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The tenets of good governance rest on conducting policies, actions, and affairs of people in a beneficial way for the governed. The democratic system of governance also ensures that the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation. Therefore, staying in tune with the demands and needs of the people by the government is crucial in ensuring that benefits are accrued to the people who gave the mandate to those in power in the first place.

It came as a shock on October 14th, 2017 when Nigerians, especially ‘imolites‘ woke up to a massive bronze statue of Mr Jacob Zuma, the South African president. The statue was erected by Governor Rochas Okorocha to honour the 4th president of South Africa. If that was not surprising enough, Mr Zuma was also decorated with a chieftaincy title of ‘ochiagha imo’ (literarily meaning warlord) by the Eze Imo, HRH Samuel Ohiri. The certificate was presented by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria. Lastly, a road was named after Mr Zuma to cement his hero’s status in Imo State.

From time immemorial, statues have been erected in honour of men and women who have contributed immensely to the development of a region, the actualization of a noble cause or for exhibiting exceptional qualities in a chosen field. From the Nelson Mandela statue in the union building grounds of Pretoria – which reminds us of Mandela’s gallantry during the apartheid struggle in South Africa to the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Patna, India-  Gandhi led the independence movement in India without violence; indeed, erecting statues are known to be one of the greatest ways to honour exceptional achievements.

We need to ask the sitting Governor of Imo state the following questions: What is the contribution of Mr Zuma to the socio-economic advancement of Imo state? Is there a place for him in the history of Imo? What has been the fate of Nigerians living in South Africa under Mr Zuma’s watch? Even a layman knows the answers will be negative.

While many expressed their displeasure on the alleged cost of the project, others could not fathom the rationale behind such a move at a time when

  1. Many traders in Imo recently lost their means of livelihood due to their forceful eviction from the Eku-eke market, Owerri.
  2. Despite a subsisting court order by Justice S.I. Okpara, restraining the government from demolishing the market pending the determination of a suit filed by the shop owners, the governor proceeded with the demolition. This is a clear disregard for the rule of law and the judicial arm of government.
  3. The killer of Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, who was shot during the demolition, is yet to be brought to Justice. The Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the state should and must do more than issuing press statements to immortalize the deceased and claiming the demolition had nothing to do with his death.

Mr Zuma on his part has been accused of corruption and abuse of power in his native country and attacks on Nigerians in South Africa has increased in recent times. Imo state, as well as Nigeria, is still battling with poor infrastructure. So, what is the sense in erecting a statue for the South African President at the expense of people-oriented actions? There is no justification for this move by Mr Governor and this is clearly an ineptitude of good governance.

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