Location: Imo State, Nigeria, West Africa.
Its been a while I posted on the blog, this is due to some personal reasons.
I hold unto good memories while creating more – TheLastGoodMan (TLGM)
Imo state has often been on the news for some good and not so good reasons, as well as the other states in Nigeria. At about this time last year (2018) the Statues of Roch as I fondly call it was the trending subject in the state and beyond.
This visit wasn’t my 1st neither was it my 2nd, 3rd or 4th. But this time I was on a complete tour and leisure trip. Got plans in place and on a sunny friday afternoon, I packed up a few essential items for my trip. I wasn’t going to drive, so I boarded a bus from Port Harcourt to Owerri.
Got to Control, the famous and busy round about/junction in Owerri at about 3:10pm; It is a strategic junction that channels all traffics from Port Harcourt and Onitsha directions into Owerri City. This was the final destination of the bus so I alighted. Just on one side of the junction is one of the largest Catholic Churches in West Africa, THE MARIA ASSUMPTA CATHEDRAL. So I decided to start my curiosity quench with the massive cathedral which is situated on quite a large acre of land.
Maria Assumpta Cathedral is a Catholic architectural edifice and stands as one of the oldest and magnificent man-made structures in Owerri and therefore its religious and historical significance cannot be over emphasized.
I strolled into the church premises, met some aged men seating just few metres away from the entrance of the church gate; having a chat whilst enjoying the cool weather (I think one is the gate guide while the others were friends/members of the church). I approached them, smiled and introduced myself; hence, went ahead to furnish them with reasons for my visit. They obliged and fed me with some necessary information I requested, but seem perturbed at my idea of taking pictures of the massive edifice. In their words “the man at the helm of affairs here (His Grace, The Archbishop) doesn’t permit that”… I humbly pleaded that I meant no harm, but to no avail. So I decided to do my capturing from outside the gate.
The construction of this edifice started in 1954, stood the test of the Nigerian Civil War which actually hindered further construction from 1967 to 1970. The Cathedral was completed and dedicated in 1980.
The structure of the church is designed in the shape of a Greek Cross with four(4) naves of equal length spread in opposite directions. The alter is centrally located and the cathedral capacity is 3,000.
I left the premises not satisfied though, but with a plan in my head to visit again on Sunday after morning mass (I am not a Catholic tho) … and so, headed for the National Museum Owerri which from the address I got online is located at #65 shell camp road, off orlu road; which I had written down on a sheet of paper. I showed it to a driver who instructed me to join any vehicle from control whose driver is yelling Amakoha! Amakoha!! and get off at shell camp road. After few minutes of waiting for a vehicle plying my route to come by and also in a moment to quickly erase the not so good feedback I got at the cathedral, I flagged down a mini bus.
Driver :. “Ele bi na ga!” yells the driver. Meaning… where are you going to? (I am not Igbo tho – but I understand a bit of the language).
Me: “Amadioha!“ I yelled absent minded.
Everybody in the mini bus laughs hysterically including the passers-by who heard me; just then, it hits me I was out of line with my outburst.
Driver : Beckons me with his hand to enter the bus while still trying to laugh so hard.
Passenger: Na Amakoha ooo! No be Amadioha… You be new person for here?
Me: Thank you… Nooo! … Na slip of the tongue… Indeed!
I got off at shell camp road and trekked in but wasn’t able to sight the shadow, talk more the structure of any museum; neither could Google map put me outta this misery, so I decided to ask few persons along the road.
Me: Hello, please excuse me…Good afternoon sir!… Abeg you know where National Museum Owerri dey?
Stranger 1: Wetin be museum?… I no know ooo…
Stranger 2 (A student wearing white shirt on white trouser): Museum?… I don’t know… I am new in this city and country… just relocated from Ghana to Nigeria to stay and school with my aunt. Dude had the Ghanaian accent hovering over his buccal cavity.
Stranger 3: Rochas don scatter am since na… No be today na.
Me: Chai! Rochas egbu mmadu ooo… Which kind trip me dis na… – from the picturesque cathedral I couldn’t photograph; now a demolished museum too?… Habaa!. Anyways, I wanted to see the site of the demolished museum cause the curious Judas in me was still in doubt.
Just then, I spotted a well dressed man stepping out the entrance of a French School across the road, I quickly approached him.
Me: “Good afternoon sir…please do you have any knowledge of where I can locate the National Museum Owerri or if it had been demolished?
Stranger 4: I don’t know if it had been demolished but I use to sight it just by the next junction, opposite the FMC 2nd gate. You can choose to trek or hop on a bus if you are in too much of a hurry.
Me: Thank you sir for your help… Like flash I Disappeared.
I located the museum (Off Orlu road, opposite Federal Medical Center FMC, Owerri 2nd Gate).
I was warmly received by three gentlemen and lady. I smiled, introduced myself and asked the favour be returned, of which they all obliged.
I was assigned to a curator… Mr. Nnamdi real name withheld from Abia State. He told me the tour will be enjoyable if the light bulbs in the museum were lit, and as such encourage I pay for fuel so they can put on the generator set to lit up the museum OR still, we could use our phone flashlights since there was no electricity; as the Governor’s (His Excellency, Mr. Rochas) demolition of the surrounding areas had crippled the power supply. I obliged him so as to enjoy my tour.
PS: You are not allowed to take pictures inside this museum.
We started the tour through the Igbo Household Gallery with sub collections of strictly Igbo cultural diversities.
- Morals and etiquette
- Social life (naming ceremony, going to dibia, rite of young maidens, burial rite etc)
- Different types of shrines in Igbo land
- Traditional building techniques
(production of clay, making of grass mat, mud plaster, rood making).
- Livestock pen (livestock tenancy) and Yam barn.
- Iron smelting and smithing
(black smith products and tools).
- Tools of agriculture (yam, materials for palm oil processing).
- Aspect of traditional economy (basket making, hunting, woman making pottery and carver).
- Hunting and trapping (metal trap, fish trap).
- Food processing (Ukwa bread fruit, processing of cassava, tapioca, processed oil bean, ground pepper).
My curator was top notch, quite knowledgeable and very funny. I learnt lots of new stuff about the Igbo culture and totally enjoyed very bit of the tour. I was done for the day and a bit tired. Hunger came calling…
Oha soup & Eba to the rescue.
And had to wait for the late arrival of my friend (Shalom) who was also slated for this trip before checking in at the Attah Gate Hotel as recommended by a buddy The Nomadic Negro.
Have you explored the eastern heartland (Imo state) before?… If yes… What was your experience like?
Feel free to reach out to me if you need help in planning a trip to Owerri (Imo State).
Thank you so much for taking out time to read my posts. Stay tune for part 2 (Day 2 & 3).
– With love from TheLastGoodMan!