Soludo’s first step and politics of 80 wise men
On January 13, Anambra State governor-elect, Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo gave an inkling of what should be expected of his administration when it finally comes on board on March 17, as he named an 80-member transition committee to assist in his swearing-in as governor.
The committee, chaired by erstwhile Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili was the first official action taken by Soludo since his election on November 6, last year. The committee was inaugurated on Thursday, January 19. Its members afterwards engaged in a two-day plenary, aimed at working out modalities for their assignment. It is expected to submit a report, and going forward, provide advice from time to time.
The members are not all indigenes of Anambra State, but also other Nigerians of Igbo extraction, which have excelled in their chosen field. Other members of the committee include, Pat Utomi, Chidi Odinkalu, Osita Chidoka, Osita Ogbu, Chikwe Udensi, Greg Ibe, Alex Otti, Olisa Agbakoba, Ike Chioke, Chris Okoye, Coleman Uba, among several others.
But why an elaborate committee when the governor-elect had drawn a blueprint on how he would govern the state and had actually presented the document to the people of the state during his campaign? Is that a way of saying that he needed more input beyond his blueprint to have a more robust viewpoint? What does this committee portend for the state and the southeast in general, especially going by the level of confidence he exuded since his emergence?
All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state appears to be asking a question when it said that the governor-elect did not need, “a crowd but a team”, to actualise his planned programme and activities in the state.
The party, which is still challenging the victory of Soludo in the November poll in court, dismissed it as “outrageous and ambiguous”, insisting that Soludo did not need a crowd but a team to change governance in the state if he was serious about it.
But All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the party that produced Soludo insisted that there was nothing wrong with the list as it was made up of eminently qualified members. The party added that “a lot of things will be done differently under Soludo’s watch as Anambra State governor and he has started doing that already with the composition of his transition committee members.”
The Party had gone further to dismiss insinuations of cold war between the governor-elect and the incumbent, Obiano, over the composition of the transition committee list, insisting that allegations of cold war were figments of imagination of naysayers.
Meanwhile, the Anambra Civil Society Network (ACSONET), while praising the composition of the committee, expressed hope that they would deliver to ensure smooth transition into a new government.
Describing the move by Soludo as “spot-on and a sign of good things to come”, the group stated that it reflected “inclusion, non-partisanship, competence, integrity and liberalism”.
Also, Catholic Knights of Nigeria have indicated that the composition of the committee represents a high quality government, which Soludo intends to run, adding that it would provide a good template for a smooth transition and seamless take off for the incoming government.
President of the organisation, Prof Remy Uche, stated that the composition of the committee was a unique rainbow coalition of people with proven integrity and seasoned professionals, adding that it signified that the “cabinet of Soludo is not just going to be drawn from across political lines but would be one without boundaries.”
Speaking to The Guardian however, a Political Scientist, Dr Jude Owunna, asserted that a governor that “must do well in Anambra State should be ready to embrace all shades of opinion and specialty”.
He said: “Anambra is a mix of low and high, rich and people of integrity. This is the only state where ninety percent of her billionaires have not done any government contract. Where the politicians are ready to preserve democracy by expressing themselves freely during elections and where the people freely make a choice. There is no other state where it can happen, at least in southeast. Here, even political parties in the fringes feel the warmth of political participation with people of substance and means identifying with them. Therefore, articulating these interests in governance would always serve the state better.”
Onwunna, who agrees with the constitution of the 80-member committee, stated that it was an indication that “politics is over and we are now faced with governance”, stressing that, “ the governor-elect will surely tap from the wisdom and rich vast knowledge of the team he assembled to help him move forward.”
He continued: “If you look at it, these people are Nigerians who have distinguished themselves by dint of hard work. They have not in any way dented their image and have at various times stood for justice and good governance. So I have a feeling that the governor-elect is interested in deepening development; he is interested in justice; he is interested in the peace of the state. He knows that his knowledge is not enough.”
He quickly added, however, “it has become customary for governors-elect to constitute such committees and in the end fail to implement their recommendations”, advising that, “let us help this one to succeed by making use of their recommendations. Let this committee also be open and rise to the demands of the confidence reposed in them.”
Those who have followed the governor-elect since he signified intention to replace Governor Willie Obiano, would agree that he had not hidden his desire for an all inclusive administration to reinvent the economy of the state and in the long run the Southeast region.
Soludo is a firm believer in the fact that given the right atmosphere, Anambra State has the capacity to redeem itself with the scale of productive activities, commerce, vast and arable agricultural land and the intellectual bent of her people. He believes that lack of political will to explore these areas had largely contributed to the dearth of deepened development in the state. Thus, it is expected that the 80-member committee would not only be advisory but also play a major role in determining the shape of his government.
Soludo’s emergence since last year elicited hope beyond Anambra State. It is seen as an answered prayer not just for the state but the southeast at large. This is based on what he represents or has become in the eyes of an average Igbo person.
In the Igbo circle, the name Soludo rings a bell. He is a technocrat of sorts and has contributed in drawing a road map for the economic rejuvenation of Anambra State under the incumbent administration and the Southeast region as a whole. The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is the Chairman, Committee on Planning and Strategy, Ohanaeze Ndigbo. This committee articulated the Igbo position on restructuring. The committee he serves authored the current zeal to develop and industrialise of Igboland, codenamed “Aku rue uno”.
Beyond the jingoism of the 80-member committee, Soludo is expected to buttress the confidence reposed in him by the people. Since he emerged last year, he has been looked upon as the rallying point for the rejuvenation of Igbo in the scheme of things in the country.
Sources indicated that the age long strategic place of Anambra State in Igboland, if well harnessed and articulated could impact the development of Igboland, adding that a leadership lacuna had existed in the region by the failure of the governments to rise to the demand of their offices.
It added that the Southeast region was fast losing its pride of place in commerce and manufacturing and replacing it with banditry and insecurity. The blame has largely been heaped on the inability of the political class to galvanize the people and the enthronement of mediocrity in the governance of the southeast region.
“That is why a committee as broad as that set up by Soludo is needed to interrogate the southeast question. Whether anyone likes it or not, no part of this zone can develop on its own. There is no way Anambra State can develop economically and politically if other challenges in the states of the zone are not tackled. That is why this committee will provide advice beyond the shores of Anambra State. That is why this committee must rally round the governor-elect to find a way to solve the current leadership gap being experienced in the zone.
“If you must know, the southeast is currently losing it. Look at the way our economy is being toyed with by the spate of agitation that goes on in the zone. It is almost granted that people no longer do businesses on Monday and any other day a group of persons declare a sit at home. Have you checked the impact of these things on our education system? Now look at the misfortune that has visited us in infrastructure since the present crop of governors were sworn in. Even in the face of the many challenges in the zone, you cannot trace any project that they have been able to execute successfully for the benefit of their people. That is why I am hopeful that the committee Soludo constituted, who are of course drawn from various states of the southeast region, should be able to encourage him to work for the people. He is a man that understands the dynamics of events in this zone. I believe he has the ability to galvanise other governors to work for the people”, a Civil Rights Activist and lawyer based in Enugu state, Ikenna Obichukwu said.
Aside from the façade of development, another intriguing factor that is apparently propelling an inclusive drive is the need to move the APGA beyond the shores of Anambra State. The party has revolved around Anambra State for a long time, despite the promises that it was the political platform that could guarantee the aspiration of Ndigbo in the scheme of things in the country.
Since its formation in 2001, the party exuded promises when on two occasions it presented late Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu as its presidential flagbearer. Since its crisis began, the party had not won an election outside Anambra State. In fact, from what used to be a grip on the southeast region in the 2003 general elections, APGA has now become a platform that is infested with all manner of leadership crises and allegedly ranking as a political platform with the highest cases in court.
Political Pundits believe that a character like Soludo, who enjoys massive support, can propel a rejuvenation of the party to become the political plank for all Igbo to realise their political ambitions if the zone must play its expected role in the country.
A former national chairman of the party and now a chieftain of APC, Chief Chekwas Okorie, told The Guardian that, “ a lot of burden is being placed on Soludo to move Ndigbo forward, not because, he is the leader of Ndigbo but because of the confidence he has garnered among Igbo people.”
According to him, “the governor-elect though elected to govern Anambra State should be felt beyond the shores of the state because he understands the challenges facing Ndigbo and has written and spoken severally about it. So, if he constitutes a committee, I will say that it is one that has limitless boundaries and that will be used to further the course of Ndigbo.”
Justifying the fact that he needs to carve out a political future for Ndigbo, Okorie added, “he must do all in his power to rejuvenate APGA and I expect this committee to advise him properly. That is because; it is only the APGA that can guarantee a president of Nigeria from southeast extraction. Rejuvenating the APGA will make it a party that can be embraced by all and with that, we can now speak with one voice and take a position on issues of national importance. This is very important because, the situation in other political parties have indicated that they don’t reckon with the Igbo and that the support we have shown over the years for the success of those parties are immaterial.”
He stated that a reawakened APGA would enjoy the patronage of Igbo anywhere in the world, even as he volunteered to lead the crusade for the return and embrace of the platform by all Igbo.