have you as a team to deal with this matter and come up with solutions. Kindly look at these issues and give us ideas on how best to proffer solutions to our challenges.”
One interesting thing about the governor’s action, is that his meeting with the professional bodies is a reaffirmation of his resolve to administer participatory and people oriented governance to Imo people.
With what has just happened in the instant case, Ihedioha’s government is clearly inclusive, irrespective of where anybody comes from, who they are and what they do for a living. It is also clear that Governor Ihedioha is truly interested in what anybody can do and will do, in the overall interest of the state and its people and not the other way round.
Dr. L.O Uzoigwe, who is the chairman of Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, Owerri, while speaking at the meeting recalled that the Governor’s action was the first time a serving Imo State Governor would interface with professional bodies to look for solutions to a state issue.
“The massive flooding witnessed recently in Owerri municipality could have been avoided if the former governor, Rochas Okorocha, heeded to professional advice from relevant bodies”, Uzoigwe said.
Speaking further, he said, “the urban renewal programme of Okorocha’s administration, which was needless, led to the blocking of drainage systems and distorted the city’s master plan”.
The NSE chairman equally recalled that the body raised the alarm on the standard of infrastructure built by the former administration, notably the Amakohia and Orji fly-overs, as they didn’t meet the least quality of a flyover. The parley may have become history, but the memory will remain. It has also become history that Ihedioha not only used the opportunity to identify roles which the professional bodies can and ought to play in the process of rebuilding the state, but equally charged engineers and other allied professionals with the issue of finding a lasting solution to flooding in Owerri municipality. The engineers know the typography of Owerri and the water channels, hence tackling the problems from the foundation wouldn’t be an impossible task for them.
The governor was very right when he told his guests that: “Being a governor does not make one a master in all fields of human endeavour. Being a governor does not make one an engineer over night or a mechanic, tailor, shoemaker, electrician and a carpenter.”
He acknowledged that despite being the number one citizen, the knowledge and contributions of others were not only significant but very important in the rebuilding process. How these professionals will tackle the assignment will definitely determine government’s action and the final result. Only time will tell whether the rampaging flood will eventually bow to the superior power of knowledge, professionalism and government power.
As Imo people wait for the outcome of the various inputs from all the consulted professionals, it is hoped that solutions to the several problems confronting the state would soon come to an end.