By Drew Ike
It would be interesting to know what would be uppermost in the minds of voters in Anambra State on November 6, 2021, when they go to the polls to choose a new governor. Of course, voters rarely decide who to cast their votes for inside the polling booth. That decision, almost always, is taken long before Election Day.
As a matter of fact, in settings with entrenched culture of attachment to political ideologies, the polling booth on election day is no more than an enclosure where individuals go to reaffirm their loyalty to the ideology they already subscribe to. In such settings, candidates are merely physical expressions of entrenched ideologies. Only on rare instances are some voters offended badly enough by a candidate from their shared ideological turf that they linger till the 11th hour to decide who else to cast their votes for, often in protest. Nigeria’s political environment is, of course, a different ball game. Over here, matters of ideology are of little consequence. Claims to ideological identity often amount to mere posturing.
So then, what ought to be the primary consideration of the people of Anambra State as they presently engage their mind on who their next governor should be or what attributes the right person ought to have? Put in another way, what type of governor should Anambra State be looking for at this point in time?
To properly situate any discussion on what the right profile of the next governor of Anambra State should be, it is pertinent to examine where the state is at the moment and what the proper trajectory of its development should be. Without doubt, Anambra State qualifies to be classified as a gifted state. Blessed with an overflow of enterprising spirits anchored on an abiding culture that makes entrepreneurship second nature to the citizens, Anambra State has always been self-sustaining. Not surprisingly, it is one of the few states with relative stable economy in the country at the moment, one among the few states that can survive for some time without monthly infusion of financial oxygen from Abuja. This, of course, is not luck. Nature may have made its endowment, but the present relative economic stability of Anambra State is as much a result of a good foundation laid not too long ago by some people, or perhaps, someone. But then, blessings can be squandered. Anambrarians should never fail to have this in mind.
The inability or refusal by voters in Nigeria to see the direct correlation between the type of person they vote for at elections and their lot after elections remains baffling. A people who literally go out of their way to support obvious bad cases during elections, for one parochial reason or the other, cannot turn round soon after to complain of rudderless government. But that is the way it is in Nigeria. Why is it usually difficult for Nigerians to see the judgement they pass on themselves when they make their choice during elections? Yes, the matter of the integrity of elections and what the election management body does or does not do with election results remains an issue, but even at this most Nigerians are not known yet to vote with their future and their long-term interest in mind. When it comes to making a choice during elections, most Nigerians still plant oranges and expect soon after to pluck apples. This leads us back to Anambra State and the choice it has to make on November 6.
Only recently, Chukwuma Soludo, professor of economics and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) threw his hat in the ring in the Anambra State governorship tussle. In offering himself for consideration for Government House, Awka, Soludo not only raised the bar in the contest, he raised crucial questions about the race in view. Soludo’s curriculum vitae is intimidating, to state the obvious. His profile and experience will impress any quarters anywhere in the world where matters of economic development and planning for human development count. Beside the Central Bank governorship, he had at various times served as chief economic adviser to the President of Nigeria as well as lead consultant to nations, United Nations and various international organizations.
He played a key role in establishing the African Finance Corporation (AFC) and also served as chairman of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc. He is presently a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and, back home, he chairs Anambra State’s Committee on 50 years Economic Development Plan. At the Central Bank, Soludo’s consolidation policy in the banking industry, which gave both the banking industry and the Nigerian economy a needed shot in the arm at a critical juncture, remains a major feather in his cap.
This, by all means, is a glowing resume. But how far can this profile take a man at the Onitsha market? Put differently, what does a solid profile count for in the politics and elections of Anambra State, nay, Nigeria? This is the critical question that Nigerians need to answer, if they truly expect to find out where the rain started beating them. When it is time to choose leaders to manage their common affairs, what profile of person do ordinary Nigerians go for?
Make no mistake about it, nobody has suggested that the people of Anambra State should line the road and usher in Soludo to Government House, Awka, because he made first class in economics and successfully carried out consolidation of banks. Not at all. It is not just the experience and qualifications of Soludo that make his gubernatorial pitch worthy of serious attention. For so long the man has been doing the work of an economic evangelist in Anambra State, especially, propagating the vision of where he believes his state should be, considering the resources and human capacity in the place. He did not start today.
Even for a non-Anambra citizen, the economic blueprint and model of economic development that the former Central Bank governor has been propagating for his state in his many speeches and seminal articles over the years could not have been missed. That is the point of attraction.
Soludo has had a vision and a model of economic development in mind, which he seeks a government platform to execute in Anambra State.
That is the type of aspirat Nigerians should encourage and possibly elevate. The present world is driven by ideas and vision. Soludo has been canvassing for ideas to lift Anambra state beyond its present standing. He believes the State has what it takes to climb to a higher economic reckoning even with the shackles that the structure of Nigeria still presents to its constituent parts. Soludo deserves serious consideration by Anambra people, but so also do other candidates who come forth with fresh ideas, backed by experience and identifiable track record.
Anambra’s politics, very much like that of the larger Nigeria could be challenging in its own way. This can swing between the comic and the tragic. Very soon for instance, if not here already, the Professor of Economics with his vision and plan to take Anambra to the world will be confronted by a deluge of other aspirants, some equally lettered, other scarcely so. One or two of these co-aspirants will look the former CBN Governor in the face and pointedly ask him how much all his ideas are worth in cash. It is always a tough question to answer, especially when thousands of party faithful start converging in your house each morning to eat breakfast, lunch and possibly dinner. You better give them something they can touch at that moment. Do they care about their tomorrow and the future of their children at such moments? It does not seem so. But they will care eventually. Anambra cannot take its blessings for granted.
It is not that Soludo cannot defend his name. For him to summon the will to take to the ring in the politics of his home state, he must be sure of himself, in more ways than ideas. Still, the point is that Soludo has raised the standard in the contest for the Anambra State governorship contest by his qualification, experience and the vision he espouses.
Anambra State is not only endowed with financial resources and entrepreneurs, it is no less solid on the intellectual plank. The State must, by the choice it makes of its next governor speak to its sophistication and aspiration to higher heights, beyond where it is at the moment.
This is not a matter of APC or PDP or APGA. It ought to be a matter of capacity and vision. But is it? Anambra has a chance to speak for itself on November 6. One thing Anambra people must not do is to make a choice that will divert the governance bearing in the State from the template set and sustained for it by the two previous governments that will precede the one coming in with the November 6 2021 election. Anambra people are enlightened enough not to go for any standard lower than what they already have.
What Chukwuma Soludo offers is an option for a higher height. What he offers is his vision, his experience and the technical work he has done in growing economies at national and international levels. What his profile offers to Anambra State seems far more attractive than what any of the politicians angling for power can bring to the table, however that is couched.
•Ike writes from Abuja