Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo has unveiled a statue of SA President Jacob Zuma. All is wrong here.
Zuma also got a street named after him, received the title of Ochiagha di oha mma of Igbo Land (the people’s warlord) from Okorocha and was bestowed with the Imo merit award, the highest such honour in Imo State.
The Governor’s gifts to the South African leader have got everyone talking on social media. There are more boos than thumbs up for Okorocha and understandably so.
Zuma is no one’s idea of a role model or shining example across the continent. He’s been accused of rape and corruption back home and says the darndest things. He’s been unable to halt xenophobic attacks on his watch. South Africans won’t even consider him good enough for a statue back home. Why is a State in Nigeria—Africa’s giant—erecting one in his honour?
What has been Zuma’s gift to the continent? What are the Zuma ideals that generations of Imolites or Nigerians can learn from or study in school, years from now?
But we shouldn’t look beyond the character deficit of the awarding Governor to understand the mindset behind this distasteful gift. By most accounts, Okorocha is running Imo badly. This statue which reportedly cost N520M is being erected in Zuma’s honour at a time thousands of workers in Imo State haven’t been paid salaries dating back several months. Okorocha it was who asked that billboards of himself with former American President Barack Obama, be erected across Imo just to show he has arrived. Last month, Okorocha made a song and dance of receiving 27 cakes from women across Imo—at a time most of the people he governs can’t afford a meal.
Okorocha governs by documentaries and propaganda. He runs a shallow government that is predicated on nothing. On his watch, police officers recently raided a market and left a 10-year-old boy dead. The Governor is yet to sympathize with the family of the slain, weeks after.
There is a lot that this statue to a much despised African president tells us about the leadership deficit in Nigeria. For years, Nigeria has honoured those who have stolen the treasury dry. For years, Nigeria has suffered horrendous leadership from its political elite. The wrong values have taken root in Africa’s most populous country and it is little wonder that Zuma is being honoured where he should be despised and tongue-lashed.
This statue of Zuma in Nigeria certainly leaves a sour, disgusting taste in the mouth. But we can’t say we haven’t been here before.