In the run-up to the November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State, which was eventually concluded on November 9, the phrase, “Anambra is not Imo” became a refrain. The outcome of the election, with Prof Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) emerging winner, has even made this slogan more popular. Many people are proud that the will of the people was done in Anambra State, with regards to the choice of next governor.

Ever since the Anambra election, one has been wondering why some people would go out of their way and consciously try to denigrate Imo State and its people. Anambra is not Imo, quite alright, but not in the manner people want to present it. That a candidate who came fourth in the Imo governorship election eventually became governor does not mean that the people compromised and allowed the last to be the first, as it were.

Imo State governorship election of 2019 followed a process. The people went to the polls and voted. Votes were collated. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the result and declared a winner. The winner was sworn in as governor on May 29, 2019. He presided over Imo State for nine months or thereabout as governor, but the Supreme Court, in a judgment, which is still controversial till date, declared another candidate in that election winner and elected. How is this the fault of Imo people?

Just like in Imo in 2019, governorship election has held in Anambra State. The voters have exercised their franchise. Votes cast were collated. INEC has declared Soludo the winner. That is where the role of the people, the electorate ends. Whatever happens thereafter, at the tribunal or court, is no longer the responsibility of Anambra people. It is the responsibility of the winner to defend the mandate that has been given to him.

Therefore, saying that Anambra is not Imo is, in my view, gratuitous insult. After all, it is Imo that ensured that former Governor Rochas Okorocha did not succeed in installing his son-in-law as his successor in 2019. Or have we forgotten? It’s the same Imo that stopped the reelection of ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim in 2011 and opted for Okorocha instead. How then would people try to present Imo voters as those who do not know or who do not insist on what they want? Whoever that started the “Anambra is not Imo” nonsense needs to apologise to the people.

It must be stated that the victory of Soludo and APGA is a manifestation of the people’s power. Anambra State has proved to be the home of APGA. That is why they say about APGA: “Nke a bu nke anyi” (this is our own). From 2007, when APGA came to power in Anambra, it has got so entrenched that the people have always rejected even good candidates for the governorship election, who are of other political parties. Nobody would forget in a hurry that this same Soludo, who has emerged as governor-elect on the platform of APGA, had in 2011 vied for the same position under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and lost, even when his then political party controlled the federal government. Now coming from APGA, Soludo won resoundingly.

The happiness that preceded Soludo’s victory in Anambra governorship election is understandable. Anambra voters and indeed Igbo feel that the outcome of the election was an affirmation that they have the power to decide who and which political party would govern them. Most people are happy that the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not win the election. Perhaps, they feel this way not because they hate Senator Andy Ubah, the APC candidate. It may simply be because they feel that Ubah, being a candidate of a political party other than APGA, was not for them to support.  It is possible that in the future, Andy Ubah could be governor if he becomes the candidate of APGA.

Even in the face of strong propaganda that the APC was on ground in Anambra, prior to the governorship election, the people and the state government stood firm. They were not deterred by the avalanche of defections of former APGA members to the APC. They still exercised their faith, believing that the determinant of the election would be their votes. They had their way. It was a repeat of what happened in 2014, during the reelection of Governor Willie Obiano, when, despite the force with which APC came, with a grassroots candidate like Hon Tony Nwoye, APGA won. Indeed, APGA has proved to be the political party in Anambra State.

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With the groundswell of support Soludo got under APGA, therefore, the onus is on him not to disappoint the people. He had, during his previous attempt to become governor, talked about transforming Anambra to Dubai, Singapore and Taiwan put together. Being a professor of Economics and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Soludo has the knowhow to make the dream Anambra a reality. With the human and capital resources in Anambra, what the people need is progressive and purposeful leadership. Anambra has the indices of progress. The state has Onitsha, a commercial and industrial city whose fame transcends the borders of Nigeria. There is Nnewi, an industrial hub, known for the assemblage and fabrication of vehicle and motorcycle parts and assembly plants. The state has a people not only with entrepreneur zeal but also with business in their blood. Sound government policy, programmes and support for the stakeholders are the things needed for this to happen.

Soludo should set up the structures. He should erect his pillars of transformation for Anambra as soon as he takes off. Dubai, Singapore and Taiwan were not built in a day. Their transformation and relevance in today’s world came about owing to the instrumentality of a focused, visionary and pragmatic leadership. With the election over, the incoming Soludo government should focus in governance, using all available resources, no matter their political affiliations. There is need for practical government, not theoretical. And government does not have to be elitist for it to work.

Nigerians, whether at the federal, state or local government levels, demand justice, fairness and equity. They want government to be inclusive and people-oriented. They want to be part of government, which would make them to own it. They demand security, infrastructure development, qualitative education, technology, commerce, healthcare delivery and industrialisation, among others. Any government that makes these pillars of development and fervently pursue them would earn the people’s buy-in.

However, security remains the key. It is a pillar on which everything stands. Without security, there would hardly be infrastructure development, healthcare delivery, qualitative education, commerce and industry. The incoming Soludo government should, therefore, make security a priority. It should evolve a programme to engage the youths, whose agitation for justice has made the South East a hotbed, although this is not peculiar to the region. He could bring in fresh ideas and perspective, and then join forces with the sitting governors of South East for a holistic programme to solve the security challenge in Anambra and South East. If we get Anambra right this time, the state will serve as a focal point for the reengineering of the South East region as a whole.

On a general note, the victory of APGA has proved that it is a political party in whom South East people are well pleased. Despite the fact that APGA controls only the government of Anambra State at present, its feat in South East would not be overlooked. APGA won the governorship election in Imo State that brought Okorocha to power in 2011. However, Okorocha took the APGA mandate to the APC. APGA made tremendous impact in the 2015 governorship election in Abia State. Even though APGA was not declared winner of the governorship election in Abia then, it won almost half of the seats in the state’s House of Assembly. APGA has also won legislative positions in Benue and Taraba states.

The leadership of APGA should therefore use the election of Soludo as a launching pad to branch out beyond Anambra. The political party could actually rewrite the history of elections in Anambra in 2023 by working towards also winning senatorial and House of Representatives seats. The pattern whereby the PDP takes the majority of the senatorial and House of Representatives seats for Anambra could be stopped. What the Dr. Victor Oye-led APGA leadership should do is to rebuild the party by wooing some of the political actors in the state, including those who contested the governorship election on the platform of other political parties. With strong politicians joining APGA in Anambra, the 2023 election would produce a different result.

With such progress, APGA leadership can start making in-road to other South East states ahead of 2023. Indeed, APGA’s “Nke a bu nke anyi” could be relevant in 2023. If Igbo are demanding that next president of Nigeria should be one of their own, it follows that APGA needs not field a candidate from another tribe this time. If the political party does field an Igbo candidate, will Igbo across the country support such candidate? Let’s wait and see!