Owerri (Owere), Where Three Is A Crowd


OWERRI (SUN NEWS ONLINE) There’s something magical about Owerri, capital city of landlocked Imo State. This magical expression is about the people, so simplistic, accommodating and loving.

Ofe owere, the most expensive culinary identity and hospitality offering of the people, is the most popular soup in Igboland. Yes, there are other Igbo soups, ofe owere, a soup named after the gregarious indigenous people of owere, ranks number one within the town and outside.

In this town, which could be likened to Las Vegas, hotels and hospitality outfits abound. It is indeed an economy and industry.

Sadly, regulation and enabling environment for its sustainability are hugely lacking, coupled with poor penetration to the rural areas, where culture of the people hold sway.

From ngba (traditional wrestling), football competitions, traditional marriage, women, youths and men meeting (umunna, ndi Ada, ndi nne na nna), it is usually a coalition of colours and tongues, celebrating the return of sons and daughters who left home to greener pastures, and came back home to rejoice with expectant relations.

Over the years, that is how we roll across the East. Most us born outside this clime, take time to mingle. The love of relations, aunties and uncles were worth looking forward to.

I love the pounded yam of my mother’s people, with the oha soup delicacy. The village to village masquerade dance, the football games and the entertaining umu ada dances and xtmas choir.

Oh dear, Owerri, the soul of Igbo nation appears buried. The politicians have destroyed the heritage and culture of the people. The good old days of holidaying and visiting Owerri is gone and is like a dream.

We watch the known and unknown gun men steal our peace. An average owere man or woman, hates violence. It is taboo, to speak or generate violence in Owerri land.

It is a sacrilege to fight on days of celebration, it offensive not to love your neighbors and relations. To disturb the peace of palm wine and ogba mingled with stock fish, loving Owerri man, is to offend the gods. To frustrate the sharing and expression of hospitality to visitors, is to get the owerri man, to report you to Amadioha.

There no peace in owerri land today. It is not the making of the people. We went to bed and allowed the enemies to invade our once peaceful land.

We are like conquered people. Harassed daily by strange faces, both known and unknown. It’s even more painful that supposed known gun men, the security agents are now at behest of making the poor and innocent uncomfortable.

The fearless and outspoken but hospitable owerri person cannot move around the city without daily encounter with strange men in and out of uniform. Check points turned to points of untimely death now stir the people in the face.

Heavily hooded security agents now replace our masquerades. Police stations now turned village squares where the innocent and simplistic are put on judgement seat.

It is an offense to ride with friends and family around owerri. Three is a dangerous number and a crowd. No mercy for the tradition and culture loving owerri man.

There are now boundaries everywhere, some local areas, are profiled and if you dare, reveal your affinity, it is God that can save you.

Daily, strange and disturbing news of harassment of indigenes and their visitors abound. As much as one acknowledges that this is not best of time security wise across the country, it is benumbing to hear of tales of strange blanket condemnation of the innocent.

I recall an encounter of Borno state governor, Professor zulum with security agencies who he upbraided for subjecting innocent travellers on Maiduguri road to hardship

No doubt the lives of our security persons Matter and their sacrifices appreciated, it’s however unacceptable to chase innocent out of their homestead or to generate unbridled bitterness, inimical to return of peace to a land and its hospitable people, traumatized by senseless unknown gun men.

Can two people do anything meaningful except they agree? Do you secure a place without the people? In other places where there security challenges, it is apt and desirable to woo the people, unfortunately the reverse is the case in Nigeria.

To most of our security operatives, the road blocks are opportunities to drive the people away, label the innocent and punish those who ordinarily if well treated as fellow citizens deserving of dignity, would have assisted with information and tips to nab the nefarious in our midst.

The situation across the once peaceful eastern states not just Owerri alone, is sad. The fearful militarization, portend return to anarchy.

The people are not safe not because there are no presence of security persons but because between the unknown and known gun men, there exists a huge deep blue sea divide.

Significantly, the government of Hope uzodinma, seems unmoved by the overzealousness on the part of the security agencies. And for a government that depends more on diaspora investment, to allow imolites to go through this molestation, won’t help the hunt for the unknown gun men.

I should think that the Igbo nation has enough traditional engagement processes and platforms that can arrest the violence and help the speedy restoration of peace in Imo state.

Like many other Owerri persons, the village is no longer attractive as a destination for physical and spiritual reinvigoration. From covid 19 pandemic, now to a security lockdown, Owerri is a hard sell for holidays and recreation.

And for the love of Ofe Owere, it is wise to save your life, family and friends and watch your movements if you must visit owerri during the festive season and after.

Let me advice, if you must visit. Don’t argue with any man with a gun, respect security agents if accosted, no shouting, no finger pointing. If you are drunk, stay home. Hold seriously to your temper, bear the humiliation and walk away if allowed to go.

Don’t go grandstanding with your” mint car” and naira notes. The security agents are human and not all are free from the temptation of the flesh.

Don’t turn the check points to lecture room on English language, speak Igbo if the officer understands, and if he is not Igbo speaking, dialogue in low voice in pidgin English. Avoid night movements and parties. Sleep wherever the night meets you.

Don’t push your luck for a dead man is a dead man. If you allow yourself to be killed, there are still thousands of unresolved accidental killings across the country.

If you ask me, please stay away. There are many xtmas celebrations ahead. Is someone out there, reading this? It is no dream, at least you can wake up safely from a dream but you cannot wake up if you are shot dead simply because you cannot read or interpret the signs of the season.