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SOLUDO AND LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA

 
By: Law Mefor  
Published January, 25th, 2010

“What I offer you is a new world, a new Anambra in the 21st century; my vision is to put Anambra on the world map”
1 Cee Cee Soludo

Soludo stoically states he wouldn’t aspire to become the governor of Anambra State if the allure is collecting federation account and tarring a couple of roads and building a few more health centres. He is looking at the horizon and clearly sees a great hope and opportunities that will mark a fresh beginning for a highbred Anambra state.

We can then ask: what exactly is Soludo’s new vision for Anambra State and how desirable is it at the moment?

At the debate organized by the Nigerian Medical Association Anambra State Chapter, for the candidates in the state’s governorship election, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo reiterated that what he offers the people of Anambra state is brand new Anambra state. In one crisp statement which got the audience thinking he captured his whole dream for the state. “What I offer you is a new world, a new Anambra in the 21st century; my vision is to put Anambra on the world map”.

What enticed Soludo into taking up the challenge of the change Anambra state needs at the moment can be likened to the story, LOVE IN THE TIME CHOLERA. A beautiful story that has captivated the minds and hearts of many since it was released in 1985. The book by a Colombian Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez is so good it had to be adapted to the big screen.

A lead character in the novel, Urbino, is a doctor in medicine devoted to science, modernity and order and progress. He is committed to the eradication of cholera and to the promotion of public good. He is a rational man whose life is organized precisely and who values the importance and reputation of a decent society to the utmost. Urbino is a herald of progress and modernization but foregoes all that for love even in tempestuous times.

Like Urbino, Soludo had enough reasons to stay away from our life so impoverished, a life of strife and sorrow. As a world citizen, he could easily stay way anywhere in the world and enjoy the great name, which his rare competence and national and international roles have secured for him. We can recall the world had, at a point, looked in his direction for succor when the global economic meltdown threatened the human race. Thus, he became one of the 10 men the UN appointed into an expert committee to design policies to wedge the collapse of the global economy.

Every Anambrarian should be proud to be associated with a rare gem like him, and to come from the same stock, to me, is something to be really proud and boastful about.

A man of immense vision and courage, as the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria he came up with the consolidation of banks policy that turned the ailing Nigerian banks into trillionnaire institutions that preempted their collapse and shielded them from the dire consequences of global economic meltdown. Even in the US many big banks failed as the meltdown took its toll, but none, up till today, is distressed in Nigeria.

UN, recognizing Soludo’s expertise, has kept beckoning him to come over to the world and avail it of his rare competence. He, instead, chose to look in the direction of his littered people, Anambra State. A people betrayed by leadership and by its conspiratorial and machiavellian elite. He felt his state, in such a grim strait, was in greater need of his attention.

Over the years, in fact since the creation of the state in 1991, it has never enjoyed purposeful and visionary leadership. Its successive governments have treated the place as a conduit pipe for siphoning money and governance ever since, has necessarily remained an ad-hoc arrangement. Yes, since there is no subsisting master plan for the State, governance can only be done as an ad-hoc measure. Where there is no plan for a place, development can only be erratic and tentative, and to the whim of the leaders. This approach is contrary to the fact that development of a place as complex as a state can only be attained through deliberately planned and staged growth, made possible also only by shrewd and visionary leadership.

Peter Obi recently launched three separate master plans for Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka, which are in themselves nothing but further disarticulations of the State’s integrated one city state hope. In fact, the 3 master plans are separate documents and unrelated to each other and other parts of the state.
It is not clear why Ngige and Peter Obi abandoned the integrated master plan Mbadinuju developed for the entire state. Good governance ought to be a continuum and successive governments should only improve upon what government before it has done and not lay them to waste.

As a concomitant, the state has remained generally directionless and insecure, and the Anambra people carrying on as if without government. Yes, our people are now agonizing and organizing development at community level, falling back on the self-help option the Igbo stock are well known for. The longstanding neglect has culminated in aberrant behaviours and occurrences such as kidnapping and armed robbery and worse things, producing the odium that makes us a people without political and social savvy, the story of savage.

The state has been adrift and government of the day, like others before it, has remained, at best, palliative. For where things are today, Anambra State can now only be salvaged at a higher level of visioning, planning, economy articulation and deft implementations. These are not possible without a higher level of leadership such as offered by Chukwuma Soludo.

A closer look at Soludo and his higher order programmes as governor shows he sees Anambra as just a shadow of what it ought to be and now says the state should not be left in the hands of those who have misgoverned it over the years and treated the place as an extension of their private business concerns by diverting the funds meant for development in the state to personal end. In fact, Anambra state’s resources have practically been shared by political jobbers who call themselves godfathers of those they helped to power.

The end result of this government-by-settlement, predictably, has been a devastated Anambra state. To continue the rape on the state, political wars are now openly waged by private armies of notorious politicians, who have made the place so unsafe, forcing every of the 177 communities in the state to organize its own security through vigilante services. Guns are everywhere in the state which aid and abate armed robbery even by schoolchildren.

As a consequence of the endemic misrule by the successive visionless leadership in the state, there has been a growing exodus of Anambra traders from Onitsha to Asaba, and workers from Awka to Enugu, where their disposable incomes made in the state are spent. Indeed money made in the state, in a kind of capital flight, filters out because there is basically no secure and helpful environment for businessmen, citizens and investors alike, to live, relax and enjoy life within.

For Soludo to venture into it is indeed evocative of love in the time cholera; and he surely knows wading through such murkiness successfully to free his people and jumpstart super-ordinate development won’t be a tea party. He has been bashed by even itinerant politicians who feel their source of livelihood through political jobbing is threatened, and the ignoramuses who keep talking about PDP imposing him.

But Soludo, an experienced public administrator, accomplished intellectual and consummate politician, is taking it all in his stride; he has borne the abuses and misinterpretations of his actual motive with uncomplaining fortitude. Yes, the roughshod has been coming in torrents straight from the political turncoats that have wrecked the state for their belly and still seek to maintain their strangleholds, majority of whom have no second business address except being professional politicians. They tell whoever cares to listen that “those who work in the temple feed from the Alter”. That is the farthest their philosophy carries them. As long as the future and development are concerned they remain bereft of ideas if not outright daft.

Soludo believes it is time the drift was arrested, and sanity, stability and super-ordinate devolvement imposed. He is looking at completely new Anambra state where the fullness of the state potential and its growth engine are unleashed and put at the proposal of the southeast, the nation and the world.

He notes that well over 60 % of Anambra population live in urban and semi urban decay and massive slums. This of cause has been a culmination of a long absence of urban renewal and slum upgrading programmes to meet the demands of modernity, population explosion and urban pull. Thus, in Onitsha, Nnewi and indeed in the other emerging urban centers in the state, what you see are squalors of worst kinds in the midst of affluence.

The urban centers in the state are places where successful businessmen and women and the rest residents are condemned to harsh, subhuman existence – chaotic traffic, filthy environment, lack of electricity, no pipe borne water, no decent schools for children and all that. Truly, all the reminiscences of Fela’s ‘suffering and smiling’ are what make the state; a man is in his jeep without road to his house or in his 4 decking without electricity or ventilation as is the case in the unplanned areas like Nkpor or Onitsha.

Soludo correctly diagnosed that, because these decays and slums are only growing in the absence of renewal and upgrading, the value of the landed properties in these state’s major cities have depreciated greatly. He notes that the over 50,000 houses in Onitsha alone have their market value at less than 20% of their book value, and cannot translate to assets for collaterals for bank loans. Consequently, Anambra borrows barely 20% of what it is worth in the banks. But gratifyingly, Soludo says it is very possible to quadruple the market value of the landed properties in our cities by changing life and business patterns in the State, and that way, unleash a growth engine.

To bring about a new dawn - the new Anambra state - Soludo says the first step is rebuilding and remodeling Onitsha into a mega city with full accompaniments such as Independent Power, Cargo Airport and dredged River Niger, Second Niger bridge and lots more.

With Anambra state as one city state in mind, Soludo wants the development of the adjunct urban and semi urban centers namely Awka, Nnewi, Ekwulobia urban, Otuocha, and Ihiala to come side-by-side as complementarities with Onitsha.

He, therefore, looks forward to a full implementation of an integrated master plan for the state (as a One City State), following it through and at the same time, carrying out massive urban renewal and rehabilitation.
He also believes there are other intrinsic values of human existence that must be incorporated like being sensitive to nature while developing and beautifying the state. This means in staging development and growing Anambra state into the first model, international city in Nigeria after Abuja (what Soludo envisages as ‘the African Dubai – Taiwan’) efforts at retaining natural landscapes where possible must be made , in order to ensure a clean , sustainable environment in sync with global protocols.

He wants our markets to have modern facilities such as car parks, schools, hospitals and so on. And there must be public parks and recreational grounds for our children and for the relaxation of the adult population after a day’s hard toil done usually in broiling sun. For now, our people relax by having a binge of beer or palm wine over pots of Isiewu, where one man can loudly boast of capacity from half a carton to over one, over one whole isiewu to him alone! The health implication of this mode of relaxation is well known to the informed minds but lost on the majority of our people.

Soludo wants to make potable water come through our taps again (it is difficult to remember when one saw or drank tap water anywhere in Anambra state). He says this is very possible by pursuing seriously Greater Water Schemes in parts of the state. He wants to see our urban filth and waste go away through better-articulated environmental sanitation programmes and sewage disposal systems. In modern cities, waste is wealth when converted into energy and fertilizer. Soludo says he cannot understand why governance of the state has never thought along the same path.

He is indeed a breath of fresh air – a radical departure from our off-putting past that has made our state and its people butt of biting jest in a nation where they were originally–and still should be - envied champion.

(The analysis of the great transformation that awaits Anambra State under Soludo as governor will be continued)



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