Much Ado About Soludo’s N10m Donation to Anambra Covid-19 Account

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David-Chyddy Eleke writes a donation of N10 million by former Central Bank Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo to the Anambra State COVID-19 account, has generated a new round round of controversy

Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo was not the first to donate to the newly created COVID-19 account launched by the Anambra State Government to fight the pandemic in the state. Before him, the MD of MP Infrastructure, Dr. Clem Nwogbo, UBA, Chief Victor Umeh and others made varrying donations. Soludo donated N10 million to the account.

Announcing the donation, Soludo also pledged to mobilize his friends locally and internationally to donate needed medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facial masks, protective clothes for care givers etc. A by the SSG on Friday night quoted Soludo as saying, “I will mobilize my friends within Nigeria and outside the country to donate to ensure we prosecute this task.”

The Secretary to Anambra state Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu who received the donation thanked Professor Soludo for his kind gesture. He said the gesture would help the state to effectively combat COVID-19 in the state, equip existing medical facilities with state of the art equipment to fight the disease in the case it penetrates the state.

That singular gesture was however brought to disrepute and mired in controversy when Ikechukwu Onyia, a media aide to a Governorship aspirant in the state, Hon Chris Azubogu called to question Soludo’s donation, asking him to account for donations made to him in 2008 by individuals and organisations to build a world class medical facility in memory of his late mother, Madam Mgbafor Soludo in Isuofia, Aguata Local Government Area.

Part of Onyia’s piece on the matter read, “In 2008, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, the then Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, assembled high profile individuals and corporate organisations for the purpose of celebrating his late mother, Mgbafor Soludo who died in 1968 and also raising fund to build an nternationally rated hospital in the memory of the late mother, Mgbafor Soludo. During the fund raising, banks donated about N100 million each, governors and so many high profile individuals also donated.

“Soludo raked in about N2billion for a Mother and Child Hospital which was to be built at Isuofia. On 26th December, 2008, Soludo again moved high profile individuals to his village for a memorial church service and foundation laying ceremony for the hospital, officiated by the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Bishop Rt Rev, Paulinus Ezeokafor at St Theresa Catholic Church, Isuofia. According to Soludo that day ( 26th December, 2008), the Hospital was a way of paying back his mother and in fulfillment of her wish for improved healthcare services, which she never had the privilege to enjoy … the hospital was also meant to support the Governor Obi’s efforts in that sector,” Soludo said.

“Twelve years after raising this fund for the international standard hospital in Isuofia, Soludo could not produce this hospital. Imagine a world class hospital built with about N2billion in 2009 and the impact it will have today as we get battle-ready to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, our dear Soludo has donated N10million for fight against COVID-19 pandemic in Anambra State and also promised to mobilize friends to also donate. I thank Soludo for doing that, but the question remains, are we building a society where there is no consquencies for bad behaviour/fraud and I believe that we should stand up and question actions/inactions of public office holders if we must build a society that can take care of itself,” Onyia queried.

Reacting to the allegation, Prof Soludo, speaking through his publicist, Joe Anatune denied receiving N2billion donation from organisations and individuals. He confirmed however that he had raised funds, but regretted that most of the pledges were never redeemed, and that despite the setback, work was still ongoing at the site of the project.

Part of Soludo’s defence read, “Opposition politicians are unhappy about the cheers Soludo received from Anambra people after his donation. They don’t want Gov Obiano’s initiative on COVID-19 to succeed and are afraid that Soludo’s donation and appeal could spur greater response by Ndi Anambra. They decided to try to change the narrative and momentum.

“In December 2008, at the memorial service of his late mother, Soludo announced a project to construct a diagnostics hospital plus a nursing school, in honour of his late mum who died during the civil war probably due to poor medical services. Prof. Soludo announced that the project was estimated to cost N2 billion then. Several people in attendance made pledges, including a prominent Anambra politician who pledged to fund the construction of the nursing school building, and a company pledged to construct the diagnostics building.

“The fact is that as at today, 98% of those pledges, still remain what they were, pledges. We challenge Ikechukwu Onyia and his sponsors to name the person(s) or corporates that “gave Soludo N2 billion within one week”. As a responsible public servant who values his integrity, Prof. Soludo did not use his office as CBN Governor to start soliciting for fund. He left those who made pledges to their conscience and to redeem at their own convenience. We all remember the unprecedented global financial and economic crisis of 2008/2009 and the hardships faced by many individuals, companies and even banks at that time. Since Soludo left office later in 2009, he has repeatedly reminded those who pledged and most of them have continued to indicate “commitment to redeem the pledge”, but yet to do so.

“But in spite of the disappointments, a magnificent 120-bed hospital building, together with a doctors quarters building are standing at the hospital site, undergoing various stages of finishing. After waiting for years for those pledges to be redeemed, Prof. Soludo has used his wide networks and contacts to mobilize resources to embark on a hospital complex much bigger in scope than the original concept – for the benefit of Ndi Anambra and Nigeria. The hospital is to be managed by the church, and expected to possibly become a teaching hospital of one of the new universities. According to Prof. Soludo, during the official commissioning of the hospital, the actual contributors will be formally recognized.”

Soludo described the allegations against him by Onyia as highly libelous, and demanded an apology for it. The allegation however is not unconnected to Soludo’s ambition to become the next governor of Anambra State, a project that is gathering momentum, and also said to have attracted the endorsement of very influential individuals in the state, including the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, on whose political party -All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Soludo hopes to actualize his ambition.

Checks has also shown that the said hospital has reached 85 percent completion in structure, and that efforts was still on to ensure completion. A source said that upon completion, the hospital would be managed by the Catholic Diocese of Awka, that also intends to turn it into the teaching hospital of its yet-to-takeoff Peter University, Achina.

The dust raised by the donation and allegation that followed has also attracted the attention of the Anambra State Government, that condemned it, saying that those playing politics at a time when a life and death situation stared the people in the face are nothing but mass murderers.

A release by the state commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba said, “Those who are hell bent on politicizing a pandemic which puts the lives of millions of our people at grave risk are no different from those who commit mass murder and genocide.” He accused the politicians of refusing to contribute to the coffers of the state government or the Federal Government’s in the fight against the contagion, but attempt to demonize those who donate to the campaign.

“All Nigerians are united in the fight against COVID-19, the worst viral attack humankind has faced in 100 years, the only exception being a handful of politicians in Anambra State who are driven solely by their private interests in the 2021 gubernatorial election which they see as an opportunity to corner our commonwealth and play the role of godfathers. This is sheer hypocrisy, worse than the type exhibited by the Pharisees in the time of Jesus Christ.”

The Commissioner accused the politicians of working directly against the interests of the state, saying, “When Governor Willie Obiano called on President Muhammadu Buhari to grant our state one billion naira after giving the Lagos State government five billion naira to assist it in the fight against the pandemic, the politicians began to openly condemn it. It is unfathomable that politicians from our state should be against Anambra receiving its own share from the national purse.”

Mr. Adinuba revealed that the politicians have for the past two weeks been sponsoring some internet writers to publish that Onitsha has been overwhelmed by the coronavirus, whereas Anambra State has not recorded an index case, despite the peripatetic nature of the people which sees them in all parts of the world. He added that the politicians have even gone to churches to lobby preachers to announce that as many as 15 cases in Onitsha have been confirmed to be afflicted by the disease, he added. He admonished politicians not to politicize the pandemic in the state, but to join hands to fight it.

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That singular gesture was however brought to disrepute and mired in controversy when Ikechukwu Onyia, a media aide to a Governorship aspirant in the state, Hon Chris Azubogu called to question Soludo’s donation, asking him to account for donations made to him in 2008 by individuals and organisations to build a world class medical facility in memory of his late mother, Madam Mgbafor Soludo in Isuofia, Aguata Local Government Area.