Residents of Imo State’s capital, Owerri were left bewildered as the Freedom Park, built by the immediate past governor, Rochas Okorocha was demolished on August 1.
The sound of earth-moving equipment and heavy machinery dominated the air as the park, built barely two years ago, was torn down in a flagrant show of force. The fountain was reduced to a pile of iron and concrete as on-lookers gathered to catch a glimpse of the wreckage.
Freedom Park, or Freedom Square as it is also called, is one of the attractions erected by Okorocha during his term as governor. The park was a fair distance from the State House and has been described as ‘t?he safe house of Owerri, a place where everyone is equal irrespective of politics and religion?’. Recently, it has become a hotspot for late-night revellers and tourists.
While most residents are at a loss to explain the events of August 1, there is a general sentiment that the demolition was ordered by new Imo State Governor, Emeka Ihedioha.
The events share parallels with the levelling of another tourist attraction, Akachi Tower in May. The tower, also built by Okorocha, was demolished days after his successor was sworn in.
During its inauguration, Okorocha said Akachi Tower signified the generous hand of God over the state. The tower, along Owerri’s Akachi Road, featured a spiral staircase, topped by a defiant fist.
The tower was pulled down with a demolition truck before the culprits, numbering over a dozen, were reportedly removed from the scene by men in military fatigues. The new Imo State Governor did not respond to rumours of his involvement.
The demolition of tourist attractions like the Akachi Tower and Freedom Square has set off conversations about the new administration’s perceived intention to revise a chapter of Imo’s history.
During his tenure, Okorocha erected many edifices as part of his efforts to turn Imo State, and Owerri in particular, into a tourism hub.
The Imo State Governor is yet to release an official statement on the matter.