16 October 2017

Nigeria: Jacob Zuma Honoured With a Statue in Nigeria Amidst Angry Reactions

Barely a month after a monument was unveiled in Groot Marico, South Africa, erected in honour of President Jacob Zuma, the South African leader has be honoured again in Nigeria. President Zuma was honoured in Imo State with a statue, given a chieftaincy title and a road named after him. The statue has set tongues wagging on social media. Does President Zuma deserve such an honour?

This October a monument was unveiled in Groot Marico, South Africa, erected in honour of President Jacob Zuma. The monument captures the story of President Zuma and 45 other activists who were intercepted and arrested by apartheid security police at Groot Marico. The monument cost about $131,000 and the opposition criticised the construction of the monument.

Barely a month after President Zuma unveiled the monument made in his honour in his home country, another Zuma statue has set tongues wagging. President Zuma was recently in Nigeria under the invitation of Rochas Okorocha, the governor of Imo State, and Zuma had a statue worth $1.5million (520 million Naira) erected in his honour.

The statue wasn't the only thing Zuma got from Okorocha who is yet to pay the salaries for civil servants in his state. A road was named after President Zuma and a traditional chieftaincy title was conferred on him. Okorocha's gesture extended further by awarding Zuma with the Imo Merit Award, the highest award in the State conferred on distinguished personalities who have made a difference in the development of their communities and to humanity.

Nigerians were quick to take to social media to express their anger and displeasure against the statue. Imoh Umoren, a Nigerian indie film director said in a tweet, "It's only fair that in one of the most corrupt countries in the world there should be a statue of Jacob Zuma who's accused of corruption at home."

It goes without saying that good leaders erect statues in the minds of the people and are therefore not easily forgotten. One can't exactly say the same thing for Rochas or Zuma.

President Zuma was in Nigeria for a two day visit that involved the signing of a MoU between Jacobs G. Zuma Foundation and Rochas Foundation College System. In his speech, Zuma was quoted saying, "I devoted my life for the fight for freedom of my people and Africa, but I have discovered that it is not only freedom that can change the lives of Africans, education is the key as power comes through knowledge and knowledge comes through education."

For Zuma and Okorocha, if anything joins them together, it is the failure in leadership. As Nigeria writer Okey Ndibe summed up in an article in Sahara Reporters he said, "Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has emerged as a particularly interesting political figure, embodying and epitomizing the crisis of leadership in Igboland. Part of the governor's mystique lies in what appears to be his insatiable desire to be in the limelight, whether for good or negative cause."

Okorocha is not new in his antics of staying in public limelight. When he met with former US President Barack Obama last year, a huge billboard was erected in the state capital with Okorocha shaking hands with Obama and a smiling President Muhammadu Buhari at the back, a bold caption stated "Behold, the new faces of change."

President Zuma's foundation has been accused of failing to pay the school fees of some 30 university students in late August of this year. His Nigerian counterpart hasn't paid the salaries of civil servants. What many Nigerians however failed to understand was how an issue as xenophobia which the Nigerian community suffers in South Africa was not the subject of discussion.

Just last week, according to Herald Live the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa dismissed a bid by President Zuma to appeal a previous ruling that he could face 783 corruption-related charges. But when giving an address in Imo State Zuma said, "We Africans are manipulated by those who benefit from our sufferings."

If statues are a representation of what a society believes in or stands for, the reaction of Nigerians is contrary to that. For a country trying to cleanse its image from corruption, the statue of Zuma is an antithesis to the corruption fight.

Imo State happens to be where the tallest statue of Jesus in Africa stands. It is also where Zuma's statue stands.

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