Will Soludo be the Moses of Igboland?

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Sunny Igoanugo

I was one of those who agreed that Chukwuma Charles Soludo, had grown beyond being governor of Anambra State. As one of the star-boys of the South East, if not Nigeria, I supported the view that he should rather be gunning to be President.

So, when I heard some people asking, what he is looking for in Anambra, I couldn’t agree more. But beyond this, I also had another personal grudge against him. I wasn’t enamoured of his politics. That I must confess.

Here’s why! I was completely scandalised by his apparent approval of the shenanigan of the crowd in Awka either from the government in power or the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in recent years, as it seemed to me then.

His notorious statement in the wake of the 2017 governorship election that Anambra was not broken and needed no fixing really did it for me. It practically gnawed at my intestine.

Firstly, coming from Anambra I could attest that Soludo’s position was not factual. Anambra was broken on many fronts then and even to a great length, now. On the other hand, having basically providing the media backbone for the formation of APGA, I bore and still bear grudges against those that alienated Chief Chekwas Okorie, the founder of the party. That has not changed. These were enough for me to, at best, be circumspect about Soludo rather than enthusiastic.

Besides, the manner he emerged APGA candidate for the November 6 2021 governorship election after the party switched to its invidious tactics of banning potential threats, was for me a confirmation of my worst fears.

But look at me now taking the front seat as a cheerleader. I’ve already gone full circle. His actions and pronouncements in the last fortnight are the turning point.

Within a few days, I have begun to see signs that Anambra, my state might, just be on the verge of another clean break, in the same manner Chris Ngige and Peter Obi, broke away from the Chinwoke Mbadinuju parlous era.

Soludo’s high-priced academic credentials, have never been the major appeal to me too, because many leaders I know with similar pedigree had failed in the past and are still failing now. We’re currently dealing with one of them in the South East, making waves in the media for his many gaffes. The use to which those credentials are to be put, was, for me the important issue.

You can now see why I find the current vibes coming from Awka, as quite alluring. One, that Soludo was able to gather the 80-man Oby Ezekwesili-led transition committee in such a jiffy is a feat only a man with immense reach and capacity could.
As Woodrow Wilson, former US President, wrote in his book, What is Progress? “The direction is just as important as the impetus of motion.”

This early hand Soludo has shown, looks good. It is a fundamental departure from the current picture in the state. What is more? To think that the eggheads are conducting the task on pro bono basis, also says quite much. Many had wondered from whence Anambra would source the funds to pay them, given their pedigree.

Though I heard the Prof say it that they were paying to do the job, Ezekwesili particularly upped the ante, when she confirmed that she was even going to foot her hotel bills, pay for her food and buy her own water. That is huge.
Imagine what this committee, which parades the very best of the Nigeria’s elite thinkers in all the sectors of the economy and the professions is capable of coming out with. And without pay to boot.

Again, the man of the moment, hits another bulls eye. He has shunned flamboyance for a lean government structure. He has dumped the tag, Your Excellency for his first name, Charles. “Call me Charles, Charlie, Charlie Nwamgbafo, or Mr. Governor,” he says.

Not a few have complained that in recent years of Governor Willie Obiano, Anambra government house and around it had turned into places of obnoxious revelling, uncontrollable binges and other illicit activities, at the expense of the people’s commonwealth.

In fact, you may have heard that the governor-elect is currently at a loggerheads with the powers in Awka over the budget of his inauguration, insisting that it be cut down from the more than N600million to just N20million and that instead of a fanfare at the new International Conference Centre, in Awka, he would prefer to be sworn in inside government house banquet hall. The way to go, you might say.

But that is not the true picture. Hear the correct version from the man himself: “I do not wish any event, dancers or players and all that. I just want to show up for work, like every first workday. Though it is going to be a Friday, which is the weekend, I’m going to work for over eight hours that day. “No ceremony, no event, no party, nothing. Not even 10 Kobo will be spent. So the people who are saying N20million has been budgeted should go and tell us where they will get that money. It is going to be work, work, work, and that is what we’ll epitomise.”

I’m beginning to see a Soludo who would carry his own bag at the airport or his own umbrella in the rain, the exact picture that depicts prudent public officers in other thinking and progressive climes – the exact image I prefer for my governor.

Besides, the an over 3,000 aides appointed for no reason other than politics are to go. Imagine the amount of funds that would be freed from the foregoing and what use a progressive government could put them.

Hear him: “I’ll move from the inauguration venue to his office and from there to the slums in Onitsha and environs particularly Okpoko community where he plans to clean up. Those who would be appointed into the government must be ready to work as there is no time to waste.

“I’m determined to revamp Anambra’s economy and place the state on the global map. I’ll be heading to Okpoko immediately after the inauguration. I’ll put in eight hours of work immediately after the inauguration. Don’t expect fanfare because it won’t take place.”

For those who don’t know, Okpoko, a squalid enclave in Onitsha, the commercial capital of Anambra State, presents an uncanny metaphor of the wealth-poverty contradictions of the state.

It is Anambra’s erstwhile Moroko, formally the shame of Lagos, now Oniru Royal Estate. The estate, sandwiched between Victoria Island and Lekki Phase 1, has become one of the most beautiful places in the same city. Could this be the story of Okpoko?

Then the icing on the cake: “If a Pakistani will give us 24 hours of electricity, I will bring him and make him commissioner for utilities. What the people care about is the services they get and not necessarily who did it. We want to get good results here. What matters is the result. Accountability is a must here.” Okwu agwu! Palava finish!
But here comes the bigger task. Outside fixing Anambra, the larger picture is the mandate the governor-elect has been grappling with since July 2017. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex decision-making body of the Igbo in Nigeria and worldwide had handed him with the job of creating the template for transforming the fortunes of Igboland, by designing a new economic and political development agenda for the people.

This task was laid on the shoulders the ex-CBN boss, who is leading a 100-member Planning and Strategy of a body drawn from the seven states under Ohanaeze’s influence – the five core states of Igboland, plus Delta and Rivers.
Named South East Development Company (SEDECO), the body created by former President General of Ohanaeze, Nnia Nwodo, also has the likes of Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Deputy and Ferdinand Agu, as part of the membership.

But no sooner after, it was beset with lethargy arising from the attitude of the Igbo governors who were supposed to provide it with the financial and political lifelines, achieving very little as a result.

But with Soludo, becoming the governor in a two month’s time, the idea, may soon receive the jolt in the arm it requires to give it life once more.

Imagine that all Igbo states are able to grow one million palm trees in each of the states, yearly within the next five years with a corresponding growth of processing industries for the palm produce both on high, medium and small scale levels, maximise its coal resources for power generation. Part of the mandate given to committee is to design the framework for achieving this.

Other items on the card is to take inventory of all mineral resources and design a carefully scripted plan for engaging the federal government in their exploitation; the development of a refinery for petroleum resources; a paradigm shift to greenhouses methodology for vegetable production using the Netherlands experience as a typology and a deliberate policy for the development of ICT hubs in the states of the region to encourage human capital development.

Soludo and his team were also directed to work on the educational curriculum of the zone that would focus on the development of skills among men and women and recommend appropriate policies to states to improve the educational standards in their schools at all levels and growth of reliable financial institutions for mortgage, small scale business financing and research.

Imagine if, as he did with the Ezekwesili committee, he is able to convince and mobilise his colleagues governors to toe this line and therefrom, provide the wherewithal for the attainment of the agenda. How would Ala Igbo turn out before the expiration of his eight years?

He has already demonstrated his ability to mobilise, meaning that transforming Anambra into a dream Taiwan or Dubai, may not be a tall order after all.

If he adds into the kitty, the integration of Igboland to produce a giant economy, given its immense human and natural resources, what else would prevent the area from joining the elite club of a first world?

Indeed, some people believe Soludo already has his job cut for him. For instance, they say that raising N50trillion from Ndigbo is as easy as sleeping and waking up. It only needs someone who knows what keys to press on the piano to produce a melodious tune.

Incidentally, the Soludo committee was Ohanaeze’s response to the quit notice given to Igbo people by some groups in the North in that year. With the signs of social, political, and economic danger still hanging in the air like the sword of Damocles, many believe that an economically-viable Igboland is the buffer to withstand such a threat. With a self-sufficient Igbo enclave, who needs a Nigerian President?

When ala Igbo becomes an economic super power, who says Nigeria won’t beg them with kolanut and spirits to send them a son for the same redemption? And who is likely to be the one?

Would Soludo, be the Moses to lead Ndigbo out of Egypt? The naysayers are already accusing him of talking too much. But what if he matches action with words? Wouldn’t that divide the red sea and allow free passage of the people? But time will tell.
Igboanugo, a journalist, writes from Lagos