Recently this picture and an associated wisecrack (by Japheth Omojuwa) went viral on social media sites. The picture shows a statue of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa unveiled by Governor Owelle “Rochas” Okorocha of Imo State during Zuma’s visit to the state. Zuma’s statue, reportedly worth over N500 million, stands amidst 6 additional statues of African leaders Governor Okorocha plans to unveil later. Based on the cost of Zuma’s statue, it is safe to extrapolate that the total cost of these 7 statues is nothing less than N3.5 billion out of his proposed total budget of N131 billion for 2017.
Let’s temporarily put aside facts like unpaid salaries or state-owned debts in Imo state, merits of the characters involved, motive behind these statues and ask some pertinent questions. What do the citizens need most – statues or sound statutes? Constitutionally, who are our Governors accountable to on state expenditure? Do they “….owe no one apology” as Governor Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary stated? Do we know of the Freedom of Information Act which allows the right to request for public documents? Are we aware we can access private resources (e.g. Tracka) to track public projects which makes demanding accountability easier? How else can we ensure our public funds are used properly for the direct, immediate benefits of the citizens? We can think about this, yes, but the time to ACT is NOW.