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Anambra’s ball in Soludo’s court

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By Ikechukwu AMAECHI 

  • Soludo’s victory in the Anambra governorship poll rekindles hope

Finally, the standalone Anambra State governorship election, long-anticipated with much anxiety, came and went relatively peacefully, and the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, won hands down.

His victory is emphatic.

Soludo – with name recognition as former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor – polled 112,229 out of the 253,388 votes accredited and scored the mandatory 25 per cent, not in two-thirds (14) of the local governments, but in all the 21.

He also won the majority vote in 19 local governments, leaving Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Ifeanyi Uba, candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), with one local government each.

Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) came out flat in all the local governments, winning none.

When the election could not hold in Ihiala local government area last Saturday due to security concerns that necessitated a supplementary ballot yesterday, there was palpable anxiety that Ihiala might turn out to be the joker in Uba’s political pack that could change the electoral trajectory in an unexpected, fundamental way.

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But it turned out to be the axiomatic storm in a teacup. The result only cemented Soludo’s historic win that was already obvious from the count of the first vote the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced on Sunday.

When the Ihiala result rolled in, APGA polled 8,283 votes, the PDP came second with 2,485 votes, while the APC got a paltry 343.

Soludo scored almost 50 per cent with 112,229 votes, leaving the other 17 candidates to share 141,159. He almost garnered an equal number of votes with the three runners-up – Ozigbo (53,807), Andy Uba (43,285) and Ifeanyi Uba (21,261) – put together.

It was real shellacking, as Americans would say.

But rather than hubris, that fact calls for magnanimity in victory because this significant electoral milestone belongs not to Soludo per se, but the good people of Anambra and, by extension, longsuffering Ndigbo, and, indeed, all Nigerians. Soludo only aggregates the wishes and aspirations of the people.

Luckily, he appreciates this fact, as reflected in the tone of his acceptance speech on Wednesday.

“To my fellow candidates in the election, I wish to congratulate you for the gallant contest,” he said. “Our people have spoken overwhelmingly, and surely that loud voice is the voice of God. The ultimate winner is the Anambra people: we are all winners.

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“I hereby extend my hand of fellowship to all of you. I need all of you to succeed. Politics aside, we are all brothers. Let’s come together for the ‘Project Anambra.’”

That is the way to go.

But significant lessons must be drawn from this election. Most Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic origins and political affiliations, are happy with the result.

I am not an Anambrarian, but I have received several messages from people, some I don’t even know, congratulating me over the election outcome.

I had discussions with PDP chieftains who said before the ballot that they had no problem with either Ozigbo, their candidate, or Soludo, opposition candidate, winning. They simply didn’t want Andy Uba to get the job.

Since the result was announced in the early hours of Wednesday, such people have been beside themselves with joy that APGA coasted home.

I even had a discussion with an APC official in Anambra on Monday who claimed that the party had no candidate in the election and, therefore, lost nothing.

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When I asked him about Andy Uba, he became furious. “He was not our candidate!” the man said. “Did you see Dr. Chris Ngige, the founding father of APC in Anambra State, anywhere around him?

“We all moved with Ngige from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to found APC. Did you see any of the other leaders like Sharon Ikeazor, George Moghalu?

“What people failed to realise is that in the unlikely event that Andy Uba was declared the winner by INEC, he would not have governed because the party in Anambra was already in court challenging the process that purportedly threw him up as the APC candidate and the court would have nullified his victory.”

The implication of the rejection of Andy Uba and the APC in the poll is that people are beginning to take their destiny into their own hands. Someone with deep pockets and clout in the corridors of power may hijack a party’s ticket as Andy Uba did, but the electorate will have the final say.

Videos surfaced of poor locals refusing financial inducement to vote against the dictates of their conscience.

That was heartwarming, and some people who had already decided to sit on the fence in 2023 are beginning to say, ‘wait a minute, maybe, all hope is not lost yet.’

When Nigerians from other parts of the country who have no particular stake in Anambra are rejoicing over the election, they are simply extrapolating into 2023.

Anambrarians have spoken. It is left for Soludo to fulfil his part of the social contract. To whom much is given, of him, much is expected.

Anambra people on Saturday exemplified the Biblical story of the widow’s mite. They gave their all, backing Soludo to the hilt and ensuring the wolves hovering menacingly were kept at bay.

Now is payback time. And the only way to do that is through good governance. Expectations are quite high.

I don’t really envy Soludo. He cannot afford to fail because many things are at stake for Anambra, Alaigbo and Nigeria. An inability to step up to the plate of leadership and take Anambra to glorious heights will be a tragedy.

Soludo ticks all the relevant boxes. He is well-read, an intellectual, a technocrat, and exposed to the 21st century global power dynamics. At 61, he is relatively young. He is also urbane and polished and cannot suffer from inferiority complex in any assembly of world leaders.

For too long, Nigeria has had leaders who would rather hire dozens of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and head to court than produce their secondary school certificates. Leaders whose educational attainments are matters of conjecture. Too many times, dubiously sworn affidavits have sufficed for authentic certificates.

And the consequence of all those characters sauntering in the corridors of power is there for everyone to see.

But in Soludo, we have an economics professor and a former governor and chairman of the board of directors of the CBN who wears his intellectual skin so proudly.

Some will be waiting for him to fail, so that they will be presented with good talking points on why good education should not be a prerequisite for leadership.

If Soludo does not yet appreciate the enormity of expectations, two WhatSapp texts I received this morning might help.

As soon as the results were announced, a friend from the Middle Belt, who relocated to the United Kingdom because he couldn’t stand the mess that leadership has made of what used to be the promise of Nigeria, wrote:

“Now, Nigeria has a governor!!! May he be the pivot of Nigeria’s turnaround to the path of progress in all fronts. Anambra has won the race ahead of Nigeria by getting a good head to run things.

“I am just in awe at this development, I never thought it would be. This phenomenon gives aspiring intellectuals a great chance to come into politics. The narrative has now changed. A doer elected to office has changed the song.”

The second text came from a statesman from Anambra, an accomplished technocrat who retired having worked in the upper echelons of an oil company.

“God has granted Anambra a leadership that will surely make a difference, another lease of life. I pray that Soludo’s leadership impact in South East (Alaigbo) will be significant.”

On October 20, my column was titled ‘Why Anambra needs Soludo’.

Anambrarians defied all odds to heed the clarion call. The ball is now strategically placed in the court of Charles Chukwuma Soludo. I wish him all the best!

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