While Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State was zonked unveiling a N520 million effigy of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa in Owerri at the weekend, a bound of South Africa police officers visited Iheanacho Obina's home in South Africa and shot at him at a point blank on the head. He died instantly. They accused him of doing drugs, yet no drugs were found on him. Iheanacho is an indigene of Okigwe, Imo State. Okigwe is less than an hour drive to Owerri where Owele erected a disgraceful statue for a moral pervert who presides over the killing of Nigerian people in South Africa!
As recent as the last five years, thousands of Nigerians in South Africa have been victims of state-sponsored xenophobia attacks emanating from hate speech and misinformation on the grounds that Nigerians have taken over their jobs and women. The Nigerian government seems helpless over the killing of her citizens by a fellow African country, unjustly. Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, only made a halfhearted statement that was never backed up by genuine policy thrust on the violent campaign against Nigerians.
Thanks to the conscious Imo citizens who turned out in large numbers the same day to register their total displeasure over the foolhardiness of Mr. Rochas' invitation of Mr. Zuma for a reckless financial display of willful corruption. As soon as the organized public display for the event and the fleet of trucks carrying rented crowds filed out to the street, the angry people confronted them with a rain of stones, sticks and clubs. Right there on the streets of Owerri, you could see poverty looming large in the faces of protesters with shattered hopes, glaring evidence of a rundown state capital levitating around Weldral Round About, with open gutters from which stench from sewage water fouls the entire city.
Iheanacho's killing by the South African State is the latest of such thousands unreported extrajudicial execution of Nigerians in a country that partly own her apartheid liberation struggle to the contributions of the Nigerian state and her people. In 1960, the Nigerian Government set up the National Committee Against Apartheid (NACAP) in 1960 that operated as an undercover agent in collaboration with black majority in South Africa. From 1966 to the end of apartheid, Nigeria gave material and financial support to the freedom fighters in South Africa. The late Sunny Okosun composed a song called “Fire in Soweto” in 1977 to show support for the fight against the apartheid regime.
Then Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, sent a letter to South Africa’s ANC militants on April 4, 1961 showing support for their cause. From 1961 till black majority government was restored, Nigeria provided $5 million to the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) annually. In 1976, Nigeria set up the Southern Africa Relief Fund (SARF) for the purpose of bringing relief materials to the victims of the apartheid. The military administration of General Obasanjo contributed $3.7 million to the fund and Obasanjo personally donated $3,000 to the fund for South Africa liberation struggle.
In the interest of African brotherhood, all Nigeria’s civil servants and public officers made a 2% donation from their monthly salary to the SARF, Nigerian students skipped their lunch to make donations, and by June 1977, the total contribution to the fund had reached $10.5 million. The donations to the SARF were widely known in Nigeria as the “Mandela tax.” Between 1973 and 1978, Nigeria contributed $39,040 to the UN Educational and Training Programme for South Africa.
Nigeria boycotted the 1976 Olympics and Commonwealth games in 1979 as part of our protest against apartheid in South Africa. From 1960 to 1995, Nigeria spent over $61 billion to support the end of apartheid, more than any other country in the world. Nigeria refused to sell oil to South Africa in protest against the apartheid minority rule. Nigeria lost approximately $41 billion then. Remember, this was our oil boom moment. As long as we fought apartheid, the money meant nothing. The late Madiba on several occasions admitted that South Africa is indebted to Nigeria and Nigerians before his demise.
Where was Jacob Zuma during the apartheid struggle? Did he make any effort to educate South African youths on Nigeria's contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle? Has Zuma informed South African youths that Nigerian public servants used to keep part of their salaries to fight for the course of the black South African majority so that these same young butchers could be educated and that Nigeria once said 'African cannot be free as long as South Africa is not free'? What has been his response to the killings of Nigerians In his country? Have any of the police or touts been brought to book? How about the politicians who are instigating and exploiting the ignorance of the South African masses by turning their country into a field? Have they been made to face justice? Will they ever be made to face the wrath of the law? What is the fate of Zuma in South Africa and African politics? Is he corrupt? What opinion do South African people hold of him? What did the world know about Zuma? And what is his world views? There are endless questions.
The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) provided answers to some of the conundrums. Lanre Suraj, CSNAC’s Chairman, said in a statement on Sunday the honor bestowed on Mr. Zuma would embolden the president to tell his people he is celebrated abroad. Mr. Zuma, who is facing multiple accusations of corruption, fraud, and money laundering in his country, arrived Imo State on a two-day working visit on Friday. Apart from allowing Mr. Zuma to address a group of selected secondary school students and other young people, Governor Rochas Okorocha directed a traditional ruler in Imo State to confer a chieftaincy title on him. Mr. Zuma bagged the chieftaincy title ‘Ochiagha’ (Warlord) as well as had his statue unveiled in the state capital.
"It is embarrassing that a state government controlled by the All Progressives Congress which is fighting corruption could play host to Mr. Zuma, allegedly a corrupt leader in the current assembly of heads of state in the African Union and portray him as a hero before a group of African youth.
"Is Governor Okorocha not aware that Mr. Zuma has been found guilty of corruption by the courts in South Africa and has been ordered to refund the $500,000 stolen from the public treasury to expand his private house to accommodate his many wives?
“Is Governor Okorocha not aware that Mr. Zuma has also been indicted for allowing an Indian family to influence the appointment of his cabinet members?
“In asking President Zuma to address officials of Imo State government, is Governor Okorocha not aware that the people of South Africa are currently demanding for the resignation of a leader who has brought shame and dishonor to the country of Nelson Mandela?” Mr. Suraj quipped.
Last year, a South African Court ruled that Mr. Zuma violated the constitution by using public funds to upgrade his private residence, leading to the president apologizing to his countrymen. Mr. Zuma has also battled allegations of infidelity and rape – he fathered a child with a woman who was not among his four wives and was acquitted of the rape charges, however. The previous Friday before his arrival to Nigeria, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Mr. Zuma must face prosecution over almost 800 charges of corruption relating to an arms deal in the 1990s.
It is indeed the worst time to be a Nigerian. While South African politicians are fueling xenophobic attacks by telling their citizens that foreigners, including Nigerians, are dating their women and taking their jobs, MTN and DSTV, owned by South Africans, have been exploiting Nigerian masses unto the bargain. They have bluntly refused to sponsor advertorials and jingles in their home country to deconstruct and dispel such negative hate campaign against Nigerians. The killing of Iheanacho has its own providential undertone, if Nigeria has a president. It will drive a permanent nail into the coffin of the two Africa countries' wrapped diplomatic and trade imbalance or rout Mr. Okorocha out of power, as a governor who has his brain under his feet, as demonstrated by Imo people.
Mr. Okorocha is a typical example of power going awry. As governor of Imo State, he single-handedly combined the functions of the legislature with that of executive since 2015. The Federal Constitution provides for a State House of Assembly as an arm of government that has powers to ensure that the governor of a state operates within the limits of constitutionality and rule of law, but Imo State House of Assembly has been rendered weak and virtually impotent by the governor. In 2011, Mr. Okorocha coarsed the IMHA and initiated the obnoxious ROLLING BUDGET System through which it “approved” a fell swoop fours’ years budget running into a huge sum for the governor. The implication is that contrary to well established government financial guidelines, the governor has been given a blank check to act as he wanted and the IMHA went on permanent holiday!
Mr. Okorocha also introduced what he called "COMMUNITY GOVERNMENT COUNCIL (CGC)" as a fourth-tier of government known only in Imo. This action, despite all opposition and intervention by all legal and constitutional experts, the nebulous fourth-tier has remained operational. Mr. Okorocha has destroyed the time-hallowed Town Unions in the state, the popular democratic institution of Igbo land. Consequently, the developmental initiatives and drive of the communities have been destroyed. No one can challenge the brute force with which he governs the state. His people are living in intense fear, unimaginable terror and Virtual tyranny he imposed on them.
As a misogynistic vanity of a governor, Mr. Okorocha finds common ground with President Jacob Zuma, a sexist and polygamist who once disputed the existence of HIV/AIDS. Mr. Okorocha reportedly beat up his wife to a pulp for daring to query him for owing state civil servants nearly one year worth of salaries and allowances after collecting bailout funds from the federal government.
That Mr. Okorocha, who cannot pay a year of workers' wages, is now in the mess of jamboree, such as erecting statue for a backward-looking Zuma when his people can't afford three square meals a day, projects abandoned amidst impassable roads and dirty state capital, shows that Mr. Okorocha lacks emotional intelligence. Imo State people should seek for his prosecution, as much as jailing him. That is where mindless looters of his irk belong.
Erasmus writes from Lagos. You can reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ikhide_erasmus1.