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Soludo’s Thesis Versus Jonathan’s Fading Excitement In South East

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FORMER Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN) Prof. Chukwuma Soludo loves watching events about Nigeria from the balcony in the month of January. This past January, the former CBN chief better known for his banking consolidation policy, described the events surrounding the nation’s general election as drama. And like a curator, he condensed his observations in black and white in an essay titled “Buhari versus Jonathan: Beyond the election”. The thesis which dwelt so much on Nigeria’s political economy,, leadership atrophy and the management of our petro dollars, more than anything else, brought into vivid contrast the quality of President Jonathan’s point’s men and traducers in South East. Dripping with facts and unstated animosity against the Jonathan’s presidency, that Soludo’s thesis was meant to achieve a political purpose is not yet fully appreciated. 

   Many people agree that Prof. Soludo is an intelligent man, while others who trace his political calculations say he lacks common sense. Yet in the midst of those divergent opinions about the man, it is evident that Prof. Soludo knows how to set off debates and discussions: he has what in journalism could be called headline- casting proficiency! In 2010 when he contested the governorship of Anambra State, he headlined his Soludo Solution campaign under the African Dubai-Taiwan. The former CBN governor succeeded in making much attention primed in his direction. But as if to drive home the lack of common sense epithet, Soludo forgot that most traders in Onitsha and Anambra businessmen source their wares and carry on business transaction with China. Given their competitive geopolitics, Taiwan was a name China does not like to hear. So, like harmattan fire the gory implications of a possible Soludo governorship on business relations between Anambra big men and China, caught on and consumed the Prof’s gubernatorial structures.

   The last time Prof. Chukwuma Soludo wrote a lengthy thesis from his balcony observatory was in 2013, three years after losing the February 6, 2010 election to the then Governor Peter Obi, who he described in a condescending manner as a third class brain trying to govern an A state. All through his second term in office, Obi continued to sulk silently about how he would live to see where Soludo’s first class brain will lead him. 

  But in that January 2013 article, Prof. Soludo dwelt on the issue of Nigeria’s leadership selection under the title, “What Obasanjo, Yar’Adua told me.” The former CBN Governor recalled in that piece how he raised a prayer request during the usual morning devotion in Aso Villa under President Obasanjo regime. He pointed that his prayer point that Peter Obi’s tenure would mark the end of political brigandage in Anambra State made Obasanjo to add: “We shall pray as you have requested but the problem with you people from Anambra is that those of you who have something to offer shy away from politics and hooligans have taken over your state.” Could it be that President Obasanjo, not satisfied with Soludo’s intellectual prayer point, decided to spice it up with political commonsense?

  In that same article under reference, Prof. Soludo also narrated what transpired between him and then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He wrote: “After leaving office as governor of the central bank, I was in London when twice in June 2009 I received calls from Alhaji Mangal to the effect that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua wanted to see me anytime I was in Nigeria. I returned with my family late July and on Sunday, July 26, I received a call that the president wanted to see me by 9:30pm. After a few banter, he asked what I was doing abroad… “Well”, he started, “it is not because you are here, but I have said this several times to you. Given your age, skills, and your accomplishments for our economy and financial system, it would be a waste for you not to continue to be involved in Nigeria’s public service… For example, there is going to be an election in your state early next year and I want to strongly urge you to show interest… You know that your state has been unfortunate with leadership, and our party has been in crisis there…”

   Though Prof. Soludo’s January 2013 essay sought to explain the genesis of his failed ambition to be governor of Anambra state, what was not well known was the silent grudge between him and Yar’Adua’s deputy, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. Sources in Aso Rock villa disclosed that part of the bargain in President Yar’Adua’s proposition for Soludo to become governor was the possibility that he should be drafted from the position after one year to the presidency as Yar’Adua’s running mate for the 2011 election or at best be groomed to run for the presidency at the end of Yar’Adua’s eight years. And, but for the death of President Yar’Adua in 2010, that plan might have been implemented. However the sources recalled that it was based on that arrangement especially on the likelihood of supplanting the then Vice President Jonathan, that the Vice president did not campaign for Soludo to be governor. “Severally, it was announced that the president represented by vice president Jonathan was coming to flag off Soludo’s electioneering campaigns, on each occasion it did not happen,” the source added. Given what befell Yar’Adua and ascension of Jonathan to the Presidency, it could be seen that Soludo’s essay was delivered with animosity to influence the presidential election earlier scheduled for February 14, 2015. But over and above a possible desire to draw even, the brilliance of Soludo’s thesis did much to accentuate the lack of commensurate marketing of President Jonathan’s positive deeds for the South East.

  The President’s men in the South East come off as crouching midgets around such characters as Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili and Osita Okechukwu, whose vocal opposition to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its flag bearer shines with content and colour. While Osita Okechukwu, as the mouthpiece of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East, continues to attack policies and programmes of the ruling party, people are left to wonder if PDP has any mouthpiece in the geopolitical zone. The APC spokesman in South East remained unrelenting in his attacks on President Jonathan’s signature projects in the zone, like the Akanu Ibiam International Airport facelift and the award of contract for the construction of a second Bridge across River Niger! As Okechukwu continues to fire his fiery darts, no fitting response was coming from the ruling party in the zone. For instance, nothing was heard about the business environment created by President Jonathan for Igbo businessmen or the quality of appointments into federal positions. The cumulative effect of the disparity in engagement was that we saw a ruling party that was struggling to keep its cool in the face of approaching crucial election. 

   To make matters worse, the President seemed to rely on money bags and self-made men who worship their makers in the South East. The President’s strategy of having his new friends drive his contacts in the geopolitical zone from Abuja had its toll. Politicians like Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Peter Obi and Olisa Metuh are not known to be crowd pullers or affiliative leaders. It was against that background that when the Soludo treatise hit the newsstands that many people in the zone began to ask who thinks and talks for President Jonathan in South East. 

   Also the dissolute nature of the South East Governors’ Forum adds its own burden to the declining fortunes of the ruling party in the zone. By the time Peter Obi was serving out his eight-year tenure as Anambra Governor and Chairman of SEGF, none of the governors, except Theodore Orji, could be said to be a great fan of President Jonathan. 

  For instance, while the President seems to still bear secret grudges against Governor Sullivan Chime for his ambivalence during the President Yar’Adua saga, his Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) harbours contempt for Governor Martin Elechi over his running of Ebonyi State. The feud between Anyim and Elechi started rearing its ugly head during the period leading to the election of new Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo leadership. While Anyim sided with the former Vice President General, Chief Gary Enwo Igariwey,, Elechi wanted former Chairman of Senate Services Committee, Omezue Azu Agboti, to take the Ebonyi slot as the President General of Ohanaeze. And with the SEGF, given their vacillation to consent to T. A. Orji’s chairmanship, Chime and Elechi continued to receive subdued betrayals from their Abia counterpart. For while Chime and Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu jostled for the Enugu West Senate ticket of the PDP, the chairman of SEGF sided with Ekweremadu. In Ebonyi too, the Abia State governor did not show enough solidarity with Elechi while he contested the PDP structure with the SGF and other financiers of PDP in the zone. All these have made it hard for the three PDP governors to form a formidable team to sell President Jonathan, who is also manifesting ambivalence towards the governors. So Prof. Soludo’s thesis, coming at such a time it came, helped to ensure that President Jonathan bears the burden of a politically dissolute South East.

   If President Jonathan loses his second term mandate, the South East would be the greatest losers. While the zone’s loss could be traced to the absence of strategic political thinkers, the President’s loss would lay squarely on his style and the shoulders of his points men in the zone whose best is not good enough. It was perhaps by sensing the confused position of South East in the forthcoming election that Chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo Elders Advisory Committee, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, urged Nd’Igbo to vote according to their consciences, stressing that as a people, “we have no preferred presidential candidate for the presidential election.” The first republic minister told journalists that his position was informed by the fact that Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo did not present the platform for the two major presidential candidates, General Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan to dialogue with Igbo leaders so as to arrive at a common decision. 

   The lack of meeting point between Igbo intellectuals, political and business classes has helped to leave South East divided and vulnerable. Every class enjoys its conceit by cocooning itself away from the people! In such a curious situation, Prof. Soludo’s politically motivated treatise simulates a scalar quantity: having magnitude but without direction.


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