Yesterday, there was a change of guards in Anambra State Government House. Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, who won the governorship election of November 6, 2021, on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), took the oath of office as the fifth governor of the state since the current democratic dispensation. It was the beginning of a new era, an era where professionalism, class and high-level performance are expected.
For Soludo, his inauguration as governor is truly a dream come true. Since 2010, after the conclusion of the national assignment as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), he vied for the position of governor of the state three times. His political trajectory has criss-crossed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where he was governorship candidate in 2010, and the APGA, where he was first disqualified as an aspirant in 2014 and then the candidate who eventually won the election last year. He has made history as the first CBN governor to be elected governor of a state.
Soludo is not just an ordinary elected governor. He is a governor who had a name, as it were, before coming to executive office in governance. He was a first-class professor of Economics. He was the governor of the CBN whose tenure saw to the consolidation of the Nigerian banking sector, raising the capital base of banks to N25 billion, thereby making them stronger. He had been part of economic think tanks of many international organisations and monetary bodies. He is coming to office with a rich profile, which is expected to come to bear in his government.
In the years that he campaigned to be governor, Soludo promised to make the difference in office. His promise to transform Anambra State to the Dubai and Taiwan of Africa has been a talking point whenever his name comes up in relation to the governorship election. Dubai is a modern city (emirate) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which transformed from a desert to a global tourism and business centre. With splendid architecture in breathtaking housing and environment for luxury shopping, Dubai is a city that attracts visitors like sugar attracts ants. Taiwan, on its part, is a country known for high technology innovation, a country of information and communication technology and electronics. When a man promises to deliver a combination of Dubai and Taiwan as governor, as Soludo did, it means that he is thinking of tomorrow.
Soludo aspired to be governor. He campaigned to be governor. He made promises on what he would do as governor. He has a blueprint of his plan of action as governor. He ran for election to be governor. He won election. Now in office, let him govern. Anambra people and indeed Nigerians are going to hold him by his words to raise the bar in the governance of the state. While one would take the promise of transforming Anambra to Dubai-Taiwan of Africa as statement for vivid effect, one expects Soludo to walk his talk as governor.
Anambra is a state that has the highest number of millionaires. The state is known for commerce, industry and technology. With Onitsha, which is the hub of commerce and industrialisation, and Nnewi, the technological pivot, Anambra is in a position to be greater than it is today. What is needed is to have sound programmes by a focused and innovative state government. This is the big task before the Soludo government.
The fact that Soludo promised to use made-in-Anambra vehicles from Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Limited, which he fulfilled on his inauguration day, as Innoson vehicles were delivered to him, adds impetus to his Taiwan dream. Using Anambra-made vehicles will boost patronage of the home-made vehicles as well as boost the confidence of the manufacturers to keep on striving. However, such support should go beyond using the vehicles. The Soludo government should evolve a sound plan for Nnewi to magnify its technological prowess. The state government should provide an enabling environment and infrastructure that would make Nnewi a centre of technology.
It must be noted that Taiwan and China did not become perfect in technology from the first day. The two countries did a lot of trial and error. They started from imitating what others did. They kept at it for many years. They improved on their outputs. They perfected their art. The governments helped by encouraging those trying their hands at manufacturing things from other lands. Today, the crude Taiwanese and Chinese products of yesterday have become sought after globally, now in their splendid state. One remembers when Nigerians made a mockery of products from Taiwan. At that time, when a product was called “Taiwan,” it meant that its quality was questionable. The derogatory “Taiwan” of many years ago has transformed to a Taiwan of glory, with the perfection of the country’s technology and the delivery of quality products.
Therefore, making Nnewi or, rather, Anambra the Taiwan of Africa is not really undoable. It is possible. It will take some time, but it can be achieved. With the maxim “Rome was not built in a day” at the back of our minds, the evolving of a programme and its implementation would set the pace for the achievement of a Taiwan dream. What the Soludo government needs is a well-thought-out plan, with conscientious and diligent implementation.
The best way to go is to provide the needed infrastructure and environment. Technology cannot function without electricity. For Anambra to be Taiwan, the government must provide electricity. At a time when the national grid has become unreliable, collapsing now and then, the Soludo government should, therefore, work on independent power projects (IPPs) for Nnewi and Anambra as a whole, to tackle the electricity problem of the state. The state government should reach out to international investors in the electricity sector as a matter of priority in this regard. Good a thing, the National Assembly has moved for the decentralisation of electricity, airports and others in the current Constitution amendment. Private sector-driven state IPPs in Anambra would, in the next couple of years, provide this much-needed infrastructure.
Closely linked to the provision of electricity is security. No country or state will progress much in the midst of insecurity. Anambra has been a hotbed of insecurity, with killings, arson and brutalities in cities and communities. In a state of insecurity, business cannot thrive. Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre and industrial hub of Anambra State, Nnewi and other cities require security to function well in business. Therefore, the Soludo government must address the state of insecurity. The best place to start is the sit-at-home malaise, which paralyses economic activities on Monday and any other day it is called in Anambra and the entire South East. The state government, as a new kid on the block and a fresh hand, should engage, working with traditional rulers and opinion leaders, those responsible for this state of affairs, with the view to getting their understanding on the need for economic activities to thrive without let and hindrance.
Also, the state government should support security agencies by providing equipment and materials. Community policing should also be given a fillip, with support of local vigilance groups working with security agencies. There should be a proactive and preventive crime-fighting mechanism in the state, instead of reactionary programmes that could amount to medicine after death. A well-policed Anambra, with the buy-in of all stakeholders, will make the state safe for business and leisure.
The Soludo government will have to do much to ensure cohesion and stability in Anambra State. A state with a legion of wealthy and important people could be difficult to manage. The governor has to be pragmatic in managing ego and self-importance among the “big men” of Anambra State. The way the governor managed the “breach of protocol” during his inauguration says a lot. Such an attitude of not taking sides and electing to resolve the differences of the parties in the “breach of protocol” will help Gov. Soludo in the years ahead.
Most importantly, Soludo should look at the cost of governance. With dwindling economy, the in-thing is to have thin government, instead of a bloated workforce. The practice of having thousands of aides, who will in turn have their own aides, would not augur well for the state. Government should be slim and smart for optimal performance. This will reduce cost, cut off bureaucracy and give the government the opportunity to deploy scarce resources to capital projects.
A lot has been heard about Soludo’s recruitment plan, wherein it is speculated that the new governor wants those who desire to work with him to apply for jobs and undergo selection process of international standard before they could be hired. Since there is no official statement in this regard so far, it should be taken as rumour. However, if it is true, the new governor should known that the executive branch of government is different from the private sector or government parastatals. Good hands are engaged and usually do not seek new employment. To get such people, an employer would have to go out of his way to invite and woo them. Besides, recruitment processes involving interviews and tests may not produce the best for the job. There are people who do well in interviews but would be disasters on the job. Gov. Soludo, as a technocrat, is experienced enough to know this.
Anambra, the South East and Nigeria are looking at Soludo to see how his anticipated Midas touch, pedigree and exposure would show the light in Anambra for others to follow. The world expects nothing less than success from Soludo. His first 100 days in office will define his government.