By Njoku Bright
Apparently angry over the the forceful demolition of Eke Ukwu Owerri Marker despite a subsisting Court injunction restraining the state government from demolishing or relocating the Ekeukwu Owerri Market on Saturday 26th August 2017, the people of Owerri Zone on Friday gathered at the Ugwu Ekwema Center as they began the seven days mourning as a result of the death of some people, especially the 10 years old Somtochukwu Ibeanusi and others who sustained gunshot injuries and lying critical in various hospitals.
They said the Governor must take back the militants he unleashed on them, saying that they have lived peacefully with their neighbours. They accused the Governor of training militants when they believed he granted them amnesty.
During the meeting which was attended by leaders like Engr Emmanuel lwuanyanwu,
Ambassador Kema Chikwe, Senator Bright Nwanne, Sir Ambrose Ejiogu, Hon Engr Dan lkpeazu, Chief Martins Agbaso, Sir Frank Nneji, Bar Ken Njemanze (SAN), Hon Nnaemeka Maduagwu, Hon Henry Onwukwe, Hon Ray Emeaena, Hon Innocent Ekenma, Hon Kelechi Ajoku, Chief Vitals Ajumbe, Barr Kingsley Ononuju, Chief Owaya and many, etc, who all dressed in black attire and wore black armbands, the leaders said the event was the beginning of their seven day mourning, even as they declared that the end of Governor Okorocha's cruel leadership has come.
But at the graveside of the founding fathers of Owerri Nchi IseThe at the Ugwu Ekwema Center, the elders and Nze title holders poured libation and called on their ancestors to rise against anybody meting inhumanity against them.
Addreasing the people, Barr Ken Njemanze (SAN) assured the people of Owerri that all legal means and right steps would be taken to ensure that justice prevailed. He also informed the people that adequate compensation of damages to the displaced victims must be paid, stressing that every agency involved in the brutality must be brought to book.
But the youth leader, Mr. Brown Chukwueke, accused the police of betraying their agreements and allowing the Governor to use them, assuring that Owerri youths will not sleep over the matter.
"We will return the fight. We cannot run away. We will return attack for attack. We have all kinds of people. We calmed down and wanted to follow due process. We had reached agreement with the police by 2pm but they betrayed our agreement and allowed the Governor use them. They youths should not sleep. They should be ready to answer us at any time.
"We have not settled with anybody. Some people would come to tell you that we have settled. We are going to raise down anything they put there", he said.
The Chairman of the event and astute politician from Owerri Zone, Sir Ambrose Ejiogu, said he was happy their meetings for the past few days had not been in vain, assuring also that they enjoyed the support of prominent Imo sons and daughters in their moment of grief.
He said: "Some people thought they could deal with the Owerri people. We came here today to declare one week of mourning and we started today. On Sunday we will attend Mass at Assumpta Cathedral. All of us, irrespective of our denominations should attend. Next Sunday we will end the one week mourning with a church service at CATHOL".
Nze Ray Emeana, Secretary of the PDP in Imo State and former member of Imo State House of Assembly representing Owerri North LGA, reminded that people that "There comes a time in the life of a people when they see darkness. This is a period of darkness in Owerri. God will fight for us and give us victory."
He added: "Somtochukwu Ibeanusi is a hero, his blood will wipe away evil in Owerri. They have crossed the line. They are intimidating the parents of the boy to say their son did not die in Owerri. This is evil.
"Nobody will go unpunished. Some people will end up at international Court of Justice. We have decided to follow the part of peace. Law and order must prevail. We have been slapped severally".
Also, former Ambassador and Minister for Aviation, Dr Mrs Kema Chikwe, said that "What happened to our people is terrible. I have been monitoring the development from the beginning. Maltreatment is not good. We know that Owerri is the capital but the market goes beyond Owerri as it served people from other parts of the state and beyond.'
She said that Owerri people are traders and that demolishing the market means taking away their means of livelihood from them.
She called on the people to put their faith God, even as she urged them to be united, saying: "without unity we cannot achieve much."
However, Prof Francis Dike SAN, from Orlu Zone, who attended the event also in black attire said that the claim by the state government that there is a law prohibiting the establishment of market 5 miles to the state government house as untrue, stressing that the Ekeukwu Owerri Market existed for more than a century before the government house.
"The government says there is a law that no market should exist within 5 miles to the government house. It is stupid. It is a lie. Such a person must be living in the lunatic fringe. The market existed for close to a century before the government house was built", he said.
He described Governor Okorocha as "unconscionable" for claiming that nobody dies during the demolition, saying that the Governor "should shut his trap".
But Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu advised the youths not to take the laws into their hands but to hand over the matter to them as elders to handle.
He promised to convene an emergency meeting with leaders of the of Owerri.
He said: "What happened was painful. When Imo was being created I attended the meetings as a young man. But they said Owerri people wouldn't give their lands for development. Today it is obvious that no people is as generous as Owerri people. But they have taken away the only inheritance of Owerri people. Hoodlums were imported into Owerri.
"But we cannot sacrifice the blood of our sons. We are going to investigate the matter and revisit the issue of properties belonging to Owerri people.
"I cannot afford to shed the blood of any Owerri son. Leave the matter to us. We are peace loving people."