By Chuks Iloegbunam
he Governor’s promise to Ndi Anambra came in the 14th of his 50-paragraph inaugural address of March 17, 2022: “I feel your pulse,” he intoned. “For your sake I keep awake at night, sometimes having palpitations about not letting you down. Well, since God is the Miracle Worker, I will look up to Him in prayer and faith as we all start the work ahead of us. I see and feel all the humungous challenges… But here’s my promise: I will give it my all. I will work very hard every day, with you, to make Anambra proud. Every kobo of your tax money will be deployed to provide you maximum value.”
A cynical listener, whether via the electronic/social media or physically present at the Government House concourse in Awka, would have been forgiven for responding thus: “There’s nothing new in the sight of a bow and arrow carrying Hausa man.” That’s an Igbo way of saying that Nigeria’s politics is like a raft tossed about in an ocean of flowery promises.
But I believe Governor Soludo. For a number of good reasons, Ndi Anambra have also placed their confidence in him. Foremost is trust, something he dwelt on while thanking those that aided his journey to the governorship. “Let me particularly thank my friend and outgoing governor of Anambra, HE (Sir) Willie Maduabrochukwu Obiano, for being an honourable gentleman and leader. On Sunday, 20th November 2016, I accepted your proposal for gentlemen’s understanding and partnership. I kept my part in 2017 and even after five years, you still kept yours in 2021. I always emphasize this point because it is rare these days to find people who keep their word in politics, and we will never take your support for granted. You are indeed a great leader. Thanks for believing in me. We will work hard to make you and Ndi Anambra proud.”
What had November 20, 2016, 2017 and 2021 to do with March 17, 2022? Everything! In 2016, Chief Obiano proposed Professor Soludo as his successor. They entered into a gentleman’s agreement. The unwritten pact meant that Soludo worked for Obiano’s re-election. Every Anambra observer cannot but remember that during the 2017 gubernatorial campaigns, Obiano and Soludo were like conjoined twins at every stage and every stop of the hustings. Re-elected, Obiano, the gentleman, remembered that a hen never forgets the hand that pulled its feathers during the rainy season. His unwavering support for Soludo ensured that the man won both the APGA primary ballot and the governorship poll.
A man who makes public capital out of a private question of trust is unlikely to betray the trust already reposed in him by his people. Personal experience lends credence to this proposition. Said Soludo: “For me, this issue is personal and emotional. My mother died during the civil war; our last born, Chukwuemeka died during the war; my father bore a bullet inside him for years; my elder brother – at 16, was in the ‘Boys Company’. At 8, I became the “man of the house”, with all the men at the war front. My uncles, cousins, etc., died during the war. This is 2022, and there are certainly far better ways to protest than shedding the blood of the innocent or resorting to criminality. That is why I call on all of us today to join hands with me to execute the real agenda—a liveable and prosperous homeland of opportunities and jobs for our youth while maximizing the benefits of a united Nigeria/Africa.”
Soludo’s solemn promise to faithfully serve Anambra State appears with phrasal distinctions in eight other paragraphs of the 4,700-word essay. It appears in paragraph 7 as an apostrophe to his immediate family: “As I repeatedly promised, I will work hard every day never to disappoint you. My 90-year old father is watching this live, while my beloved mother, Mgbafor, is smiling in her grave.” In paragraph 22, it takes a more generalized form: “Ndi be anyi, what we propose is that we collectively build a new social and economic order that guarantees and defends economic freedom and reward of private enterprise to secure our future such that any child born in Anambra will have little incentive to rush elsewhere in search of opportunities and anyone persecuted anywhere in the world can return to a happy and prosperous homeland.”
Governor Soludo’s cerebral disposition is taken for granted. Yet, he does not claim to know all the answers. He does not exhibit superhuman airs. He does not assume that the job of mending a fractured people, of reawakening a collective consciousness thoroughly battered and bartered by calculated and systematic injustices indexed in the impunity of the superstructure and the tyranny in the substructure, is a task accomplishable by the waving of a magic wand. Therefore, he appeals for every hand to be on deck for the salvage operation just begun.
In adorning his mandate with collective raiment, he employs personal and collective pronouns to clinch his arguments: “I have done some homework,” he says. “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.”
These key pillars are tied to the brainwork that produced three seminal documents that posit a social contract with Ndi Anambra: “(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.” These are a schedule in the gubernatorial tenure. There are, however, problems in need of prompt for redemptive action.
Foremost among them is the deleterious impact of the Monday-Monday sit-at-home regimen trending in the Igbo country. The others include a revenue collection schema that since converted Anambra into a vast cantonment of touts. How does Governor Soludo intend to grapple with these challenges? First on IPOB, his position is perceptive: “I endorse the recent statement (March 7, 2022) by the Joint Body of South East Council of Traditional Rulers and Bishops/Archbishops on Peace and Conflict Resolution, requesting for a tripartite discussion between them, The Presidency, and South East governors to deal with the conflicts in the South East especially in relation to Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN). There is no conflict that dialogue, in good faith, cannot resolve. Our government is determined to urgently restore peace and security in Anambra, and we will seek the active cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders.”
The logic is straightforward. Once there is jaw jawing, war warring gets sentenced to the backburner. It is hoped that with both hands those called upon to staunch a haemorrhaging entity will immediately grab his challenge. A point needs to be made, nonetheless. It is impossible to discount sheer criminality as a major impetus to the violence currently tied to the sit-at-homes. Fear pervades, and most people dare not breach the “order” and get outdoors on Mondays, even after Mazi Nnamdi Kanu had unambiguously denied ever giving the go-ahead for people to barricade themselves indoors every first working day of each week. Is it rationale to assume that the disregard to Kanu’s order to halt the sit-at-homes is simply down to his followers?
Only dubiety will contradict the Governor’s anti sit-at-home argument: “No, we refuse to turn our homeland into a crime scene and all manners of criminality. No group has ever succeeded in any struggle in history by turning the sword against themselves.” Also, “A significant part of our state economy is powered by artisans, keke drivers, vulcanizers, hairdressers, cart pushers, petty traders, bricklayers, women frying akara, and all those who depend upon daily toil and sweat to feed their families. Every day, there is a “sit at home,” these poor masses lose an estimated N19.6 billion in Anambra alone. Due to the protracted breakdown of law and order, businesses are relocating outside Igboland, with growing unemployment, and traders who used to come to shop in Onitsha, Aba etc. are going elsewhere.”
Of the many gems in the address, one of the most uplifting is the promise that every Anambra citizen, inside and outside the State, is to be issued with an ID card. It is an antidote to deviant behaviour. Once you know your numbers, you also know those among you that are acting out of script. Thus, using moral suasion or the horsewhip to get them back into the line of sanity and good citizenship becomes a fait acompli.
It is no surprise that a Governor that came to power through transparent elections is rooting for the democratic process to go down to the third tier of government. Neither in Anambra nor elsewhere in the country has any serious attention been paid to local government elections in this Fourth Republic. Happily, Governor Soludo promises that, “We will conduct local government elections… Over the next two years, we shall review/amend the relevant legislations, reform and strengthen the system for efficiency, restructure/strengthen the Anambra’s Independent Electoral Commission, and conduct local government elections.”
What else to say? Yes, there is the emphasis on digitalization. “The land registry will be digitized; we shall leverage technology to ensure a responsive and accountable public service together with our initiative for an ID Card for every Anambra person… and a code of conduct for political appointees to mainstream servant leadership by example.”
Celebration, says the Governor, is on its way. Its arrival will coincide with when security of life and property is guaranteed, public utilities are functioning optimally, healthcare delivery is generally accessible and affordable, while children of school age are receiving 21st century education for the digital age, and meaning is given to the lives of the vulnerable. In short, Anambra’s celebration will come in the mode of the feel-good factor.
It could be argued that the inaugural’s length is not its strongest point. But the Governor’s employment of the rhetorical device of reiteration is intended to appeal to the people and win their cooperation. Besides, will it not be antipathetic for someone with a pedagogical pedigree to display a lack of fondness for minutiae?
In all, it is a glorious new dawn for Anambra State, an entirely new era led by a determined and seasoned administrator and technocrat with a human face, who intends a new heart in his people, a new lease of life for a novel society of peace, plenty and justice, which is “the first condition of humanity.” I believe.
Iloegbunam is the author of The Case For An Igbo President Of Nigeria.