Fall of Zuma: Imo indigenes, others want statue pulled down

Written by on February 16, 2018

Nigerians have expressed divergent views on what should become of the giant bronze statue of former South African president, Jacob Zuma, unveiled by the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okoriocha, in Owerri.

The unveiling of the humongous statue in October last year happened just as South Africa’s Supreme Court ruled that Zuma should face corruption charges.

In addition to the statue, Zuma was given a chieftaincy title and had a road named after him.

Okorocha also conferred on him the Grand Chancellor of the Order of Imo, the highest merit award of the state given to distinguished people.

Zuma on Wednesday resigned as the country’s president after pressure from his African National Congress (ANC) ruling party over allegations of corruption and Nigerians have weighed in on what should be done to his statue.

The national chairman of the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chekwas Okorie, said erecting of a statue in Imo State in honour of Zuma by Okorocha was an embarrassment to the state and the entire country

He urged the people of the state to reject the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019.

He said: “I don’t have much interest in the statues that Okorocha erects, but I can tell you that his actions have become an embarrassment, not only to the people of the state, but the entire Igbo nation and the country.

“I am sure that Nigerians, not only Imo people, cannot wait to see the back of Okorocha and it wouldn’t be him that would bring down those embarrassing statues.

“The new government that would come after him would definitely bring down the statues because those things are temporary distractions.

“Rochas has negatively impacted on APC, that no matter who becomes the APC governorship candidate, the people of the state should not allow the person to win.

“Honestly, I admire the ANC and I envy the South African people because they had the unity of purpose.

“The opposition in South Africa has been vindicated because they have been saying the same thing up to the point that the ruling party had to redeem itself.

“I wish our democracy and civilisation has developed to that level, but it has not. Nigeria is not civilized. We are not too far away from primitivism.”

Joe Igbokwe, the publicity secretary of the APC in Lagos State said regardless of the development in South Africa, that history would always have Zuma as a former president of his country, insisting that Zuma’s statue had nothing to do with the allegations of corruption leveled against him.

However, Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator, Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN) Foundation said: “That Zuma statue which Okorocha moulded just like many others, was just one of the pretexts to divert public funds.

“Asking him to dismantle Zuma’s statue would be a waste of time because in the first place, he didn’t mean it as an honour.”

But the people of the state insisted Okorocha must immediately remove the statute, stressing that as long as Zuma’s statue remained standing in Imo it thus means that the state condoned corruption.

They asked him to withdraw the award bestowed on the ex-South African president, which they said was ab initio in bad taste as he never merited to be so honoured by the state.

According to Reverend Farther George Nwachukwu, Director of Social Communication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Zuma ought not to have been considered for any honour in the state because he was not known to have contributed anything to the state, neither was he an exemplary leader.

He said: “Zuma’s statute is not supposed to be erected in Imo State because he is not known to have done anything for the state and her people.

“He is the personal friend of Okorocha and even his visit to the state was a personal one and brought nothing to the state.

“To make matters worst he was given the highest merit award by the state and his statute erected in the Imo Hall of Fame.

“Now that he has been sacked for plethora of corruption charges the best thing to do is for the governor to immediately remove that statue, which in the first place should not have been erected for any reason whatever.

“If that statue is left to stand it means that Imo people condones corruption, because by the erection of that statue the state was made an international laughing stock.”

Also, Dr. Harold Wilson Onumuo, pointed out that the erection of the statue was part of the impunity going on in the state, “this erroneously means that we the people of Imo are comfortable with corrupt elements no matter where they come from.”

He said that the statue should be modified to stand as the symbol of corruption in the state:

“The abominable statue of Zuma in Imo whose people have forced to resign for corruption should not be demolished or removed but should be modified to stand as a symbol of corruption in the state.

“I think that the statue of Zuma should stand where it is as a reminder of the symbol of corruption.”

Prof. Protus Nathan Uzoma noted that the statue was opprobrious which made the people of the state to look stupid, and that the people of South Africa showed that they were indeed more civilised by forcing their president to resign for breaching public trust.

According to him, “the statue should be immediately demolished. As long as it stands there, it is an insult to the collective sensitivity of the people of the state, especially when that same infamous statue of Zuma is standing in the same place with that of one of the illustrious sons of Igbo land, the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme.

“Also the award bestowed on him by the state should be immediately withdrawn to remedy the earlier embarrassment caused the people of the state.”

Dr. Vitalis Ajumbe who was Commissioner for Information under Okorocha, said the statue should be immediately demolished and the fund used in erecting it be refunded to the coffers of the state government as it was a shame.

He said for the governor to have erected the statue exposed the people of the state to international ridicule.

“My take is that the Zuma statue be demolished. The people of the state should insist that the fund, which the governor expended in erecting that statue be refunded to the state coffers.

“It was a shame in the first instance to even think of moulding a statue for a man whose people have rejected for corrupt practices.

“That is the worst thing that has happened to the state, and as long as that statue is still standing Imo people will continue to be associated with the stigma of Zuma.”

Azunna Akpele speaking for President of Ohanaze Ndigbo, Imo State, said the statue should be demolished because it reduced the integrity of the state before the eyes of well meaning people and made the state an object of ridicule.

“Although Zuma has not been convicted yet by the court of competent jurisdiction in South Africa, but has been forced to resign by his party.

“However, I don’t think that his statue which his friend, Okorocha, erected to honour him during his private visit to Imo last year should be immediately removed.

“It does not speak well of the integrity of the state. What we want are role models and not villains.”

The people had lampooned Okorocha last year October when he gave the ex-South African President the state highest merit award, The Grand Chancellor of the State of Imo, and equally unveiled his 12-feet statue.

Following the angst by the people over what they considered a gratuitous insult, government deployed operatives of the Nigerian Civil Defence and Security Corps (NCDSC) and members of the Imo Security Network to guard the entrance to the premises of the Ojukwu Centre where the Imo Hall of Fame is located, apparently to ensure that the statues especially that of Zuma was not pulled down.

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