Okorocha’s Commercial Monumentalism
By Louis Odion
One of the most recognizable symptoms of clinical delusion is usually an obsession with inanities. Bizarre developments in Imo lately should then be enough to so classify Rochas Okorocha. It explains why a man owing workers salary arrears and whose checks to pensioners bounced and bounced, did not consider it shameful to instead splurge hundreds of millions of naira on the erection of bogus statues.
What now complicates things is the apparent misreading of the dialectics of history by the Imo governor by the reasons cited for his decision and crass exhibition of a lack of sophistication in seeking to pass off a purely personal commercial transaction at the expense of Imo taxpayers as something done to profit the public.
Outgoing Liberian president, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is the latest foreign leader to have a statue unveiled in her honor in Owerri after a lavish state reception capped with bestowal of a local chieftaincy. Before her was Jacob Zuma, the sleaze-prone president of South Africa.
Worse still, Okorocha has threatened to unveil more of such gaudy statues in the times ahead.
His acute delusion shows in the fallacious argument that his monuments are to perpetuate the memories of those he considers heroes and heroines. And the cheapest of Okorocha’s shots: his publicists boasted that the title bestowed on Zuma was a strategic block to building kinship between the South African leader and Nigerians in general and Igbo resident in the “rainbow country” in particular. But that hardly counted last week when two more Nigerians were murdered in cold blood in Johannesburg.
Incumbent Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo’s statue is rumored to be next to be unveiled in Owerri. Presumably, Okorocha is also hoping to spread his business tentacle there. But in terms of historical impact and monumentality, one would have thought Jerry Rawlings towers above the incumbent.
All told, it is debatable if Okorocha’s own yardstick can truly stand the rigor of any ethical test administered by those who subscribe to values higher than easy cash and idol-worshipping.
Without taking anything away from the healing and reconciliatory spirit radiated by Madam Sirleaf as post-civil war leader of Liberia, let it however be recognized that true immortality – the durable type – lies in the immaterial.
History reminds us that material things are perishable. Only fondness rooted in public memory is eternal. So, in case Okorocha doesn’t know, Sirleaf’s best assurance of immortalization is ultimately how much of her good deeds would get winnowed into folklore to be told from generation to generation. Not by the golden cenotaph in Owerri contracted out presumably at inflated costs.
Then, the real ethical incongruity. On both occasions, no attempt was made officially to conceal that the visitations by Zuma and Sirleaf had direct linkage with a school foundation run by Okorocha as a private business.
In the case of the former, the Imo emperor and his courtiers were so shameless enough to even admit publicly that the foundation hopes to move into the door of opportunities already opened by Zuma’s visit. Using public funds to make way for your private business is, in itself, corruption.
Alas, such sleazy hands are the very ones now seeking to erect in Owerri monuments to virtuous leadership and inspire generations yet unborn. As someone recently put it, little wonder then that Imo, once glorious, is now truly calcifying from state to statue.