Soludo vs Ozigbo: Economic heavyweights fight to govern Anambra

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Cynics will say that most elections are between the devil and the deep blue sea. In most instances they are correct. However, there are rare exceptions when the choice is favourable. For the residents of Anambra state, the November 6 Anambra governorship election is one of those rare moments in history when they get to choose one of their best to govern them. In this analysis, Prime Business Africa’s Online Editor, OJO MADUEKWE examines the choice between Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and Mr. Valentine Chineto Ozigbo, businessman and former CEO of Transcorp Plc.

Following today’s news of the cancellation of the purportedly held All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the November 6 Anambra governorship election is now a two-horse race.

The election will be won or lost between the candidates of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mr. Valentine Chineto Ozigbo. Because of their background in finance and economy, narrowing down the choice to these two portends interesting times for governance in Anambra.

Statistically speaking, Anambra is no small state. Whatever dimension one decides to examine the state, Anambra comes out tops in a lot of areas; not just in the Southeast but in Nigeria as a whole. Whether it’s in the area of education, trade and commerce, agriculture, manufacturing, and so many more, Anambra has shown the capacity to deliver good governance.

Let’s take unemployment data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). An indication of a prosperous state, in Q2, 2020 the NBS reported Anambra as having the lowest unemployment and underemployment rates at 13.1 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. One of Nigeria’s top 10 revenue-generating states, in five years, the state grew its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by 61.3 per cent from N17.3 billion in 2016 to N28 billion in 2020.

An investors haven, Anambra continues to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). By the end of 2020, in the year of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, the state recorded foreign investment inflow of $10.02 million, making it the 6th highest capital importation destination in Nigeria. In the same period under review, Anambra recorded the second-lowest domestic debt in the Southeast region at N59.9 billion, according to NBS data.

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It’s safe to say that any of Soludo and Ozigbo that becomes governor has little challenge to face, except building on the successes of previous governments. Two highly successful individuals, Soludo and Ozigbo come prepared for the job ahead. Selling their candidacy during the campaign won’t be an uphill task; their biography speaks (volume) for them.

Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo (APGA) began his career as an academic. He graduated with a First Class Honours degree in 1984, an MSc in Economics in 1987, and a PhD in 1989. For these feats, he won prizes for the best student at all three levels. In 1998 he became a Professor of Economics at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN); and then in 1999, this time a visiting professor at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, USA.

Soludo has been a visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund, the University of Cambridge, the Brookings Institution, the University of Warwick, and the University of Oxford as well as a visiting professor at Swarthmore College (USA). He has also worked as a consultant for several international organisations including the World Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the United Nations Development Programme.

His first stint at active politics was when he was appointed Chief Economic Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003. He would also become the Chief Executive Officer of the National Planning Commission of Nigeria. It wasn’t long after he became the Chairman of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in May 2004. In 2019 he was appointed by President Mohammadu Buhari to be part of an Economic Advisory Council.

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Soludo’s first attempt at becoming governor of Anambra state was in 2009. In September of that year, he announced his aspiration on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and in October the PDP chose him as their consensus candidate. He lost the 2010 election to another strong contender, Peter Obi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).

In 2013 Soludo resigned from the PDP and later joined APGA to again run for the Anambra state governorship. He along with five others were disqualified by APGA’s screening committee. This attempt at becoming the governor of Anambra state will be his third.

Valentine Chineto Ozigbo (PDP) is a businessman. He holds a degree in accounting from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) in 1994, and an MBA in Banking and Finance from the same UNN in 2000. In 2004, Ozigbo obtained an MSc in Finance from the Lancaster University, United Kingdom, and would in 2018 be conferred the award of a Distinguished Alumni of Lancaster University, 2018. He was a British Chevening Scholar from 2003 to 2004.

A former CEO of Transcorp Plc, Ozigbo worked in the banking sector, gaining over 17 years of experience with NAL Merchant Bank, Diamond Bank, Continental Trust Bank, FSB International Bank, Standard Trust Bank, United Bank for Africa, and Bank PHB.

Ozigbo has professional qualifications in three institutes; first is in Accounting from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), in 1998; second is in Taxation from the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, 2000 and third in Credit Administration from the Institute of Credit Administration, 2015. He is a fellow of all three institutions.

He has participated in many international conferences including the World Economic Forum at Davos (WEF) and the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) in Nigeria; the African Development Bank (AfDB) annual meetings in China; the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual meetings in Washington DC; Euromoney and Economist Conferences in London; Euromoney debates on Capital Flows to Africa in London; and SIBOS 2009.

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Ozigbo emerged as the PDP’s candidate for the November 6 election after polling the majority of the votes at the party primary held at the Prof Dora Akunyili Women Development Center on June 26, 2021.

A known philanthropist in Nigeria, Ozigbo is one of Africa’s biggest sports promoters, being the Chairman of Feet ‘N’ Tricks International, the exclusive host of the Nigerian Freestyle Football Championship and the African Freestyle Football Championship.

They say when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Well, I make bold to say that when two heavyweights that have made a name for themselves in finance and economy fight to govern a state, the voters gain. Whichever side the electorate in Anambra decides to swing their permanent voters’ card come November 6, the odds will be in their favour.

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