TO some people, in the history of Igboland, it was the first time to have a sitting African president to be so honoured and prettified. South-East Voice learnt that the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was not only celebrated but was given the highest award in Imo State as well as a chieftaincy title. President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, speaking after being decorated with an Igbo chieftaincy title “Ochiagha” meaning Warlord, in Imo state. Photos By Chinonso Alozie A visit that has recorded if not the highest reactions from across the length and breadth of this country, even offshore, greeted Zuma’s visit.
As if that was not enough, Zuma was decorated with an uncommon chieftaincy title in Igboland, Ochiagha, meaning Warlord. A title popularly associated with the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, evidently for his stand for freedom for the Igbo race. And the question on the lips of concerned stakeholders was if Zuma had led the Igbo race in a victorious war in the past to have earned an instant chieftaincy title on his first visit. It was for this reason among others, that some citizens of the state asked Governor Rochas Okorocha to juxtapose the title given to Zuma and the xenophobic incidents in his country, South Africa whereas others postulated that Okorocha’s personal agenda may have swallowed the general interest of what the visit should be.
From the chieftaincy title, to the Imo merit award, all for Zuma, including a street named after Jacob Zuma, observers asked if Jacob Zuma had come to commission a road in his name and whether all these were in the initial plan for the visit? This came as some argued that it was not wrong to immortalize an African leader in any part of Africa while some said that the era of strong men had gone and that what is in vogue now is recognising men who have built strong institutions. The aspect of the Zuma saga that may have generated a plethora of backlashes, was on the amount of money spent on producing the gigantic image of Zuma in the state capital. An artifact said to be 250 meters tall.
As too many yet-to-be answered questions have continued to trail the statue, the government and the governed have their own perception on the matter. Wanton killing of many Igbo youths For Igbo National Council, INC, through the National President, Comrade Chilos Godsent: “The INC note with great dismay the show of shame by the Rochas Okorocha-led government on the erection of the Jacob Zuma statue at the Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu Centre, Owerri and the naming of a street in Owerri after Jacob Zuma. We also note that South Africa in recent times, has recorded the wanton killing of many Igbo youths who are doing business or working in South Africa in the name of xenophobia.
“Jacob Zuma cannot be said to be a Nigerian or an Igbo patriot, he has not contributed in any way to the wellbeing of Imo State or welfare of Imolites or Ndigbo. The Igbo National Council (INC) has keenly observed that Rochas Okorocha has a long history of sabotage and deliberate subversion of the collective interests of the Igbo people in both political and socio-economic issues in Nigeria, Africa and the globe at large. “Close observation by the Igbo National Council showed that the Government of Rochas Okorocha has carefully erased the name of Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu from that (centre) premises and may replace it with Jacob Zuma Centre.
INC notes that the act is not only treacherous but demeaning. The Igbo will be losing values if urgent actions are not taken now to stop Rochas Okorocha from destroying Imo State and the Igbo culture and values.” In his reaction, the President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said: “We are not against honouring great men and women who have contributed positively to the development of the state to encourage them to do more but we know that whatever must have informed the choice of Jacob Zuma at this time must be everything but altruistic and patriotism. “How he became a Nigerian or Imo State champion cannot be explained and beats our imagination. Zuma is not a Nigerian patriot, contributed nothing to the Nigerian project and Imo State’s effort at development. He is not Shehu Shagari, Sam Mbakwe, Awolowo or Zik of Africa; neither is he any of those patriots from Imo State or other parts of Nigeria who are well-deserving of such honour and who have not been honoured. He definitely does not deserve a statue in Imo State not to talk of naming a street after him.” However, the Imo State Government disagreed with the submissions and said that it was not comfortable with the appraisals of some stakeholders on the matter. Reacting, Governor Rochas Okorocha said: “These enemies of our people did not see the good things associated with Mr. Zuma’s visit or what it portends for the state, for good, but only saw the statue that was erected as an encouragement to the man. “For the avoidance of doubt, when we talk about opposition in Imo, we are talking about only three people. And because they are only three, they recruited as many young people as possible and unleashed them on the social media. One could have 20 networks in different names just to deceive the general public. Out of these three people that constitute the opposition in Imo, two want to govern the state in 2019.
One wants to install a governor from his zone in 2019. “Few days before the coming of President Zuma, we had told the world the reasons for his coming, and principally, for the signing of MoU between Jacob Zuma Education Foundation and Rochas Foundation College of Africa. Now, does it not call for pity for these elements who have chosen not to see the good stories or goodnews from Mr. Zuma’s visit but only decided to make much noise over a statue even to the extent of attaching non-existing cost to the statue? “And in case these “Galatians” do not know, if all we need to do to attract good things or investments to Imo is erecting statues, then, we have no option than to erect as many of such structures as possible. We owe no one apology. Rochas made a promise to open the doors of Imo to the rest of the world for good and he is doing that and we cannot be deterred by these enemies of our people.”