Presidential Visit: Uzodimma surprises critics as deserted streets greet Buhari in Owerri

But the president, no doubt would have had a feel of it when he came to Imo State on Thursday and met the streets of Owerri deserted, as residents sat back at home. Private businesses, commercial banks, filling stations and markets were shut, while vehicles disappeared from the roads.

Preparatory to the president’s visit, IPOB had issued a sit-at-home order in protest against what it described as the illegal detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu by the federal government.

Meanwhile, mammoth crowd of faithful and supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Igbo leaders thronged the Sam Mbakwe Airport to accord the president a rousing welcome. The irony was that while Buhari beheld massive supporters of APC and Igbo leaders at the airport and venues of projects commissioning, the capital city was a ghost town.

The president however, commissioned the first phase of the Naze-Ihiagwa-Obinze road, Balloon driven tunnel at Dick Tiger road, Executive Council Chamber at the Government House and Egbeada bypass.

Uzodimma surprises critics

When state governor, Hope Uzodimma had returned from Abuja to announce a deal with the president to visit the state, not a few believed Buhari would personally honour the invitation. Many were skeptical about the ability of the governor to get the president to personally come to commission the projects. Even up to the morning of the day of the visit, it was still believed among the opposition and residents that Buhari would probably delegate his vice, Yemi Osinbajo for the one-day working visit. 

One opportunity the visit provided was for the Igbo leaders to meet Buhari one-on-one to bare their minds. But were they able to do that? The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor told Buhari to release Igbo youths being detained by security agencies. He also made a case for regional and state police and a better deal for the Igbo.

Obiozor submitted that the impression of the Igbo as secessionists was a wrong one, maintaining that the Igbo are an integral part of Nigeria. “Ndigbo is committed to Nigerian unity and there is news for those trying to push us out of Nigeria. ‘‘Ndigbo in Nigeria are like fish in the ocean and no matter how rough the storm is, it cannot drive the fish out of the ocean.

‘‘Mr President, it is in this context, that we see a new dawn in your distinguished presence in Igbo land and believe that on your return to Abuja, the significance and substance of this visit will form a new foundation of a platform for meaningful dialogue on critical issues of concern to the Igbo nation”, he stated.

The president had however, submitted that it was unthinkable for any Igbo man to think he is not part of Nigeria. According to him, the Igbo are in charge of Nigeria’s. economy .

“The fundamental thing about the Igbo people is that there is no town you will visit in Nigeria without seeing the Igbo being in charge of either infrastructure or pharmaceutical industry. ‘‘Therefore, it is unthinkable for me that any Igbo man would consider himself not to be a part of Nigeria.

‘‘The evidence is there for everyone to see that Igbos are in charge of Nigeria’s economy.’’ “I firmly believe that when you get infrastructure right, Nigerians will mind their own businesses”, he said.

He commended Uzodimma for boosting infrastructure in the state, describing the  governor as a man of integrity. 

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