Imo state government has announced the renaming of the dual-carriageway, Jacob Zuma Street in Owerri, the state capital, to Chief Mbazulike Amaechi Street.
Jacob Zuma road was constructed by former Gov. Rochas Okorocha – now Senator [APC, Imo West] and named in honour of the erstwhile South African President, Mr Jacob Zuma. Zuma and Okorocha have been personal friends and partners in the Rochas Foundation of the ex-governor.
In an official statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Chibuike Onyeukwu, the government said the reason for renaming the road was to honour “true patriots who made indelible marks on the sands of time in nation-building”.
The renaming was announced by the governor himself to guests at a birthday celebration organized for Chief Amaechi at the Sam Mbakwe Hall, Imo Concorde Hotels, Owerri, on Monday 30 December 2019. The nonagenarian turned 90 in June.
Chief Amaechi, who hails from Ukpor, Nnewi of sister Anambra State is one of the remaining nationalists of the Zikist Movement which was at the forefront of the struggle for independence of Nigeria from British colonial rule.
The Zikist Movement was founded by Late Chief Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, pan-Africanist and Nigeria’s first Head of State [1960-1966].
Amaechi was elected member, House of Representatives in 1959 and later appointed Minister of Aviation and Transport in 1962.
In 1963 he hosted the late African sage and icon, Nelson Mandela in his private house when he fled the apartheid regime in Cape Town.
“Dr Amaechi remains an inspiration, who stood and defended those principles that remain valuable to nation-building. He is an icon, one of the founding fathers of the nation whose contributions to nationhood should not be overlooked,” the government statement added.
When the announcement was made by the governor on Monday at the event, it was received with applause and much enthusiasm by guests, but reports indicate the government decision did not go down well with the camp of the ex-governor Rochas Okorocha.
In recent times, Dr Amaechi has been a vocal critic of Nigeria’s central government of President Buhari which he accuses of stepping up a campaign of marginalization against his ethnic Igbo tribe.