Let me begin by confessing that, while following events in Apartheid South Africa, especially during my undergraduate days at the University of Nigeria, the name Jacob Zuma did not really ring a bell. I began to take more interest in the man when, in spite of everything Thabo Mbeki did to cut him down, Zuma still prevailed over the then serving president, rallied the party (ANC) behind himself and literally chased Mbeki out of office, and installed himself.
I even became more interested in the Zuma persona when he survived the scandal of sexually assaulting a woman living with HIV.
His opponents had dug up the scandal in their desperate bid to stop him becoming president.
But Zuma, said to be married to about four known wives (with an alleged litany of concubines and girlfriends) did not even deny the illicit liaison. He was more interested in proving that the ‘victim’ led him on, and that it was, up to a point, consensual. Whaat!
So, did he have sex with her?
He answered in the affirmative.
Did he know she was HIV positive at the time?
Again, he answered in the affirmative. However, he pointed out that said she revealed her HIV status by the time he was so ‘primed’ and ‘tuned’ up that stopping the ‘show’ was unthinkable. Moreover, he felt that she could also have made a ‘false claim’ to make him stop.
So, how come he did not contact the virus?
He said he tried not to spend too long ‘inside’ her and then went straight to the bathroom, immediately after the frolic, to wash his ‘infrastructure’ with hot water.
A Zulu chief, Zuma seems to take full advantage of the sexual liberties of his heritage. He is an Epicurean to the hilt.
So, when all his political opponents – comprising Harvard-trained being-tos (who have been disconnected from culture by the too many books they have read) and envious Soweto-raised locals, begin to hit their heads on the wall about Zuma’s philandering, the true-born Zulu president just shakes off the ‘irritants’ with his traditional waist wriggling dance in the midst of topless full-breasted maidens at the next Reed Dance.
With Zuma, there’s no dull moment!
He’s a great politician. I respect him for that. Today, he keeps surviving one confidence vote after the other. Probe after probe, he still marches on.
He is a living proof of that axiom that sleeping with women outside your marriage, or making a baby everywhere he finds a bed has never counted against an African politician.
So, when Nigerians began to mention Zuma’s name with ‘erection’ in Owerri, my mind naturally went to the wrong place. I was, therefore, thoroughly ashamed to learn that it was only a statue that was being erected.
Come on! Zuma and Okorocha can erect better things!
However, ever since that statue of South African president was unveiled in Owerri, the Imo State capital, my phone has not known peace. Friends and ‘frenemies’ alike have been encouraging me to join the Rochas Okorocha bashing party.
But, I’m sorry to disappoint you all, I won’t join. And my reason is simple: I noticed that there are still some three or four more statues beside Zuma’s which are yet to be unveiled. Mine might just be one of them. I don’t want to spoil my chance.
Of course I have civil servant relations whose salaries come in such a staccato that they have themselves lost track of what they are now being owed. I have kits and kin who are owed arrears of pension – including an aunt who just lost a second graduate daughter, largely because she had no money to pay the hospital bills. And she is a retired teacher who had to single-handedly see her four children through to the university.
I have relations and friends who have lost genuinely allocated plots of land in Owerri metropolis to some spurious new land-grab policy of the Okorocha government.
Driving around Owerri today, I see a lot of seemingly politically motivated demolitions and a clear hounding of political opponents, but I also know that there is no way urban renewal can be carried out in the city without these demolitions. And I give the governor thumbs-up for having the political will to do what he’s doing.
Of course, I know we could do with a lot more orderliness and co-ordination, but I refrain from condemning Okorocha the moment I suspect that politicking has crept into it.
That is why I’ve kept silent over Eke Ukwu market (where I once lost my bus fare back to Lagos to muggers in broad daylight). Even when I felt that the relocation could have waited until the new site of the market is fully ready, I soon recall that not one privately owned property was pulled down in the demolition. Government demolished government property, case closed!
There are also a few projects of the preceding Ikedi Ohakim government that I strongly feel Okorocha should have been continued, instead of abandoning them.
I have not seen as many industries as Rochas made us believe he would build. I still have my reservations about my governor’s community government novel idea. But that’s for another day.
I have driven on many of Okorocha’s ‘China roads’ – through the infamous tunnel etc. But as my vehicle is tossed up and down by the poor asphalting, I also remember that until four or five years ago, there were even no roads at all in the forests and gullies over which these ‘China roads’ now stand. After all, ‘half bread is better than chin-chin’.
I just console myself with the hope that if we get one or two more governors to, like Rochas, open up virgin areas with more ‘China roads’, in another four or five years, we might get a governor who would come and strengthen (and widen) the roads. We have to start from somewhere!
Back to the Zuma statue!
Jokes apart, on matters of this nature, I always like to play the devil’s advocate. This is more so because I have it on good authority that the controversial statue costs so much less than the N520 million being peddled around. In fact, less than N5 million.
Secondly, I have not seen a proof that it was not funded by the Rochas Okorocha foundation, even though it is standing inside the Heroes Square.
Thirdly, Zuma is not the first person undeserving of a statue in Nigeria, but who has one or two erected in their honour (or dishonour).
Meanwhile, nobody has bothered to ask Gov. Okorocha what he saw in the erection (that word again!) of this statue that the rest of us just aren’t seeing.
And finally, aren’t governors and presidents entitled to their moments of madness (and mistakes)? And what is wrong if they choose to erect a monument to that moment of madness?
One governor woke up one day a decided to build a new mosque in every local government – he curiously called it empowerment. The heavens did not fall. One governor (whose entire state’s revenue is less than the internally generated revenue of one Lagos council) went to his poor state and began to replicate Lagos bridges and highways there. Today, his state is in a debt that the next three generations won’t finish paying. But his people have not chased him away. A little down the road, this same man and his colleague governor conspired to shut down a university for more than a session because the delinquent students refused to bow to ‘constituted authority’. We looked the other way. Another governor evoked a non-existent city master-plan and pulled down the country home of the zonal leader of an opposition party, we kept quiet. In a nearby state, another governor sent bulldozers to level the office building of a critical radio station. He too referred to a dubious town planning edict.
Why should I burst a vein over a statue in a country that is bursting at the seams with bigger statues, in the form of white elephant projects and abandoned projects?
Honestly, I doubt if the entire hullabaloo is really about Zuma’s statue. Okorocha simply had it coming all along. The bronze statue just offered us a vent to let out steam, QED!