Anambra: Great expectations as Soludo mounts saddle, exudes confidence
A brief but colourful event that held at the premises of the Government House, Awka on Thursday ushered in Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, an academic and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as the new Anambra State governor.
The swearing in ceremony was the climax of a journey that began on November 6 last year, with the conduct of the governorship election which Soludo, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), won.
With his eventual swearing in, all eyes are now on the economist-turned politician to take the destiny of the state to further heights. Indeed, if votes garnered in elections are anything to go by or are to be counted as a sign of one’s popularity, the near landslide victory he secured in the poll signposts the confidence the people of the state repose on him to better their lot.
Soludo secured 112,229 votes to beat his opponents, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 53,807 and Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (AP), who garnered 43,285 votes.
Successive administrations in the state had since 1999 continued to lay structures that could impact its development and growth. However, despite its rising profile as the economic nerve centre of the Southeast region, governance in Anambra State has not been elevated to such a level that could compare with states like Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, due to poor planning of its cities resulting in poor infrastructural network, poor attitude to work by civil servants, rising insecurity and corruption within the corridors of power. With the volume of economic activities that go on in the state on a daily basis, which has revved up its revenue profile above other states in the Southeast, Anambra is expected to be the poster state for governance and development in the Southeast, but that is not the case unfortunately.
For instance, several years after the return of democracy, the state is yet to construct a befitting Government House. The Agu-Awka set up, which was a makeshift facility inherited by former governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju, improved upon by the administration of Mr. Peter Obi and now serves as Government House was literarily abandoned for the eight years that Chief Willie Obiano governed the state. Obiano operated from his village, Aguleri, and the Government Lodge at Amawbia. Other infractions that have threatened the development of Anambra include the non-conduct of local council elections by successive administrations.
The Guardian recalls that during the governorship campaigns, Soludo promised to make the state a highly industrialised one, exuding confidence that youths and women empowerment, quality education, among others, would be ushered in by his administration if voted into power.
He also promised to replicate his performance at the CBN where he left some remarkable legacies after five years of service. He further promised to create a prosperous and livable homeland for people of Anambra, saying no youth born in the state would seek opportunity elsewhere as his administration would create 520,000 jobs and 4,000 young millionaires.
Soludo also pledged to hit the ground running from day one, adding that he would run an open and accountable administration.
Having been sworn into office, residents of the state said the time was set for Soludo to make good his promises.
A civil servant in the state, Mrs. Jane Igwe, told The Guardian that the governor should pursue his vision of industrialising Anambra by first rehabilitating existing roads that are in bad shape and then construct new ones to further open up the state.
“Road construction and rehabilitation is very important because some roads built by previous administrations across the state are in very bad conditions and near impassable. So, I would advise that he look at the architecture of our roads and see how to redesign and develop the existing roads as some of them are not accessible,” she said.
Igwe also urged the new governor to develop some slums like Okpoko and Obodoukwu residential areas.
“He should also move to Ekwulobia and rebuild it. He should look at Anambra airport and explore how to upgrade it to carry jumbo aircraft and how it will benefit us moving agricultural goods in and out of the state. He should also study what Obiano has done on security and improve on it. He should pay attention to youth and women empowerment, and leverage technology in administering the state because development hinges on technology these days,” Igwe added.
Another civil servant, Paul Okeke, who was accosted at the swearing in ceremony, advised the governor to use his network to bring Anambra people in the Diaspora to invest in the state. He stated that investment in industries was critical to the economy of the state.
“Soludo should turn around the revenue generation system in Anambra State because most people divert government revenue to their private pockets,” Okeke said, noting that although it would be difficult to enthrone a full proof system, “the governor should introduce a system that will ensure that those who work in the revenue generating agencies remit at least 80 per cent of what they collect to the government coffer.”
In an open letter to Soludo last week, which he titled ‘Anambra cannot wait’, a resident of the state, Prince Tony Ezeimo, said: “In the build-up to Anambra governorship election 2021, many Ndi Anambra believe that you are the man who will salvage Anambra State from the hands of the prowlers and corrupt cabals. Because of the monumental corruption and administrative rascality Ndi Anambra witnessed under Willie Obiano’s leadership, a lot of lovers of APGA decided to tip the scales in favour of other opposition parties in the state. Many followed other candidates not because they don’t know your capacity but they skeptically thought that Obiano’s ‘agulerilisation’ and privatisation of our common wealth would continue under your watch.
“Despite this skeptical conundrum in the air, preponderant number of Ndi Anambra kept fate with you. Our people believe that there is need to give you an opportunity to replicate in Anambra your excellent performance in the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
Ezeimo further said: “Permit me to remind you that the Anambra State of today is everything our dear state should not be. Everything is broken; there is a need to mend it. It may interest you to know that many Ndi Anambra contributed towards your campaign and electioneering even without your knowledge and many of them are not interested in getting a refund from your government. They did these as an avenue of showcasing their love for Anambra State and most importantly, to identify with the dreams and legacy of the eternal leader of Igbo nation, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, which Obiano’s government has deeply demystified and ridiculously mesmerised. Our people needed a man of vision to pilot the affairs of Anambra State.”
He alleged that “mediocrity and ineptitude was the integral part of the last administration,” adding that the overbearing influence of the wife of the immediate past governor was excessive.
“For whatever reason, he allowed his wife to have absolute control over the party structure and government appointees. Even the legislature was not spared. This unfortunate influence did more harm to Ndi Anambra than good. You must learn from this particular mistake. You must draw a line for the first lady so that those working with you will know peace and give Ndi Anambra their best.
“The worst mistake a leader must not make is surrounding himself with clueless sycophants whose only ambition is telling you what you want to hear (lies) and then fill their pockets with proceeds from both your table and from the coffers of the government. In the past, these guys milked Anambra State dry.”
Ezeimo observed that the inability of the immediate past administration to conduct local council elections has “kept the knees of dear Anambra State on the ground.”
He added: “Using party men without character as transition chairmen and councillors encourages massive corruption and looting. Unfortunately, this has continued to underdevelop our dear state because the government, which ordinarily is supposed to be close to the people, is very far from the people.
“There are different categories of touts and extortionists who parade themselves as government officials, extorting money worth millions of naira from traders, drivers and okada riders. Ndi Anambra cannot wait for you to dismantle the ugly activities of those enemies of the people and then sanitise that sector.”
Ezeimo also stressed the need to fix roads in deplorable conditions in the state. “Our roads are currently the worst in the Southeast. Ndi Anambra cannot wait for you to fix our roads that have become deathtraps. Ndi Anambra cannot wait for you to reinvent and re-examine all those numerous Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) signed by Willie Obiano administration that never saw the light of the day. If these MOUs are not mere charades, Ndi Anambra cannot wait to see their positive effects.
“We cannot wait to see a very pragmatic approach that will effectively straighten our agricultural policies. We believe that Anambra can actually export agricultural produce to the world, not audio exportation as witnessed in the last eight years. We cannot wait to see an industrial revolution that will create jobs for millions of Anambra youths. This must be given the needed attention to dissuade our vibrant youths from indulging in ritual killings, Internet fraud and other criminal activities.
“We cannot wait to see the abandoned projects of the Mr. Peter Obi administration such as Nnewi Mall, Awka Mall and Onitsha water scheme, completed. The completion of such economically viable projects will not only add to the internally generated revenue of the state but also provide employment for hundreds of young Ndi Anambra.
“We cannot wait to see educational reengineering in our school system. Anambra State that was known for taking first position in local and foreign examinations is currently lost in the euphoria of past glories. There is great need to give adequate attention to primary and secondary schools in our state. A lot of our schools are in a terrible state of decay. Typical example is the only community secondary school in my town, Nimo; there are no teachers in the school with dilapidated structures and no access road.
“We cannot wait to see Umu Anambra gain scholarships to study in ivy universities across the world, courtesy of Anambra State government. We want to know the true position of the state’s debt profile. We cannot wait to have you build a state which your children, who are currently living in the United Kingdom, will be proud to call their own, come back home, live and work happily.”
It, however, appears that Soludo is well prepared to confront the challenges at hand head on. In his inaugural address on Thursday, he pledged to “work hard every day never to disappoint.”
“We will seek active collaboration and cooperation with the Federal Government, our neighbouring and other states as well as the international community to provide our state truly people-centred governance. We will consolidate the progress made under our predecessors to continue Anambra’s upward trajectory,” he added.
Soludo, who insisted that there was no need for celebration as he mounted the saddle, noted that the challenges facing the state were overwhelming.
“We will celebrate when security of life and property is guaranteed and law and order restored; every child of schooling age is in school; every school child is receiving the 21st century education for the digital age; everyone, especially children and women can access quality healthcare; the cost of doing business is down to near zero; our roads are tarred and we have an efficient transportation system with no one having to wait in traffic for more than a few minutes; we have access to 24-hour electricity; our streets are clean and green; our cities, communities and markets are planned and cleaned; the many millions of Charlie Nwamgbafors and the vulnerable persons are lifted up to realise their God-given potential; all our pensioners receive their gratuities; workers are paid their leave allowances and contractors are paid; our youths can get jobs and business opportunities; the youth in Okpoko ‘Zone 9’ become global serial entrepreneurs; poverty is near zero and income levels rising,” the new governor said.
Soludo added: “We aim to transit beyond petroleum into the digital world of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and envision Anambra as an industrial technology and leisure/entertainment hub of West Africa. Our detailed plan rests on five key pillars: law and order (homeland peace and security); economic transformation as Nigeria’s next axis of industrial-tech and leisure; competitive and progressive social agenda (education, health, youth, women and vulnerable groups); governance, rule of law and a rebirth of our value system; and aggressively tackling our existential threat posed by the environment—towards a clean, green, planned and sustainable cities, communities and markets.
“For me, this agenda is also personal. I am here to build a society where I would be proud to live in after leaving office. Ndi be anyi, what we propose is that we collectively build a new social and economic order that guarantees and defends economic freedom and reward of private enterprise to secure our future such that any child born in Anambra will have little incentive to rush elsewhere in search of opportunities and anyone persecuted anywhere in the world can return to a happy and prosperous homeland. Such a new order will, of necessity, entail a massive disruptive change and creative destruction, with short-term pains but guaranteed long-term benefits.”
To many observers, the current state of affairs in Anambra State and Soludo’s ascendance to the governorship seat is the case of the proverbial rashes meeting the man with sharp fingernails. But only time would tell if Soludo is a round peg in a round hole.