By OBINNA EZUGWU
The inauguration of Charles Chukwuma Soludo, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as the governor of Anambra State on Thursday, an otherwise momentous event, was dominated by the embarrassing fight between Bianca Ojukwu, wife of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and Ebele Obiano, the immediate past first lady of the state.
But beyond the shame of the incident, the inauguration represented a new era in Anambra, one many had looked forward to, and now await as it unfolds.
After an inspiring eight years – from 2006 to 2014 – under Mr. Peter Obi, a tenure many in the state would easily agree was the best it has had since its creation, the succeeding Obiano administration was a bit of mixed bag. The reviews have not been positive.
A number of strategic infrastructures were built, but overall, many say the state fared badly in many aspects. The touts had staged a comeback in Onitsha and elsewhere. The roads have become mostly dilapidated and a general sense of insecurity pervaded the air.
But many argue that though the now former governor, who incidentally was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport while attempting to return to the United States same Thursday he handed over, performed relatively poorly, he has ended well by handing over to a trusted hand like Soludo.
“Chief Willy Obiano’s governance records would remain a subject of debate, his quest for physical legacies doubtful. Yet he ended it well,” wrote Osita Chidoka, former minister of Aviation.
“He ended it well not because he built a conference centre or an airport with the longest runway, those would not define him. Chief Obiano ended it well because while he thought himself suitable for Anambra, he chose a successor whose pedigree and past was clearly above his resume before he assumed office. That is a mark of greatness.”
Like Chidoka, many in state and indeed the entire Southeast look forward to an era of massive developmental strides in Anambra, and the early signs are encouraging. Delivering his inauguration speech, Soludo promised to hit the ground running.
While conceding that he’s not a miracle worker that could solve problems of the state with the wave of the hand, even as he remarked that he’s not unaware of the weight of expectations, Soludo promised to do his best.
“Once again, I present to you the Soludo Solution—our contract with the people which we intend to vigorously implement subject to resource availability,” he had said.
“Our contract with Anambra people derives from three seminal documents: (a) “Anambra Vision 2070—a 50-Year Development Plan” which I chaired the drafting; (b) “The Soludo Solution: A People’s Manifesto for a Greater Anambra”; and (c) “The Transition Committee (Combined) Report”—which built upon the first two.
“In sum, this is an agenda for an itinerant tribe in search of a livable and prosperous homeland. Driven by the philosophy of One Anambra, One People, One Agenda, our goal is to build Anambra into a livable and prosperous smart megacity. We aim to transit beyond petroleum into the digital world of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and envision Anambra as an industrial, technology, and leisure/entertainment hub of West Africa.
“Our detailed Plan rests on five key pillars: law and order (homeland peace and security); economic transformation as Nigeria’s next axis of industrial-tech and leisure; competitive and progressive social agenda (education, health, youth, women and vulnerable groups); Governance, rule of law and a rebirth of our value system; and aggressively tackling our existential threat posed by the environment—towards a clean, green, planned and sustainable cities, communities, and markets.
“For me, this agenda is also personal: I am here to build a society where I would be proud to live in after leaving office.”
The governor who had promised to leverage his international connections to transform Anambra, and to, as a matter of policy, support local industries, beginning from wearing Akwete and using Innoson Vehicles as official car, adorned himself on the local fabric at the inauguration and presented Innoson made G-Wagon as his official car, becoming the first governor in the country to use locally made vehicle as an official car.
On Friday, the governor proceeded to the Okpoko urban slum in Ogbaru local government, near Onitsha, the state’s commercial city, from where he had promised in his inaugural speech, to begin his formal official duties. The governor who arrived in the company with the deputy, Dr. Onyekachi Ibezim and other entourage, at noon, went round the various communities.
Though prior to his visit, street sweepers who had abandoned their duty, were seen clearing the roads and drainages in Upper Iweka and Okpoko environs, the mountainous heaps of refuse, which adorned major roads in the area, could not be hidden from the governor as he expressed deep worry on sighting them.
The governor expressed unhappiness with the level of decadence in Okpoko and promised to sanitise the place immediately. Explaining why he chose to begin his work from Okpoko, he said the area had been accepted as the weakest link and the most densely populated area in the state, hence he had no option but to begin his administration’s projects from there.
He said the clarification had become necessary after he received several reports on why he made the area his first priority. He noted that the people of Okpoko needed more government attention than any part of the state at the moment.
Soludo, who addressed the community leaders and members at the St. Lwanga Catholic Church, Okpoko, after visiting other areas, spoke in Igbo language.
He said “my people the genius, the unemployed and the criminal. The challenge before us is to decide whether to continue with the ugly situation or turn the flipside that will provide us enormous opportunities for the development of our Homeland.
“Okpoko is the largest Urban slum in Anambra State. Therefore, we have to begin our urban renewal effort from our weakest link. Like my now 16-year-old daughter once asked me when she was just 14, “it is not enough to wish change or show the will to cause a change. How are you sure, Daddy, that the people themselves want to change?”
“Of course, this is not so easy a question to be answered without far-reaching consultation with the people. So far, the people of Okpoko and residents, from Ndikpa to East Niger, are more in a hurry for a change than we can ever be.
“That trip I made in 2009 to Okpoko where I was accosted by a little boy, who raced towards me and audaciously demanded, “Soludo nyem ego” still occupies a better part of my memory. That boy and millions like him needs much more than money. They need a life. May God help us!”
While tasking the people to remain responsible citizens by paying their taxes and engaging in other civic duties, the governor states categorically, that the issue of touts and illegal collection of levies and taxes has come to an end in the state. The new governor has continued to inspire hope, and for many the hope is that other states in the zone can emulate what Anambra has done by electing quality individuals as governors.
“The election of governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo and the examplary steps he’s taken so far, lend credence to the fact that the only guaranteed answer to the Igbo QUO VADIS is; A STRONG LOCAL LEADERSHIP AT HOME,” wrote Charles Ogbu, a columnist and public affairs commentator.
“Some may argue that it is too early to use Soludo as a yardstick. I agree. But Ndigbo have that you can determine the size of the food from the quantity of water provided for washing of hands before the food.
“With a strong leadership across the five (5) Southeast states, no force, no matter how powerful can vanquish the Igbos. Not even a federal force.”
Indeed, during interactions with everyday people in Awka, Anambra’s administrative capital, prior to the inauguration, one can feel an intense sense of optimism – but also anxiety. There was a prevailing sense that the new chief executive, with experience, expertise and sound knowledge of economics, will deliver the goods.
“We expect him to do well; everyone, except those profiting from Obianos government, is hopeful,” Mr. Chidi Nwafor, a rice dealer at Eke Awka, the city’s market, had told BusinessHallmark.
“He should bring sanity to governance, put a stop to the menace of touts and give infrastructure.
“Anambra people don’t expect government to solve their problems. All they need is for the right environment to be created. I expect Soludo to build roads, and if possible, connect the cities with rail. When these are done, the people will do the rest themselves.”
A core professional; a professor of economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Soludo’s work profile includes membership of the British Department for International Development International Advisory Group, visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund, the University of Cambridge, the Brookings Institution, the University of Warwick, the University of Oxford and Swarthmore College (USA),
He is also a consultant for a number of international organisations, including the World Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the United Nations Development Programme.
With this background, Anambra could not have hoped for a better governor at this stage when in many peoples views, the successes recorded under Mr. Peter Obi who was governor between 2006 and 2014, had been rolled back by his successor, Chief Obiano.