By Wordshot Amaechi Ugwuwele
My friend, Ezugwu Okike ‘s write up about the ongoing beautification project at the Okpara Square Park is a thriller to the uncritical and uninformed reader who would not easily recognise that the persuasiveness is more from the writer’s adriot engagement in sophistry and its craftsmanship as means of disinformation than anything more ennobling as it had pretend to the unwary. Okike is my friend I respect his art and talent. And I think this is mutual. But when we apply our talents to devious ends, it becomes an issue for well meaning admirers. The writer is well within his rights to comment on any issue of governance. However, when exercising this and one could so easily peel through the smooth veils of his beautiful language, in all of its clever beguilement, to come face to face with the real warts lent to him to smear the government of Enugu State with, through instigated inspiration, I have every cause to worry indeed.
I became more suspicious when I saw such an expression as “The next government…” Was it all about that? Are we seeing an Okike essay, well ornamented but less persuasive to critical reasoning, coming as another contrivance to attempt shaping perceptions, particularly to those who may not know, as we play towards 2023? I think so. Well my friend should have chosen another subject than the issues of parks and city beautification. How could anyone condemn the security of a public facility with a perimeter fencing, especially one with long standing reputation for vices and debauchery? I remember what I used to hear about that Toscana area when I was coming into Enugu from Port Harcourt before I finally relocated. So, I wasn’t surprised when the government included that park as one of the areas of attention when it dismantled the many red light spots dotting the city which the previous administrations in not doing anything about nearly turned the beautiful Coal City into something worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.
Fencing has come to became the reality and well integrated part of our urbanisation, and in a way that has also overcame its expedient evolution as a security measure to also come to be a well established part of our environmental beautification. Fencing is indeed an architectural art that also supports urban creativity culture ranging from normal construction aesthetics to graffiti arts in climes where people appreciate such. Besides, who is comfortable with all those things that were happening within this place before now? Security wise, with the way things are, who would want to be strolling a park and bump into a miscreant who had sneaked in from an unsecured perimeter area of the facility? So, that fence in regulating access also propagates decent and safe use of the facility as those who have turned that place to a wild brothel have been permanently checked. The most popular parks and reserves, be it recreational or games, all over the world, have a well guided access of which its breach threatens public safety. Moreover, it is even thoroughly misleading to label that a fence in such manner in the write up that conveys the wrong impression of a prison type of erection. There is no visual barrier as only physical restrictions are achieved with the current project.
Another area Okike disingenuously amused his readers with disinformation was his intentional caricature of the artworks installed in the park. He said they looked like something off some Hindu shrines. Is my friend lacking in cultivated taste and sophisticated critical evaluation ability for visual works of art? Well, Okike is a master craftsman in literature but could really be less endowed in evaluating visual arts. But, as beauty is said to be in the eyes of the beholder, he is entitled to his impressions. Just that these are obviously tainted by the biles of his prejudice churned up by the rides of his rough partisan voyage. For, instance, ordinarily, it is a good thing to talk about the quality of projects being executed by the government, especially as it concerns the safe and sustainable use of such. But the way my friend talked about the collapse of a section of the pedestrian bridge under construction at Garki left so much to be desired in throwing the baby with the bathwater. The government, in line with best practices, reacted immediately the accident happened as it stopped the contractor from further work and ordered for a full scale investigation.
Even the best of structural engineers would have to carry out, or await a detailed investigation before coming out with a position as Okike hastily did. How could anyone suggest, as my friend casually did, a pedestrian bridge across a busy road that traverse an even busier and bustling part of the city with markets and other commercial activities all around, was not necessary? No amount of flowing words can negate the positive interventions of this projects, as are rightly sighted at both Holy Ghost and Garki markets, for convenience and safety, considering the many lives that have been lost there already. The other day I was at the Ogbete Main Market and had to cross to the other side. I wished the bridge has been completed and commissioned as I would not have taken the long loop to access my destination at the opposite side, dangerously wading through traffic to do so too.
While I support criticism, it must be constructive and not something else hidden under the fluried fumes of good language to insidiously persuade into negativity for a possibly hidden agenda swaddled with the pretentiousness of public good. This way, criticism is pulled from its noble heights of service to all to the basement where it becomes a packaged swindle to the public.
***Ugwuwele, a public affairs commentator writes from Enugu.