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‘To succeed, Soludo should establish working system of controls’

By Leo Sobechi
04 December 2021   |   4:05 am
Chidi O’Martins is a financial management and compliance expert with relevant public sector experience in Nigeria and Malawi.


Chidi O’Martins is a financial management and compliance expert with relevant public sector experience in Nigeria and Malawi. In this interaction with The Guardian, the Awka Anambra native notes that, coming three decades after Anambra State’s creation, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s governorship is expected to reset the socio-economic foundation for the state through sound economic development and financial plans, LEO SOBECHI reports.

How far would you say Anambra has fared as a state since its creation?
As one of the five Southeast states, Anambra State was created out of the old Anambra State (comprising current Enugu and Anambra states) in 1991 by the then military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
This goes without saying that the state, which is just about 4500 square kilometres in size, has existed for only three decades. So, if the state were a human being, you sure would call her a full-grown adult that should have had a sense of direction at this age.
Your question then is has Anambra really fared well in development so far? Different people might have different answers to this simple question, depending on one’s perspective. Please note that my answer is not in any way intended to come as from an academic, but something to refresh our brains and enable us key into the great prospects in the new Anambra.

This is my own perspective as a son of the soil, from the state capital, Awka. Let me briefly x-ray the contributions of each of the past four major regimes out of a total of six administrations that have held sway in the state from the onset of the fourth republic, which commenced in 1999. By then, the state was mere eight years young.
Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju was the first governor in the fourth republic and he assumed office on May 29, 1999. That administration lasted four years and was reckoned as four long years of pain to Ndi Anambra. During that infamous era of Chief Mbadinuju, capital projects were not executed; even recurrent expenditures like salaries were not paid.
Public schools were shut down for as long as 17 months in a stretch due to nonpayment of salaries. Even our pensioner parents were not paid their pensions and were called deadwoods by the governor. One therefore wonders how basic recurrent expenditures like salaries couldn’t be paid, when there were no capital expenditures.
What really happened in that government? The answer is very simple. Do not forget that at that time, the menace of political godfathers was so severe and the then governor owed his first allegiance, to the godfathers that put him in power. Hence he struggled every month to please the godfathers.
Remember also, that the government at the center was Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) just as the state was also ruled by PDP. Yet, the state was in doldrums. This gave the impression that state party, being same as the federal ruling party does not matter so much where there is no sincerity of purpose from the man in charge.

The year 2003 saw the emergence of Dr. Chris Ngige, who was also of the PDP and was put in power by the same political godfathers. We all know that Ngige came with good intentions, but had a score to first settle with his political godfathers. Nonetheless, he stood his ground and reaffirmed that his loyalty was more to that of his subjects.
It was not an easy time for the governor at the onset, because he had some running battles with his political godfathers, which culminated in a kidnap attempt. However, in his almost three years’ rule, Dr. Ngige was able to pay salaries and other recurrent expenditures, as well as pick several infrastructural development projects like road networking.
Without an iota of doubt, Ndi Anambra were at that time very happy with their leader. But, be that as it may, his regime could not be said to have reached optimal expectations of Ndi Anambra. His regime depended so much on Federal allocations and IGR (Internally Generated Revenue) and did not strongly explore the prospects of private sector collaborations or cooperative agreements with international development institutions. Thence, he could only do just a little. His regime was ousted in March 2006 by the courts and then entered Mr. Peter Obi.
Peter Obi governed the state for two full terms of eight years, making him the first Anambra State governor to enjoy two complete tenures, even under a party different from the one at the center (PDP). Ndi Anambra were very happy with him as he was able to pay salaries and other recurrent expenditures, provided capital infrastructure and had savings in the state government coffers at his exit.
I personally recall how my Umudioka Awka village roads were, prior to Peter Obi’s tenure; our roads were so deplorable. Today, we have roads that look like major highways in the FCT (Federal Capital Territory). Peter Obi was able to achieve some savings, because he literally supervised transactions himself and cut a lot of wastages and leakages.

Have there been any positive attempts to reposition governance in Anambra State?
While Obi’s approach to governance was a positive style, I dare say it just wasn’t the best style for running a state. It was like Obi was the only one in the system, who was upright and if he were not there, nothing happens. The control systems were not there.
That style of governance sure would have made development very slow and even prevented other possible developments from happening at all in the state. I believe he would have achieved a lot more by institutionalising systems and controls and strengthening them.
So, to me, I believe this will be one of the major differences between Mr. Peter Obi’s regime and the incoming administration of Prof Soludo. I think this point will be made clearer when examining the state’s prospects in the next eight years. But, suffice it to say, however, that for eight years, Ndi Anambra enjoyed a stable economy with infrastructure being provided. Our people say it is better small than none.
I heard some APGA (All Progressives Grand Alliance) loyalists claim that Chief Peter Obi was only carrying out the APGA manifesto, but I beg to slightly differ from that thought. I strongly believe that it was just strength of character and sincerity of purpose that propelled Chief Peter Obi into achieving the successes he recorded.
Chief Peter Obi handed over to Chief Willie Obiano in 2014, who equally maintained payment of recurrent expenditure, as well as some community developments. Some infrastructure like bridges and streetlights were equally provided, and it is on record that the governor put up a standard airport for the state.
Yet, Obiano did not explore much of the private public partnership schemes, nor collaborated much with the international development world, which facilitates developments for worthy governments.

From the foregoing, it is my candid opinion that Chief Peter Obi and Chief Willie Obiano have been the best governors we have had in Anambra State so far. My perspective is that both had strength of character as well as sincerity of purpose and they both depended on just the Federal Allocations and the Internally Generated Revenue.
But the snag was that they did not have any meaningful revenue inflow from cooperative agreements through development agencies nor had significant private sector partnership. If you check statistics of revenue for Anambra State from 2006 to 2020, you do not see anything significant from this area. Apparently, there were no systems in place that could support that.

What realistic expectations exist for the former CBN governor?
I think I have set sufficient background and enough contrasts to show the enormity of expectations before Prof. Soludo in the next four to eight years. It is expected that come March 17, 2022, the governor-elect, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, will take over the mantle.
He has published his manifesto, which has covered developments in road infrastructure, technology, food and agriculture, economy, health, and education. The former CBN governor has also been proactive in going ahead to reasonably point out how he intends to achieve these even to the extent of putting down figures.
The incoming governor outlined Federal Allocations and Internally Generated Revenue, which are basically what the past governors have all relied on. Prof Soludo went beyond these to mention his intention to partner the private sector and cooperate with the international development bodies, which actually fast-track developments in communities. I know this much from my career experience in the development industry.

As an insider, who has once been privileged to work for Prof. Soludo, I can confidently tell you that these plans are not just lofty plans for the governor-elect, but very doable for him. I have worked with him in the past, where he successfully attracted several international funders, for a brand-new research institute that he set up.
He also undertook a lot of collaborative ventures with the international development agencies as the Chairman of the National Planning Commission/ Chief Economic Adviser to President (Olusegun) Obasanjo.
The International development community has so much confidence in the man, because, beyond being very intelligent, his strength of character is so compelling and it is not surprising that his tentacles are far reaching. He equally has a solution to any problem. Literally, Prof. Soludo can invent a sea route to India.
Note that despite these inherent features I just mentioned, the international development community will never put a dime on any project if they have not seen a working system of controls in place. Solduo’s first task would be the setting up of a working system of controls; in whatever body he oversees.
Equally of note is that this was a feature that Chief Peter Obi did not have, which significantly pulled him back. Prof Soludo also will not just be making an empty boast of involving the private sector collaborations if he does not have the capacity. We all saw what he did with the Transcorp, the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria. If he did that as a Central Bank Governor, then I sure bet you that he will do multiples of that as a state Chief Executive.

Having highlighted the achievements and perceived drawbacks of his predecessors and his own inherent strengths, I am very convinced that Ndi Anambra are about embarking on a journey to the Promised Land.
I therefore use this opportunity, to formally congratulate Prof Soludo as well as remind him that four or eight years isn’t a very far time as it is just by the corner, so he should immediately set to work in earnest.
I believe there would be political distractions, but he should not allow them to derail him. I dare remind Prof Soludo that he now has a social contract with Ndi Anambra and will be assessed based on what he has mentioned in his manifesto.
It is also very important to implore all Ndi Anambra to put all hands on deck in this transformation that is about to take off. They should seize this opportunity to think home in investments, for maximum returns. Everyone will likely have a way of being committed to this growth.