• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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More knocks for Okorocha over Zuma, Johnson-Sirleaf statues


While Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State may be basking in the euphoria of achievement after he successfully erected and unveiled a statue of controversial South African President Jacob Zuma and followed it up with that of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, many Nigerians, including lawyers and psycho experts, are struggling to get into the minds of the “philanthropist” governor to understand the thoughts behind his latest romance with foreign powers.

Since October 15, 2017, when the governor unveiled the Zuma statue in Owerri, the state capital, discussions on the subject have been fierce on traditional and digital media, with many Nigerians from across the country questioning the rationale behind such a move. Only recently, Ozioma Izuora, an Abuja-based lawyer, raised the issue of the legality or otherwise of Okorocha’s romance with presidents of foreign countries.

“In international law, countries, otherwise known as States, are participants in diplomacy on equal footing as sovereigns. Rochas has no basis or qualification to be engaging States, i.e., other countries. Imo State is not a subject known to international law. Imo is a unit within the State called Nigeria. Rochas is walking faster than his shoes. It is an index of State failure that the government of Nigeria should turn a blind eye to his shenanigans,” Izuorah said in a Facebook comment.

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“This government does not bother to call him to order because they need as many distracting elements as possible to occupy Nigerians away from prying too closely at their non-performance. Please do not be sucked in by the show of shame going on in Imo State. Rochas woke up, told himself he was ripe to be head of state. What to do? Start acting like one! Shame!” she wrote.

But unperturbed by the public outrage against his newfound romance with statues, Okorocha lashed back at his critics, saying he owes no one apology. True to his word, Okorocha on November 10 unveiled another statue, this time in honour of President Johnson-Sirleaf. He followed up with conferment of a chieftaincy title on her through Samuel Ohiri, chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers, and also named a road after her, just as he had done in the case of Zuma. Joe Nwokedi, president, Anambra State Indigenous Lawyers Forum (ASILF) and assistant secretary, League of Anambra Professionals (LAP), in a reaction told BD SUNDAY that he has been busy lately trying to get into the mind of the Imo State governor to ascertain what could be responsible for what he described as “shameful development in Nigeria’s political discourse”.

“Does he want to make Owerri the capital of Nigeria? Is he trying to create an eastern regional government? I have been trying to understand the rationale behind this Okorocha’s initiative. “I have thought about it politically. I have thought about it socially and culturally, and I was like, what is this man trying to do now? Is he trying to build Owerri as a special kind of a city in the world? Is he trying to undermine Abuja and the Federal Government? Is he trying to be an Africanist?

“Okorocha has never done anything that portrays him as an Africanist; he has neither been in an African struggle nor done anything Africa wise. He has also never been known as a philosopher or engaged in social justice crusade or been an activist at the continental level. “For Nigeria to have a sitting President and a governor under such authority is erecting statues of foreign presidents, it is a coded message only Okorocha can decode. Something must be wrong somewhere,” Nwokedi said.

READ ALSO: Okorocha: INEC worried of rewarding impunity

He added that it was unacceptable for the governor to be erecting statues of presidents who have not impacted the lives of people of the state while issues of payment of workers’ salaries and pensions as well several other financial obligations and developmental projects beg for attention. “I spent over six years in Owerri when I was growing up. This issue of spending taxpayers’ money erecting statues of presidents of other countries with over N500 million while the government owes workers’ salaries is something worrisome that every sincere Nigerian must rise to condemn.

“If Okorocha is in love with statues, there are so many people he can immortalize because of their contributions to the state. Someone like Sam Mbakwe who is like a god in Imo State; someone like Evans Enwerem; Ekwueme who built the first indigenous hotel in Imo; Kanu Nwankwo who has brought so much honour to both the state and Nigeria; Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu who is responsible for Nekede. All these people have no statues erected in their honour. “Then outside Imo State, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu on whose influence Okorocha rode to become governor. It was Ojukwu that enabled him to win the election. Something is really wrong somewhere.

“By now, if we truly practice separation of powers, the state House of Assembly would have initiated an impeachment procedure against him. It is the same legislative attitude in Kogi State. The legislative arm of government is failing us. In a situation where they are expected to rise to the occasion and exert the authority imposed on them by the Constitution, they will just be docile. “Sincerely speaking, with what is going on in Owerri now, even when the governor demolished a market and the entire hullabaloo that ensued, the Assembly members should have initiated impeachment proceedings against him. Even though the governor has crippled the capacity of the Assembly members by naming them chairmen of various task forces, that is not enough for them to sell the right of the people; the collective goodwill of the people should not be sacrificed,” Nwokedi said.

For members of the IMO Assembly to sacrifice competence and service delivery on the altar of political correctness, he said, is to sacrifice the future of their children and grandchildren, the image and pride of Imo people, which he said posterity would judge the lawmakers by. “Whatever Okorocha has given to them that has rendered their legislative power useless is irrelevant as far as the image and integrity of Imo State and its people is concerned. The Assembly members must rise to confront the shameful drama that is playing out in the state. They have to do something to pacify themselves from all these spiritual entanglements that Okorocha has brought upon them,” he said.

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Dotun Hassan, president, Yoruba Youths Council Worldwide (YYWW), however, said under Nigerian and international law, the Imo governor has not committed any offence against the President of Nigeria by erecting statues of presidents in his political domain. “There is no breaking of any law as far as I know, but irrespective of the law, it must be clear that an unappropriated cost which does not in any way impact the lives of the people should be thoroughly investigated.

“Most, unfortunately, the amount that is placed on these erected statues is in the tune of N500 million or thereabouts. Such is ridiculous and uncalled for. What the governor is doing is a monumental misplacement of priority.
“Just look at the things that they are diverting all the monies they are borrowing into, including the ones from the Presidency! Okorocha’s erection of statues shows lack of quality reasoning. Even though Nigeria has been described as a ‘fantastically corrupt nation’, we shouldn’t be dancing to their tune by acting in this manner.

“Okorocha made mockery of Nigeria by erecting the statue of Jacob Zuma, whose image is battered by corruption allegation. What message is Okorocha really passing by erecting the statue of Zuma, a man who is tainted with illegality and corruption? Is Okorocha by erecting Zuma’s statue confirming who he is and that Imo as a state must follow Zuma’s example? This is sad and something drastic has to be done,” he said. Speaking further, Hassan said the governor has not been able to tell the people of Imo State the contractual derivable of the statues, adding that what Okorocha is simply doing is to promote himself and his foundation at the expense of the state.

“I so much detest the governor’s manner of approach. Perhaps, erecting statues of presidents is his own subtle style of declaring his presidential ambition, but that will not make him a president in Nigeria. It will be idolatry and insensitive for him to see the erection of statues of presidents of other countries as a way of warming himself into the hearts of Nigerians. If Okorocha has erected the statues of a traffic warder or any hero of the state, it would have been appreciated by most Nigerians,” he told BD SUNDAY.

A senior member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who is also a psychologist, told BD SUNDAY in confidence that some party members are also expressing disappointment over the governor’s behaviour, which he says is battering the party’s image further within the South-East, adding that caution was being applied because of his position in the party. “Some of us know that something is not right about Okorocha’s attitude of erecting foreign presidents’ statues, particularly that of Jacob Zuma, who is facing various corruption allegations in South Africa. That is a stain on President Buhari’s anti-corruption war.

“But one thing is certain: he is building his personal image in these countries. Whatever the reason the governor is erecting statues of sitting presidents, it is about him, not about the people of Imo State. “I think President Buhari understands Okorocha’s moves very perfectly. The President is not bothered that Okorocha is inviting and erecting the statues of foreign presidents and inviting them into the country as far as it does not conflict with the President’s interest,” the source said.