Barr Chima Anozie also known as a�?Home Basea�� is a frontline Imo gubernatorial aspirant in the All Progressive Congress (APC), from Owerri zone, (Owerri North LGA). In this interview with our reporters, he speaks on recent issues in the State, the sufferings of Imolites, especially in the capital city.
Sir, for almost four months now, series of events have unveiled in Imo State; especially in the capital city. There are demolitions of different categories of structures by the present government. What is your perspective about the so-called urban renewal?
If you can recall early interviews I granted, I spoke on urban renewal and emphasised on the Owerri Master Plan. I was a former General Manager of OCDA. In one of my professional studies in the University, my thesis was on the Owerri Master Plan and the effects of civil unrest in real estate, using the Otokoto saga as case study. In the thesis I studied the civil unrest inside Owerri. I have in-depth knowledge of Owerri Master Plan, the effects of its maintenance and strays. Within the period of the study, development in the capital city was in a hut, especially in real estate development. I checked in the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development, registration reduced, property values reduced drastically. I also went to OCDA and discovered that the number of fencing permit permitted and the numbers of building plans submitted were abysmally low, and within two years the whole thing reduced drastically because of civil unrest.
So, if we may get you right, are you against the urban renewal going on in the capital territory of the State?
No, not all! Ia��m not against it, but before one does urban renewal, one has to assess first its socio-economic cost effects, the cultural values of the society, and the ripple effects of the urban renewal before embarking on it. The peoplea��s culture, their communal heritages and social assets must come to play. For instance, if one wants to embark on urban renewal in popular commercial cities like Aba and Onitsha, it must be considered within the parameter of its economic value and the consequent effects it will have on the Statea��s economy and the people. The urban renewal is good, but disjointedly planned and executed without procedural finality or good finishing. With the present pattern of urban renewal, the economy of Imo State is coming down, banks are not safe to grant loans, real estate developers are not safe because of rampart revocations and uncertainties in such investments, etc.
Do you think that if the Fingerhuth Consultants are brought to re-plan the capital city, Owerri today, it would produce same plan, given extant structures and demography of the city and its import in the development of the State?
The Fingerhuth Consultant is a world-class town planning consultant. Its master piece if maintained would not have resulted in the present demolitions issuing from the urban renewal of the Governor. Most of the open spaces it created have been closed up with structures. The open spaces have been consumed. Open space is a portion mapped out for trees and flowers are planting, for beautification, relaxation, packing, etc, in residential quarters. Some these in Owerri today have been converted into buildings, commercial zones and workshops, and it is not good. For instance, in IMSU we created the buffer 20 years ago, but go there today, the open spaces have been overcrowded with unplanned structures; the trees planted by the government have been cut down without the permission of the planner. The capital citya��s environment is no more planned and that is why erosion menace threatens Owerri. We must fix it right and the entire field planning professionals, civil engineers, estate managers, surveyors, town planners, environmental experts, and valuers must come together for the readjustment of the city otherwise, soonest pollution height in Owerri will escalate. And it brings with it disease spread and increased mortality rate.
So, what do you suggest as best way out of this quagmire?
I advice we go back to the Master Plan of Fingerhuth. The author Governor, Ndubisi Kalu, and the later civilian Governor, Dr Sam Mbakwe are all master planners. They knew world-class town planners and thus brought the Consultant. It was nice as Owerri had better topography, etc, and it was one of the reasons why Umuahia did not become the capital of the old Imo. In the Fingerhuth Master Plan of Owerri, there is new Owerri and old Owerri. But today, where is the old and new Owerri or its GRA? What is the essence of New Owerri if the old structures would be demolished for new ones? Where was the Imo State secretariat two decades past? Is it there now? Why not demolish the old ones and build new ones at the same spot at Okigwe and Orlu roads where they were previously sited? Even in developed countries, there are old and new cities, old structures are monuments and must not be considered obsolete, and demolished for new structures. In Ibadan for instance, there are Old and New Bodija, and Ibadan is a capital city like Owerri. There are also GRA in Ibadan, Enugu, etc.
Sir, where can one precisely say is the old Owerri?
The old Owerri is located within the perimeters of Douglas, Wethdral, Tetlow, and Royce roads, as well as the left side of Wethdral, towards Ikenegbu (Ekwema crescent). Old cities are in town planning left as the CBD (Central Business District), and that is what Douglas, Tetlow, Royce, Wethdral and Wethdral by Ikenegbu, are in Owerri, and when these are being destroyed, the city and State are in crisis. The Old Owerri is monumental and its history must be preserved.
Barrister, of recent, transportation has become almost impossible in the State. Hope you have noticed it? What do you think should be done to alleviate the plights of the masses?
What is happening in the State now is temporal, but it is caused by mismanagement, poor planning and inability of the concerned to use procedural progressive strategies in the execution of government policies and schemes. There is also the bad will of some unscrupulous elements that always find means of sabotaging the government at any given instance, and often, some of them find their ways into the government, either being directly appointed by the government or finding their ways into such delicate sectors in order to vitiate their efficiencies and therein generate societal disaffections for the daya��s government.
So what really happened, and what is the way out?
The transport crisis wouldna��t have come if not for two factors and their aberrations. There is the factor of gridlock at some strategic points in the capital city. There is the bad road at the Owerri-Onitsha road by Irete. Road users are using one of the dual lanes, and are recklessness and impatient drivers that cannot maintain single file traffic, which makes movement slow and steady and passable within three minutes of patient driving. There are also the fissures, potholes and ditches within the Assumpta roundabout, which causes gridlocks that overflow into the Orlu road roundabout and thus to Douglas road junction, Umezuruike road junction, Ama JK junction, Okigwe road by Tetlow road junction and Wethdral roundabout, etc. There is also the problem of traffic control at Ugwu Orji flyover, and also at Mbaise by Douglas junction, etc. Ordinarily it shouldna��t be because the present government opened up classical and multiple ease-out and cut-off road links in the State, which no Governor since the creation of the capital city have had the courage and staying power to embark and succeed in such.
Another factor is the problem of unarranged smart parks or on-the-spot-parks, where commuters are permitted to pick and drop passengers at calculated time, ranging from 2 to 5 minutes and leave the spot for the next destination or spot. There is also the problem of inadequate vehicles on the road for nearly three weeks now, because of the Governora��s order to have uniform painting for commercial vehicles plying the capital city. People are suffering now, that should be looked into. Few cars come out of the painting gridlock and people are stranded like fugitives wandering during the war. The drivers should be allowed to go anywhere and paint their vehicles and get their licence and fleet numbers from government. Ia��m not against it, but the idea that it is located in a particular spot with inadequate mechanisms to facilitate the rush and demand, which supply eases off the said suffering. Having a uniform paint and colour is a good idea and it will reduce crime, but its cost and means is what Ia��m against.
There is also the problem of emblems and alleged tolls ranging from NURTW to touts with tickets allegedly coming from the government.
Yeah! In my studies on the problems and strategies in the State, Ia��ve not finalised the issue of revenue generation from the transport sector. Ia��m not against emblems, but multiple emblems. Emblems help to reduce crime, etc. But sometimes you see a vehicle having 4 or 5 emblems glued on the screen. Let yearly emblems be specified, multiple emblems and ignorance of their existence debar strangers as transport developers entering into State.
As a frontline gubernatorial aspirant in the State, and in the ruling party, APC, what is your stake in the multiple crises rocking the party state-wide?
Ia��ve been all these while studying the way forward for the party, given the dimensional crises that erupt on daily, weekly and monthly basis. I wonder if wea��re compelled to run a party that may fail. But wea��ll never fail. Wea��ve the Government House come2019! But of a truth, there is no more unity in the party. APC was like one family before, which was why we won elections in 2015. We need to harness the house fast because we will need all these structures that are kicked off after the primaries, in order to win the decisive elections. On the crisis of delegates and diverse lists, I suggest that the whole people alive remain and the dead and defected be changed. Everybody is writing list, will we import delegates into the election hall. The manipulators forget that every delegate and voter has one vote. And thus, the issue of divide is destructive to our party. Ia��m against it. Ia��m totally against the diverse lists, and refuse to manipulate any list or submit any because I believe in level playing ground in politics.
How optimistic are you about the forthcoming APC congress?
As I said in a previous interview, the congress is in order, going by the Constitution of the party and nation, but how we will do it, will either make or mar the party like the PDP is today. All other parties in the State are watching the APC, and if we do not make it, we are gone forever.
With the multiple aspirants from Owerri zone vying for the governorship seat, do you see the possibility of these making fruitful yields in their various partiesa�� primaries?
The multiple candidates are laudable. It is good and proves that it is indeed their turn, legally and equitably. That is why they are coming out en masse and Orlu and Okigwe zones are reasonable, that is why few gubernatorial aspirants come out there. They know it is not their turn, and not because they dona��t have capable people from there. The Orlu zone and their elders are saying it is Owerri zonea��s turn, even the Orlu Elders Council and Orluzurumee are saying same. I feel it is high time Owerri zonea��s stakeholders appeal to Orlu zone to mellow down for Owerri zone come 2019 as Owerri was appealed to in 1999 and we agreed, which brought Udenwa as Governor of the State from Orlu zone.
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)