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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Why Okorocha Probably Erected a Statue for President Zuma

Why Okorocha Probably Erected a Statue for President Zuma

Governor Rochas Okorocha decorating President Jacob Zuma in Nigeria

A  political correspondent has taken a close look at the controversial erection of a statue for South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma by a Nigerian state governor.

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I have always argued that one of the prime challenges of Africa is the quality of leadership. Africa, a continent naturally endowed with vast mineral resources has been plagued with self-seeking representatives who are disconnected from the people whose interests they are supposed to protect.

The state's treasury is the motivation of African political actors who tend to corner public funds throughout their tenure in office for the purpose of banishing poverty from their generation and any other group affiliated with their family names.

From the 93 year old Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to Faure Gnassingbé of Togo to Paul Biya of Cameroon to Alpha Conde of Guinea, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda and other sit-tight leaders; most African leaders contest and win political power with no clear-cut plan of how to judiciously utilize it.

This is part of the reasons why the people still wallow in abject poverty and limited chances of human development.

As China and France positively focus on developing electric cars to eradicate the pollution of air by the emission of greenhouse gases from vehicles, the government of Sierra Leone has comically banned people from "jogging in groups" as it constitutes security threats.

Live bullets are still being fired at protesters in Southern Cameroon and Kenya over political issues without any complicit security operative being brought to book for the purpose of deterring any future occurrence of such.

Egypt is still maintaining its zero tolerance for press freedom, Nigeria is hoping to start manufacturing pencils in the year 2018 as part of her self-sustainability agenda, the state house clinic in Nigeria despite being allotted an enormous sum of N3.2 billion from the 2015 national budget can't boast of basic medical materials like drugs, syringes, functional X-ray machine and the rest.

Our leaders of 'Change' still fly abroad to tend to their health while they leave the ‘death traps’ called local hospitals for the poor masses to possibly die if the opportunity comes. These are aberrations compared to a recent technological watershed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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Dubai in September this year successfully tested its first Volocopter autonomous flying taxi drone. They plan to build an Uber-like flying taxi service. This test flight has been described as the world’s first drone taxi service. Why can’t Nigeria and Africa as a whole grab headlines with feats of this magnitude?

Now to the crux of the matter, topping the chart on misplaced priorities in Nigeria in recent times is the erection of an ostentatious statue for the embattled President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma during his visit to Owerri - Imo State, Southeastern part of Nigeria on Saturday, 14th of October, 2017 for an event hosted by Governor Rochas Ewelle Okorocha who has been making headlines over the constant demolition of market structures in the state with the ground accidentally littered with different samples of human blood.

The All Progressives Congress governor reportedly erected about 7 of such statues for other local and international personalities yet to be unveiled.

The erected statue of Zuma has been rumoured to cost a whooping sum of N520 million which is obviously inconceivable. Zuma had earlier been conferred with a title of Ochiagha Imo (The head of Imo warriors), by Eze Imo, His Royal Highness Samuel Ohiri.

The Imo State government also named a road after the South-African President – Jacob Zuma road after conferring on him the highest Merit Award in Imo for reasons best known to Governor Okorocha.

It was gathered that the purpose of the 2-day visit was to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will provide free education for poor children in Africa and to strengthen socio-economic relations and deepen cooperation in education which is highly applaudable.

The seeming extravagant bronze statue of Zuma has overshadowed the goodwill of the meeting considering the current economic realities in Nigeria.

This has caused an outrage on social and online media with Nigerians expressing displeasure about the celebration of Zuma who has been touted as an icon of corruption by his own people.

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As Okorocha erects a magnificent statue of a well-clothed Zuma in Nigeria, a naked statue of Zuma purportedly lies in his country for the essence of ridicule. Zuma has been accused of heartlessly mismanaging government funds in his country.

He used over $500,000 of public funds in upgrading his apartment housing his numerous wives in the province of KwaZulu-Natal which he was compelled to refund. He flamboyantly constructed a cattle enclosure, amphitheatre, swimming pool, visitor centre and chicken run in his family house.

The Supreme Court of Appeal recently ruled that Zuma should face trial bordering on charges of corruption ranging from fraud, racketeering and money laundering. It agreed with a lower court ruling last year that prosecutors could bring back 783 counts of corruption relating to a 1999 arms deal worth $5 billion.

The charges had been set aside eight years ago, enabling Mr Zuma to become president. Corruption just like the administration of a former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan blossomed under Zuma graciously.

According to the African edition of the Global Corruption Barometer released in December last year, 83 per cent of South Africans believed that corruption was increasing and 79 per cent believed that the government was doing a poor job of fighting the trend.

In fact, South Africa has experienced its most turbulent year since the end of apartheid in 1994 leading to a non-stop drama featuring allegations of high-level corruption and illicit influence by private interests which have led to court cases.

In March, 2016, Zuma was accused of allowing members of the affluent Indian-born Gupta family to wield undue influence, with a deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas  saying he was offered the job of finance minister by one of them.

The family was accused of wielding enormous political influence in South Africa, with critics alleging that it is trying to selfishly capture the state to advance its business interests.

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Zuma’s eventful presidency which expires in 2019 has seen him survive eight votes of no-confidence, making him the most colourful and controversial president South Africa has had since white-minority rule ended in 1994.

The state of the South Africa economy under Zuma has also left much to be desired following a historical youth unemployment rate and a fragile economy which just recovered from economic recession. South Africa is becoming Africa's ‘new Mexico’ where drug cartels flourish.

It should be recalled that the infamous Ozubulu church massacre in Anambra State earlier this year emanated from South Africa under the leadership of Zuma who has been openly rejected by his people severally in bold protests.

His reputation has depleted the membership of the ruling African National Congress ANC as some visionary party bigwigs left to salvage what is left of their integrity and join the "wailing wailers". Zuma's reign has overseen regular bloody incidents of xenophobia with Nigerians living in the country being at the receiving end.

Our Igbo brothers during 'business' in South Africa have been regularly killed by police operatives without any meaningful probe into the anomaly for the purpose of curbing future occurrences.

Zuma is a proud polygamist following a Zulu tradition and currently has four wives. He is also known for his infidelity and has fathered a child with another woman.

His private life has also put him in bad light according to media reports. Zuma married six times in total; he has 21 children and has married twice since becoming president in lavish traditional ceremonies.

Okorocha who was accused last year by pensioners of owing pension arrears ranging from 22 to 77 months decided to mock his people by celebrating Zuma with epic profligacy and ignoring legends like Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, Emeka Anyaoku, Sam Nbakwe, Nnamdi Azikiwe and other prominent Igbo bloods who have represented the ethnic nationality at various laudable capacities.

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It appears that Nigeria is growing but the growth has been negative as usual. We have graduated in flying colours from celebrating our own leaders of questionable characters and we are now honouring the lax personalities of other countries probably in a bid to institutionalize corruption in Africa.

One wonders the rationale behind Okorocha's 'capital project' considering the fact that Zuma might never step into the state again in his life coupled with the impoverished state of Imo people where the people of Mbaise have been teased about living on humongous dowries paid by suitors for their beautiful daughters due to the paucity of funds.

Now, why did Okorocha embark on such a dance of shame that has grabbed the headlines on the basis of oddity? Did he ever consider public perception? Who are the political advisers that gave him the nods on the construction of the statues?

What was he aiming to derive from Zuma considering the 'merchant nature' of politicians who always want something back? What has he really benefited from Zuma? Does he believe Zuma could sell his presidential ambition to other African leaders? Does he belong to the same social or powerful cult group with Zuma?

These are some of the disturbing rhetorical questions being asked by Nigerians on social media. It appears Mr. Okorocha feels like an achiever considering the 27 cakes he received from the different local government areas in Imo in celebration of his 55th birthday on the 22nd of September, 2017.

Okorocha seems to have adopted President Muhammadu Buhari's golden silence style of ignoring the public reactions till they die down naturally. After all, he can't contest as governor again in Imo after serving for 2 terms of 8 years.

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Okorocha might never find a need to answer questions but he has scored a dying minute political ‘own goal’ against himself ahead of his presidential bid.

Anybody who was seeing him as the future president of Igbo extraction will be having a rethink by now before Okorocha uses scarce state funds to build flying houses.

Osayimwen Osahon George writes from Lagos, Nigeria. He is a Political Scientist and a journalist.

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