Uchechukwu Ukaepu, #OnitshaMarketFire and The Positive Side of Social Media

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Uchechukwu infront of his burnt shop

THE ALTERNATIVE With Reno Omokri

On Wednesday, October 16, 2019, I saw a picture of a survivor of the Onitsha Market Fire, standing in front of his burnt-out shop, looking forlorn, and something (the Holy Spirit? I don’t know. But there was a tangible feeling) told me that if I did not do something, that man would commit suicide.

I immediately put my social media to good use by asking my followers to help me identify the young man. Within hours, he was identified. In fact, one of my followers took it upon himself to go to his shop and interview him and then sent me the video.

I put my money where my mouth was and immediately sent him some money. But I did not stop there. I asked my followers to send him their widow’s mite.

On Wednesday, the young man, Uchechukwu was without hope. He was broken. He was in tears. He had given up. He was down and seemingly out, with nowhere to turn since he did not have an insurance policy on either his shop or his goods.

Believe it or not, in just 24 hours, my beloved followers, raised N1.1 million for Uchechukwu Ukaepu, the victim of the #OnitshaMarketFire, whose picture moved me to tears. He was on the verge of SUICIDE 72 hours ago. 72 hours later, he is SMILING with his daughter. Praise the Living God!

As you read this, Uchechukwu is still getting alerts from my followers. But the beauty of this story is that, in real life, some people from the South East are championing Biafra, and they are greatly detested by Hausa and Fulani Northerners. Yet, many of those who gave to Uchechukwu are Hausa or Fulani. It is politicians that are the problem. Nigerians love each other!

On the day of the Onitsha Market Fire that destroyed the livelihood of hundreds of Igbo traders, I made a vow that if General Buhari would financially compensate the traders, I would stop opposing him. To God be the glory, 24 hours after I made that vow, the Buhari administration took the unusual step of releasing a statement saying they would do just that.

I know that this administration is notorious for making empty promises, but I am hopeful. I give them 7 weeks. If this administration fulfils their promise in that time, I vow to keep my own promise and would henceforth not oppose their principal. I have people on the ground, and I will follow up. I trust, but I also verify. I find that I live longer and succeed much more when I operate like that.

Having said that, I must note that markets are not on the Exclusive Legislative list. So General Buhari’s Federal Government did not have to do anything. That they agreed and promised to intervene is a credit to General Buhari. If he follows through with it, he will have won a little respect from me. I am hopeful.

But what about the Anambra state government and the Local Government Area where the Ochanja Market is located. Why did they not contain the fire that was caused by a petrol tanker?

Ndi’Igbo is marginalised under General Buhari. Their marginalisation is apparent and blatant. But some of their marginalisation is self-inflicted. How can Onitsha Market, reputedly the largest in West Africa, not have a full-fledged fire station? That is not Buhari’s fault. That is Ndi’Igbo’s FAILURE!

Ndi’Igbo, like Jews, are a marginalised people. But not all their suffering can be blamed on marginalisation. Some come from the failure of leadership. The #OnitshaMarketFire is a perfect example. Every trader there ought to have INSURANCE. That they DONT is not Buhari’s fault.

The #OnitshaMarketFire takes my mind to Nnewi. Nnewi does not depend on government, whether Federal, State or Local Government. They build their own roads, schools, and yes, fire stations. Obiano/Buhari have their share of the blame. But what about Onitsha Market Traders Association who collect levy? Could they not have learnt from Nnewi?

My sympathies go to all who lost life and property in the #OnitshaMarketFire. But my priority is to ensure this does not recur. We must ask how this could have happened and how we can ensure it does not happen again. Or it will recur. Accidents do not happen. They are CAUSED

In any case, I call on Anambra state government to take responsibility for its failure, not by Governor Obiano visiting the venue of the #OnitshaMarketFire, but by first, PAYING COMPENSATION to all those affected, and secondly, by ensuring all markets have a functional fire station.
I further call on the Onitsha Market Traders Association to approach a reputable insurance company to provide compulsory insurance for all their members. This has happened once, and they were not insured, so we had compassion for them. But if it happens again, we will not have compassion. We will be angry.

And to Uchechukwu Ukaepu, I say, God bless you and your lovely family. God has turned your mourning into a good morning. May affliction not arise a second time and may everything you put your hand to do prosper, may you be blessed in the city and blessed in the field and may the sun not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. In Christ’s name.

Reno’s Nuggets
There are only 2 days that you are allowed to do NOTHING-YESTERDAY and Tomorrow. But TODAY, you MUST do SOMETHING. NOTHING is the friend of POVERTY. SOMETHING is the friend of WEALTH. Find something POSITIVE to do TODAY. It is not a mistake that the word YESTERDAY does not have any letter O. You see, O represents OPPORTUNITY and O appears once in TODAY and thrice in TOMORROW so you know that ALL your OPPORTUNITIES are in the PRESENT and FUTURE. Not in the PAST

Reno’s Darts
Professor Wole Soyinka says Nigerian education is in trouble. Soyinka is himself part of that trouble. He asked Nigerians to reject Jonathan, who budgeted N424 billion for education, for General Buhari, who budgeted just N48 billion. What did Soyinka expect from an Affidavit holder? Soyinka is a typical hypocrite. He causes things to happen by his unwise actions, and rather than take responsibility, he starts to blame. What is the difference between him and General Buhari, who he brought to power by his undermining of Jonathan? All they do is blame. People like Soyinka should retire and allow Nigeria recover from their ill advised, and tribalistic actions of 2015.