Anambra, Soludo’s solution and challenges of Southeast integration
When his media office released an 80-member transition panel, many commentators saw a hint at possible Bola Tinubu style administration, which drew cabinet membership from across the Southwest geopolitical zone and beyond.
As the committee members continued to elicit reactions, one unmistakable feature of the unfolding scenario was that the incoming Anambra State governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, would people his cabinet with what one local called Ndi-oboboakwukwo (intellectuals).
The transition committee, headed by former Presidential aspirant, Dr. Obiageli Kathryn Ezekwesili, is expected to midwife the governor-elect’s take over from Governor Willie Obiano.
Apart from the governance aspect, it was also obvious that the former Central Bank Governor plans to deconstruct the politics of Anambra State in such a way to reflect its status as the centre of Southeast political economy.
Many observers said the composition of the transition left the impression that Soludo plans to replicate Tinubu’s tactics in Lagos by incorporating persons from outside Anambra State, including notable rights activists. Former National President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and member of the National Political Consultation Front, Dr. Olisah Agbakoba appearing on the list earned the panel the moniker, the ‘Solution Transition Team.’
It could be recalled that while he held sway as Lagos State governor from 1999 through 2007, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who recently announced his intention to contest the 2023 Presidential post, appointed cabinet members from outside Lagos State.
Some of these former commissioners, who ended up contesting the governorship of their respective home states, included, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
In what looks like the incoming administration of Prof. Soludo wants to toe a similar path, the list of nominees into the transition committee released by Joe Anatune, shows that non-indigenes of Anambra State were selected.
They included Professor of Political Economy, Prof. Patrick Okedinachi Utomi (Delta), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu and Prof. Offornze Amucheazi, SAN (Imo), Dr. Alex Otti and Dr. Greg Ibe (Abia), Prof. Osita Ogbu, Mr. Ferdinand Agu and Prince Ike Chioke(Enugu).
Apart from non-indigenes, some non-members of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), like Osita Chidoka and African Democratic Congress (ADC) governorship standard-bearer in the November 2021 poll, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, made it to the transition panel.
Dr. Ezekwesili has remained a staunch believer in Soludo’s developmental models for a very long time such that in 2013, the former Education Minister pleaded with outgoing Governor Peter Obi to support the former Central Bank Governor as his successor.
In a statement signed by the Head, Soludo Media Directorate, Anatune, explained that the Transition Committee, which will liaise with a team set up by the outgoing government, is “to ensure a seamless transition from Governor Willie Obiano to a Chukwuma Charles Soludo-led administration from March 17, 2022.”
‘A’ List For ‘A’ State
THE calibre of men and women drawn from different backgrounds could best be attested to by the citation of the committee chairman, Dr. Ezekwesili. An Economic Policy Expert, Ezekwesili is Senior Economic Adviser of the Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative and one of the co-founders and pioneer directors of Transparency International (TI), the Berlin-based global anti-corruption organisation.
Ezekwesili, who is the founder and chairperson of the Board of Abuja-based School of Politics, Policy and Governance (SPPG) featured in the 2019 General Elections as a presidential standard-bearer. Also, she is currently founder-CEO of Human Capital Africa (HCA) which is working in the education sector across Africa.
Perhaps, her headship of the Solution Transition Team provides her with the ample opportunity to deploy the strategies and values she has been imparting through the #FixPolitics Initiative, a research-based citizen-sledge initiative, she founded and chairs.
In the mission statement of #FixPolitics, Ezekwesili envisions “a country, where politics is inclusive, the needs of citizens are prioritised, democratic principles are respected, such that good governance is the norm.”
She had previously served as the Minister of Solid Minerals and later of Education, as well as a presidential aide before heading the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit, which later transited to Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP).
Currently a Senior Fellow at Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, USA, Dr Ezekwesili is a global renowned Speaker and contributor to numerous studies and publications on Economic Policy, Transparency, Accountability and Governance, Human Capital Development and Africa Economic prospects.
With such lofty academic and experiential attainments, Prof. Soludo must have stylishly announced to political jobbers and layabouts in Anambra State that governance, especially policy formulation and implementation, belong to players in the knowledge economy rather those adept at intrigues and bulging biceps.
It is this attempt to deconstruct politics and governance in the state that elicited scathing attacks on the composition of the transition panel, especially given the absence of chieftains of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). No sooner was the list made public than APGA chieftains began to express regrets that handing the party’s governorship ticket to Prof. Soludo was a ‘bad investment.’
However, after previous trials to become governor, the former CBN governor seems determined to review the ‘Nkea bu nkeanyi’ (this is ours) mentality of APGA stalwarts. Said a citizen of the state, “We can now see that Soludo is doing the opposite of what used to obtain in APGA.
“He has served notice that he was prepared to fish for people outside the party, this development no doubt could unsettle the party. But, some of us believe that what Nwamgbafor is trying to do may end up as the much-needed turning point for APGA to grow.”
As a political party, APGA had remained stunted, especially after the palace coup against the founding national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, during which the then national treasure, Chief Victor Umeh took his (Okorie’s) position as national chairman.
The political space was so constricted that the party remained relevant during elections in Anambra State, which caused it to be derisively referred to variously as ‘Anambra Progressives Grand Alliance, Agulu Peoples Grand Association, Aguluzoigbo Peoples General Assembly and Aguleri Peoples Grand Association.’
Further, it is said that by toeing this path of expanding APGA’s coast, Soludo could be planning to do what Peter Obi could not do in his eight years’ tenure as sole APGA governor in the country, unlike what Tinubu did, when he was the lone progressive governor in Southwest.
“This may be a way of building a political platform instead of sustaining APGA as a mere SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) for Anambra governorship that leaders use and dump. The committee is a prelude to bigger things, because if Soludo should enlist omnibus persons into the transition committee who says his cabinet would not consist of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.
“It is also a pointer to the possible dilution of APGA to allow him govern as a low hanging fruit. You cannot use the same platform that Obi and Obiano used and achieve the change contained in his lofty manifesto,” the Anambra indigene stated, recalling how President Muhammadu Buhari adopted Dr. Ahmed Joda to head his transition team.
Cracking The Governance/Politics Codes
THE presence of such persons as Engineer Chris Okoye of Southeast Development Commission (SEDC) inspires the possibility that the Soludo administration would tackle politics and development squarely.
SEDC had been in the forefront of propagating the economic integration of Southeast, particularly after Chief Chekwas Okorie led the way in founding a political platform for Ndigbo in 2002. Okoye and his group were also involved in conversations around restructuring and its benefits to Southeast.
But there had been concerns about the bloated transition committee, which was at inauguration further increased to 100. Those who complained about the large number argued that it is a harbinger that instead of pursuing a lean government, the former CBN governor wants to continue with the nebulous crowded appointments meant to appease stakeholders.
However, in his remarks during the inauguration of the transition committee, Prof. Soludo noted the observations of critics that the “bloated transition team seems to underscore the high expectations from the incoming administration, even as it leaves the impression of possible waste through the attendant high cost of governance.”
He stated: “The global objective of the transition committee is to help the government and the governor-elect to achieve a seamless transition and we are ready to hit the ground running from day one. The task would be elaborated, but three stand out.
“First is to ascertain, certify the state of affairs, the short to medium term deliverables of the vision 2070. To propose actionable agenda for the next administration, three to assist with a talent hunt to populate the Anambra change data bank.”
And in a bold statement against the culture of sycophancy and unnecessary praise-singing, Soludo, who disclosed that the committee would look into the necessity of the His Excellency appellation, said he preferred to be addressed simply as Charlie or Nwamgbafor or Prof. Soludo or Mr. Governor.
But the main staggerer was the governor-elect’s position that those who want to be appointed commissioners should put in applications detailing what solutions they were ready to bring on board.
While stressing that “the times are hard and the immediate future will be challenging,” Soludo said despite that, “Ndi Anambra expect extraordinary outcomes, and literarily expect miracles, and we can’t let them down and no excuses will do.”
His words: “We will soon advertise for expression of interest, whereby we call on all problem solvers with integrity, competence and passion to indicate which problem or problems they can solve for Ndi Anambra, whether in full time, part-time or pro bono services. Together with the talent hunt from the committee, we will then have a robust pool to ensure we continuously fit round pegs in round holes.
“We are open to seeking help and we will deeply appreciate advice and assistance of everybody to enable us to deliver efficient and effective services to millions of our people.
“While we will continue to be sensitive to politics, in a democracy, that is expected, we also know that the teeming millions just want public service to work and do not care who delivers them.”
He explained that the worth and reputation of some of the members, whom he never met, recommended them, noting that, “sound ideas and implementation have no political party badge or state of origin.”
In six weeks’ time, when the committee turns in its report for the incoming administration to “hit the ground running,” Nigerians would train their eyes on Anambra State to see how far egg heads can go in transforming politics and governance in Nigeria’s democracy.