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ANAMBRA SOLUDO IS YOUR IJELE

 
By: Law Mefor  
Published February, 4th, 2010

It was one O. I. C. Ikechukwu who brought in the place of the ‘Ijele’  - the most sort-after masquerade in Igbo land - to drive home the quality change Anambra  state needs in  leadership at the moment. 

In the Igbo culture world masquerades play very significant roles and each has a social value it represents, Ijele being the ultimate for denoting stateliness and elegance. Though its importance has diminished since the advent of Christianity and modernity, what masquerades once beautifully taught can still be easily evoked with nostalgia to convey an equally important message such as the needed change in Anambra. And that is what Ikechukwu tried – rather successfully – to do with the Anambra state election and its people’s search for an ideal leader to help out in ushering in a new lease of life for the inundated state.

Indeed, Anambra state is war-weary and broken with the numerous crises that have been visited on it over the years by its own. In fact, since the creation of the state in 1991 by the IBB regime, it has not benefitted from quality leadership, such as Soludo now promises. It has posted a catalogue of firsts in negativity – always in the news and for the wrong reasons since the return of the country to democracy. For example, Anambra is the only state in the country that its governor was kidnapped and forced to resign, then reinstated by a presidential order. Also, it is the only state where the government house and other government buildings were razed in broad day light under the watch of the police and nobody has ever been brought to book!

At the center of both incidents was Dr. Chris Ngige whose self-confessed godfather that took him to a shrine to swear a mortgage oath, was believed to be extracting his pound of flesh by engineering both episodes. Ngige is today, vigorously campaigning to become governor of the state once more. Many wonder how he would fare this time around with his erstwhile unforgiving mentor still lurking around as a nemesis and waiting for the right time to reignite his  pursuit of the demand  Ngige accepted at the infamous Ogwugwu Akpu Okija shrine to become governor. 

The potent danger of Ngige-godfather rumba is so manifest that it makes his return as governor prone to insalubrious crisis. This fear is germane, given the likelihood that Ngige will still refuse to honour the evil agreement with his godfather. Even if he now chooses to honour the said malevolent agreement, it is still a problem to the state and in such devil’s alternative situation, crisis and more unchallenged arson under Ngige as governor is inevitably in the offing.

Many people also claim Ngige dealt with godfatherism in Anambra state but that is far from the truth. For refusing to sign and implement the Ikeazor Report on the burning down of Anambra State, Ngige  unwittingly legitimized and glamorized such crimes. It firmed up the foundation of the culture of impunity and rascality in the state. Kidnapping soon followed, replacing armed robbery. It has witnessed a lull of late but it is not completely gone and can witness a resurgence, as armed robbery is now on the rebound. Many discerning Anambrarians therefore believe the return of Ngige, an otherwise good performer, is a recipe for disaster and therefore very unlikely to give the state the fresh air and development it now craves for since his nemesis won’t let him.

The next, Andy Ubah, is no doubt a strong contender in the race. He was there before as governor, albeit for 17 days. His was the briefest ever and it really gave him no chance to prove himself. And as an assistant/adviser to Obasanjo as president, he did nothing to directly come to the Anambra people’s focus. Anambra people therefore do not quite know him, except in the context and light of the notoriety the Ubah family has cut through the rascally conduct of the younger brother. This may be more the reason Anambra people would still prefer to keep a safe distance.

Andy, an otherwise pristine gentleman and with some ambitious ideas for the state, is therefore perceived as part of whatever sad past haunting the state. In realization of this and its unwholesomeness, his campaign office (via Emeka Etiaba) had to issue a statement to the effect that he was not behind the burning down of Anambra state. Whereas this may be true, it is also true that till today, he has not condemned that dastardly act, as a major stakeholder in the state. Or, is his deafening silence not lending credence to the evil act, especially as his family was indicted by the unsigned Ikeazor Report?

Among the elite too, Andy is also perceived as quite indistinct and seeking the office of governor for its own sake. He has no articulated concrete programmes as such and makes statements about his plans as a governor on the spur of the moment and on the whim. For this, most people cannot pin down what plans he has for the state, the way they would Soludo for his African Dubai-Taiwan vision, Obi for continuity, and Ngige for infrastructure, especially road, and security. For not being on ground fully and for lack of a clarion message that rings the bell loud enough, his chances at the polls are weak. However, his closeness to Professor Maurice Iwuh, the Chairman of INEC, is said to be capable of springing surprises but with the PDP controlling the center, it will be pretty difficult for Iwu to play his usual monkey game, even if he wants to.

Next, though without a clear focus for the development of the state and with multiple master plans just arriving, Peter Obi is exploiting his incumbency to the fullest. He also drags the Ikemba Nnewi Chief Emeka  Odimegwu-Ojukwu, through  his campaigns where the latter is made to plead with the people to return Obi as his last wish as the Biafran(Igbo) leader. It is significant to note that Ojukwu is flying around in a helicopter Obi purchased with taxpayers money for Obi’s reelection purpose, whereas workers like those of protesting Water Board are not paid for months.

But the problem with the electoral value of Ojukwu is that it has seriously waned and petered into insignificance long ago, even though the people’s love  for him hasn’t. You see this kind of reversal between father and son, where the latter, for good reasons, no longer takes the father’s counsel but still retains his respect and love for him (the dad). Age and changing times are usually the reason for this role inversion, and it is the same with the Igbos and Ojukwu. Obi, for still leaning on Ojukwu without seeing he can no longer help him, carves an image of a desperado.

Obi’s undoing is lack of focus in the area of policy articulation and implementation. He has done quite some remarkable things though, but their priority and timeliness remain questionable. He has quite some following also, despite just waking up on some serious developmental issues. He is just flagging off the construction of some major industries and vital road projects, days to the exit date of his government. Such action in itself is an admission of failure and clear manifestation of poor planning. Yet, like  Ngige, Obi also has the potential to win this poll  and both can only be taken too lightly by their opponents to their own peril.

Next, Uche Ekwunife, is the only serious female candidate and has added so much feminine touch to the electioneering. She is indeed a potential winner and has done well for herself in the campaigns. If this election will be won on the basis of campaign, Ekwunife comes within the first 3. But there are other issues that are proving by the day to be much more seminal, which the amiable lady does not have a firm grip of.

Though the founder and chairman board of trustees of the PPA, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu visited Anambra to campaign for her, which was a great boost, it did little to improve her standing and rating. In fact, the formidability of her male counterparts is her major impediment. She has not also exploited the ‘women protest factor’ well and has failed to get the mainstream women groups of Anambra state such as the Catholic Women Organization(CWO) and those of other churches and other women CBOs to back and campaign for her  candidacy, as a necessary gender (paradigm) shift inevitably needed now. She instead, chose positional political warfare with gladiators like Soludo, Ngige, Ubah and Obi, which she cannot win as things stand. It will take more than a miracle to see her in Awka government house as Her Excellency. Her strategy was dead wrong from birth, for failing to emphasize the women factor and getting block support from the fold.

Now, the REAL DEAL - Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo - the PDP candidate at the February polls. They call him the Soludo Solution or simply the Solution. His aspiration truly represents a clean break from the ugly past; a much needed breathe of fresh air.

Instructively, the opposition Soludo suffered initially after his emergence has little or nothing to do with himself but his party and the process that yielded him as the party’s flag bearer. But happily, the issue of his alleged imposition by the party that drew much snide comments and acrimony has finally been laid to rest by the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja, and the factions that broke away, mainly the gubernatorial aspirants, are now returning to the fold in droves with their armies of supporters. Roiled emotions are now calmed and the PDP camp swelling again by the day with heavyweights (and masses alike) – all needed to sway the election to Soludo’s favour with their opinion leadership and resources.

Several candidates in the election have also stepped down for Soludo and joined his campaign. APGA members in Onitsha North and South LGAs went to a ludicrous extent of burning their party flags at the PDP round-off rally at Onitsha on January 30, and joined the PDP and its candidate, Soludo.

Inarguably, PDP has fielded a formidable and most sellable candidate in the person of Professor C. C. Soludo. He is the most qualified amongst the candidates in terms of academic and public service attainments. He is a politician’s dream of being an intellectual and an intellectual’s dream of being a politician. He has the most ambitious programme that makes a square facing to the state’s endemic sociopolitical and economic development problems. He has reconciled himself to the service and change that are both possible and necessary; reconciled to a service that can change the fortune of his people and give hope to present and future generations.  

Soludo has articulated how the state can be moved sustainably to the next level in the big idea he calls The African Dubai-Taiwan (AD-T). Some dismiss this as unattainable but the proponent already sees it as finished. And really, it is practically impossible to say for certain what is impossible; because today’s incredible realities were only yesterday, mere dreams, just like Soludo is now dreaming of a new Anambra state and its amazing future! He wants the Main Market to be remodeled and  Onitsha rebuilt into a mega city, with all accompaniments such as Airport, Dry Port, Independent Power Plants supplying the whole State uninterruptedly, fully serviced Industrial Center for medium and small scale enterprises ( generating half a million jobs in 4 years), Water Schemes to bring back water to the taps, basic compulsory Education, Olympic Stadium and a refocusing on Sports, Urban Renewal and Upgrading, among his other proposed projects and programmes.

With his background as a development economist and given the level of courage and vision he brought to his national and international assignments, especially at the Central Bank of Nigeria, where he turned the nation’s struggling banks into trillionnaire institutions, there is no doubt that he can deliver on such promised projects and programme.

What is more, apart from his unique vision for the state, Soludo does not believe Anambra state should continue in opposition politics, saying he couldn’t have run for governorship on another platform other than the PDP because it controls the federal government. He took this premium position since 1983, when Ojukwu proved why Igbos could not survive in opposition to join the NPN instead of the NPP where Zik and other Igbo leaders held sway. He believes Anambra cannot reach its full potentials without express cooperation of the federal govt. and the international community where much of the concessions and funds (through Partnerships/Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) will be coming from.

Soludo is every inch the stuff the Ijele is made of as a first-class brain, which has stroked off everything he has touched. He earned a distinction grade at the secondary school; a B.Sc. (First Class Honours) (Economics); an M.Sc. and a PhD (Economics) winning Departmental, Faculty and University awards as best graduating student at the University of Nigeria. He had cumulative four years of post-doctoral training and research in some of the world’s best institutions, including the Brookings Institution, Washington, DC; University of Oxford, UK; University of Warwick, UK; Cambridge University as Smuts scholar; UN Economic Commission for Africa; the IMF Research Department, etc. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (FCIB); Fellow of the Nigerian Economic Society (FNES), and awarded Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) (Honoris Causa) from three Universities.  

He was visiting Associate Professor at Swarthmore College, USA, and promoted Professor of Economics at the age of 38 (University of Nigeria, Nsukka). He lived and worked in Ethiopia, U.K., and the USA and travelled to 45 other countries before joining Government in 2003. As consultant to 18 international organizations (including the World Bank, IMF, OECD Paris, European Union, African Union, USAID, UK-DFID, ADB, IBM Consulting, USA; IDRC Canada; Chemonics International, USA;  United Nations, UNIDO, ECOWAS, COMESA, CODESRIA, UNCTAD; AERC Nairobi) he garnered wide-ranging experiences and knowledge. He has published over 80 scholarly publications, 15 books, and over 250 monographs, conference papers and public lectures.

At the Federal Government (2003 – 2009), he held five substantive positions: Chief Economic Adviser to the President; Deputy Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Planning Commission (of ministerial rank by law); Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; Chairman, Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPM), Plc; Founder and Chairman, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), as well as membership of more than 25 technical/policy committees. He singlehandedly drafted the Obasanjo government’s reform agenda (National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, NEEDS) that gave that administration some human face; massively restructured nonperforming government institutions; rebuilt the CBN and NSPM; revolutionalized the Nigerian banking/financial system; set up a new international financial institution, AFC, and helped to steer the Nigerian economy away from the global financial crisis. For these accomplishments, he has been decorated with scores of awards, including being awarded the African and Global Central Bank Governor of the year, 2006 by the Banker (Financial Times). In recognition of accomplished performance, the Federal Government conferred on him, the third highest national honour (Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR).

Soludo served as a member of the United Nations Commission of Experts on the Global Economic and Financial Crisis. Also, he served as a member of the International Advisory Group for the UK- DFID, and is still a member of the 7- man Chief Economist Advisory Council of the World Bank.  Immediately after completing his tenure of office as Governor of the Central Bank,  he was offered three international appointments. To help Anambra state out of the woods, he took up none.

With the above credentials and just pushing 50, Soludo is an Ijele per excellence and in this guber race, towers far above the rest. Many say he is overqualified to be a state governor. But it is not quite correct. No one, like the okro tree, ever overgrows his own people, and everyone in every given clime or community, has a time he is called upon to special service. For example, Professor Chinua Achebe was said to have served as president-general of the Ogidi Union at a time, an association of his townspeople, and Zik was once the president-general of Igbo Union just before Z. C. Obi took over in the same capacity – all at difficult times where personalities with special gifts and reputations, were required by  their people to impose peace, stability and development, just like Anambra now direly needs.

In the same token, even professors have been called back into the army as reserves to help their countries fight to survive. For a fact, Anambra state now needs the best it can afford for now to rescue it both from gross underdevelopment and her sociopolitical life now down in the dumps, which has of late, made it a butt of biting jest in  the Nigerian nation.

For Soludo, that time for special service to his people is now and he understands it, for  he said in his mission statement: “Whether I will be the Moses or Joshua is immaterial to me. The important thing is that we must begin the journey, and someone must sacrifice to lead the way. In the end, if we fail, I will still be a much fulfilled person. I can then sleep in good conscience and satisfaction that I did not abdicate responsibility or refuse a call to serve my people. I will not feel guilty for failing to volunteer my services. I will then happily and boldly tell my Creator on the last day that I tried my best to make the society better than I met it!”

Indeed, in the complete Igbo sense, Soludo has shown the stuff the Ijele is made of. If Dubai, which was swathes of desert few years ago, can be turned into a development center and confluence of world commerce, then Soludo’s dream to bring Anambra into that category is just an idea whose time has come.

If he can dream it, then he can accomplish it, with support. So, of fact, Anambra, Soludo is your Ijele. The State has waited for this moment and cannot afford to miss the chance of a life time by letting the opportunity to have the Soludo Solution slip away. It has to ensure a clean break with its sad past by following the man that guarantees a safe future for its people.


Law Mefor, Publisher of Legist Int’l mag.,  public affairs analyst, Anambrarian and PDP member, writes from Abuja, Nigeria ; e-mail:lawmefor@ yahoo.com; tel.:234- 803-787-2893



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