As one gazes through the early morning fog brought on by the harmattan the magnificence of modern Owerri is almost overwhelming. Stately buildings dressed in marble and wearing spectacular coats of paint dot the new skyline and give proof that an amazing revitalization of the Imo capital is going on.
Igbos have always been known not just as an industrious and resilient people, but as a tribe that continuously develops its surrounding in an effort to improve their quality of life. Wherever they are flocked together there has been an emergence of progress. They have been so successful in this realm, both in and out of Nigeria, that one source of annoyance has been their failure to focus specifically on their own land and equal their external accomplishments there first.
Well, it is finally happening in Owerri.
The Imo State capital is no longer the sleepy small town that it was just a decade ago. It is again reminiscent of the gem that the British helped design after Shell Darcy (now Shell) first found oil at Iho in 1934, prompting them to settle there en masse. Governor Rochas may have some shortcomings and many political adversaries but nobody can truthfully say that he has not played a vital role in creating this new look. He opened up the roads, demolished encroaching buildings and moved congested markets to areas where they could continue to thrive without also being obstructive. Just travel 45 minutes to Aba and you will see what one means.
Owerri is no more the city of just roundabouts, good affordable schools and their famous Ofe Owerri - it has become a glorious testimony that the Igbo's are now bent on developing their own. Entering the city from the Onitsha road one can only gawk in awe as mansions and castles rub shoulders with each other separated only by perfectly swept streets and just as perfectly kept lawns. It's the new Gold Coast and reminiscent of Embassy Row in Washington DC or Banana Island in Lagos.
And yet the buildings keep sprouting up. Of late there have been two that just can't go unnoticed. The first is the new mansion by the professional soccer player Emmanuel Emenike.
The last time most of us heard from him was when he quit the Super Eagles in 2015 and went on to concentrate on his club career. Though his playing time has significantly diminished at Las Palmas where he is currently on loan from Olympiacos the striker has been busy off the field.
He opened up his gargantuan mansion on January the 4th right in the heart of New Owerri with a huge ceremony that featured such dignitaries like Osita ‘Paw Paw’ Iheme, Daddy Showkey, Phyno, Matrick and a slew of his former teammates. Constructed with Italian marble the amazing structure features among many things its own bridge to its upper carport and an amazing swimming pool. Emenike already owns a Housing Estate in Owerri but this has to be the cherry on top. Even at night when it illuminates the surroundings (shown below) it remains a sight to behold, looking more like something out a fairy tale than a house of mere mortals.
The next architectural gem is actually not too far off. It sits on Jacob Zuma street which is at the heart of the Gold Coast and was opened a day earlier than Emenike's.
Also in resplendent white, it boasts not only a slew of state of the art light fixtures that would make anybody gape but also a gate and a security Fort that would make even the Queen herself feel safe and proud of.