Alexander Onukwue: Mr Okorocha, tear down that statue

by Alexander O. Onukwue

You like to talk effusively about your dreams; you say they drive you crazy. Well, begin by toning down that pride, Mr Okorocha.

In the six years of your leadership of Imo State, it has always been about you, not Imo people. It has been about showing off and maintaining intrusive visibility. Your dream has been of a state where every resident and indigene will not have a day without some sight of you and you have gone about achieving that with some distinction. Whether raising obsequious billboards in your glory, erecting unnecessary pillars and monuments, paying neither pensions nor salaries, so the ordinary people will continue having your names on their lips: ‘for better or worse, remember me’.

This new statue you unveiled, of South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, is solely for you. The other six, of President Buhari, Obasanjo et al, will also be about you. You have admitted as much that the statue for Mr Zuma is some kind of quid pro quo in favour of the Rochas Foundation. That entity was your ticket to public service because the mass of 2011 Imo people believed it to be the work of a selfless and truly philanthropic individual, but you are now re-investing in it through the medium of public office two years before your final term ends. If that is not the antithesis of philanthropy and the quintessence of crookedness, what is?

You have placed an effigy of Mr Zuma at a central location in Owerri, not too distant from the place you designated as Freedom Park, in honour of Nelson Mandela. Congratulations sire, for thou hast done a thing even South Africans have not and do not imagine honourable or doable.

Mr Okorocha, your honour of Mr Zuma in Imo State, at this point in history, is an unconscionable misjudgment. You are part of an APC Government that prides itself on anti-corruption and if this is how you convince of your own operation war against corruption, be informed that you are using a surgical drill where not even a ten blade is required. Bringing Mr Zuma, who is grappling with his reputation as a corrupt individual, before your people and giving him a chieftaincy title, “the Imo medal” (whatever you purport that to mean) and having his face cast in stone and raised to look over the jolly and calm city of Owerri, is absolutely indefensible.

Erasmus Ikhide has written a thought-provoking piece on your (lack of) emotional intelligence, a phenomenon which appears to be foreign to you seeing you are mostly focused on ‘What Would Rochas Do’. Your leadership has been more of making sure you are remembered for your cape and stole, rather than of critically and ethically assessing situations before acting for the common good. Because if you made a detached assessment of the implication of your actions on Saturday, October 14, you would not have turned that roundabout into a path where people would have to cover their eyes when passing.

As Mr Lanre Suraj of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption observes, you should have known “that Zuma has been found guilty of corruption by the courts in South Africa and has been ordered to refund the $500,000 stolen from the public treasury to expand his private house” and that even on “the previous Friday before his arrival to Nigeria, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Zuma must face prosecution over almost 800 charges of corruption relating to an arms deal in the 1990s”.

You must have known about these, but YOU are all that matters. YOU attracted a whole Jacob Zuma to Imo State in your term as Governor; hence, he must get a statue in your name, for your name and fame.

Be mindful, sir, that Imo State is bigger than you and you may not treat it as being at your mercy to despoil. Your private parley with Mr Zuma should not have any bearing on the outdoor scenery of Owerri. N520 million of public money on what should be a personal property of yours should trigger an investigation, as should your insider-trading to aid Rochas Foundation, but every sober Nigerian knows that’s not gonna happen.

I think of the good old Emeritus Bishop of Orlu, the Most Reverend Gregory Ochiagha, whose name you have given as a title to Mr Zuma of clearly questionable public conduct. I would like to wave it as just a minor detail but a name means something, especially to Igbo people.

A statue should mean something; people should relate with it and feel inspired, having a sense of awe and appreciation for the values embodied by the image. I am not a Felabrator but the statue of the music icon unveiled in Lagos a day after your show means something to Nigeria and Africa. Twenty years after his death, his songs of over forty years on the squalors of the ruling class still resound as prophecies. That’s a legacy.

No one in this age or in the coming ages will have that feeling with Jacob Zuma; not most Nigerians and not the majority of South Africans. He is no more a friend of Nigeria than any other leader elsewhere. To name him a ‘warlord’ with the long-running wars against Nigerians, mostly Igbos, in his South Africa is either a stroke of uncalculated sarcastic genius or plain dumbness on your part.

You can fool some of the people sometimes but never all of the people all the time. If there is any buzz you seem to hear from unveiling this statue, Mr Okorocha, it is not of vuvuzelas cheering you but of houseflies jeering. This entire thing is nauseous.

Take that statue down and keep it. Imo people do not need it. It is an embarrassing error of judgment and a shameful abuse of power. If you don’t, someone will someday and when it goes down, it will be the defining moment of your erasure from any chance of a good legacy.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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