In this piece, a former Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Kehinde Ayoola reacts to the erections by Governors Rochas Okorocha, and Akinwunmi Ambode.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State have erection problems.
Come to think of it, part of their gubernatorial job description is the business of erections.
I am not talking about the erection problem which has made both the low and mighty become clients of manufacturers of ale, burantashi, Viagra and sundry other aphrodisiacs.
No, don’t get it twisted; I’m not in the position to know that.
And I pray seriously that none of these gentlemen has that one.
In any case, no man of power needs an aphrodisiac. Power itself is an aphrodisiac!
Neither am I unsure of what I’m driving at.
They erect public buildings, towers, cenotaphs and – the latest fad – statues.
What is however worrisome is that these statues come with their problems.
Ambode kicked it off with the erection of Awo’s Statue at Ikeja. No sooner had he unveiled it than controversy sprang forth like burst water pipe. It was to the effect that the statue was anything but Awo’s image or his carriage. Critics said Awo was not a vegetative old man who always sat down as depicted on that statue. Awo was always on his feet moving about over Nigeria’s problems and how to find solutions to them; they said. Then others pointed to the laced shoes and socks baba was made to wear.
It went against Awo’s dress sense, they said.
Point is, in Yoruba vogue-speak, it is an unpardonable fashion crime to wear laced shoes and/or socks with traditional wear. And most observers could swear by their mama’s graves that Awo never committed such fashion faux pas. If anything, they boasted, Awo was always a trend setter in sartorial elegance that at the same time conformed with what was socially acceptable.
Next Ambode unveiled another statue, this time, of late Afro music icon, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The talking point from that one is that it is a headless statue of Fela.
What sacrilege, Fela’s ardent fans screamed!
But art aficionados have told us that a sculptor could take liberty in the production of his works; that a work of art is making a statement or sending a message.
They said Fela’s headless statue was in that mould.
Not to be outdone in the erection controversy, Rochas Okorocha put up a life size statue of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa in Owerri.
An insane amount of N500million was mentioned as cost.
In a state where workers and teachers are owed several months in salaries?
The controversy about Zuma’s statue even went international. South Africans, who never have been known to be nice to Nigeria even in the best of times despite our anti-apartheid efforts, came down heavily on us. We were described as a corrupt nation and that is why a corrupt president like Jacob Zuma could be our hero.
Just last night, Okorocha rolled out the drums and the red carpet to welcome Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the President of Liberia to Owerri. Part of the events to mark Madam Sirleaf’s visit is the unveiling a life-sized statue of her good-self.
Rochas has remained adamant and he has dug in.
The two governors should have learnt from Oyo State – the pacesetter. We have set the pace in these erectile predilections much earlier.
I remember that in 1999, with my humble self as Speaker, Hon Mojeed Adekunle Olaoya, then representing Ibadan South East Constituency 2 in the Oyo State House of Assembly (he is now Oyo State Secretary of the APC) moved a motion for the removal of the statue of the “Unknown Soldier” from the forecourt of the Government House at Agodi, Ibadan.
Olaoya moved and the House concurred that in its place, a statue of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo be erected there. We felt then that in the spirit of the new democratic dispensation, a monument that reminded us of the days of the military jackboots should not be sited right in front of the official residence of a democratically-elected governor.
The Lam Adesina-led Executive Arm, accepted our resolution, but did not implement it until a few days to the expiration of its tenure – 4 years after the idea was mooted.
Exactly on the 30th May, 2003 – a day after the Rashidi Ladoja administration came on board, some people went to the location of the Awo Statue, removed it and ‘kidnapped’ it to a place yet unknown till today.
There are indeed problems associated with statues but while Governor Akinwunmi Ambode seems to have relented with his own erections, Governor Rochas is not yet done.
I learnt he plans to erect more statues – maybe of President Muhammadu Buhari.
If his erections contemplate Buhari’s statue, I know there will be another round of controversy especially between him and Muslim clerics.
In 1987, military President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida paid a working visit to Ondo State. The Military Governor, Brigadier Ekundayo Opaleye tried to impress his Commander-in-Chief. He caused the erection of a life sized statue of Babangida. IBB later ordered them to reduce it to a bust as, according to him, it is un-Islamic to erect a life sized statue of a man while still alive.
Opaleye complied – the water-yam doesn’t grow hairs in the presence of naked fire!
So shall it be if Rochas tries to erect Buhari’s statue of the same size as Jacob Zuma’s or Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s.
I shall remain here eating my amala plus gbegiri as I keep watching these governors have avoidable erection problems!