By Hon Chike Anyaonu

It is said that “Ofeke”, Igbo word for a fool, usually sits and looks on without realising he is missing track of important events around him. That is how best to describe those chiding and making all manner of cynical remarks about the metaphorical use of African Dubai Taiwan (ADT) development concept by Anambra State Governor Charles Soludo, CFR, during his governorship campaign in the past. Call it a dream, but that was Professor Soludo envisioning the stature and future he would like to take Anambra State to as a governor.

I dare say that nothing has detracted from that vision till date, except what the fringe camps of political adversaries hold against the visible developments touching and greeting the nooks and crannies of the state to the amazement of the entire masses.

In May 2006, the League of Anambra Professionals, LAP, had the first privately staged Anambra State Economic Development Forum in Awka. To deliver the key note address was no other person than the then Central Bank Governor, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, known for his ever prolific disposition, prophetic and audacious pronouncements. The theme of the address was “Anambra 2030: Envisioning the Africa Dubai Taiwan and Silicon Valley”.

The subject speaks for itself and was so succinctly and eruditely delivered that there was no dissent as to the real trajectory Anambra State must be driven to by its leaders. Till date, LAP has never found it better than that particular outing which brought a large assemblage of Anambra elites to the state capital to discuss the development of the state.

The popular maxim, “Rome was not built in a day”, will continue to hold true for any forward-looking and dynamic society whose leaders are intentional and conscious about bringing developments to that society. Countries like Singapore, Dubai, and even China of this latter day, all share similarities in terms of developmental push and thrust through dreams and consistent, deliberate building blocks that ultimately added to the big picture of development of their dreams. If you cannot dream it, you cannot live it. That kind of dream encompasses planning too.

Later in 2009, on the expiration of his tenure as the CBN governor, there was literally a tug from several quarters on Soludo to run for the governorship election in his state, slated for February 2010. It was like a consensus, beckoning him to come back home to make that Anambra dream he revealed some years back a reality. Consequently, his cruising campaign gathered the sobriquet ADT. Although that very election result did not favour him, it laid the foundation for his resoundingly victorious outing in the November 2021 Anambra gubernatorial polls.

Before, during and after that election, Anambra State was like the topography of terrorism, with criminals laying siege on the state. All manner of crimes were camped in the state, killings by unknown gunmen, kidnapping, armed robbery, touting and so on. A time there was when, as an aspirant, Soludo was attacked by hoodlums during a town hall meeting with the youths in his village; an attack that claimed the lives of three policemen while he miraculously and mysteriously escaped. Some governorship candidates could not take their campaigns any further as a result. Yet, Soludo was not deterred by the shock of that horrendous encounter. That reign of terror was the daunting circumstance under which he got sworn into office as the governor on March 17, 2022.

To achieve stability in government, as was monumentally recorded by Governor Soludo within one year in office was not an item that can be taken for granted. Other persons can argue otherwise, but bogged down by recklessness, abuses of sorts, lawlessness, all manner of criminalities, including leakages in revenue generation process at such an intricate and complex level, requires multidimensional skills to handle. With this background, little wonder he started with rescue and stabilisation programmes upon his inauguration as the governor about two years ago, instituting cutting-edge programmes that signpost prudence, transparency, and accountability in service delivery. This was at a time when the nation’s economy was hemorrhaging,

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What the situation called for is better thinking, a magic wand for setting real foundation needed for sustainable growth of the state’s economy, anchored on deliberate disruptions, and moving away from the way-we-do-things-here syndrome. At the moment, things are beginning to add up. Anambra’s journey to prosperity is becoming clear, as the state has literally transited from lawlessness to orderliness. Indeed, statistics shows a sharp decline in the reports of crime rate in Anambra presently, compared to the rate recorded in pre-inauguration of Soludo’s government. Exponential investment in the culture of green vegetation, unique agricultural revolution programmes, human resources development, together with increase in the activities of youths engagement, such as one-youth two-skills programme, have all combined to stem the tide. These are sure ways to the African

Dubai Taiwan vision, not just construction of tall buildings.

Those who are looking for ADT in Anambra do not know that in reality, ADT is being already accomplished in the different building blocks put in place by Governor Soludo, and signposted by his two years of visible developments in Anambra State without borrowing a dime yet. It is not only about the employment of eight thousand teachers, one thousand doctors and other medical personnel, and other critical investments in human capital development (mentioned earlier), but also about being up and running in meeting the obligations of paying their salaries, together with equipping them with the necessary tools for optimal productivity.

The present network of roads in Anambra State is not unexpected, but the delivery both in quantity and quality is actually enchanting, and adds to that big picture of our dream. The last time Onitsha saw the type of massive investment in road construction with the accompanying road furniture was in 1973 during the time of Ajie Ukpabi Asika. And never anymore, other than selective patchwork for over four decades! The urban regeneration scheme that has turned Okpoko around for the better as a livable layout, together with the water schemes that have reportedly come alive again in the major cities and rural areas of the state, are all part of the march towards ADT.

Professor Philip Kotler, the renowned marketing scholar, had remarked in one of his books in the late nineteen seventies that “The Internet will create new winners and bury the laggards”. At no other time in the history of mankind can this statement be said to be more apt than now. Information and Communications Technology, ICT, is a major source of power, purse and pride today and tomorrow. Soludo knows this, and is making very bold footprints and revolutionary strides in the ICT arena, relentlessly training thousands of our ever willing and ready to learn youths yawning for exposure, and getting them ready not only for national digital tribe competition, but for global export also.

Today, information about laurels coming to the state through Anambra students’ engagements in national and international competitions in recent times is still reverberating across the land. Indeed, one can only say that the digital tribe solution is home here in Anambra State courtesy of the ever creative and forward- thinking Professor Soludo. Anambra is being primed to take after the Silicon Valley where innovations are happening.

Last year alone, Soludo’s government trained and equipped over 20,000 Anambra youths with ICT skills. You can imagine what that portends: getting Anambra ready for the competition of the future that is almost here already, including hi-tech manufacturing, aviation, AI, robotics, and other complex engagements. When you realise that there is no occupation now that does not depend on technology, you will then appreciate the import of Professor Philip Kotler’s statement.

Finally, Soludo’s made-in-Anambra, made-in-Nigeria campaign is deliberately developmental and strong, paving the way for our local industries to compete and thrive. So also is the free education policy introduced not only to impart universal basic knowledge to our young ones, but also to reduce the burden imposed on parents by the prevailing harsh economic environment. These and more are all leading to ADT. It is a matter of time before Anambra State starts harvesting the rewards of all these African Dubai Taiwan developmental seeds being planted by Governor Chukwuma Soludo.

• Hon Chike Anyaonu is a Council member, International Center for Human Development and Rule of Law