Soludo: This May Just Be Good Omen For Anambra 2010
As I wrote this article, I had as yet no details of the apex court’s judgment-and I wouldn’t have minded having them. But, for now, I am content with just knowing that Soludo can at last fly his party’s flag and go to the people of Anambra State to canvass for their support come February 6 next year. And it has nothing to do with whether I support Soludo or not-by the way I do not have any problem with him. I just believe that the Supreme Court’s judgment in favour of the former CBN governor may have paved the way for a truly democratic contest to take place in Anambra among political heavy weights and that, as Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and others have said, may well provide a window on the general elections in the country in 2011.
Soludo’s travails have attracted a lot of media attention because of the larger-than-life image has acquired since serving as CBN governor for five years. His name evokes different emotions in different people. But, it seems to me that not many people in Nigeria would nurse personal animosities towards the man who was to settle for the philosophy behind his Igbo name Chukwuma (God knows) over and above Charles. For, we cannot take it away from him: he remains the bold and brainy, well-spoken, baritone-voiced economist who burst into national limelight gesticulating like Humphery Nwosu and talking excitedly about economic empowerment (SEEDS 1&2), banking consolidation, polymer notes and new mint, catching the nation’s imagination in the process.
What appears to have riled many about the Soludo candidature for the Anambra governorship election is the process that threw him up. I know many respectable Anambra people who swore never to support Soludo simply because the former CBN boss had the mis(fortune) of having PDP’s Mr. Fix It, Chief Tony, from EDO State voice support for his ANAMBRA governorship ambition. But for me, it says a lot about the seeming political irrelevance of former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme in the contemporary politics of his home state, and Nigeria generally, that nobody seems to place any store by the fact that he was among the trio of PDP money bag Dahiru Mangal, Anenih and Ekwueme that hosted Soludo to a fund-raising dinner where his governorship ambition became better advertised. Even with Ekwueme who, it was understood, actually persuaded him to enter the Anambra governorship race, Soludo still became an imposition!
But, the truth is that even before now, the PDP in Anambra had always had a problem. So many tendencies were fighting for its soul. It never had any functional state executive because the Godfathers were at war over who should produce the state party leadership since whoever controlled the party was sure to determine who flew its governorship flag. Virtually everything and everyone relating to Anambra PDP were under litigation. The sudden emergence of the Uchenna Emordi-led executive through court processes even worsened the woes of the party in the state. It was in this state of disequilibrium that the farcical party primaries, in which one person reportedly bought nomination forms for more than 20 governorship aspirants and bought over practically all the delegates to the primaries, was held. Needless to say, the result was already predetermined and it was certainly not going to be in the interest of the state.
Now, wouldn’t it have been irresponsible of the PDP leadership not to cancel the primaries, thereby nipping in the bud the confusion that would have followed the announcement of the results? For a party that had always put the wrong foot forward, are we right to pillory it this insistently for daring, for once, to put the right foot forward?
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who is well known in the media circles sent a very damaging report about Soludo, based on rumours and innuendoes, to hundreds of reporters’ mail boxes. I wrote back to ask him what the point was. Was he doing that for Ngige, Peter Obi, Andy Uba or Ekwunife? I said I thought that as a democrat, he should be elated at the prospect of three or four very strong candidates slugging it out in a keen contest for the Anambra governorship seat and, therefore, that rather than try to pull any one of the candidates down to make the others’ chances brighter, his concern should be how to get INEC to conduct a free and fair election in the state. He never replied.
I fail to understand why some people appear so touchy about Soludo’s aspiration to be governor. Some have even said he should have accepted international appointments and left the country rather than aspire to participate in the political process in his state and I ask, what nonsense is that? Would we rather that our best lent their talents to the outside world than to us? In a world where a Lee Kuan Yew (former prime minister of Singapore) and a Mahathir Mohamad (former minister of Malaysia), both prodigious intellects, have taken their hitherto poor Asian countries from Third to First Worlds, why should we prefer that a Soludo be cast out of the shores of the land? So that vermin will rule over us? Is that a better option?
Even for the sake of argument, why should we make so much fuss about these party primaries? How we wish that politicians in these shores would lend themselves to the cardinal principle of democracy, the principle of universal adult suffrage-one man, one vote and follow the due process in the practice of our democracy, in the choices that they make. How we wish that party primaries could be conducted without the rancour and deadly manipulations that define the process here. But we know that for politicians in this part of the world, order and due process aren’t exactly love words. For, what is the Nigerian politician without the disorder and mayhem that every contest for power brings about? What is a party leadership expected to do when politicians shoot themselves in the foot, like they did in the PDP primaries in Anambra? Throw up its hands in helplessness and leave the field for others to play? No, it searches for an interim solution, for a compromise, and bid for another time to put its house in order.
Let’s face it, well as we may desire that the right things be done at the right times, as we try to grow our democracy, there is really nothing in the Nigerian Constitution that says a candidate cannot stand for election unless he emerges through party primaries. That is a party affair. So, let no INEC stand in judgment of what is democratic or not because it is not within its purview to do so. After all, from which primaries did Ngige, Ekwunife, Andy Uba, Ukachukwu, Obi, Okey Nwosu and others emerge as governorship candidates of their own parties for Anambra 2010? Haven’t they been listed as candidates?
My point is that the cause of democracy is better served when every one who has an electoral ambition is allowed to test his or popularity at the polls, once he or she is qualified. Now that the apex court has given him the nod, let Chukwuma Soludo go to the field and get the people to come vote for him come February 6 next year. His candidature is a refreshing development for our politics. It is a clarion call to the best in the land to strive to serve their people and contribute to the overall development of the country: with Soludo, politics has seized to be a dirty game played only by the worst among us; only the best is good enough for us now as we aspire to move our country and people further up the development ladder.
So, for me, Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on Soludo’s qualification to run for Anambra governorship is a good omen, a sign that politics and, ultimately, governance are on the rebound in the engine room of the Igbo nation. How beautiful it would be to see how the contest for Anambra leadership among Ngige, Soludo, Obi and Andy Uba plays out. These are all strong, solid characters by any stretch of the imagination.
I like Ngige, Onwa (moon), Igbo Leader, the diminutive but effective leader who took the first set of bullets in the Anambra Saga on behalf of his people and further won their hearts with his outstanding performance in the three years he served as governor. He showed what is possible with purposeful leadership even in a state as seemingly ungovernable as Anambra. I have always told people that in any free and fair election in Anambra State, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige is a candidate to beat any day.
I like Peter Obi. The frugal public servant from Agulu, I am told, has done well in his first term and may well deserve another one-it is up to the people of Anambra to decide. My personal grudge with him is that he allowed the crisis in APGA, the party on which platform he rode to power, to drag on. I like Andy Uba for his good heart and sense of decorum. What many people may not know is that the one they call Igwebuike (many is strength) is a self-effacing man who can’t even hurt a fly and that many of those who served in the previous government, whether from Anambra or elsewhere owed their good luck to Mr. Uba. Meaning that Chris not Andy is responsible for the current notoriety of the Uba family name. In him, Anambra people may well find a man who has their interest at heart.
And, of course, I like Soludo. I like his uncommon intellect and daring spirit, his grasp of the indices of modern development and his constant reach for the big picture in his action plans. I buy into his vision of Anambra as the African Dubai/Taiwan under his watch because I believe, as they say in that great South Africa nation-brand ad, ‘it is possible’. At a time of great depression like this, especially in our part of the world, we need a Soludo to think through the muddle.
So, let the drum beats of war in Anambra seize. Let the bugle sound for a new politics of possibilities to begin in a place that has so much to offer but has been held down for too long by powers of darkness.