After unveiling the statues of two African presidents, Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Ellen Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha is set to unveil 10 more statues.
Even though his actions had generated lots of controversies, Saturday PUNCH learnt on Friday that the governor would soon unveil more statues.
Our correspondent visited the Ikemba Ojukwu Centre in Owerri, Imo State capital, where the statues were erected, but security men didn’t allow him to enter.
However, a top Government House official told our correspondent that Okorocha was set to unveil statues of former President Olusegun Obasanjo; a former Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme; a former Senate President, late Evans Enwerem; and the first civilian Imo State Governor, Sam Mbakwe.
According to the source, others whose statues would soon be unveiled are those of the first Nigerian President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; former Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa; late sage, Obafemi Awolowo; and Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo.
The source said that of Akufo-Addo would be unveiled at a ceremony when he visits the state soon.
The government official said the idea of unveiling the statues was to celebrate leaders, who had through “selfless efforts” contributed to the development of the state, Nigeria and the African continent.
The source said, “The governor is interested in celebrating those who have contributed to the development of mankind, especially on the African continent. In the years to come, these leaders will be no more but their statues will keep them evergreen in the minds of the people.
“With the statues, they have been inducted into the Imo Hall of Fame and have received the highest award in the state called the Imo Merits Award.”
When asked how much each statue cost the state government, the official said they were not as expensive as people were exaggerating.
“It is not as costly as people had exaggerated. Though I don’t know the exact amount, the government cannot use about N500m to erect one statue. It is not possible. The governor is a prudent manager of resources,” he said.
Meanwhile, a former governor of the state, Ikedi Ohakim, has criticised Okorocha for spending state resources on building statues.
Ohakim, who handed power over to Okorocha in 2011, said that his successor had impoverished the people and failed “comprehensively” in terms of leadership and development.
He said, “Should I praise Okorocha because civil servants now receive half of their salaries instead of 100 per cent? Should I praise his government for owing pensioners for over 30 months and recently issuing dud cheques to them? What exactly are those good works for which I was supposed to be showering praises on the governor?
“The fact is that no right-thinking Nigerian can praise Rochas. Our biggest industry, education, is in a free fall. Youth unemployment has risen to an unprecedented height. Executive promises are discarded like used napkins like the promise of conducting local government area election, which has been made eight times but discarded eight times.
“Quality and due process have been relegated to the background, leading to an unmitigated infrastructural disaster like roads collapsing within 90 days. There is also a deliberate strategy to destroy our judicial system.
“Court orders are hardly obeyed, judicial quarters are bulldozed with recklessness and as of today, judicial officers are being owed 11 months’ salaries, while monuments costing hundreds of millions of naira are being mounted for foreign dignitaries and whereas our children are killed in their countries.”
Similarly, a group called the Igbo National Council said it was a show of shame by the Okorocha administration to have erected Zuma’s statue in the state.
INC also said that the naming of a street in Owerri after Zuma was unfortunate.
INC President, Chilos Godsent, told Saturday PUNCH that South Africa, in recent times, had recorded the “wanton killing of many Igbo youths who are doing business or working in South Africa in the name of xenophobia.”
He said, “Zuma cannot be said to be a Nigerian or an Igbo patriot; he has not contributed in any capacity to the well-being of Imo State indigenes or the Igbo.”
INC said the INC was, therefore, calling on Okorocha “to immediately reverse the naming of a street in Owerri after Zuma and dismantle his statue.”