Governor Soludo’s Misreading Of History, The Moment And Near Future

19 mins read

By League Of Anambra Professionals

Against the backdrop of economy-strangulating simmering insecurity of the past two years, Anambra State has hardly been on the news for the right reasons in the recent past; what with the slapping drama during the current Governor’s inauguration, his predecessor caught whilst sneaking away at the airport by the EFCC amidst accusations of large-scale plundering of public funds and other such unsavoury developments.

It would therefore be understandable that the League of Anambra Professionals (LAP), as true patriots, would rather avoid prolongation of any discussion of or attention to the presently trending unfortunate gratuitous incendiary animadversions against Peter Obi by the Anambra State Governor, Charles Soludo, in his written statement with claims that ‘History Beckons’. However, not only because that Governor Soludo called in aid history to be his witness, the substance of what he was supposed to be addressing, i.e. the investments and savings made by Governor Peter Obi whilst in office, are subjects which LAP is privy to and had cause to intervene on in the past. And the records need to be straightened for posterity even as we seek closure to the present avoidable damaging controversy.

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Barely midway through Governor Obiano’s first tenure as Anambra State Governor there erupted the controversy over the savings, in dollars and naira, made by Governor Peter Obi, his immediate predecessor, and handed over to him on the state’s behalf. Driven by the desire for avoidance of dissipation of energy and to facilitate maintenance of the widely lauded governance momentum of the past government under Mr. Obi, LAP moved to quickly intervene and obtained the consent of the Obi and Obiano camps to mediate over the dispute. Seeking to first establish the facts of the matter, we requested both men to give us their respective sides of the story. Peter Obi made detailed representations backed with documentary proof but Obiano backed off soon thereafter and, in response to our reminders for his own side of the story, made mealy-mouthed excuses that ‘he had moved on’ and that the matter had been overtaken by events.

There was and remains no doubt that Peter Obi’s claims of the savings made by the Anambra State Government in three commercial banks under his watch were the truth; the documentary proof palpably verifiable and indeed verified in the event. As it turned out LAP incurred the displeasure of both camps. Obiano’s grouse, it appeared, was that rather than his obvious expectation of a whitewash and instinctive support for him as ‘the man of the moment’ we actually took the matter seriously and represented a danger of exposure of his disingenuousness. Peter Obi’s camp, on the other hand was unhappy that LAP did not sufficiently publicise its findings. And as was put by one of Obi’s associates, they wondered “how could LAP set an exam without announcing the result?” Whatever LAP got right or wrong in those circumstances is another matter and which would not detain us here.

Anyway, with the amount of documentary proof and involvement of credible third parties in the form of the concerned well known banks through which the monetary savings/investments were made, no reasonable person would doubt Peter Obi on the issue. Indeed, Governor Soludo acknowledges that the savings were made but went ahead to dismiss it as representing poor governance choice when, in his view, ‘there were lives to be saved.’ For all his stature as a celebrated economist, Professor Soludo was here exhibiting ignorance, or dishonesty. This is most lamentable, whichever is the case. We shall not be unduly detained by an analysis of the self-evidently untenable criticism of the savings. Suffice it to say that the catastrophic economic abyss confronting Nigeria today is partly on account of a daunting debt profile and absence of any cushioning sovereign savings. Meanwhile Soludo could not spot the illogicality in bragging about the healthy foreign reserves Nigeria had under his watch as the Central Bank Governor and lamentation that he met a huge debt profile on assuming office as Anambra State Governor, but in the same breadth criticizing the fact that Peter Obi left for Willie Obiano not debts but unprecedented savings in naira and foreign currencies and other investments.

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As for the current worth of the Anambra State investment in a brewery made under Governor Peter Obi, it is axiomatic that generally the value of stocks ebbs and flows with time. The important thing is that the principle which informed the investment was sound. And worthy of note also is that the brewery itself is buoyant and providing direct and indirect employment to many residents of Anambra State, in addition to exemplifying the conventional wisdom of diversification of investments when considered together with the savings part of which was in eurobonds.

Discerning Ndi Anambra and indeed well informed non partisan Nigerians could see through the pettiness and sophistry which characterize Soludo’s insufferably misguided letter. It would suffice here to reflect on and ponder on the trajectory of the firestorm ignited by Governor Soludo. He was being interviewed on his 2023 budget for the state and then left the subject and, a more pertinent question of his view on the controversial timing of the Nigerian currency redesign, to latch onto an incidental casual observation by his interviewer to dismiss the value of Peter Obi’s investments for Anambra State as being “next to nothing”. Unless he is a naive recent Martian emigre, Soludo must have known that Peter Obi’s mainly youthful huge online followers were going to leap to their candidate’s support, especially given the obvious mischief which informed the criticism. Equally pertinent in the present vein is that it he is not known to be contesting anything with Peter Obi and who did nothing wrong against him. As it were, Soludo drew the first blood so to speak.

If he could be excused for instigating the ensuing firestorm, after all there is freedom of expression, it is unfortunate that Soludo instead of being occupied by the devastating security and other problems confronting the state had time to immerse himself in the twittering maelstrom of the so-called Obi-dients. As if that was not a sufficiently shocking misuse of his valuable time, he went further to descend from his lofty gubernatorial perch to join issues with the Obi-dients, most of whom are probably young enough to be his biological children; authoring and disseminating a rambling epistle which read more like an offering by Humpty Dumpty and evoking haunting reminders of his past unflattering characterization by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala which Ndi Anambra hoped he had evolved beyond when they entrusted him with political leadership in a most challenging time as now.

LAP wonders, like other reasonable and well-meaning Nigerians why Governor Soludo was weeping louder than the bereaved. He belongs to APGA and what is his legitimate concern in Peter Obi supposedly by his aspiration denying PDP votes otherwise available to it, and in the process aiding an APC victory in the coming presidential election, as he suggested.

He wants his audience to see a coalescence of the PDP’s interest with those of Ndigbo, but it is the same party whose leading lights like Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto State propagate the fallacy that given their alleged lack of great numbers no Igbo person should seriously aspire for the Nigerian presidency notwithstanding that person’s merits and acceptance by many Nigerians across ethnic and religious divides as seems to be the case with Peter Obi presently. Soludo in his denigration of Obi’s current presidential bid only stoked that fallacious fire, and he apparently also did not see the likely strategic blunder of PDP in jettisoning its constitutionally enshrined zoning arrangement regarding its choice of presidential candidate; and in the process jeopardizing the already dangerously strained national unity and cohesion. Undoubtedly, whatever little elite and regional/zonal consensus that existed in the country has been mortally wounded by the party. And without such consensus, or semblance of it, peace and economic progress of the country would remain illusory.

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Making short shrift of Obi’s chances of winning the Presidency next year misses the point in our considered view. In a way, Peter Obi and a significant percentage of Nigerians are, in some ways, already winners regardless of the eventual result. The Nigerian political class with a chokehold on the country through the two biggest political parties disdainfully imagine that the populace has no choice but must accept whoever they present as presidential candidates; regardless of merit in all its ramifications, including character, mental and physical fitness, notions of equity amongst ethnic and other divides. There is no doubt that the palpable wide resonance of the Peter Obi candidacy, a fact duly acknowledged by serious local and international political pundits, would ensure greater care and circumspection by the bigger political parties in choosing their candidates in future. We would not pretend to possess Soludo’s crystal ball to be able to speak so authoritatively regarding the outcome of the coming presidential election which promises to be like no other in recent memory; the contest seemingly replete with so many peculiar sub-plots and counter-acting factors. Indeed INEC in a seeming acknowledgment of the peculiar unpredictability of the election has announced its preparedness for a run-off. Somebody in Government House Awka may well be reading the wrong tea leaves or misreading the right ones. Time will tell.

Governor Soludo had most unkindly attributed the verbal violence and bullying of Peter Obi’s online fanatical supporters as a mirror of their hero’s character. Without holding brief for him, Peter Obi’s life history is most transparent and it is common knowledge that he had been a prominent and well-known figure in the business community ever before his foray into politics twenty or more years ago. Peter Obi of course has some faults and one of which, in many peoples view (including the irrepressible activist Aisha Yusuf) is an inclination to carrying his pacifism too far. Nigerians may be pardoned for wondering if it was another Peter Obi that Soludo had in contemplation. The truth is that Peter Obi does not have much control over the actions and reactions of the vast army of rightly angry youths and many others who see in his candidacy a vista of hope for a new Nigeria.

However, actions and events which one controls or is in a position to control is a better insight into character of the person, and Governor Soludo may well be the one whose character and persona should be more questionable in the overall circumstances. The admission of how he unilaterally offered to Peter Obi the presidential ticket of APGA indicates how, unsurprisingly, he is now in total control of the party. He is also undoubtedly in the position to even more decisively influence, if not outrightly gifting, the party’s candidacy for lesser offices. And so we must use this opportunity to question how under his watch Mrs. Ebele Obiano is flying APGA’s flag for the Anambra North Senatorial election. Have we forgotten the shame she brought on womanhood and Ndi Anambra by launching an unprovoked attack on Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu in the full glare of millions present and those watching the live broadcast of Governor Soludo’s swearing-in ceremony? And she never deemed it fit to tender unreserved apologies to Ndi Anambra for the monumental odium and ignominy she brought to them.

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LAP had cause last year to publicly deplore the odious selfishness of the majority of Anambra State, and indeed South-East, NASS members and made a call for better quality representation in the next round of elections. Soludo’s APGA must have a very cynical sense of humour, tinged with disdain for Ndi Anambra’s sensibilities, if its idea of better quality representation for the state in NASS accommodates the idea of a Senator Ebele Obiano. Speaking of the Obianos, it is remarkable that Governor Soludo who has been lamenting the empty treasury and huge debts he inherited from his predecessor and justifying his recourse to huge loans and drastic tax collection measures carefully avoided the culprit, whilst launching his scathing attack on Peter Obi. It is probably lost on many Ndi Anambra that one of the reasons Soludo gave for seeking loans was for completion of the over celebrated Anambra Airport which was supposedly Governor Obiano’s flagship project.

If Governor Soludo really cares for the truth and his responsibilities as the chief trustee of the resources of Ndi Anambra then he should be demanding from the EFCC status reports on its investigation of Governor Obiano’s alleged corrupt misappropriation of state funds, and briefing Ndi Anambra accordingly; the objective being to ensure that the state’s funds diverted into private pockets are recovered and put to maximum use for the masses as was self-evidently the case during Peter Obi’s tenure. For the record, Governors Obiano and Soludo should know that Ndi Anambra would not allow the matter to be swept under the carpet.

Apart from the issue of a shockingly depleted treasury, Governor Soludo inherited a state under the siege of nihilistic anarchists and other violent criminal elements and, to be fair to him, he had been rising to the challenge to the relief of Ndi Anambra. But much more still needs to be done, and he should focus wholeheartedly on the security and other challenges. To do so successfully, his government undoubtedly needs the total goodwill of Ndi Anambra and which he is dangerously in the process of throwing overboard by his current misadventures. He threatened to write part two of his epistle but he knows better than it to be anything like the first part. No one begrudges Governor Soludo his freedom of expression but he must also understand contexts and limits. As far as Anambra State is concerned, he is in the position of the custodian of the extended family or communal ofor, and who is forbidden from acting or speaking whimsically and intemperately, much less in disregard of truth.

 

Chijioke Okoli, SANO (OrjiNnewi),  President, League of Anambra Professionals.

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