A statue of Jacob Zuma in Nigeria? I tell you, oga, some people here no get shame

It will be said time and again, and it will never get tiring. Always something new out of Africa. Ex Africa semper aliquid novi. Never mind what a bemused world thinks about us, we have the capacity to spring surprises even on ourselves that few other races seem to possess.

For instance, who in this day and time would ever think of honouring Jacob Zuma, the discredited and beleaguered ruler of South Africa? Apparently, there is a volunteer, in the person of the governor of the state of Nigeria’s Imo State, one Rochas Okorocha, who recently unveiled a giant bronze statue of Zuma on a street also named after the man who has come to signify all that is wrong in his country.

At almost the same time, the highest court in South Africa decided to open the doors for the eventual prosecution of Zuma on charges of corruption. The Supreme Court, sitting in the judicial capital, Bloemfontein, decided that it was proper to pursue corruption charges (more than a whopping 800) that had been dropped by prosecutors a few years ago.

Committing corruption

Eight hundred corruption-related charges? It seems that Zuma can hardly leave his house without committing corruption. Whether it is to do with a financial advisor with mafia-like ties, dubious military contracts, or the Gupta family whom he has allowed to run a shadow government, the man seems to be so mired in sleaze that one must wonder what time he has left to carry out state functions.

For a Nigerian state governor to go out of his way to erect a statue in honour of such a broken reed is hardly believable. Well, we will all probably say that Nigeria is renowned as a leader in corruption on the continent, but at least Nigerians have not been in the habit of erecting monuments to their most corrupt rulers. At least I have not heard of one for Sani Abacha and such other weirdos.

In fact, if Nigerians started putting up such landmarks, they would soon run out of space in all the major cities, so long would the list be. So they do not even try.

So how did Okorocha think up this most bizarre of edifices? He says he has no apologies to make for his decision and that those who question his action are “enemies of our people.”

Being honoured

Really, Okorocha? Look, there is the fact that this man being honoured by you has already become an enemy of a good percentage of his people, who want him gone, not home but to jail. The highest court in his country has given leave for him to be prosecuted.

In the meantime, the indefatigable Jacob Zuma is once again mired in a scandal involving the siphoning out of the country of funds to the tune of $500 million in a case involving reputable global banks and a major audit firm.

It seems the man has a finger in every pie and a hand in every till, and there is no satisfying him. It is ironic that Thabo Mbeki, the man Zuma conspired to oust as ANC president at Polokwane in 2007, has over the past few years led an international effort to identify the extent of, and find ways to stem, the illicit financial flows out of Africa.

Mbeki’s report on the illicit flows from his own country must make interesting reading, because behind these flows that Mbeki is pursuing, he is likely to find the unmistakable footprints of Jacob Zuma, his erstwhile nemesis. How he is likely to treat those revelations will be intriguing, for Thabo may not want to be seen as exacting revenge for Polokwane.

Young man

Still, personal considerations of this nature must not stand in the way of efforts to deliver South Africa from the talons of an evil clique that has reduced the country to the status of a failing banana republic, despite all its obvious potential.

That Zuma can get away with serious crime is in no doubt. What is in doubt is whether he should be feted by any person or institution with any claim to decency and propriety.

You will no doubt say that Okorocha is not a candidate for those attributes. Looking at his pictures, he looks like a relatively young man, but his actions and words suggest he is older than me. Okorocha, you no get shame?

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: ulimwengu@jenerali.com

*Article first published: http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke

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