‘I Want to Die Empty, I Want to Say I Have Given My All’

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Former Governor of the Central Bankl of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo speaks to David-Chyddy Eleke on the recent attack on him by unknown gunmen and on his aspiration to govern ANambra State

Could you please tell us what happened last week Wednesday when there was said to have been an attack on you?

It was quite a sad day and a day of deep reflection. As a Catholic, on Wednesday, we had the Diocesan Chrism Mass, and we followed that up with a scheduled town hall interactive meeting with the youths of Isuofia and it commenced at about 4pm. Being an interactive session, after the introductory session by the youth president, I took the floor to make my own preliminary remarks and that was supposed to be followed by comments, questions and answers.

Several other dignitaries from the town were there. The member representing our constituency in the Anambra House of Assembly, commissioners, former commissioners, former members of parliaments, various dignitaries including many others were there. The hall was packed full with young people and there was enthusiasm everywhere, and just as I was about ending my remarks, I heard gunshots. At first, I thought it was the police that was also joining in the very energized and energetic atmosphere, or maybe the crowd effect that was making them shoot in the air.

When it continued and there was persistent shooting in the air, and people were wailing and screaming outside, then a stampede ensued, and we all stampeded on each other, scrambling and scampering to safety. When it was all done – I think this must have lasted for about 10 to 15 minutes and we returned, when it all quietened out, only for us to realize that, we saw three dead bodies. There were policemen, people very close to me. One had been on and off with me from the Aguata police division; Murtala from Taraba and the two others from Operations, DC Ops office who just joined me the Monday before.

It was such gory sight to behold as they lay in the pool of blood. That was the moment I actually felt the full weight of what happened. I quickly got home, only to realize that they abducted the commissioner when he jumped across the fence, trying to flee for his life. It was quite a moment, and I am still trying to make sense of the whole thing.

The governor called me almost immediately, an ever supportive governor who is also a security Czar himself. He called me immediately and then swung into action with his security team. Few minutes after the Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police, even the DSS, soldiers were all here and they all swung into action and I understand it was breaking news in the country and indeed all over the world, and was carried by all major networks around the world, and my phone was ringing nonstop all through the nights.

I guess I must have received well over aone thousand calls. Thousands of WhatsApp and text messages and tens of thousands from elsewhere, and people called me, the presidency, former presidents, governors, serving governors, bishops, reverends, pastors, traditional rulers from Anambra, the Obi of Onitsha, the Sultan of Sokoto, monarchs from all over the country, members of the National Assembly, captains of industries and the rest. It was an outpouring of solidarity and sympathy from all over the country.

It was unexplainable to me, why anybody will come to such a youth event, where we had over one thousand youths seated to discuss their destinies, which we had an agenda to give them a future; so to speak, and that was what we were there to dialogue, so we can get their own input. Why will anyone want to come in there and perform such kind of dastardly act is to me unexplainable. It is not the Anambra way, however you look at it. It is not even the Nigerian way and should not be the way of anywhere. So, that was the event of Wednesday. For me, the security agencies are still working to unravel the reason for this, and I do not have to prejudge, we are watching the event.

For one who went through such an incident, I know you must have been terrified. How do you feel now, or does the incident of that day come flooding back to your mind?

To be honest with you, not even for a second did I ever feel any sense of threat. Not even a second. I had my comportment and composure all through the travails, because I don’t know where this was coming from. I didn’t panic for one second. Also, I am a person of fate, and I believe strongly that my life is in the hands of God, and nobody can take my life. I mean nobody, no man born of a woman will be able to take it, except it is the will of God. That is why I never panicked for one day. However, the three lives, I mean the aspect of the three police officers who lost their lives is what made me very sad, and I pray for the peaceful repose of their souls. My prayers are also with their families. I saw their family members here today and we tried to assist with whatever we can for their burials and when they come back, we will also see how we can assist their families. Again is the abduction of the commissioner – to what purpose?

All together, as a person I feel a sense of outrage. The sacrifice is too much, but my consolation is that this is Easter period and the sacrifices of our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that came with it. Our prayer is that our Lord Jesus Christ who we are commemorating on this day said a simple prayer on the cross, Lord forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. That remains my simple prayers at this period. We are energized, we are unwavering. I have said that my life is in his hands and no man can take it until the appointed time. I am feeling okay, I am not hurt, not even a scratch, but my heart goes out for the fallen ones and their loved ones and for those guys (policemen) who I have known for a while.

Less than one month ago, you accepted pleas by groups in the state to run for the governorship of Anambra. There have also been insinuations about the reason for that attack, and more so because you are a governorship aspirant, some people think it may be politically motivated. Do you see it from this prism?

The question about political motivation, I do not want to speculate about that yet. The investigation has started and the security agents should be able to unravel all that. But let me make a comment about the part of your question which is alluding the vast demand by the vast majority of Anambra people for me to come and succeed our able working governor, Chief Willie Obiano at a time like this. At a time of global pandemic like this, at a time Nigeria is transiting away from oil economy, post oil economy, at a time of global difficulty all round the world, Anambra people were clamouring for someone with capacity, with knowledge, with experience, so in some sense, I can understand it if some people get a bit desperate, because in terms of what is on ground, the election would be for us to lose. I think there is a ground swell of support for us. As you said, barely about one month ago, I decided to say to the people –’ yes’, it is something I am willing to consider, if my political party the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) will let me fly their flag.

If in a free and fair primaries they ask me to fly their flag, which I am confident will be the case in a free and fair primaries, I will be able to win resoundingly, I will then go on to win the election resoundingly too. So, I can understand if there is some degree of desperation to stop me. But my take is that power belongs to God. Only God can stop us from getting it. It is not in the hands of man, only God can do it, and I believe that the God of Anambra is alive, and he is a God that wants Anambra to continue to grow from layer to layer, so that we can build and consolidate on the gains we have made over the years and the sterling legacies of the current governor, and that way, we will take Anambra to the next level. That is the mission and I don’t think any man can stop it if God has says it will be so, and I am confident that God has said it will be so. That is all I can say.

I am sure you are not unaware of attacks on your aspiration by people from other political parties in the state. One would wonder why they are more interested in your party instead of concentrating on electing a candidate for their own party?

It is not a surprise, that is politics. If you see Ronaldo or Lionel Messi heading to the goal post with the ball, what do you do? If you let him, he is going to score, inevitably. So, what you do is that you attack him, you tackle him and try to get the ball, even quack him and sometime, you have to go even from the back. We have a proverb in Igbo that it is the iroko that stands on the way that gets the machete cut. If you are not a threat, both those from within APGA, both those from the other parties, as your question stated, who should be thinking of how to choose their own candidate, would not bother.

I can only tell you that it is because they will want a weaker candidate from APGA. In their assessment, a Soludo on the ballot will close the door of other political parties in terms of their chances of winning. If only people realize that this is only a contest. Except you don’t want to serve the people, which is what I am out for, but if you want to serve the people, it doesn’t make any sense to show desperation. For me, It is not a do-or-die thing. I have served the world, served Nigeria and I have now come down to my state. I want to die empty, I want to live and say that I have given my all. I just want to say to other political parties, whether you are from any party, the common goal is the continued transformation of the state, and if that is our common goal, they shouldn’t be attacks. It is a contest and not for enemies.

If Soludo emerges as candidate of APGA, let them also emerge from their own political parties and let’s have a fair contest. The people will decide and God Almighty will also crown whoever the people choose. For me, what matters is who the people choose, and I know that the people of the state recognize the overwhelming demand for me by a vast majority of Ndi Anambra for this particular contest. All I say is that, lets come together as Ndi Anambra and build the state. If it is not me chosen by Ndi Anmbra at the end of the day, we support anyone that is choosen. Like I said, I am not desperate. My 100 percent motive is to serve, is to work to develop Anambra State and by implication Nigeria. Anambra I am sure is home to many people. More than 30 percent of the people resident in Anambra are not from Anambra, people all over the country live here. If the goal is transformation, there shouldn’t be desperation.

Back to the Wednesday shooting at your event with the youths, some people believe that the attack may just have followed the trajectory of unknown gunmen hunting down security agents, do you believe this?

I don’t want to speculate on the motive of the people who came on that attack. I don’t want to speculate whether they are the people hunting the police and taking their guns. But I haven’t heard anywhere, where they went ahead to abducted anyone. As it were, this may be the first time when they are going to a meeting, usually, they go to where police are, their stations, roadblocks. But to go to a town hall meeting where over one thousand youths are seated and you open fire, just to be able to attack the police, well the investigation will illuminate all of that. The abduction and the bullets that were riddled on my car, let them piece all those together, I don’t want to speculate.

Five persons have already been arrested in connection with the attack, have the police briefed you about any of their confessions?

You may just be as curious as I am, and I am sure Anambra people are curious, Nigerians are curious and everybody just wants to know the findings of the security agencies, but for me, we don’t want to pre-empt or pre-judge them, let them finish and come out with their result. I have not been briefed on this, and I am not willing to ask for any piecemeal information. Let the security agents do their work.

Do you think the current trend of insecurity could mar the Anambra governorship election which is coming up in November, if it persists?

Only God knows what will happen. However, I can only speak like a human. If history is anything to go by, it is easy to pontificate that the election scheduled for November will hold, except in an odd case of something like logistics problem on the part of INEC or any other such. I can’t imagine the election being stopped by so called security challenges. There will always be challenges, remember in the run up to the 2017 election, there was also the debate as to whether the election would hold or not, in fact it was a big debate.

Some called for the boycott of that election and others said they were going to force it not to hold. If you go back to any other previous election, there is none without such threat. Elections have been held in Boko Haram dominated parts of the country; states that are literarily at war, let alone in this particular case. I am confident that INEC will pull through, they will have the logistics in place, and the security agencies will be alert and do their work. The good news is that Anambra election will be the only election in November, so it is easier to mobilize a show of force and make it come to pass. If my party graciously grants me its flag, I am looking forward to that contest and to resounding victory too.

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If Soludo emerges as candidate of APGA, let them also emerge from their own political parties and let’s have a fair contest. The people will decide and God Almighty will also crown whoever the people choose. For me, what matters is who the people choose, and I know that the people of the state recognize the overwhelming demand for me by a vast majority of Ndi Anambra for this particular contest. All I say is that, lets come together as Ndi Anambra and build the state. If it is not me chosen by Ndi Anmbra at the end of the day, we support anyone that is choosen. Like I said, I am not desperate. My 100 percent motive is to serve, is to work to develop Anambra State and by implication Nigeria. Anambra I am sure is home to many people. More than 30 percent of the people resident in Anambra are not from Anambra, people all over the country live here. If the goal is transformation, there shouldn’t be desperation