/ 16 October 2017

Nigerian government faces criticism over ’embarrassing’ Zuma statue

The bronze statue erected in President Zuma's honour.
The bronze statue erected in President Zuma's honour.

Nigerians and a civil society group have criticised their government for bestowing President Jacob Zuma with numerous honours – including a giant bronze statue – at the weekend.

Zuma was on a visit to Imo State, Nigeria, to strengthen economic ties when the state governor Rochas Okorocha unveiled the statue. A street was also named after Zuma, he was awarded the Imo Merit Award (the state’s highest honour for distinguished personalities) and he bagged a chieftaincy title.

But after pictures of the statue surfaced, Okorocha has been heavily criticised by Nigerians on social media who have said their countrymen are unsafe in South Africa because of xenophobic attacks. 

On Sunday, Zuma said in a speech in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, that the violence between Nigerians and South Africans must come to an end.

“A South African must not kill a Nigerian and a Nigerian must also not kill a South African,” he said.

“Every country in Africa should unite as a people to fight for the common course of economic and political emancipation of Africa.”

But Zuma did not acknowledge in Nigeria that he has his own corruption charges hanging over him. The infamous Spy Tapes charges were reinstated against the president on Friday after the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein found that Zuma should be charged.

Zuma left South Africa on that same day to visit Nigeria.

The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNC), a coalition of more than 150 anti-corruption organisations in Nigeria, has angrily condemned Imo State for honouring Zuma because of corruption allegations against him. 

“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,” said Lanre Suraj, CSNC chairperson, in a statement.

Zuma’s two-day state visit to Imo State concluded on Sunday.