The Anambra State governor has to buckle up, writes Pat Onukwuli

Exactly one year ago, March 17, 2022, Professor Chukwuma Soludo was sworn-in as Governor of Anambra State having polled 46 percent of votes cast to beat the other 17 candidates in the November 6, 2021, Anambra governorship election. His ascendancy came with lots of hope and expectations for Ndi Anambra, as he was perceived by many as a proverbial round peg in a round hole. This perception was based on his enviable record, qualifications and accomplishments, evident in his attainment as a professor of economics and also as a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

In his inaugural and acceptance speech, Soludo did not disappoint. He kept the hope of the people alive and disclosed that he dreamt of an Anambra State with millions of happy and prosperous people everywhere and an Anambra as preferred destination to live, work, invest, learn, relax, and enjoy life. He pledged to make this dream come true through a number of disruptive changes like offering servant leadership and homeland consciousness models, despite huge revenue challenges facing the state. He promised to change the inherent and prevalent rentier culture, where social contract and trust between citizens and government has broken down, and people chose not to pay taxes because they believe they have no commensurate value for their monies. Indeed, there was exhilaration and delight everywhere.

His personal story of losing his mother and younger brother during the Nigeria Civil War, adoption of the moniker Nwamgbafor and the decision to dress only in akwete as well as proclamation of palm wine as official state drink further connected and endeared him to the people.

Inadvertently, his one year in office is also being marked as an indirect referendum on his leadership. Though, the Office of Governor of Anambra State is not on the ballot for tomorrow’s gubernatorial election except that of the State House of Assembly. 

However, the 30 legislative seats in the Unicameral Anambra State House of Assembly are up for grabs. From forecast and based on the result of the just concluded Presidential Elections, there is the possibility of a wipe-out by the resurgent Labour Party, motivated by Peter Obi. It is predicted that Labour will win in most of tomorrow’s election.

 Peter Obi, the two-term former governor of Anambra State has emerged as an unstoppable powerful political force in Nigeria through his message of frugality, prudence and accountability, amplified by an army of social media users dutifully energised by the youths across Nigeria.

Personally, Soludo may be beating his chest that he has done well in some key areas, especially on security in his first anniversary in office. But this is not entirely so considering the fact that Anambra and other states in the Southeast have endured blistering and unrelenting attacks by the so-called unknown gunmen. This article is not intended to despise the Soludo government. Nevertheless, his present poor rating is not in the main about his performance in office, but more on his lack of judgement and indiscretion on the emergence of Peter Obi.

It is possible from his SQUAT analysis that Soludo would have seen Peter Obi and the Labour Party as potential threat which he has an option to either fight or make peace with. He chose the former. In a scorching and sweltering attack that came from nowhere titled “History Beckons and I will not be Silent (Part 1)”, dated November 14, 2022, Soludo went for the jugular. He spilled tirades on Obi, claiming that he was forced into the arena of conflict. Ever since this unnecessary correspondence, Soludo has not known peace. Indeed, he lost his allure and appeal to Ndi Anambra.

Rebuttals, counter claims and very hateful communications have been his lot since after. However, rather than climb down quickly from his high horse for damage control, he stuck to his guns and even said that he was going on with Part 2 of his epistle. Thus, exhibiting thoughtless tone deafness that might have only emanated from arrogance and pride. This is a watershed event that would define his tenure in office. This event also marked the beginning of his rapid decline in popularity. Soludo has only himself to blame for this totally avoidable incidence.

As the United States Army Commander, George Patton once said that good tactics can save even worst strategy and bad tactics will destroy even best strategy. Soludo might be good with strategy and vision, but he is very poor in tactics. And without good tactics, the best strategist will go no far.  On the other hand, philosophy does not aim at certainty, but clarity. It is certainly not very clear how Soludo conjured in his mind to issue that misguided letter. But wherever it came, it was certainly not altruistic.

Just one year on; it is surprising how the tide has turned against Soludo. In a demonstration of fickleness of public office, he has gone from hero to almost zero. This article is not suggesting that Soludo has failed even as his rating has taken a tumble for the worse.  

However, it is still not yet truism for him as much loathed Enoch Powell, former Member of British Parliament, infamous for his 1968 Rivers of Blood would say in his 1977 Biography of Joseph Chamberlain that all political careers, unless cut off midstream would end in failure.

In my Anambra and Task before Soludo published just before his swearing ceremony, I contended that Soludo has so much in his plate and should keep his eyes on the ball as he holds the mandate bestowed on him by Ndi Anambra on trust. I insisted that he must work very hard for his vision to succeed. However, Soludo appeared to have started dropping it early into his administration by dithering and faltering. His administration had imposed unsustainable and unpopular taxes and levies and there was huge public outcry and he did nothing to assuage or lessen the burden. He proscribed Mondays Sit-at-Home order by the IPOB early in his administration and this fell flat.

In his address to mark his 100 days in office, he described his experience as bumpy and challenging, but expressed optimism that he would overcome. He urged residents not to commiserate with him over troubling insecurity occasioned by criminals, codenamed “unknown gunmen,” but to support his government, insisting he duly applied to govern, and he is therefore aware of tasks therein. This shows that a Governor elected on massive goodwill was already becoming defensive just under three months into his term.

In another article, “Anambra, Soludo and Security Challenges” published in THISDAY of Friday June 24, 2022; I advised that his honeymoon period was fast being spent and that he had only six months to carve a niche for his administration through institutionalisation of due process and ethical rules of engagement, especially in discharge of security imperatives and other areas of state responsibilities.

However, no matter the outcome of tomorrow’s elections, Soludo still has opportunity and time to recover. He should be focused and avoid unnecessary politicking and vaulting ambition for future higher political offices. He should be slow in trying to make progress, listen more, and avoid speaking off the cuff as he recently did when he said he would only work with Assembly members elected under the banner of his All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He should know that words matter and should stop proselytising as proclaiming to be better is hazardous. He cannot afford to be mediocre, or his professorial chair might be interrogated. Finally, he should focus on cleaning up Okpoko as promised and commence with plans to provide commercial nerve centre of Onitsha with prosthesis.

 Onukwuli, PhD,

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