Owerri, the capital of Imo State, on Thursday once more wore the unenviable toga of a conquered city as residents stayed indoors in compliance with the sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), taking the shine off the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari that was supposed to be greeted with glamour and fanfare.
The sit-at-home compliance was total and unprecedented. The streets were empty. There was no movement of vehicles. Commercial activities were paralysed. Schools, banks, filling stations, hospitality industry, business centres all packed up.
The picture was the same in Orlu, Okigwe and Oguta.
Imo State is seen as the hub of the pro-Biafra group, IPOB’s operations in South- East. The agitation for the independent Republic for Biafra has led to killings and destruction of property in the South-East.
Soldiers, mobile policemen, operatives of Department of State Services (DSS) and
Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) took over the roads and strategic junctions in Owerri and environs as a military helicopter persistently hovered around Owerri municipality.
However, President Buhari arrived Imo State about 9a.m under very tight security and was received at Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport by Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo; the Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum and governor of Ebonyi, Dave Umahi, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) Anambra gubernatorial candidate, Andy Uba.
Others at the airport to welcome the president included some cabinet ministers and presidential aides from the South-East; Imo House of Assembly members; the Executive Secretary of National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), Mr. Paul Ikonne, as well as other federal and state governments’ officials.
President Buhari was in Imo, on one-day official visit, where he inaugurated some developmental projects executed by the state government.
He commissioned Naze/ Ihiagwa/Nekede/Obinze link road, the Balloon Driven/Flood Control drainage at Dick Tiger Road, the Egbeada Bypass road and the New Exco-Chambers, Government House, Owerri.
At the commissioning of Egbeada bypass named after a prominent son of the state, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the president said he was very impressed with the level of work done by the state government.
“If there are no roads, if there is no security, what can people do? Absolutely nothing.
“I think I have to go back to the old saying that seeing is believing. I accepted this invitation to come and see what the governor wanted me to see.
“I had seen enough that justifies his integrity in making sure that he is working very hard to make sure you get the structure necessary.
“I’m very impressed by what he had done because I have gone through the same problem at the centre to make sure that infrastructure is what will enable the people to mind their own businesses.
“I am very pleased with what I have seen and I assure you that I will support Imo State within the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the president said.
Earlier, Uzodimma said, “Our commitment to the peace and unity of Nigeria is irrevocable. Through our inclusive government, we have accommodated every Nigerian resident in Imo State.
“Some have been appointed directly into my cabinet, others are making input into governance. Our aim is to build a mini-Nigeria in Imo State, where everyone will have a sense of not only belonging but unfettered accommodation.”
President Buhari, thereafter, had a closed door meeting with South-East leaders at the newly commissioned ultra-modern executive chambers.