The most awful news from the ever dynamic Nigerian political scene in the last few days is the disqualification of the immediate past Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Chukwuma Charles Soludo, from the primary election of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the November 16 gubernatorial election in Anambra State. The panel screening the aspirants explained that Soludo, a particularly eloquent economics professor, was disqualified with five others for reasons bordering on insufficient display of enough war chest (financial resources) to unsatisfactory tax payment documents. No person could ever believe any of the reasons. Soludo was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the gubernatorial election four years ago, and money was never a hindrance to his campaign. He had no difficulty paying N12m for the APGA gubernatorial nomination form just two weeks ago.
Frankly, the disqualification did not come to any knowledgeable person as a surprise. Soludo was the target. Others were disqualified just to create the impression that he was not the target. Victor Umeh, APGA national chairman, and Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu are among numerous people who have said that Anambra State Governor Peter Obi has been telling everyone that President Jonathan does not want Soludo to run. Bishops from the state have confirmed that Gov Obi told them over a week ago that Soludo, much as he has a grand and imaginative development vision for Anambra, should not be supported because he is not in the president’s good books.
This development has exposed the lie that APGA is an Igbo party, a party committed to Igbo interests. How can a non Igbo who has never stayed in Anambra State decide for the Anambra people their governorship candidate? Have things fallen apart so much so in our beloved state that a full-blooded Ijaw person who is not even an in-law of ours will determine who will be our governor and who will not be? Can President Jonathan be asked to determine the governorship candidate of any party in Lagos or Kano or Nasarawa or even Delta State which has a sizeable Ijaw population?
Well, this is what has become of Peter Obi’s Anambra, a state crest fallen, a state on its belly, a state which has completely lost confidence in itself! This is ironically the state of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Prof Chinua Achebe, Prof K. O. Dike, Prof Chike Obi, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, Dr Alex Ekwueme, Sir Louis Ojukwu, Mokwugo Okoye, Mrs Margeret Mokelu and a host of exceedingly successful entrepreneurs. Indeed, no state in Nigeria has a combination of most successful professionals, businessmen, statesmen and scholars as Anambra. What has gone tragically wrong in recent times? How have descended to a level where we cannot choose our leader ourselves, and our governor is proud to be the person to broadcast this news all over the place?
We all knew that our governor lost it the moment he voluntarily opted to become, for all practical purposes, a personal assistant to Jonathan. He spends more time in Abuja than he does in Awka. We know he loves Abuja, and that is why that the private company he established, Next International, has just commissioned the greatest shopping mall in Abuja. Why he did not build it in Onitsha, which has West Africa’s biggest market, is a fact known to himself alone. But this is a story for another day.
Much as our governor has been like a personal aide of the president, we never knew that the level of servility has reached a catastrophic level, the level of asking a non Igbo man to single-handedly choose the flag bearer of a party which claims to be a pan Igbo party. The late Engineer Victor Nwankwo, managing director of Fourth Dimension Publishers in Enugu, was heartbroken when he saw APGA, a party he helped found, being hijacked by scavengers. Nwankwo once famously exclaimed at a major meeting, “we are searching for change in Igbloand, but these elements are only interested in exchange. They just want to exchange places with the terrible characters in government and continue the game of selling Igbo people cheap”. Nwankwo must be turning in his grave right that the situation is now much worse than he was fearing in 2002.
How did Peter Obi get to swindle millions of Anambra people and became their governor for eight years on the platform of a party that says it is unapologetically Igbocentric? How did he manage to ride on the fame of Ikemba Nnewi? Millions of Nigerians are embarrassed that his desperation to be seen as Jonathan’s boy so that he could be protected after leaving office next March could lead him to work so hard that a very solid person like Soludo is not given the chance to turn around the fortune of Anambra State. Does Gov Obi recognize that there should be decency in the pursuit of private interests?
Some influential persons around the president have been telling him lies about Soludo. When Soludo was running four years ago, Jonathan did everything in his power to frustrate him, even though they belonged to the same party. The then Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili who is Gov Obi’s political soulmate, and Dr Patrick Dele Cole, Nigeria’s erstwhile ambassador to Brazil, were among those telling Jonathan, then Nigeria’s acting president, that he should roll out the state machinery against the brilliant economist because Soludo was actually not running for the office of governor of Anambra State but for president! No wonder , the president did not attend any of his rallies, despite repeated promises and shifted dates. And no wonder none of the money realised for the Solubo campaign never got to the PDP flag bearer. Worse still, no PDP governor was allowed to attend Soludo’s campaign, and the only one who attempted, Chibuike Amaechi of the Rivers State, was ordered to return immediately to Port Harcourt from Awka, that is, without reaching Onitsha, the campaign venue. Nigerians are now in a position to understand why the Anambra governorship election of 2009 was programmed to be a mess. Only 30% of registered voters were allowed to vote. Even so, former Vice President Ekwueme found his name in a voter register in a local government area very far from his hometown of Oko where he registered. A special arrangement had to be made for Emeka Offor, the well known businessman, to vote in his hometown of Oraifite because his name could not be traced. Hundreds of thousands of people had a similar experience.
As Gov Obi plays the role of presidential enforcer to ensure that Prof Soludo is stopped by all means from contesting the November 16 gubernatorial election, we are constrained to ask for the umpteenth time: whose interests is the governor serving? Certainly, it cannot be those of Anambra people.
Ubadike is of School of Post Graduate studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.