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Metuh: Soludo’s Security Strategy Has Produced Impressive Results
A Chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in Anambra State, Pascal Metuh, in this interview with Kingsley Nwezeh speaks on Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s approach to governance, security and economy, the recent flood disaster and erosion menace in the state, among other issues.
You contested election to represent Idemili North and South Federal Constituency of Anambra State in the House of Representatives under the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). What was your experience like?
My experience is very typical of what is expected of elections in Nigeria with its ups and downs. However, a few occurrences was a bit shocking and this I believe is because I was now experiencing it as an actor and participant in the election itself.
My hope in the average Igbo/Idemili person and Nigeria as a whole was kind of rekindled because the process afforded me the opportunity to once again have very close contact with the electorate and when I say this, I mean the real community people, people who are against all odds still committed to justice and fairness as well as doing things the right way.
On the other hand, I also saw firsthand the fickleness of human nature especially when forced by some subliminal factors such as economic conditions beyond our control, it becomes very clear that people ignorantly could sell the future of entire generation for a mussel of bread.
This is very evident in cases of vote buying during the delegate/primary elections in which I participated as a contestant.
During that election, did you notice any area that required reforms in political party primaries?
On the issue of areas where I think that reforms will be needed in our party primary election process, I am very glad you asked this question because I have had the opportunity to raise same issue at many forums and meetings of key APGA party stakeholders with regards to this very important and sensitive issue.
I want to state here that there are many factors militating against the quality of primary elections conducted by most political parties in Nigeria, not only in APGA but in all the other political parties in Nigeria. If truly the aim of conducting primary elections is to enable the electorate choose the most qualified, suitable and most acceptable candidate to represent various constituencies in general elections, then care must be taking to ensure that the process of leadership recruitment which in our case appears more important than the election itself. We hope to someday be in the position to conduct primary elections devoid of corruption and undue influence of monetary inducement on delegates.
Considering the fact that in most cases the number of persons selected as delegates does not represent up to one percent of total population of the constituency in question, it now becomes very necessary that they are selected under the most transparent process which is usually not the case. What we see is different candidates jostling for their own delegate lists to be adopted by party leadership and then imposed on the rest.
This system lends itself easily to shoddy practices which actually taints the process and produces disaffection and rancor among candidates, who were out bided or out maneuvered.
These are contestants, who should have naturally closed ranks with whoever emerged the winner and work with him or her for the success of the party ticket in the election proper. However, this is not always the case as we see the winner and his fellow contestants wasting so much time and energy in court as result of a faulty process of selection.
For example, Idemili North and South Federal Constituency has a population of nearly a million people with over 250,000 registered voters (INEC November,2021), and the last primary election for Federal House of Representatives in which I was a contestant; my party had only about 72-member delegates to elect who represents up to a million people in the house.
I consider this not very balanced and fair and this is the reason it will be easy for a few money bag politicians to pocket the delegates and buy them over, now you have 72 people who decided for the rest most likely based on their own intestinal considerations.
This is even made more possible by the prevailing economic condition in the country. This is also replicated in both PDP and APC during the last presidential primaries where the amount of dollars shared by each candidate determined who will be winner and who will be loser.
But lately we are glad a conversation is ongoing, many party faithful in the leadership cadre of our great party are beginning to see this as real challenge to achieving a more democratic and fair process with regards to conduct of primary elections.
To this end, we have advocated for a change in the mode of conducting primary elections from delegate system to a system that we refer commonly to as, direct congress. This is a system where registered party members are verified in their wards, and primaries conducted at the ward level where each party member queues up to vote preferred candidate using option A4 which we believe will bring more credibility, less corruption and influence of money and most importantly, more cooperation and collaboration among contestants who will most likely accept the result of primaries without resorting to court cases thereby increasing the chances of our party to win general elections.
As a member of APGA, you are aware of the prevalent insecurity in the state (Anambra). What strategy do you suggest the Prof Soludo-led government should adopt to contain the situation?
First of all, I will begin by commending Governor Soludo for providing very strong leadership in this very critical sector of our state by leading from the front. As we all know, the governor inherited an already deteriorating security situation when he assumed duties as governor with little or no fund left for him to start off but the governor not known for giving excuses immediately assembled a well-motivated team of security experts and advisers drawn from the ranks of senior ex-service men from Anambra State and today they have managed to produce impressive results within a very short period of time. Consequently, the spate of criminal occurrences such as theft, kidnapping and other violent crimes have drastically reduced and of course, we do not expect all the security threats in the state to disappear overnight but what is key is that the governor is taking all the steps in the right direction.
First, he established the Anambra State Joint Security Task Force (ASJSTF) comprising the police, military, civil defense corps and the local vigilante. The task force is led by some very experienced security experts and that is the reason we are seeing results.
However, I will call for more involvement of indigenous vigilante already established by most town unions in Anambra State by providing required sophisticated training, equipment and orientation needed to carry out this onerous task.
The reason I advocate for the use of already established vigilante system is because most of them are already functional. So, what is mostly required is training and discipline because they already know the terrain and the people in their various communities. It will be easier for them to identify bad eggs in their various communities.
Furthermore, for them to function optimally, care should be taken to ensure professionalism in the process of selection and recruitment which comes before training and actual equipping of each unit to now compliment the efforts of the police, military and other security forces.
This process may well be the prelude towards a well-organised and well-funded state and community policing when the requisite legislation is eventually put in place.
Secondly, we will be glad to see a situation where there is more of interstate coordination and collaboration among the state governors in the South-east if we wish to see the end of insecurity sooner than later. I have to mention this aspect as criminals and kidnappers do not respect state borders, the criminal elements move across states to evade security agents and where there is inter-state collaboration on security effort with a regional outlook and control, you will see that our local security outfit can now have the capability to operate across borders making it easier to fish out undesirable elements, who may for instance carry out their nefarious activities and run to hide in forest in maybe Imo State or Enugu and vice versa. But with a security collaboration arrangement in place among the governors and state governments the task will become a lot more manageable.
How do you think Anambra State chief executive should proceed to boost the economy of the state?
Yes, the governor started very well and most Anambrarians can boldly attest to this.
Firstly, the area of security has witnessed some tremendous improvement as all the criminal camps and hide outs in Anambra State have been largely dismantled and that for me is a quick win. However, there are still pockets of cases here and there which in my view are currently receiving needed attention and in time we believe things will become very normal again with regards to security.
Secondly, the governor promised Anambra stakeholders that he is on a mission to turn the state into a huge construction site and in keeping to his words, he has gone ahead to award and flag off many road construction projects very numerous to mention cut across every local government, communities and towns in Anambra State. This, he has accomplished in less than one year after he was sworn in. It is noteworthy that each of this project is backed up with requisite funding and Anambra people are now like expectant mother pregnant with numerous world class infrastructural projects which is a pivotal aspect of economic development fueled by increased and improved business environment.
As a renowned world class economist, who has made his mark at the international scene and in Nigeria where he headed the greatest banking reform ever in the history of Nigeria as head of our central bank. Certainly, Anambra people should expect high level and sophisticated leadership especially in the area of business environment and economic revitalisation of the state.
Currently, the governor is doing a lot in the area of blocking leakages of government revenue while channeling same towards the improvement of many sectors such as education where he has currently recruited thousands of teachers to help boost the sector, while making funds available for their welfare. In short, I will say that Anambra people are so lucky to have a man of Prof Soludo’s calibre piloting the affairs of our dear State. I therefore make bold to say that Anambra is in a very safe hand. As an educationist per excellence, our children will gain a lot because this is a man, who understands the importance of education in human capital development and this is one of the first areas you will observe his immediate intervention within the months after he assumed office.
Generally, the governor is already setting the stage for a bountiful harvest of dividends of democracy through a well-coordinated multi sectoral interventions in every area of the socio-economic aspect of the lives of our people.
I believe that within a very short time Ndi Anambra will start seeing clear results while reaping the benefits of the efforts of this government; be it in the areas of improved revenue collection, public accountability, infrastructural development aimed at improving business environment, education and health sector is also receiving a lot of attention under this government.
The improvement of business environment to enable MSME’s to thrive and become a major driver of local economy. Within the gestation period of each project Ndi Anambra will see the result of the governor’s urban renewal efforts which is at the heart of his manifesto to Ndi Anambra. This governor is a man with courage to dream big and execute his dream and on this note I will implore our people to look out for the very best from this governor.
Anambra State has suffered the impact of the devastating flood that hit many states of the federation. What is the way out and what should be the approach to accessing the ecological fund at the federal level especially when the state is battling erosion menace?
Anambra State was unfortunate to be one of the states in Nigeria ravaged by the recent flooding incident across the nation and sub region in general. My personal view is that the reoccurring flood persisted as a result of neglect by successive governments of Nigeria at the centre, at least, in this age and time in human development, there are adequate technology advancement in the area of forecast and early warning systems to prepare and prevent the devastating effect of flood disaster, the unfortunate thing is that in this part of the world, we usually wait for the worse to happen before we start running from pillar to post for solutions and quick fixes.
However, the issue of the reccurring flooding which has become a source of annual human catastrophe and carnage have largely portrayed us as a people who failed to plan, and who inadvertently planned to fail. We have not constructed new dams over the years (which is usually capital intensive), and then dredge the Lower Niger river networks to provide larger accommodation or outlet for excess water held and often released at upper Niger, located mostly in neighboring countries.
For example, in 2013, I was involved as team leader with a consultancy firm that led a team of senior directors and managers of Nigeria River Basins Development Authorities (they have the responsibility to manage all the water ways along the River Niger, starting from our border with Chad and terminating in River State where the Niger empties into the Atlantic ocean). Under the approval of Federal Ministry of Water Resources, I led a team of experts to embark on a study tour of River Thames in United Kingdon with emphasis on the study of water infrastructure along the Thames, the study tour dealt with critical issues of flood control and management employing the use of embarkments, locks and various diversion technique. The river Thames is similar to river Niger because it runs virtually across the length and breadth of the UK just as we have River Niger in Nigeria, running through many states across the country and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
During the study tour various other issues of water management technology was adequately covered ranging from uses of dams, embarkments, development of water transport system which we have a comparative advantage with regards to the spread of the Niger river, irrigation for agricultural uses, water sanitation and supply for domestics uses etc.
During this training programme, practitioners travelled to various points in the UK where this technology was deployed/stationed and studied practically how it functions, but on getting home after the extensive hands-on practice studies the political will to implement same was not available, in other words, knowledge gained has not been fully utilised, many who participated in this study tour are already retiring from the public service without fully banqueting the benefit of what they learned to the nation.
We cannot continue like this as a country if we hope to succeed and restore hope to our people with regards to how the political class are perceived.
On the issue of ecological funds and its utilisation by the state government, the fund is housed in the office of SGF and state governments are required to apply for specific project intervention peculiar to individual state. Specifically, we know that Anambra State government is doing the needful, especially with regards to intervention via ecological funds on many erosion sites across the State which has become an existential issue for many parts of Anambra State, this is in addition to many other ecological challenges faced by Anambra State.
What should be done to boost the economy of the state?
Currently, the government is doing a lot to boost the state economy. For example, there is a lot of innovation in the area of revenue collection and accountability.
I suggest that more attention should be paid to the development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). MSMEs has been identified as a major driver of local economies and a major source of employment for our young population. Investment should be directed to areas and sectors known to stimulate development of small businesses, such as increase in power generation; this will stimulate many small businesses, who largely depend of buying costly petrol to power their operations, building of new access roads and maintenance of old ones.
This will go along way in connecting rural communities to markets. Development of value chains in agricultural sector and light manufacturing, and increasing the viability of mostly agricultural produce from the rural areas.
Easy access to funds and financing for small businesses, cooperatives and organizations involved in small and medium scale productions which is the live wire of many struggling families in our community. The aim should be to help them scale up their capabilities in their individual fields and sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, storage facilities, transportation etc.
Nigeria’s N71 trillion external debt profile has generated stern criticisms. What’s your view on this?
The solution is simple here, the major problem we have here is poor accountability and borrowing for the wrong reasons. The question is, what have we done with the money borrowed so far? What have we invested it in? Are we borrowing to invest on areas that will propel us to national growth or are we borrowing to consume? Our borrowing should always be geared towards productivity and infrastructural development not for consumption. Once we change our direction in this regard, we will start getting it right.
What’s your general view and caution ahead of general elections
My advice goes firstly to political parties and politicians to tone down their rhetorics. They should remember that after elections there will still be Nigeria and Nigerians and that we have no other place to call home except this one nation, Nigeria. They should shun violence and admonish their supporters to shun violence and thuggery. Government should invest in the agencies responsible for sensitising the public on dangers of electoral violence and malpractices.
Secondly, INEC as the electoral umpire should endeavor to remain impartial at all times and make sure that various officers posted to monitor and conduct the process of elections in different locations across the country remain above board and maintain high level of integrity.
We must work to achieve a peaceful post-election Nigeria where all sees the contest as free and fair in its conduct and that is the best way to avoid post election violence.