Many years ago, I lived on the Plateau for some years. I did enjoy the weather conditions of the city of Jos and apart from Lagos; I can with poise say that Jos is my second home. While I was in the city of Jos, I was able to get to some momentous places. One of them is the school that his Excellency Governor Rochas Okorocha built for the impecunious. Before the day I was to finally leave the city of Jos for Lagos faded into night, I was taken round the school and I was astonished and dazed when I was told that the students were not paying a dime. It was a free school!
While strolling out of the school’s premises, my friend and I got talking about chief Rochas. As we were about entering the vehicle that would take us home, I said to my crony: “I pray one day shall come that this man will have an opportunity to serve the whole nation. We need a selfless man as him in the corridors of power…” Many years after, when I saw that he wanted to become the Executive Governor of Imo State, I was thrilled with ecstatic joy. And when it was later announced by the INEC that he won persuasively, my joy knew no limits.
Some years after I jubilated as Usain Bolt—as an effect of his victory at the ballot, I became disturbed when I heard about the bronze statue that he erected in honor of the President of the Republic of South Africa, his Excellency Jacob Zuma. Is it wrong to honor a President? No. In fact, it is a laudable thing to do. One, what is wrong is honoring someone that does not have much honor in his own country. Remember that honor is not a cheap commodity in the market of life. Two, spending such colossal amount of money on a project that has no economic value is condemnable. I am not even trying to talk about the amount of money that was spent to host the man.
President Jacob Zuma said and I quote: “I walked in here as I say, as an ordinary freedom fighter. I am leaving Nigeria, through the state of Imo as a hero. What a decoration.” Over the years, I have read about too many African leaders—who once fought for the freedom of their people, but who ended up becoming economic and communal bondage to same people. Nothing enslaves the people more than corruption in leadership. Back home, South Africans are saying that their leader is corrupt, but we are saying that he is a hero. Do we know Zuma more than the South Africans? What chief Rochas has done has generational consequences. What we are saying to the successive generations of Nigerians and Africans as a whole is that it is not wrong to be corrupt as a leader.
Governor Rochas did not only erect a bronze statue for Jacob Zuma, he also went further on to confer on him with a chieftaincy title and the highest Merit Award during his two-day visit. This is one of the banes of our dear country: conferring chieftaincy titles on people of questionable character. It is fast becoming a culture in our polity and Rochas has succeeded in helping us to export it. History will either be kind or unkind to him.
Why did Rochas do what he did? He said and I quote: “…it is to strengthen socio-economic relations and to deepen cooperation in education.” As far as I am concerned, what chief Rochas has done is an abuse of political power for selfish ends. I do not think he held any town-hall meetings with the good people of Imo State before embarking on the project that has attracted criticisms from every sane Nigerian. In saner climes, they are doing beyond erecting statues and conferring chieftaincy titles on folks to strengthen social-economic relations and to deepen cooperation in education.
As an effect of what Rochas did, many South Africans took to the social media to lash out their anger on him for honoring a man who is facing over 700 cases of corruption charges in his home country. Most of them insinuated that Nigerians wanted a free pass to import drugs and illegal people into their country, hence the statue. Hear what James Phiri Gordon, a South African said: “The most corrupt country in the world honors one of the own.” The erected statue is a national embarrassment and the Imo State Governor should be compelled to apologize to the good people of Imo State first, the whole nation, and ultimately pull the bronze statue down.
Instead of squandering money on irrelevant projects, if we cannot think to birth new ideas that shall strategically position our greatly valued country for the future, let us copy what the United Arab Emirates are planning to do to seize the future. On the condition that Nigeria fails to prepare for the future, we would lose many more dazzling and intelligent minds (to future thinking nations) in the days to come.