Soludo and the Tragedy of Anambra Politics By Bayo Olupohunda
One depressing feature of our democracy is how a few good men and women who have shown interest in running for public office have been continually shut out or messed up by a system that encourages mediocrity rather than competence. How come then that we still continue to complain about the failure of leadership at all levels of governance in the Fourth Republic? However, this tragedy of our political development is nothing new. It has, sadly, been a recurrent factor in our political history where the quality of leaders has been directly linked to our underdevelopment. The seriousness of this national malaise caught the attention of the late literary icon, Chinua Achebe, who in his seminal work, The Trouble with Nigeria, blamed it on the failure of leadership.
But the situation has since become worse
The crisis of leadership which began in the years after independence heightened during the years when untested military officers ran the affairs of the country with fiat and took decisions in the inebriated confines of their officers’ mess. Their civilian counterparts on the other hand subjected the choice of leaders to the narrow prism of zoning and godfatherism. The effect of these is that competent leaders with the capability to lead never emerge. Instead, our country especially in the Fourth Republic has been administered by incompetent leaders-products of zoning and godfathers’ impositions. The mess of this anomaly lives with us today because fourteen years after democracy berthed in our country; the dividends still elude Nigerians.
Another major reason for Nigeria’s leadership crisis is the role money has played in our politics. The political dynamics of the Fourth Republic is such that have ensured that only moneybags politicians or their candidates occupy elective offices. They have often deployed huge resources to corrupt the electoral process. Those who genuinely seek to run for public offices are often deterred from doing so because it is an expensive venture. Picking a governorship ticket, for example, can be the most expensive venture in the world. The money politics at the heart of candidate’s selections in the political parties is the bane of our politics today. Many of the victims of the system have subsequently adopted the ‘’siddon look approach’’; while those that cannot beat the system have blended to deepen the culture of mediocrity. In the former category are the likes of Dora Akunyuli, Pat Utomi, and many others with genuine intentions but without the backing of a godfather or the financial wherewithal. Sadly, the former governor of Central Bank and a serial governorship candidate in Anambra State, Charles Chukwuma Soludo, has joined the growing list of technocrats who are the victims of our warped democracy. His dream of becoming the governor of Anambra State continues to be a mirage.
I consider the political circumstances that deny the likes of Soludo as a tragedy for his state and the nation in general. Given his credentials, Soludo is the pride of our country. He should thus be courted by any political party he has chosen to actualise his ambition. That he decides in the chaotic Anambra politics while he could have returned to many of his international and high- profile jobs must be considered a privilege. I believe the state stands to benefit from a man like that. It is a pity that political players in the state do not realise the danger of excluding candidates like him. Given its human and material resources, Anambra is grossly underperforming. It needs the like of Soludo to turn its fortune around. This is not to forget the good works of the incumbent Governor Peter Obi. Since 1999, the state had been the theatre of violence perpetrated by unscrupulous politicians. The godfathers of Anambra politics with ties in Abuja who sought to forcefully control political power turned the once prosperous state into a theatre of violence. In the height of their infamy, a sitting governor was kidnapped in broad daylight. The chaos that dominated Anambra politics stalled development. In my estimation, the state should be doing much better today. But it lost almost a decade of development to the brigandage of politicians. Most parts of the state are still underdeveloped. Infrastructure are in short supply. This is not to talk about the ecological monster of environmental degradation. The emergence of the outgoing governor, Peter Obi, however, brought sanity to once chaotic political environment. Anambra State was denied development by godfathers whose allegiance was to Abuja to the detriment of their state. Anambra is a paradox. The state is also home to some of the best brains in the country. It is also populated by very hard-working people. The historical city of Onitsha is the centre of commerce.
It is thus ironical that such a state has allowed its mediocre politicians to dominate its affairs. That is why its people must work for its transformation by encouraging their best brains to govern the state. The state is too important to be left in the hands of political jobbers. The year when the former governor, Chris Ngige, was abducted by political gangsters in broad day light is the picture that comes to mind when one talks about political development in the state. The interregnum of peace that defined Peter Obi’s years should be maintained. But that atmosphere of peace and development can only continue when the right leaders are allowed to emerge at all levels of governance. In this wise, candidates such as Chukwuma Soludo and others must be encouraged to realise their political ambition. This makes the news of his disqualification a terrible blow in the quest to develop the state. The excuse that the ticket has been zoned should not explain why a candidate of such stature as Soludo cannot contest the election. I believe the disqualification of Soludo is political. There is no reason why a candidate of his stature should struggle. APGA should consider it a plus that a candidate like him joined the party in the first place. This might yet be their greatest undoing in the November election.
Given his academic and public service achievements, Soludo is a proud export of the state As a governor of Central Bank; he started the financial restructuring that led to the banking consolidation of that era. The success he recorded as Central Bank governor was validated by the internationally renowned Bankers Magazine, one of the world’s leading magazines on global banking published by the Financial Times of London. In 2005, he was named the African and Global Banker of the Year. Among his many achievements in the Nigerian financial sector was his effort at reforming the Nigerian banking industry. The prescription of new capital requirements led to an unprecedented and successful consolidation in the banking sector.
The restructuring and reorientation of the sector hit 3billion dollars. About 500 million of the fund came from abroad. It was on record that no policy has raked in so much investment into Nigeria’s non-oil sector within a period of one year in the country’s entire history. The impact of the reform boosted foreign interest in the Nigerian economy. In the years Soludo was governor, the share of the banking sector in the market capitalisation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange was about 24 per cent. But it rose to 50 per cent making banking sector stocks the preferred stocks in the exchange. Soludo is a leading light and proud son of Anambra who should be encouraged to bring his wealth of experience and international contacts for the overall development of the state. The travails of the former Central Bank governor and many others like him across the federation are unfortunately the tragedy of our politics today.
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