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Jacob Zuma Statue: A Case Of An Honour Not Well Deserved.

By Ita Offiong
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When a friend first informed me of a statue being erected to honour Mr. Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa by the governor a South East state, I simply dismissed it as some of the fake news pervading the land now. But to know that the story was not fake but real is to say the least, outlandish. I found it difficult to rationalize the desirability for such a project in a state like Imo where some of its citizens do not seem to agree with the governor’s leadership style.

The governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha of Imo state is one governor who enjoys tremendous goodwill all over the country, not just because of his current position but for his educational foundation, which has remained a glowing testimony of his unparallel philanthropy. That this singular gesture has touched many lives across the ethnic divide in the country and beyond the shores of the country is by all honesty a no mean feat. So far, this noble venture of His Excellency has been a blessing to more than some15, 000 beneficiaries, who ordinarily would not have had any opportunity for a decent education.

Though the immediate reason for this respect to the South African president is not known, it does not however seem there is any tangible explanation for a man who apparently offers no reason for such esteem.

The president of South Africa has not provided the exemplary leadership quality, politically or morally to deserve such recognition. Presently he is facing a plethora of charges bothering on malfeasance and profligacy.

One then wonders if the state was in such a dire need of who to bestow honour to. Even if this may be the case, in what way has the choice of Mr. Jacob Zuma befitted such a quest? What has he stood for and what does his mammoth effigy symbolize in Imo state? But not for the present recession in the country, maybe many would not have quarreled much, if such recognition was given to the legendary freedom fighter- Late Nelson Mandela.

But come to think of it, what encomuims can we sincerely bestow on a president of a country whose citizens have an unquenching penchant of xenophobic attack on their residents, majority of such victims happen to be Nigerians of Igbo extraction. In what way is this gigantic statue going to curb South Africans’ perennial acrimony against Nigerian residents in that land.

I cannot imagine that Nigerians, who stood behind South Africans during those dark days of apartheid, are now treated in the same land with an unmitigated hatred and no one even thought of immortalizing any of those leaders who provided help when it was most needed. Rochas is ironically doing for South Africa what it should have done for Nigeria.

Even if Gov. Rochas’ gesture is to cement business interest with South Africa, this action would still stand logic in the head. Let us even assume that that the governor just wanted a leader to honour, would he need to look that far? The great Zik of Africa who was the only governor-general and the first president of Nigeria deserves to have his effigy planted in all the 27 local govt. headquarters of the state.

Many have had cause to wonder, if the governor’s action does not amount to celebration of corruption for honouring a man who has been largely seen in his country as being extremely corrupt. In deed the Eastern Heartland state deserves better deals and this certainly is not one of such.

Mr. Zuma who was conferred with a chieftaincy title of Ochiaga Imo, also had a street named after him, leaving many to wonder if he has not reaped so much from where he did not sow. Even the governor himself has not been able to justify this over-bloated act of munificence.

Well, what appeared to be a justification of some sorts was where the governor attributed the honour granted the visiting president to his love for education, which both leaders purportedly have in common. But he however failed to show how the president’s love has impacted the development of education in the state.

A white elephant project is seen as a thing which costs a lot but produces no productive result. I think this giant status in honour of Mr. Zuma fits this description. No doubt its cost might have been in billions of naira, but it has received a nation-wide disapproval.

Governor Rochas should not derail so much in his governance, since he remains the only governor that offers the entire Igbo land the prospect of becoming the president of this country. He should therefore urgently find a way to calm frayed nerves of his teeming admirers and try to stay away from unnecessary contestation and unwarranted disputations.