How many schools in Imo State are lacking functional libraries? How many schools in the state lack well-equipped labouratories and well-trained teachers? How many public hospitals in Owerri lack oxygen? How many of the roads there are ridden with potholes and filled with mud water? And how many Imo youths are jobless and dependent on others for survival? I bet we already know the unfortunate answers to the above questions. But apparently, Governor Okorocha does not know; little wonder he thought of what to do with N520 million and the best he could come up with was to erect a statue of South Africa’s Jacob Zuma! Let us not forget that this is a man under whose watch many Nigerians have had their lives snuffed off just this year alone. Zuma is also currently facing a series of corruption allegations/investigations. Yet, our dear governor thought that the best thing to ever happen to Imo State was a Zuma statue. How nice is that?!
Much like most Nigerians, I am greatly confused as to the rationale behind the erection of the statue. Ever since the development became news, I have tried so much to understand why the statue just had to be built. And in the cause of this, I have listened to the arguments for and against. And here is the truth- the few persons in support have argued that the move is aimed at encouraging bilateral relations between Nigeria and South Africa, while also encouraging tourism in the heartland state. But these arguments are just as implausible! Inasmuch as international relations is a good thing, the way Mr Rochas has gone about it makes it very much undesirable. The very aim of international relations is to represent the interest of the people at the home front, doing everything possible to bring benefits to them. In other words, international relations is informed by the need for political and economic progress; not the fostering of international friendships between persons and the bestowing of chieftaincy titles.
Moving on, let us assume that the Zuma Statue indeed becomes a tourist attraction; I personally do not see a reason why anybody would want to visit Owerri just to see it. Jacob Zuma has no legacy that could possibly attract anyone to a place where his statue is erected. Moreover, the statue in question is definitely not the most beautiful thing in Nigeria. But that is by the way. Let us for one second assume that Jacob Zuma is a global icon much like his predecessors Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, and let us assume once again that the statue in question is indeed beautiful; how many Nigerians can afford to travel all the way to Owerri just to see it? In our current economic clime when hardship/poverty is rife due to unemployment and depression, it boggles my mind how anybody’s priority would be to go to Imo State just to see a Jacob Zuma statue all in the name of tourism.
By the way, how come Jacob Zuma is the only person Okorocha considered deserving of a statue and a street name in the most deluxe part of Owerri? What yardsticks informed his decisions? I can personally think of so many reasons why the man should never have been hosted and bestowed with such honours. First of all, he is not a Nigerian. Secondly, he has not done anything special for Nigerians. Instead, the lives of at least two Nigerians have been lost in his country and nothing has come out of it. More so, there are so many Nigerian figures that are deserving to have a statue erected in their honour. Does the late nationalist Nnamdi Azikiwe have a statue in Owerri which I am unaware of? Does Aguiyi Ironsi have one? Damn! What about Awolowo or even Sani Abacha? I would prefer to see President Muhammadu Buhari’s statue in Owerri than see Jacob Zuma’s! But then again, I guess my opinion does not count in the matter.
I simply cannot help but agree with the millions of Nigerians who have voiced their opinions against Governor Rochas Okorocha’s misplaced priorities. Of all the incredible things that a whopping N520 million could have been spent on in this recession to better the lots of Nigerians, our dear Governor Okorocha thought it wise to spend it instead on an ugly statue. Lord knows that money could have built a brand new modern secondary school in Owerri. That same amount could have equipped some hospitals in that state and helped to save many lives. It could have established poultry farms, piggeries, fisheries or even set up a shoe making factory that would employ people. A whole number of other meaningful projects could have been embarked on and executed with that amount of money. Instead, what we get to have in exchange for N520 million is an ugly statue of an alleged corrupt South African President. I guess we should rejoice and be glad!
I cannot help but imagine what an average resident of Owerri thinks when they drive past this newest design in town. Do they worry (like I surely do) over the misplaced priority of their leader? Do they ask questions about how the budget for the hideous statue was approved and executed? And most importantly, are they getting ready for the next election time to vote out a government that apparently lacks compassion for the common man and how to better their lots? I sure hope they are thinking this way.