This discourse is on Chukwuma Charles Soludo, the not so new man on the block nationally for winning the Anambra State governorship election held on November 6. He ran on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), a political party founded by Chief Chekwas Okorie but given political life by late Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, head of state of defunct Republic of Biafra. Any winner of the poll would have attracted national attention just like Soludo is receiving for the simple reason that the climate surrounding the time of the poll evoked different sentiments and significance.
Nnamdi Kanu, leader of Indigenous People’s of Biafra (IPOB) , a movement running a secessionist agenda, who was captured overseas in very controversial circumstances had his trial started around the time. The trial naturally provokes some feelings which could boil over if not well handled, add to that the fact that the state seems to be the epicenter of the agitations. The IPOB in weeks preceding the poll had called through several successful “stay at home orders”, each recording very high degree of compliance from the people. The movement had announced intention to put another order out in the very week the poll was billed to take place. It was this threat that forced the Federal Government to rise up and throw her weight around with the insistence the poll must hold; it didn’t want to stomach a precedent that could turn costly. Consequently it settled to “overwhelm” the state with massive security presence, the kind that has not been seen for a very long time around our polls. It raised apprehension.
This was an issue, then there was the violence and killings that characterized the tail end of the pre-election hours of the poll. Of course, there was also this manifest determination by members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state to wrest power from APGA, which has ruled the state for 16 straight years. This added to a tense atmosphere and made the governorship election the centre of focus. Going by these so much was at stake, apprehension was very high, so whoever won was bound to receive national attention and possibly depending on the note it all came to an end. What the emergence of Soludo has done is that taking his personality and national visibility into account, the focus that would have been assumed a different depth and colouration. Many knew Soludo as a great technocrat but many more still couldn’t vouch for his in-field political sagacity, knowing he once ran on the platform of national ruling and still failed, doubts over Governor Willy Obiano’s level of political credit didn’t help matters. .
Those of us who schooled with Soludo at the University of Nigeria knew he was a dogged political fight imbued with enough field experience. Same year he ran for the Secretary General position in the Student Union Government was same time I ran for the position of Welfare Officer. I can confirm he ran a drizzling campaign, compact in organization, germane in ideas and with required force to push his candidacy. Soludo still brought all those qualities to bear in the governorship poll we just saw in Anambra, he was organized, in view of most reviewers of the race, he came through as the best in ideas, his gift of eloquence served him very well. I have heard many tell me oratory has no place in great leadership, my reply often is simply to tell such people they make light of a very strategic gift that matters so much.Oratory is no cheap commodity, it has much to with natural intelligence and even brilliance where the individual is privileged to have quality education. Great leadership must be inspirational. For countries at our level of development, we need leaders who make citizens buy into their dreams without exertion of so much effort. It was one vital thing for Soludo which the others lacked. He deployed it to great effect.
The election was not perfect just as none will be; if we were to conduct another one tomorrow, we have what could rightly be termed as «institutionalized» problem with human capacity. Every election in this country since independence more than 61 years ago, logistics in different ways has been an issue – it is either about inadequate vehicles, mixed up materials, malfunctioning machines or electoral officials arriving polling units very late. There were times we could see materials but no original result sheets. Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini, revealed the other day he spoke on television that the country is paying a price for character deficit. He said otherwise all electoral materials could arrive all locations a week ahead to actual polling and it won’t be tampered with. I heard that and agreed. Why we can’t build character into ourselves knowing the pain lack of principles inflicts on us is a wonder I can’t decode. Even in the rescheduled poll in Ihiala, one local government area only, electoral officials still arrived very late. Am reluctant to say Ihiala was a set up that failed, enemies of the state envisaged close fight which Ihiala would have served to even up and decide but the plan failed. Contrary to expectation the people came out and that made a difference, by the time controversy trailed Ihiala, game was almost ended.
Every setback suffered in the poll affected all contestants equally, the result many believe represented substantially the will of the people, the trend was consistent. The attendance is not significantly different from what happened in the past elections in terms of voter turn out, Anambra like other Igbo states is plagued by voter apathy. Those who make allusion to Imo State electoral fiasco miss the point, the two scenarios are not same at all. There were claims an entire senatorial zone was discountenanced in collation and counting of votes. In Anambra State all came voted except in very few polling units where the total votes can’t alter the final outcome. Andy Uba of APC who said he will go to court ought to know that with the atmosphere preceding the polls, especially issues involved, his party was not expected to win. What is more, he had a much divided house going into the election than the two other parties that took first and second positions. Governor Willy Obiano slept, thought over his fate and that of his party and came to the right conclusion that all he needed to see his head afloat was a candidate with rich resume and antecedents. He found that in Soludo, otherwise the story could have been a bit complicated, if not different .
Soludo, because of his pedigree, was a pan-Igbo and pan-Nigerian candidate. He emerged at a time Ndigbo are earnestly looking out for “philosopher” leaders, the kind the Israelis have had that enabled them turn their tiny mountainous desert space into an oasis of excellence despite what the world could see as clear case of lack of natural resources. Only imaginative leadership could turn the Jewish State and her citizens to what they are today. It is the dream of Ndigbo to have “Biafra” within Nigeria, they desire to see their region physically recreated and transformed, they are very eager to see South East industrialized and organized to stem exodus, they want their people in the Diaspora to begin to return home and establish. This is a major challenge before Soludo. The thinking is that he could pull off an example which will set off a regional renaissance.
It is possible Soludo doesn’t know the enormity of the task on his shoulder; if he doesn’t know, he should better know quickly and factor this into his earlier plans. We can tell it is the exact reason Ndigbo lined their best wishes behind him, it went a long way to partly account for his victory. Ndigbo want Soludo to show the light and they will follow, same for the country. Never in the history of the our country has the need for qualitative leadership been in greater need than now.
What are the tasks before Soludo? So much! He can only do those things if he gets to know them. So those who rush him as is always the case must limit their contributions to the realm of ideas, thoughts based on facts not one designed to open flanks for private triumph and gains. A Permanent Secretary in a summit described some of pieces of advice that would always be available to the chief executive as “advice to gain”. Soludo must think about reorganizing the structure of government particularly the administrative architecture around Government House. Where to begin is to make it difficult for security aides to hide under security concerns to create a new world around him, turning him in the process into a captive.
It has become their pattern to shield leaders away from reality, they never want people to reach their leader to share an interface with him, everything to them boils down to threats, money and disturbance. Leadership is about irritations of all kinds. In climes where sound administration style is cherished and development is the goal, leaders grow grey hairs and get very lean after few months in power; but in our case they grow fat, in fact out of shape. No truly working leader would grow fat given the amount of work to be done day and night. Any governor that truly desires to leave a mark must create a structure that leaves the real world open and accessible to him all time. He should be able to get messages same day and give a reply within 48 hours. Dictated replies, not one based on routine official standards.
This can be without major distortion to functions of the protocol office. The truth is that no leader goes into office with the choice to end in ignominy. It is the structure they meet that turn these often inexperienced leaders into monsters and big time failures. Earlier, we mentioned his security aides, next is the huge bureaucratic cordon around the leaders. There is the secret registry, it is easier for a carmel to pass through a needle than citizens to cross Government House gate to drop their letters. Even when letters are dropped it is very difficult to say which got to him and how long it took. The worst is that replies are hardly given. The process now depends on the goodwill, whims and caprices of one man. This leads to huge distortions in the system. The supervisory responsibility of the Secretary to the State Government should be fully restored so that activities in ministries and departments can be picked up every other day. It will help time lines.
Soludo dreams of Dubai. Dreaming big is great but starting from the most relevant programmes that have bearing to daily existence is ideal and most suitable for legitimacy. Ordinary people want to see the roads rehabilitated very quickly, waste managed in very superlative way, security enhanced, schools rehabilitated in the most modern manner not two classroom blocks as many do, staffing and equipping, not abandoning responsibility by handing over to private interest who in pursuit of profit not only bastardize procedure and due process but price education out of the reach of far greater majority. People want to see food security, mechanized farmers engaged in all areas of farm business including cow rearing; urban renewal, making Awka the capital worth the status, clean up Onitsha, banish the touts, walk on the seaport and ultra modern housing estates. These can go along with the big dream of turning Anambra into our Dubai.
On a final note, Soludo must find a way to work with the defeated candidates. They are not just astute, many have got great ideas and reach. If they accept to work with him in terms of getting their ideas and making them supervise them without loss to the state, this would be great. Soludo’s constiutency should be the entire South East in vision and even reach out. This is one area his predecessors, Peter Obi and Obiano failed woefully. Soludo can excel here in the other areas. Much is given to him and much is expected. Can Soludo carry this cross?