By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
A popular mandate always comes with great expectations. The election of Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo as the Governor of Anambra State has elicited overwhelming support and hope from all sections of the state. From peasants to potentates, the belief is that the right man is at last on the saddle of power, and the anointed one has magic in his pouch to solve all the problems. It is as though Soludo is superhuman, with qualities beyond the ken of humankind, even as he simply carries on without airs as the boy next door.
Expectations need to be matched with the hard realities on the ground. The economy of the state is in a bad shape, and needs to be urgently addressed before high marks can be attained. The joy though is that Soludo has a can-do spirit that somewhat reassures that all the issues can be redressed. The new governor has been painstaking in making his initial appointments, crucially retaining the Secretary to the State Government who, it is believed, would help a great deal in ensuring a smooth transition.
Governor Soludo’s pioneer activity of going to the Okpoko slum in Ogbaru Local Government Area showcases a governor who wants to see and do things by himself. He of course knows that the problems are legion that need his painstaking attention. The roads need comprehensive reconstruction. The waterworks do not work. Insecurity is all the rage. There is the crying need to increase food productivity.
In addressing the multiform problems, Soludo is armed with his manifesto, the report of the 80-member Transition Committee he instituted, and the document of the Anambra-2070 Committee he headed. The balm is that Soludo is not pleading lack of preparation for the dire jobs at hand.
As he said in his inaugural speech, “I know the lean financial base of the state. I know the limitations imposed upon a subnational state such as Anambra by the peculiar structure of our federation. 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.”
At the visionary level, Soludo banks on “the plans, values, passion, and accomplishments of some of Africa’s liberation-cum-independence leaders such as Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Nnamdi Azikiwe, etc.”
There is no hiding the fact that Soludo is poised to transcend the feats of Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara in the old Eastern Region. Soludo’s template on agriculture, for instance, is groundbreaking. In education, he leads by example, having set up a school which he funded before becoming an elected governor. He has already put ill-assorted touts and illicit tax collectors on the run into dungeons.
The man in the Anambra saddle is courageously putting himself upfront to liberate the masses from rentier politics and politicians. Soludo is quite uncomfortable that politics has been reduced to the so-called “stomach infrastructure” and coming-to-eat the dividends of democracy. He is obviously against today’s slogan that goes thus: “If all else fails, try politics!”
As a leader who sees politics as service instead of a job, he holds aloft the light of productive work instead of putting up the bizarre bazaar of eating off the palms of thieving politicians. It is said that when a malfeasance lasts for so long, it becomes a tradition. For Soludo, the task of ending the evil tradition of looting the public purse in the name of political freebies is on the front burner.
Soludo preaches the gospel of the old school that sees honesty as the best policy. He remains unafraid to jump into terrains where angels fear to tread. It is fresh in the memory how he dared all dangers as Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, as he reveals: “At a personal level, undertaking the banking revolution in Nigeria came with 19 written threats to me and my family, including physical attacks.”
The challenge of driving change in Anambra State will of course come with its own dangers. People of Anambra State cannot forget in a hurry that a former governor of the state was kidnapped! It takes deep commitment to a cause to put oneself forward to confront these dangers. The dangerous political godfathers never sleep.
In his insightful essay entitled “The purpose and price of disruptive change”, Soludo highlights the clear and present dangers thusly: “Disrupting the existing social order is dangerous. Beneficiaries of the current order are powerful enough to organise and fight back viciously to protect their privileges. On the contrary, the masses who are the ultimate beneficiaries are not organised enough to act as a bulwark against the special interests. As things stand currently, we are between a rock and a hard place. With the objective to retain power within the context of short electoral cycles, politicians are afraid to undertake the necessary disruptive changes to guarantee long term safety and prosperity for all. On the other hand, the existing trends are totally unsustainable and the system is living on borrowed times. Everyone is sleepwalking to the hard place, and praying that somehow a miracle will happen along the way.”
For me, Soludo happens to be that leader “who is ready to put his head on the line to lead such productive but dangerous disruptions.”
It is indeed pleasing that the kind of disruptive change Soludo wants to bring to bear on Anambra State is akin to that wrought in Singapore, as Mister Governor writes: “I recently re-read Lee Kuan Yew’s book From Third World to First, and can’t stop being inspired. The combination of competence and driven by a higher purpose produced such a transformational leadership that orchestrated a miracle in development. In one of his last speeches before his death, Lee Kuan Yew observed that he and his colleagues were prepared that even if they died trying to make Singapore great, they would have been happy to die for a worthy cause.”
The Soludo Solution is anchored on “Eat-Buy-Use Made-in-Anambra.” For him, everything must meet the “Anambra Standard” which is “Excellence”, with him serving as the “Chief Marketing Officer.” The Akwete revolution which he initiated is already getting buy-ins from across the country – even opposition politicians!
The global brand that Anambra voters overwhelmingly chose to govern them is admirably conquering the challenges of change.