After two years in the saddle, Pat Onukwuli assesses the Soludo administration 

Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the Governor of Anambra State, commands respect and admiration as a globally reputed economic and monetary expert. His intimidating profile saw him rise from the best-graduating student in his class to a Professor of Economics, Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Chief Executive of the National Planning Commission, and Governor of the Central Bank. Like a maestro, he conducted a symphony, orchestrating Nigeria’s monetary policies with consummate expertise and precision. In July 2004, despite scepticism, he raised the minimum capital requirement for banks, which significantly boosted liquidity and stability, an authentication of his insightful economic brilliance.

Accordingly, Soludo filled the people with optimism and hope when he entered politics. His antecedents and pedigree captivated them, and a wave of great populism carried him forward. His intellectual proficiency and past successes in various economic roles set a high bar. The Anambra electorate, filled with hope, believed that his strategic mind and innovative ideas would lead to tangible progress and development for the State. His campaigns, centering around economic revitalisation, infrastructural development, and improved governance, resonated with the voters, sparking hope and anticipation.

It was a moment of hope when Soludo pledged to be the ‘Solution’ to Anambra State’s most pressing issues, including rampant insecurity and decayed infrastructure in Onitsha. However, as he has just exceeded the midpoint of his four-year tenure, the bleak disparity between his past achievements and current performance has become painfully clear. This realisation has left Ndi Anambra concerned and disappointed, as it is a stark reminder that economic competence does not always equate to political sagacity.

In the intricate world of political leadership, transitioning from a distinguished career in economics to a demanding governance role often reveals a wide gap between theory and practice. Soludo grapples with this reality, much like Ludwig Erhard, who also struggled to translate his financial expertise into effective political leadership. Erhard, celebrated for his role in West Germany’s post-World War II economic revival, was remembered for his economic brilliance. However, his chancellorship was marked by political instability and economic downturn, mainly because he lacked the political acumen and interpersonal skills necessary for effective governance.

Similarly, Soludo praised for his tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, finds that his exceptional economic knowledge does not seamlessly translate into political success. The issue’s core lies in the significant difference between economic theory and political leadership. Effective governance requires more than technical expertise; it demands humility, communication skills, empathy, and adaptability. These qualities are essential for leaders to connect with constituents, inspire their team, and implement policies effectively. Unfortunately, Soludo’s governance, like Erhard’s, has been marked by a conspicuous absence of these traits.

Soludo’s leadership style has been the subject of criticism, with many finding it arrogant and distant, despite his attempts to appear relatable with the moniker of Nwamgbafor. This perceived superiority has not only alienated many of his constituents but has also led to frequent conflicts. A leader quick to pick quarrels is unlikely to foster the collaborative environment necessary for effective governance. Humility, a trait that Soludo seems to struggle with, is crucial in leadership. It allows leaders to acknowledge their limitations, seek advice, and build consensus.

Under Soludo’s administration, policies are often communicated without empathy and understanding, creating a distance between the government and the populace. Effective governance hinges on communication, a tool that Soludo has used to alienate rather than include. This communication style’s impact is profound as it creates a culture of impunity. The effect is the reinforcement of coercive actions and attitudes of government officials, who, following Soludo’s lead, engage with the public in a manner often seen as arrogant and unresponsive, leading to a palpable loss of confidence. Numerous cases have surfaced where government officials have maltreated and even beaten citizens with no consequence or disciplinary actions, which further entrenches this behaviour, signalling to the public that those in power tacitly condone such actions.

His technocratic and often condescending tone fosters a culture of arrogance and detachment. His rigid adherence to his economic principles without adequately considering the socio-political context mirrors Erhard’s downfall. As a result, policies that might be well-intentioned fail to resonate with the public or address their actual concerns, leading to widespread dissatisfaction and disillusionment. For instance, his focus on attracting foreign investments, though beneficial for the State’s economy, has not addressed the immediate need for improved security and infrastructure, especially in Onitsha.

Insecurity remains one of the most pressing issues plaguing Anambra State. Despite numerous assurances from Soludo, residents still live in constant fear of kidnappings, unknown gunmen, and IPOB operatives. These uncertainties undermine public trust and strangle economic activities, particularly in Onitsha, a city bustling with commerce and trade. The inability to provide a secure environment has led to business owners relocating and potential investors looking elsewhere, disillusioned by the government’s apparent incapacity. The urgency of this situation is dire, as it directly impacts the State’s economic growth and prosperity, and immediate action is needed. Ndi Anambra, who are directly affected by these issues, feel a sense of urgency and desperation.

Soludo’s imperious and high-handedness is at the heart of his problems. He governs unilaterally and top-down without adequately consulting or engaging with stakeholders, including his constituents and subordinates. Effective leadership demands more than technical ability; it requires a deep connection with the people and a genuine commitment to their welfare. His falling short of this essential skill begs the question of whether Soludo is the right leader. In other words, is Soludo the Solution or the Problem?

The promise of transformative leadership that Soludo brought into office has not been realised, mainly due to his inability to effectively translate his brilliance into practical, empathetic governance. Leadership is not solely about making decisions but about inspiring and mobilising people, understanding their needs, and fostering a collaborative environment where diverse perspectives are valued and included in the decision-making process.

Soludo’s imperious demeanour has led to widespread dissatisfaction and disillusionment among the people of Anambra. His administration’s failure to address critical issues, such as rampant insecurity and decayed infrastructure in Onitsha, the State’s commercial hub, underscores his leadership approach’s ineffectiveness. The lack of accountability for officials who mistreat citizens further exacerbates these problems, creating a climate of mistrust and fear.

Despite his intellectual proficiency and strategic mind, his approach to governance has led to significant issues that challenge his effectiveness and suitability as a leader. Ndi Anambra deserve a leader who understands their struggles and actively works to alleviate them. Soludo’s administration must pivot towards a more inclusive and empathetic leadership style. This shift, which is not just a suggestion but a necessity, requires policy adjustments and a fundamental change in approach—engaging with the community, listening to their concerns, and demonstrating a genuine commitment to solving their problems. Ndi Anambra cannot afford to be content with his below-par performance, as their expectations are high.

Therefore, for Anambra State to achieve meaningful progress, Soludo must reassess his leadership style and make significant changes. To truly serve the State and fulfil the promise of his tenure, he must embrace a leadership style that values empathy, inclusivity, and genuine engagement with the people. He can rebuild trust and foster a sense of collective effort towards common goals by shifting from a wilful approach to a more inclusive and participatory one.

 Onukwuli PhDwrites from Bolton, UK

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