The erection of a statue by the Imo State governor, Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha in honour of the South African President Jacob Zuma has attracted criticism and condemnation from all quarters. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong in building a statue to honour an accomplished and deserving individual but the personality involved is what is making many tongues wag.
Jacob Zuma does not deserve to be honoured in any way whatsoever by Okorocha. This is a man that is generally perceived to be corrupt by his people because of the numerous corruption cases that he has faced and is still facing. He is also seen as an immoral person due to the rape case that he faced some years ago and the defence which he gave. The fact that there have been seven attempts by the South African parliament to get him out of office is further proof of the fact that he is loathed by not a few in South Africa.
Governor Okorocha not only erected a statue in his honour, he also directed a traditional ruler in the state to give him a chieftaincy title. He awarded him the Imo Merit Award, named a road after him in Owerri and held a lavish banquet all in his honour. All these were done with taxpayers’ money yet the governor owe workers’ salaries and pensioners for as many as seven months.
He ordered the destruction of a popular traditional market in Owerri which led to the destruction of several properties and the loss of three lives a few months ago. Governor Okorocha owes contractors in the state to the tune of several billions of naira which he has been unable to pay till date. He spent hundreds of millions of naira constructing billboards all over the state depicting him shaking hands with the then US President Barack Obama some years ago. The fact that many Igbos have been killed in xenophobic attacks in South Africa most of them Imo State indigenes does not seem to bother Okorocha. Rather, he seems fascinated by Zuma’s love for education. Yet, news report emanating from South Africa indicate that there have been protests by students in South Africa in recent times owing to the government’s poor funding of education.
Many Nigerian leaders from Murtala Muhammed to Ibrahim Babangida, private individuals like Chief M.K.O Abiola and musicians like the late Evangelist Sunny Okosun contributed money, sweat and blood to make South Africa free from apartheid. Yet, there is no monument erected in their honour in a free South Africa today, 23 years after the death of apartheid. What Okorocha has done is akin to a governor in America unveiling a statue in honour of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. That is impossibility and should it happen would only sound the death knell on the career of such a politician. But in Nigeria, all things are possible.