Angry reactions greeted the lockdown of the Enugu Onitsha expressway on Thursday for the official commissioning of Zik’s Mausoleum and conference centre at Inosi-Onira retreat centre at Onitsha, Anambra state by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It was gathered that security operatives condoned off the expressway, subjecting commuters to untold hardship of trekking from Boromew junction to Army barracks amidst the scotching sun during the official ceremony which lasted for about an hour.
The security measure, this paper gathered, provoked widespread anger as most commuters chastised the Buhari led government for subjecting them to such suffering over commissioning of project which had no direct economic impact on their lives.
One of the affected commuters, Mr Isreal Onyeukwu disclosed that it was unnecessary to block the two lanes of the expressway at the same time, describing such as abuse of power. “It’s not proper for Buhari to come to Anambra state and subject the citizens going about their business to such untold hardship because of a project that cannot even add value to their lives. We have had enough of these insults.
While commissioning the mausoleum, President Muhammadu Buhari had explained that the mausoleum and conference centre projects, which was abandoned by successive administration, was completed by his administration because of his respect for Zik of Africa and love to Igbo people.
He stressed that the late Nnamdi Azikiwe does not need the mausoleum but Nigerians rather need Zik’s name to give the building a meaning.
He said: “I acknowledge that Zik’s name is everywhere in Nigeria including airport in Abuja because Zik chose not to limit himself to the place of his birth (Zungeru). Rather than Zik choosing to be local, he chose to be nationalistic; he embraced all the vast territory of Nigeria.
“I acknowledge that while we dedicate brick and mortar in his honour and memory, Zik has chosen to build indelibly in our hearts by his service, comradeship, brotherhood and of course his most engaging politics.
Buhari however expressed hope that the edifice will serve the purpose of promoting nationalism, patriotism and public service.
While commending the President for the timely completion of the project, Governor Willie Obiano asked President Buhari to declare November 16, being Zik’s birthday, a national day in Nigeria.
“This” he said, “will be in keeping with the honour and dignity conferred on other great African leaders of his stature. For instance, Ghanaians mark Every September 21, as Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day, October 14 is Julius Nyerere Day in Tanzania while July 18 is globally known as Nelson Mandela Day.
Obiano expressed gratitude to President Buhari for giving the Great Zik of Africa the dignity he deserves in death, expressing optimism that Zik can now rest with full honour and dignity upon completion of the mausoleum.
Obiani noted that the Zik’s mausoleum will become an important landmark in Eastern Nigeria and a worthy addition to the numerous tourism offerings of Anambra state, adding that Zik now joined other world leaders like Agostinho Neto of Angola, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana among others whose remains rest in befitting mausoleums.
Earlier, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe while thanking President Buhari for building a resting place for the Great Zik of Africa also appealed to him to make the facility fully functional by appointing its governing board.
“Now that the project has been physically completed, we earnestly pray that it should not be abandoned yet again, but steps should be taken to make the facilities fully functional by immediately appointing governing board and competent staff, as well as provide for steady operational funding. In that regard, we trust that the Nnamdi Azikiwe family and Onitsha kingdom will be well represented on the governing board.
Achebe also called for revival of the Zik’s foundation which, he said, was formed to immortalise the great Zik of Africa, saying that Ime Obi Onitsha (the palace) is willing to play a leading role in that regard.