Anambra 2017: Soludo’s choice and crises of endorsements
When on Friday March 17, 2017 the former Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, presented the third anniversary lecture of Governor Willie Obiano’s third year in office, his conclusions betrayed the beauty of his economic and fiscal expostulations.
Some of those in the audience believed that either Soludo was carried away by the applause his exegesis was eliciting, or that he wanted to the play the patronizing political philanthropist. But the reaction to the concluding part of his eloquent lecture twisted the biblical saying that better is the end of a matter than the beginning.
The former CBN governor, after eulogizing Anambra State as a perfect case for buoyant start up, fouled the atmosphere when he declared: “Can we then implore most of the contestants to rather deploy the billions of naira they would soon waste on the campaign trail into building medium scale industries in the state?…There will be vacancy at the Government House after the next four years, and anyone can contest. In the meantime, the working Willie as our chief servant can continue to serve and lead.”
Immediately the anniversary lecturer ended on note of endorsement, the atmosphere in the hall changed from smiling admiration to somber faces of disapprobation.
The barrage of negative criticisms against Soludo’s summations on the impending Anambra governorship election scheduled for November 18, 2017, flowed not from his candid dissecting of the economic indices in the country, but due to his attempt to reverse the issue of term limit and desirability of the four-yearly cycles of election in Nigeria’s democracy.
By so doing, he drove attention away from his message, attracted public focus on his own political exegesis. Not that alone, the former CBN governor unwittingly played up the political divide between Governor Obiano and his vexed predecessor and benefactor, Mr. Peter Obi.
Many in Anambra, especially aspirants preparing for the November 18 governorship took umbrage; with some holding that Soludo was procured to foul the political atmosphere in the state with his “undemocratic declarations.”
But over and above electoral misapprehensions, the former CBN governor also exposed his lack of political wisdom and tendency towards gallery gesticulations. For in 2009, shortly after he lost reappointment for a second term in office as Central Bank Governor, Soludo aspired for Anambra governorship, in a bid to abridge the tenure of Obi to just one term.
And although he emerged as the PDP governorship candidate out of a horde of 47 aspirants, his victory was hotly contested by 23 others, who felt that the former top banker won by devious craft and not by popular choice. He lost the main election as Peter Obi coasted home to a second term in office.
Again in 2013, Prof. Soludo made another bold political attempt through a widely circulated letter to Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, in which he informed the former national chairman of PDP of his resignation from the membership of the party.
He later defected to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), ostensibly to contest the 2013 governorship. Influential Anambra bigwigs, including the billionaire oil magnate, Sir Emeka Offor, were said to have lined up support for him. But Obi and former APGA national chairman, Victor Umeh, effectively blocked him.
Barbs And Darts
IT was therefore against that chequered history of political misadventures that political actors hauled disapproval against the erudite Economics Professor for his attempts at “false appeal to statesmanship.”
State chairman of Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Ozocha Sam Oraegbunam, wondered what Soludo found so spectacular in Obiano’s nearly four years in office to recommend him for automatic second term.
Noting that the state has gone beyond draconian and undemocratic practices, Oraegbunam added that the swelling rank of governorship aspirants is an indication of the perceived poor performance of the incumbent.
He stated that even though Obiano had done well in attracting investors to Anambra State, the number employment generated by the administration was still a thing of conjecture, even as he dismissed the no vacancy stand of the former CBN as the recommendations of a failed serial governorship aspirant.
Chief Barth Nwibe, who is an aspirant on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), dismissed the declaration by Soludo as the opinion of just one man out of millions of Anambra citizens whose constitutional rights to vote and be voted for cannot be wished away or denied.
Like Soludo, Nwibe is from Anambra South Senatorial district and is seen as one of the top contenders to governorship seat. His view was supported by another aspirant from Anambra North, Mr. Oseloka Obaze.
Obaze, who was briefly the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under Obiano’s administration, said Soludo spoke for himself and has no right to represent Anambra people. When contacted for his comments on the raging issue of no vacancy in Government House until 2021, right activist and member of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, retorted: “Who is Soludo in Anambra politics? He said what he was paid to say.”
However Obiano’s rival governorship candidate in the 2013 election, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, saw Soludo’s position differently. He said: While everyone is trying to crucify Soludo over his stand, I see it differently. In the first place, the former CBN governor should be seen as addressing his people in Anambra South that they should allow Anambra north to complete two terms in office.
“Then again, Soludo may have decided to patronize his friend and former colleague banker who invited him to deliver the anniversary lecture. But most importantly, it should be noted that Soludo challenged the preparedness of NdiAnambra to choose their governor and not repeat the mistake of the past when few people could impose a governor on the state.
“So I see his declaration as an attempt to wake the people from political slumber to ward against the evil of denying them their say in a democracy. The fact that NdiAnambra rose in unison to condemn the undemocratic proposition of no vacancy, shows that we are marching forward as a people to better and genuine democratic experience, especially in the battle against impunity.
But Chairman of Obiano Support Group, Chief Jude Emecheta, told reporters that the important thing to take away from Soludo’s lecture was that Anambra has remained viable in the face of recession because of the governor’s prudent management of resources.
Emecheta said it was wrong to sacrifice Soludo just because he said what was obvious, stressing that everybody should support Obiano for a second term instead of playing divisive politics.
Crisis Of Endorsements
BUT while Soludo was endorsing Obiano and exhorting Ndi Anambra that “you don’t change the General in the middle of a war, especially the General that has led you through successes in battles,” his people of Old Aguata Union (OAU) accused him of selling out.
They said he unilaterally struck a political deal with Obiano to the effect that he should support him for a second term so that by 2021, he (Obiano) would use the power of incumbency and state resources to return him (Soludo) as governor.
Consequently, representatives of the 45 communities making up the old Aguata region met at Neros Stadium, Nanka, Orumba North local government council and endorsed Chief Godwin Ezeemo of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) for the November 18 governorship.
The programme, which was the highpoint of an interdenominational service by Odinma OAU Forum, during which the people led by their traditional rulers, clergy and Presidents General among others, prayed to God to grant them their heart’s desire “of producing the governor of Anambra State in 2017.”
Chairman and secretary of the organizing committee, Prince Joe Emenike and Hon. Dan- Chibo Umeh, signed the address read by Emenike in which they said though OAU provided “the major power brokers in the state, but they never saw any need to use the opportunity to advance the developmental fortunes of OAU or project their own brothers and sisters to the highest level of power in the state.”
Immediately after the address, Mr. Clement Onyemobi, chairman of Movement For Greater Anambra State (MOFGAS), Aguata chapter, moved the motion for Ezeemo to be adopted as OAU’s preferred candidate for the 2017 governorship election.