Still On Okorocha’s Statue Of Shame By Charles Okoh

I had resolved long ago that the choice of Rochas Okorocha as governor of Imo State was an error. I have never had any encounter with him, I don’t think I honestly want to, but I have over time assessed him from a distance and concluded that the plague that came upon Imo since after Chief Sam Mbakwe is still in force in that state.

My deduction on his person and style of governance, was further reinforced after he spent one week celebrating his 55th birthday with 27 giant cakes built to represent all the local governments in the state, I just reassured myself that, indeed, I was not hasty in arriving at a conclusion on his wrong choice by the people of Imo State as their governor.

So even after his recent faux pas of erecting a statue for South African leader, Jacob Zuma, in Owerri, I just waved it aside, believing that he had only lived up to my estimation of him; so what the heck, do I care?

When last week Monday governors of the 17 southern states gathered in Lagos, I sincerely was hoping that Okorocha would be here so that he can see what his younger brother Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is doing in Lagos. I thought Ambode would have taken him round Lagos to see the statues of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and others around the city so that he can begin to appreciate how to reward real heroes and heroines.

However, since he chose to stay away, perhaps for strategic reason, I trust that occasionally he visits Lagos from time to time, so he probably knows what one is talking about. It will do him a world of good to eat humble pie and learn a lesson or two from his illustrious Lagos counterpart, so that, at least, for the remaining period of his reign, he can give the good people of the state real development and something to remember him by after his tenure, and not developments on the pages of newspapers and television screens.

I had in mind a different issue to discuss this week, until I visited the office of DHL, the courier company, to make enquiries on how I can parcel a few yards of ankara materials to a friend in South Africa. On explaining my mission, the lady I met told me that DHL no longer renders such services.

I was taken aback and wanted to know why. She gently told me that South Africa no longer encourages such transactions. According to her, it was a part of the South African government ploy to discourage such transactions from Nigeria. She said the last experience the company had did not end well, as the charges were so high that the owner of the clothes simply refused to go and claim them.

If this is a way for South Africa to protect its market, why then are South Africans allowed to flood our markets with all manner of junks, all in the name of shopping right? If only you get my drift.

For this and other reasons, she told me, DHL no longer sends clothing and shoes from Nigeria to South Africa.

As I walked out of the reception, I felt bad and wondered why South Africa has never considered it right to, at least, treat Nigerians with some modicum of respect. Why was it that everybody that came in while I was there for one transaction or the other to other countries did it without much ado but I could not send something as simple as an ankara material to South Africa, when the whole of my country has been occupied by South African businesses and interests?

Suddenly, the thought of Okorocha came to my mind and how he allegedly spent public fund amounting to N520 million to erect a statue of Zuma right in the heart of Owerri.

The 75-year-old South African President did not only get the bronze statue, a street in the state capital was also named after him.

As if those were not enough, the South African President also bagged the chieftaincy title of “Ochiagha Imo” and also received, from the governor, the Imo Merit Award, the highest award the state gives to distinguished individuals.

In stating the reason for his action, Okorocha had told Zuma, “We have decided to honour you for your love for education; though you were deprived in your early days in life, you are working to make sure that every poor child goes to school.

“Your love for education, to us, is the connection between you and the government and people of Imo State.”

Pray, in what part of Imo State did Zuma build a school? Or how many Nigerians are enjoying the support of the South African leader to justify this embarrassing gesture that has made the nation the laughing stock of the rest of the world. They had barely unveiled the effigy before criticisms started pouring in from all over the world.

This is the same Zuma, amongst all other allegations, a South African court found guilty of using $500,000 of public fund to fortify security in his private residence and was ordered to refund the money.

And as the weak leader that he is, Okorocha insists he owes nobody any apology, that he chose to lavish scarce public fund on a man who has refused to even lift a finger as Nigerians in South Africa are hunted, maltreated and mowed down on the streets. Every Nigerian in South African sleeps with one eye closed.

He does not owe the people any apology that while there are no potable water, good roads and while he has failed to meet his monthly salary obligations to civil servants in the state, he has squandered a whopping N520 million of state money to erect a bronze statue that will eventually come down some day.

If Okorocha wanted a statue of any South African that would be appreciated on any street in Nigeria, he should have thought of somebody like Nelson Mandela and, certainly, not a man who has credibility problems in his own country; a man whose penchant for frivolities is legendary.

Some years back, I had gone to the South African embassy in Lagos for a visa for a trip to Johannesburg. My experience there was one I would not like to relive. I was also told of how a Nigerian journalist who had come earlier walked out on the embassy officials. I had prepared my mind too that I was going to give them a piece of my mind, if they had extended the same discourteous reception they meted out to the man before me. But as though the lady was reading my mind, she treated me differently.

The intention of this column was not to focus on the activities of Okorocha, because, as I said earlier, his foray into governance is one that must end in Imo and not spread beyond the borders of the state, before we inadvertently create our own adaptation of Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada!


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