THE SOLUDO VICTORY AND LESSONS FROM THE ANAMBRA POLLS
BY UBAKA OKOFU
The determination of the people of Anambra to build and exercise an unbroken political will should henceforth be seen as a template in redirecting the political trajectories of other geo-political regions in the country. The focus of this treatise is Anambra, a small state created from the old East Central state in 1976.
Apparently, the country’s electoral empire couldn’t have been more burdened than it has been in this contest. Nigerians are now more committed to strengthen their nascent democracy. The just concluded Anambra governorship election has clearly shown that power ultimately resides with the people and not in the hands of a few politicians.
The Anambra election might have been won and lost, yet it exuded some statements that would echo through the passages of time. The landslide victory by the APGA’s candidate over all other contending candidates clearly indicated that the people freely cast their votes without fear or favour. Anambra voters have been hailed for queuing behind Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who like Clement Isong has just made history by emerging as the Governor-elect of the second smallest state in Nigeria. This time, the erudite scholar would govern over his own people, the people of Anambra and not over currencies and national fiscal policies as it were with the Central Bank.
Quite significant is the peoples’ resilience and patience in spite of the odds that compelled voting to be extended beyond November 6th . One strong lesson from the peoples’ resilience is that Nigerian voting class must be ready to fight to have in place quality democracy which in turn would guarantee good governance.
Pertinently, the people were bent on maintaining a political culture as well as sustaining the streak of having great minds elected as governors of that state. Jim Nwobodo was not just any candidate. He emerged as the first civilian governor of the state. He was elected under the defunct Nigeria’s Peoples Party, NPP in 1979. After the completion of his first term in office, he was voted out in 1983. Those days, second term was earned.
Christian Onoh of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN was a force in the politics of old eastern Nigeria. He took over from Jim Nwobodo, but his reign was cut short because the then restive military boys struck in December 1983 citing corruption as the bogeyman.
Chukwuemeka Ezeife’s tenure was another incidence of aborted democracy. He was elected under the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party, (SDP) in 1992. The unfortunate story of the annulled June 12 Presidential election adjudged to be the most free and fair election ever in the country was believed to have been won by Late M.K.O Abiola. Also, the consequent extermination of the Social Democratic Party, SDP and National Republican Party, NRC were some of the greatest undoing by the Nigerian military in politics.
Chinwoke Mbadinuju of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) was elected during the return of the country to democracy after a long and uninterrupted period of military rule. He completed a first term and vacated office in 2003 for Chris Nwanbueze Ngige who was at that time a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP).
Incidentally, the brother of the defeated Sen. Andy Uba in the just concluded Anambra polls, Chris Uba was the chief sponsor of Dr. Ngige’s candidacy. The election was won and both political god son and father fell apart almost immediately after the former was sworn-in as Governor-elect of Anambra state. One is therefore not surprised that Dr. Ngige was among the very first from the opposition party to have congratulated Prof. Soludo, even when the APC candidate and Ngige’s fellow party member had rejected the outcome of the election citing large scale electoral fraud. In a press release after results were announced by INEC, Sen. Uba called the election a charade, saying that the election did not reflect the wishes of the people of Anambra, and that there was no way an already depleted APGA could have won the election. His reason was the defection of 17 federal law makers and the Deputy Governor of the state, Nkem Okeke from APGA to the APC. Sen. Uba was still living in the past, because the people is now the determining factor of election henceforth. This again is a strong lesson from the just concluded Anambra election.
Peter Obi of APGA broke PDP’s jinx in Anambra when he defeated an already deflated Chris Ngige of the Peoples Democratic Party and took over the rein of Anambra. Let me quickly mention here that Virginia Etiaba was yet another circumstantial Governor of Anambra state. She presided over the state as acting Governor for a period of 4 months during which Peter Obi was removed through an impeachment proceeding by the Anambra state House of Assembly for gross misconduct. Peter Obi was reinstated as Governor of the state 4 months after he was impeached.
Peter Obi’s radical economic policies as governor of the state are being been hailed till date. In alliance with the people of Anambra, Peter Obi prepared the way for the emergence of Willie Obiano in 2013. The incumbent governor deserved a path on the back for taming the roaring Sen. Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) and other candidates that went into the election.
The victory of Prof. Charles Chukwuemeka Soludo of All Progressive Grand Alliance, (APGA) as the 7th democratically elected Governor of that state has validated the fact that with the right candidate, election can be won convincingly without vote buying and criminal snatching of ballot boxes. Hence, the political class must redouble efforts to place interest of the electorates far above personal aggrandisement.
Notwithstanding that APGA has its root deeply into the political soil of south east Nigeria, parties must be mindful of the candidates they feed for election as flag bearers . When the chips are down as we have witnessed in Anambra election, it’s the pedigree and good record of the candidate that counts. Soludo’s pedigree and achievement are ahead of other contestants. Anambra election has also shown that a free and fair election is doable where all the variables are in place.
As the results from the election have shown, Sen. Uba might have been very popular among his people in Anambra. This writer wants to believe that his problem sterns from his closeness to President Buhari whom they, the people of the region see as a tormentor of Igboland. Again, this may not be true as the government of Muhammadu Buhari is committed to return normalcy to the south east that has been a hot bed for political violence following IPOB renewed agitation for Biafra.
For the ordinary Igbo man on the street, President Buhari’s APC was responsible for their woes. Hence, the election was an opportunity to seek a pound of flash from the ruling APC. Sen. Uba’s humiliating defeat has been foreseen even before November 6th-election day. Results from the election at a glance also show that the APC should not have fed Sen. Andy Uba for the election in the first place.
Much is expected from Prof. Soludo. Equally, no one is in doubt that he is competent and well equipped to deliver the good to the people of Anambra. If expertise and experiences were the only things needed to turn Anambra state into a Nigeria’s Dubai, the people of Anambra do not need to look elsewhere because the newly elected governor has both qualities rolled into one.
Already, Peter Obi had set a standard for those to come after him to follow, and his successor, Willie Obiano has done creditably well in following his predecessor’s unbeaten records on project delivery. Education, primary health delivery and infrastructures had received attention under the present administration. However, there are areas that Prof. Soludo must ear-marked for immediate attention. Infrastructures have always been in deficit considering the commercial nature of Onitsha and other adjourning towns extending to Awka, the state capital.
First, Soludo must work with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that work on the 2nd Niger Bridge does not stop or suffer any set back whatsoever. His attitude must not be one of ‘its’ a federal project’ therefore it’s not the business of Anambra government. Infact, Soludo must synergize with the federal government on all other federal projects within Anambra for timely delivery.
There is no gainsaying that the timely completion of the 2nd Niger Bridge would ease off the notorious traffic problem at the Asaba end of the Niger bridge. Traffic bottle neck is a recurring decimal at Onitsha, Prof. Soludo must find a way of arresting the anomaly to restore the confidence of traders who travel to Onitsha to do business.
Flooding and other environment challenges must also rank top on projects to be prioritized by the incoming administration of Prof. Soludo. Most of the rural communities in Anambra are prone to flooding from the River Niger. The incoming government must tackle the flooding menace. Importantly, the state must also construct big underground drainages to arrest and direct flooding water whenever it rains or the River Niger is over flowing its bank.
That IPOB could cease fire to allow for the election shows the importance and respect Igbos have for Prof. Soludo. With the rising tempers months before the election, not a few actually believed that election could be held in the state. It’s encouraging that the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafraland, IPOB would listen to superior counsel. Anambra is known to have produced great minds and prominent denizens. The likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chinua Achebe, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Chub Okadigbo, Emeka Anyaokwu, Pete Edochie, Peter Obi and others, so one is not suppressed that those who acted on behalf of the incumbent governor and other critical stakeholders were actually able to talk IPOB out of their initial threat and plans to disrupt the Anambra election.