By Chuks Iloegbunam,
Chukwuma Charles Soludo was the guest lecturer in Awka during the 3rd Anniversary of the inception of the Willie Obiano Administration. The renowned economist’s magisterial presentation was laced with numerous economic, political and social nuggets, all of which boiled down to his unequivocal endorsement of Governor Willie Obiano for a second term of office. His views make sustained interrogation imperative. But, some background information is apposite.
Professor Soludo is far from the first Anambra personage to endorse Governor Obiano’s bid for a second tenure as Governor of Anambra State. The impressive list contains such names as Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the first civilian governor of the new Anambra State; Dame Virgy Etiaba, a former Governor of Anambra State, and Chief Emeka Sibeudu, who was Deputy Governor to Mr. Peter Obi. Others include Senators Ben Ndi Obi, Annie Okonkwo and Emma Anosike, none of whom is of Governor Obiano’s ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), as well as Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, the former Nigerian Education Minister. Elder statesmen like Chief Alex Ekwueme, a former Vice-President of Nigeria, and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the former Commonwealth Secretary-General, have equally thrown their lot with Governor Obiano. Non-politicians like Dr. Cosmas Maduka, the versatile industrialist, and Chief Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Car manufacturers have equally given Governor Obiano the thumbs up.
Indeed, the support for an Obiano second term is gradually becoming a movement. It has gone beyond personalities and attracted the remarkable attention of groups that cut across socio-political, religious, and professional divides. In this category are to be found the Anambra North Peoples Assembly (ANPA); the Old Aguata Union (OAU); the Federation of Old Nnewi Division (FOND); the Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU) and the Anambra State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association, (ASMATA.) Yet, that is not all because the Anambra state branches of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC); the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council; the Traditional Prime Ministers Council, the Anambra state branch of Southeast Women of Substance and the United Anambra Youths Assembly have equally endorsed Governor Obiano to continue with his exemplary leadership. All the endorsements are held by one powerful bond – the fact that Governor Willie Obiano has acquitted himself creditably in the onerous responsibility of directing the affairs of Anambra State. In unison they sing the joyous song of his achievements: Obiano has made Anambra the safest state in the country. He has transformed the Awka capital territory from a provincial enclave to a worthy state capital. He has revolutionized agriculture, making Anambra a rice-producing state of note and a leader in dairy farming. He has sustained the prompt and regular payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions. He has displayed an uncommon sense of empathy for the sensibilities and sensitivities of Ndi Anambra. For these and many other reasons, they have taken the attitude that a second term is the appropriate reward for Obiano’s services to his people. Professor Soludo was even more pertinent in his Anniversary Lecture. Said he: “For Governor Obiano this third anniversary must be time to thank God for His mercies – for survival and progress! Let the truth be told: in the context of Nigeria’s situation over the last three years, and in comparison with other states, or even in comparison with past governors in their first three years, Governor Obiano has without question done very well.” A logical question should follow the above assertion. How do you treat someone who has “done very well”? Of course, you ask them to continue with their good work. This was how Soludo put it: “So, why mend it if it is not broken? This is a time of crisis and you don’t change the General in the middle of a war, especially the General that has led you through successes in battles. We have learnt useful lessons from the past and must now forge new elite cohesion and consensus. Let Anambra export a rare form of statesmanship politics. Can we then implore most of the contestants to rather deploy the billions of Naira they would soon waste on the campaign trail into building medium scale industries in the state? That way, even the politicians would be adding to the burgeoning start-up companies, and creating high value-adding jobs! There will be vacancy at Government House after the next four years, and anyone can contest. In the meantime, the Working Willie as our chief servant can continue to serve and lead Anambra as a truly emerging start-up state, while we, the people, collectively support and drive the investment boom!” In joining patriotic Ndi Anambra to endorse Governor Obiano for a second term, Professor Soludo did not discount the hurdles along the way. Foremost among them is the contingency of unscrupulous politicians using the “Federal might” to negate the people’s choice: “Obviously, we expect candidates from other political parties to contest the election. That is their prerogative under a democracy. Of course, there are many reasons why people run for office. But the argument that Ndigbo or Ndi Anambra need to belong to PDP or APC in order to be “connected to the national grid” is a false argument. I once thought the same way. But evidence since 1999 has shown that there is no special advantage to any state government simply because the governor belongs to the same party as the President (except perhaps 10-30 persons that might be appointed to some federal positions). That is an elite talk, an elite game for the elite interest! Or perhaps some might join a political party so that the federal authorities might deploy the armed forces and INEC to write election results for them. It has nothing to do with the people and their welfare, period!” Without question, the greatest challenge facing Ndi Anambra today is how to thwart political charlatans who, in a bid to grab power, will seek to sow death and destruction where Governor Obiano has instituted peace and stability. How do the people ensure that the INEC, the Armed Forces, the Police and other security agencies are not deployed, against their oaths of office, to manipulate the November governorship ballot? If Ndi Anambra are allowed the free choice of who governs them; if external forces who give no damn whether Anambra is swallowed by hellfire or high waters, do not impose bloodshed and injustice on a peaceful people because of hunger for naked power, the thrust of Professor Soludo’s anniversary lecture will gain traction and Anambra State will be all the better for it.Soludo’s lecture was entitled Anambra: An Emerging Start-up State And Our Collective Challenge. Its central message is that Anambra’s affairs are currently in the hands of a dedicated and visionary Governor. The way Governor Obiano articulates his vision is this: APGA has been in power in Anambra State for 11 years. The party requires a new electoral mandate to consolidate on its legacy, and to replicate the economic miracles of the Asian Tigers and “Israel, Anglo-Americans, Indians and Chinese” of Soludo’s citation, who built virile economies over decades.
Iloegbunam is Governor Obiano’s Director of Media Relations