Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the new governor of Anambra state is a well-known reformer in Nigeria’s public sector. He had served creditably as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (2004-9) and only those who refused to renew his appointment after the Obasanjo years know what criteria they used to stop Nigeria from continuing to benefit from the services of pragmatic Soludo. Each time I met him in those days when we were in government, I always subconsciously imagined that he deservedly possessed what Warren Bennis identified as features of strategic leadership, namely: Vision, Passion and Integrity. Bennis was the man who invented leadership as a business idea and whose legacy has since been honored with a prize for the best articles on leadership every year in the Harvard Business Review. If nothing else, Soludo showed ample visionary leadership in his reformist agenda at the CBN. Will he be able to extend same to Anambra state?
Listening to his inauguration speech last Thursday, it was obvious that Governor Soludo had mastered the strategy for arriving at the location he envisages Anambra ought to be some 4 years ahead. A few minutes after the inauguration, he began an active governance project starting appropriately from Okpoko – a local community empirically determined as the weakest link in the state which had been abandoned over the years. Part of those who waited to receive the new governor there were: several heaps of refuse along with street traders and sweepers who could not immediately fathom what sanctions their lethargy would attract. The starting point no doubt resonated a number of institutional statements; first, that everywhere will be touched and second that it was time for everyone to work in view of the transparent leadership by example posture of the first 48 hours of Soludo’s tenure.
The governor’s occupational antecedents of executing every project with a commercial mindset would certainly impact greatly on the state. One obvious advantage of the mindset is that just as an increase in revenue generation would be easily quantifiable, many intangible goals would similarly be transparently recorded as profits in the sense of democracy dividends. Under the circumstance, there are a legion of things governor Soludo needs to watch or avoid. The first is that although the ‘spoils system’ which patronizes party members who played active roles in elections is followed across the globe, Governor Soludo must not allow his party to pressure him to appoint unqualified persons into critical positions in which they can hardly add value to society. The same is true of the awards of contracts for several works which must be channeled to only persons and firms that have cognate experience in each venture. This would encourage first class jobs.
One way of doing this is to sensitize party leaders on the qualifications and competences for each position/project so as to drastically reduce the nomination of misfits for any assignment. An area where party members often agitate to make contributions centres around arrangements for internally generated revenue. Here, the ingenuity of officials at all levels should never be underrated. For example, the existence of receipts for payments does not in our system guarantee the destination of the payments. They may still end up (in the case of markets and parks), in private pockets of individuals and union officials. In today’s world of technology, Soludo is certainly fully aware of the many platforms devoid of bureaucracy that can secure revenue because funding is key to successful project execution
Anambra is one of the states greatly affected by insecurity hence Soludo’s determination to work towards ending senseless killings of his people particularly able-bodied youths. But while his plan to aggregate the efforts of all stakeholders in the attainment of peace is salutary, he should avoid making the mistake of some of his colleagues who converted state security to individual affair. Government must at all times be seen to be playing the pivotal role because that is its primary purpose. Arguments such as everyone should defend himself does not only validate state abdication from its primary responsibility, it also gives an impression that the state has tacitly emboldened criminal elements to freely operate. In addition, political leaders must stop showing more interest in political meetings and social events while overlooking security breaches that result in fatalities. The life of every citizen should matter.
Most importantly, Soludo should avoid distractions. For example, he should be cautious about the numerous meetings of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum which as a body has long lost its usefulness. Since when Jonathan’s government recognized the governor with 16 followers as the leader of the forum instead of the one with 19 followers, the forum has been distracted from its original goal of serving as a tool for peer review. It has indeed broken into partisan segments. However, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to which Soludo belongs, does not have other governors and as such will not be tempted to create an APGA Governors’ Forum for partisan politics. Besides, the governor has no business serving as the leader of the party which would pull him unnecessarily into the unending Nigerian electioneering during governance. As soon as a candidate is elected governor, he translates into a statesman and the father of the entire state and not a leader of his party which in any case is merely a design for channelling government funds into party coffers.
It is logical to assume that having served as CBN governor, the quest by Soludo to become a state governor was altruistically to make his state – Anambra, greater than it has been. He is therefore in a different position from many politicians who struggle to become senators after having served as governors or ministers. Thus, Soludo has no business distracting himself. As Anambra governor, it would be a tragedy if Soludo later defects to another party so as to win a second term election or to get any corrupt practices covered for him as we see of many defectors who proffer absurd reasons for such conduct. A governor who performs brilliantly in his first term, hardly needs a second term to put his name in gold; his salary is free for him, so is his feeding and accommodation. He therefore has no need to run from pillar to post for reelection because with a sincere performance, a second term is virtually guaranteed.
The nation certainly looks forward to standards to be set in Anambra during Soludo’s tenure. Unlike many political leaders, he needs to abide by the letter and spirit of the constitution. He should avoid the practice of frustrating the existence of a local government system of government. Accordingly, it is wrong to do as many others have done to constitute party loyalists into the state’s “independent” electoral commission to conduct fake elections just as it is immoral to use whatever strategy to divert local government funds. Anambra state legislature as a distinct arm of government should be allowed to function freely. Consequently, there would be no need to bribe the legislators to pass any bills. If these are followed and Anambra becomes a reference point in our clime, credit would go to governor Soludo.
It is also important to draw attention to the need for the governor to be on top of state issues. Many officials would bring up very articulate narratives which if not properly interrogated could turn out to be incorrect. For instance, on a lighter note, last Thursday, two over-grown girls virtually marred Soludo’s inauguration through fisticuffs. The narrative to the whole world was that one of them, the immediate governor’s wife slapped the wife of the former warlord. When a video coverage later showed that it was the reverse, the narrative changed to ‘the slap was due to provocation.’ The lesson here is that our narratives are usually never detailed and are always affected by prejudice. A last minute disruption to great efforts introduced by someone close can take the shine off great achievements. So Chukwuma Soludo must beware.