By Sunny Igboanugo
From the outset, let me confess that I was not one of those who celebrated the victory of Chukwuma Charles Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the would-be governor of Anambra State. I was even not excited about his politics in the first place. I’ll explain! But first, let me digress.
A governor friend of mine, once dismissed me as politically naive. You don’t know politics, he once told me with wave of the hands. How, why? He was actually reacting to my view on a move he intended to make, which I told him would backfire.
You see, this particular governor, before he ventured into the foray of politics to contest the office, which was his first, was a good friend of mine. Okay, let’s say we became friends because he wanted to contest elections and he felt I could help his ambition because of my field experience. So, he came and we hit it off. In most cases, our meetings, either in his house or my office, were so stormy that on occasions, he walked out on me, accusing me of disrespect, because, as a typical Nigerian Big Man, he couldn’t fathom some of the things I told him during such heated moments.
But he kept coming back and we kept reconciling and kept on it until his election and subsequent victory. In fairness to him, we kept our friendship through the wait until he was finally inaugurated. It was then he made me an unofficial assessor and advisor. The deal was that we would meet each day to review the activities of the day, his reason being that I was the only one that could look him in the face and tell him the truth. Of course it was a pro bono affair. I didn’t get paid. Nothing was offered, nothing was taken.
So, for a very long time in his early years, I was a constant face in his residence. Virtually every night, unless on the occasions he was out of town, I was around. I even travelled with him on many occasions, not in any official capacity, but as a friend of the governor. Remember that man with the unique title – Friend of the President!
It was in one of these friendly moments that I told him how people were praising him in town. Yes! This was true, because, he actually hit the ground running and because of the dismal outing of his predecessor, the difference he made in sharp contrast of the past drew him accolades, not only from the state, but all over the country as a demonstrable example of what a working governor should be.
But guess what? My friend’s reply shocked me. You see all these, he quipped, they’re going to be for just about two years and we’ll prepare for the next election. If it means importing soldiers from North Korea, we shall do so. Haba! Completely bemused, I reminded him that he needed no soldiers and that if he continued at the rate he was going, his second term was guaranteed like a walk in the park. That was when he waved me off with – you don’t know politics comment.
My friend, had obviously begun to listen to politicians who told him how the game was played. Needless to say that he travelled that dangerous route and of course ended up disastrously. Even though he got his second term, but it was with blood on the floor, a development, which blighted what otherwise would have been a momentous era where he could have become a political hero. Today, my friend’s career, has entered voicemail.
Again, I had an occasion to also confront a Senator in the same environment. It was in the heat of his election and I overheard him talking to his supporters about inflating figures, when he was already coasting home with a clear sign of even a landslide. Again, it was the same reply. My friend, you don’t understand politics.
Obviously, getting outrageous figures, even unearned and diminishing that of his main rival, so as to reduce him to obvious mockery was his idea of knowing politics. That’s why you often hear them celebrate that their opponents lost their wards, not minding whether the loss was contrived or real. Imagine the late Ikemba Nnewi losing Nnewi and Anambra during his presidential and even, before that, Senatorial election contests!
These two scenarios are instructive. I could now wrap my head around the activities of the new governor-elect of my state in his journey to his political victory. But who could blame me earlier? May be I didn’t really know politics.
I had always taken the former CBN boss as pure technocrat and academic and therefore held him to certain pristine standards. How was I to know that he had been a politician all his life, until he said so and provided the historical background on Wednesday, in his first post-victory interview with Arise TV?
Hear him: “Don’t forget that I have also been part of the political process all my life. I was a senior prefect in my school. In the university, I was a students union leader. I was elected by my colleagues as chairman, students wing of the party in my local government in the university and then coordinator of then Anambra and Imo, the current south East, during the presidential campaigns in 1983, coordinating the students and so on and so forth. I understand the art of bargaining, politicking and compromise.”
If I knew this much I wouldn’t have assailed him for accepting the treatment his camp meted out to Chukwuma Umeoji in the primaries that gave him the ticket of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which actually did it for me. My point of departure was that the Soludo camp, which included Governor Willie Obiano and National Chairman of the party, Victor Oye, had the entire structure to defeat the lawmaker democratically, why disqualify him and therefore creating bad blood. I didn’t believe he would accept that. Now I know it was to rub it in and ensure that he’s punished adequately, so that others would learn in future – Politics!
That interview also made another revelation. In the run to the 2017 campaign, Soludo had said that Anambra was not broken and needed no fixing under Obiano. Now this statement was made before the Anambra International Cargo Airport and the International Conference Centre, the two legacy projects of the governor. I was one of those completely aghast by such an audacious statement. At least, if it were today when those project could be pointed at, it would have been more understandable. But now, with the revelation that the governor actually marked him as his successor a clear five years ago, the reason for the infamous comment has become very clear. Again, politics!
But now that the jigsaw puzzle has fallen in place, it has become incongruous for the same Soludo to claim that he was conscripted into the race by my people. No! It is clearly his desire and ambition to be governor. For a decade, he had sought for it, and now it is his.
In fact, the only person that could make such a claim is the Akpokuedike of Umueri, who was practically pulled out from the poolside in his Houston home, in the US, where he was lounging leisurely and playing his guitar, by vested interests to come and be governor. That was why I was one of those reticent about commenting on his performance in office, because he never had the ambition himself. He virtually promised nothing and people like me expected nothing and therefore excused him. If we had or habour any complaints, we rather direct them to those who made him and many have since done that.
But not so for Soludo. In fact, with Soludo, the stakes have increased in manifolds. Anambra can’t accept Obiano standard, not even Peter Obi’s. Of course, we could have held him down to the African Dubai or Taiwan he promised. But let us consider that too as politics. We could settle for a quarter of Dubai. But even if that is a tall order, a Pretoria or Accra or even Abuja, which is far beyond an airport or conference centre. Everyone knows what these cities look like.
Happily, he said so himself that he is not going to learn on the job. Two things in that interview excite me – his focus on value creation as opposed to just filling space as in his recruitment. I also like the part of adopting the school and providing for those school children. It shows the governor-elect is not lacking in what has come to be known as emotional intelligence.
“You’re going to work with everybody, work with different groups, but keep focused on the ball, which is the greater good for the greater number of the people of Anambra State.” Those were his words. Exciting too!
I see the scavengers, the hyenas, the vultures and the hawks hovering over the kill that has just been made. His emergence as the next governor, is certainly another opportunity for the greedy, the gluttons, the thieves and all manner of undesirable elements to descend on the commonwealth and pillage it to their fill. They will always be there. But keeping the state save from such official roguery is what would make the difference towards the New Anambra that Soludo is promising. That is his call. The time starts now!
Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Lagos
This article first appeared in The Nation of November 18, 2021