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#Anambra2021: Who is afraid of Prof Charles Soludo?

#Anambra2021: Who is afraid of Prof Charles Soludo?
April 05
15:47 2021

Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the schedule of activities for the forthcoming Nov. 6 governorship election in Anambra State, the political atmosphere has expectedly been charged. A visit to the State tells you that the people are preparing to go to the polls with gigantic billboards, and flyers at strategic parts of the State capital―Awka, and surrounding towns, parading all sorts of subliminal political messages by the trailer load of aspirants who have so far indicated interest to succeed incumbent Governor Willie Obiano, whose two-term tenure comes to a halt on the 17th of March, 2022.

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The feelers in and about the State is that this particular election is important for many reasons. For one, it presents a clean slate of contest for all the aspirants who would not have to contend with the incumbency factor, as Akpokuodike, as he is called, would not be on the ballot, even if only in principle. Again, for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which has held sway in the State since 2006, following the landmark judgement of the Court of Appeal, Enugu, that returned Peter Obi, as the actual winner of the 2003 governorship election in the State, the election, represents in some sense, a test for its political relevance beyond Obiano’s tenure. If it does not produce the next Governor, that might just be the beginning of its end in mainstream Nigerian politics.

For the two main opposition parties in the State, it is also an opportunity to fight their way back into the heartbeat of southeast politics. For the All Progressives Congress (APC), which currently holds sway, in two, out of the 5 States in the South East, taking over Anambra would be akin to striking the Bull’s eye, given what the State represents in the Igbo political equation. Former Governor of the State, and current Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, left no one in any doubt of the party’s interest in taking over the State.

Speaking to pressmen after validating his member of the party in his Alor Ward 1, Idemili South Local Government Area of the State, early February, he declared that the party was preparing to deploy all the “necessary forces” to ensure that it takes over the government in Anambra, by November.

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Enter People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which produced the first governor of the State, in the extant Fourth Republic, but which has since played second, if not third fiddle in the local politics of the State. Yet, somehow, it still feels that the State is its just desserts and has been fighting for a come-back since after the sacking of Dr. Chris Ngige by the Court of Appeal, and the infamous 17-day stint of the perennial aspirant, Dr. Andy Uba, as Governor. From the array of aspirants seeking to run under the platform of the party, particularly billionaire businessman, Obiora Okonkwo, you could bet, we’re heading for a political royal rumble of sorts in Anambra.

However, if permutations remain unchanged, the political barometer thus far, suggests that the forthcoming election is one man’s to lose: Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the Isuofia-born Professor of Econometrics, and former Governor of Nigeria’s Apex Bank, under whose visionary and innovative leadership, the foundations of Nigeria’s, banking reforms was erected more than a decade ago.

Long before INEC announced the timetable for the forthcoming polls, various political interest groups in Anambra State had worked assiduously to convince the former Bank Chief, to vie for the governorship position of the State. This constellation of self-funded political interests across the State and beyond; ranging from youth, men and women groups, it was reported, had paid personal visits to Soludo in his hometown of Isuofia, to convince him to run. I’m also reliably informed that high-powered emissaries comprising religious and traditional leaders, were also sent on behalf of some of these groups with a similar entreaty to the Econometrics professor.

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Presumably, in response to that call, on the 20th of February, Soludo officially declared his intention to succeed Governor Willie Obiano. At a carnival-like gathering at the State Headquarters of APGA with a throng of APGA stakeholders and other political stakeholders in the state, Soludo announced to the world that he was running for the governorship office with his “full chest”, as Reality Star, Dorathy Bachor, would have put it.

This election is consequential in Anambra State, and if APGA does not win, it means the party is gone. Let no APGA member toil with this election. If APGA loses Anambra, it has lost direction.

Therefore, do not make mistake in the person the party will field for the election as a candidate because the party cannot afford to lose the November election“, he told party officials at the declaration, demonstrating a clear appreciation of what the forthcoming polls mean in the context of the political future of Anambra, and APGA, whilst making a subtle case for his candidacy.

Indeed, it would appear that the party hierarchy understands as much, and sees Soludo’s candidacy as the clearest pathway for extending the APGA political dynasty in the State. This is seen in the groundswell of support that greeted the occasion from within the party. To be sure, the National Assembly caucus of the party in the State, who accompanied him to the declaration was unequivocal on this point, as they indicated their interest to support him to clinch the party’s ticket for the election.

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Hon Chinedu Obidigwe, who represents Anambra East/Anambra West federal constituencies in the House of Representatives, and former Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on political matters, who spoke on behalf of other lawmakers at the event, put it thus: “In 2013, Soludo was disqualified by the party as an aspirant of APGA, and he took it in good faith. He was not among the aggrieved aspirants, who decided to play a spoiler game for the party. We have been begging Soludo to run, and today he has accepted to run. All members of the National Assembly caucus from APGA have resolved that we will support him. Just one or two people persons are disagreeing with this, but you know that majority carries the vote.”

That assuring vote of confidence would set the tone for what has been a successful engagement thus far, by the Soludo team in the State which continues to touch every nook and cranny of the State, to aggregate consensus and generate the needed feedbacks that would shape his programme of action for the State, which is due to be launched. The growing and organic support which the ambition has received, to a large extent could be attributed to the dynamic leadership provided thus far, by a former student leader, Dr. Nelson Omenugha, the Convener of the political mobilizing group―Youth Earnestly Seek Soludo (YESS)―a movement of young men and women, who align with the ideals and political philosophy of Prof. Charsle Soludo and are strongly working towards ensuring his emergence as the next Governor of Anambra State.

Various other support groups both within and without the State, have also pledged their voices in support of Soludo, in a manner arguably never seen before in the history of Anambra Politics.

Whilst other “money-bag” aspirants in the State have only managed to gain traction to the extent to which they are able to finance the process, the same, is not the case for the Soludo groups who have demonstrated remarkable ingenuity to self-finance their political activities by the initiation of production and marketing of products such as “YESS antiseptics” to raise the needed funds for themselves, unlike their contemporaries, who mostly act up as hangers-on to their principals for monetary support. At the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, it was reported that one of these groups donated the sum of Three Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira to the Anambra State Government as a tokenistic offering of support.

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Both online, and offline, the momentum for the Soludo-ticket has gained incredible organic followership, and the hashtag, #SoludoSolution has become the mantra of choice across various social messaging platforms.

The rousing love and support for Professor Soludo has however made him an object of scorn and envy by political adversaries in the State; almost in the same manner Joseph’s siblings returned hatred for the love, their father, Jacob, had for Joseph. Whilst Soludo remains focused in articulating his programs and consulting widely both within and outside the party, as the primary elections approach, the feather-weight contenders have been fixated in the politics of calumny and mudslinging, rather than putting across their own programmes, assuming they have anything to offer. Almost on a daily basis, people who are better described as paid writers, flood the social media with all manner of jejune and pedestrian narratives against the former CBN governor. The reason is not hard to seek: Soludo’s credentials and tested abilities both in the public, and the private sectors, towers above those of any of the other aspirants for the tough job of governing Anambra, and I say this with due respect to these co-aspirants.

Hence, Professor Soludo has justifiably emerged as the X-factor in the race and the subject of a strange political calculus. Whilst for aspirants within APGA, Soludo’s ambition and the propelling support it is receiving from the party hierarchy nullifies their interest in great jeopardy; yet, other aspirants from the opposition political parties would be just fine with any other candidate from APGA shorn of Soludo. That is how much Soludo is a factor in the contest.

This, however, exposes the Economics don to all manner of attacks both from within and without APGA. The earliest signs were seen last week when he escaped what so far, looks like a politically motivated attack by the skin of his teeth at his country home of Isuofia, where over a thousand youth had gathered at a town hall meeting to caucus with their beloved son on the subject of his ambition and plans for the State. That gathering which from all indications was going to be a huge success was truncated when heavily armed gunmen stormed the scene, in a trigger frenzy. When the dust settled, three security details of the ex CBN governor lay in the pool of their own blood, whilst the assailants made away with the Hon. Commissioner for Public Utilities, Engnr. Emeka Ezenwane, who doubles as an in-law to Professor Soludo. As at the time of this writing, reports had it, that the abducted Commissioner had been freed and was being debriefed.

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Nigeria’s politics have been historically associated with bloodshed. The last four gubernatorial elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, Ondo, and Edo States were characterized by politically influenced killings of party chieftains and supporters. Whilst investigations into the Isuofia attack are still in their infancy, it may not be totally out of place to suggest that the attack was also a politically motivated one, to take out the candidate to beat, in what is shaping up to be a keenly contested election come, November, 6th in Anambra.

In his characteristic innocence, Soludo is not ready to describe the attacks as a political machination. In his reflections over the attacks, he says he seriously doubts if the attacks were politically motivated, and would be shocked to learn that they were aimed at him. His reason?  “I am friend with everyone contesting the office. I don’t think the office is worth the blood of even a chicken, let alone a human being“.

Fair enough, Learned Prof. But may we interject that everyone in the race, may not be blessed with such a profound view of life. If anything, from the stories of Judas who betrayed Jesus Christ, leading to the string of events crystallizing into the feast of Easter which we celebrate; to Brutus, stabbing Ceasar, at the Theatre of Pompey in Rome, as far back as 44 BC, we have learned that friends are not immune from evil deeds, particularly, murder.

Raymond NKannebe, a Legal Practitioner, and Public Interest Analyst, writes from Lagos. Please follow me on Twitter @RayNkah.

 

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