Alex Obiajulu Okoli
June 11 is my birthday. On June 11, 2020, I will clock 68 years of existence on earth. I thank God for the gift of life and good health. In same vein, I thank God for the gift of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo because in him, I see hope that Anambra can be the best, as we all firmly believe.
If Soludo were a footballer, chances are that he would have played in the local league and subsequently going on to international leagues. He would have rubbed shoulders with Messi or Ronaldo in fame and money, and would today, be one of the remarkable coaches of the beautiful, round leather game. True, in him we can find all of us-the rich, the middle class, the poor and even the poorest of the poor, so he knows where it pinches, irrespective of one’s station in life.
Soludo has a heart of gold that manifests in his unconditional care for the people which keeps him sleepless and restless as he burrows in search of solutions to the myriads of challenges confronting our society. I will return to this.
In 2005 and in Awka, I had my first taste of what is today fondly referred to as the Soludo Solution. I was in Nigeria from my Houston, USA base and attended a development summit by the League of Anambra Professionals, then under the commendable leadership of Dr. Ndi Onuekwusi. Soludo was the Keynote Speaker, and for the duration he spoke, you could hardly hear the drop of a pin. The delivery was so engaging and down to earth that the audience was literally held spell bound. This was the setting where he unfolded the African Dubai Taiwan development model, tailor-made for Anambra, which essentially builds on its peculiarities as a fledging metropolis. The Soludo Solution here is, in a nutshell, premised on the reality that Onitsha will be developed to be the Dubai of Africa while Nnewi will be modelled as our own Taiwan. The standing ovation that greeted him at the end of his presentation was unprecedented and underscored how well his big idea was exhilaratingly received.
Yes, on that memorable day, the Soludo Solution stretched my imagination that till date my imagery of our Anambra State remains the vivid picture he conjured in his presentation, which I am fully convinced is doable. And why not?
Soludo demonstrated in his public service that one man’s vision can make a lot of difference in the lives of people and change the course of history. I am sure that the bank chiefs who thought that he was crazy when he announced his banking consolidation must have by now, realised how the power of vision and execution can impact on the destiny of men and society. Indeed, how what he envisioned, executed and its impacts on the fortunes of Nigerians and Nigeria is today, one major area of academic enquiry in many leading business schools across the globe.
Obviously because Soludo detests hugging the limelight, many may not be aware of the other products of the Soludo Solution. The African Finance Corporation (AFC) is another. AFC is a pan African, multilateral development finance institution established in 2007 by sovereign African states to provide pragmatic solutions to Africa’s infrastructural deficit and challenging operating environment. Till date, AFC has invested 6.6 billion US dollars in power, transport and logistics, natural resources, telecommunications and heavy industries across Africa. The power sector in Nigeria for instance, has hugely benefitted from AFC’s financing with the concomitant rub-off on the quality of life. The story is the same in Ghana, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire and other African countries.
My fascination and admiration for him knows no bounds when I discovered that it was Soludo who nursed the idea and brought the Corporation to life for the benefit of Africa, humanity and to the glory of God. There are many more but over time, I became interested in what drives or motivates Soludo in this narrow and lonely path of restlessness and devoting countless sleepless nights in search of solutions for a better society.
I am a native of Umunze in the Old Aguata Union (OAU). Isuofia, Soludo’s town, is part of the OAU. Two years ago, I visited Umunze and took the opportunity to also visit Isuofia to try to unmask who Soludo really is, and what makes him tick. My investigation revealed that contrary to the view I had held earlier that Chukwuma Soludo was not born with a silver spoon. A respondent wittingly quipped that he was born with no spoon at all. By no choice of his, he was born into poverty and want. He literally wrestled poverty to the ground through education, patience, perseverance and hard work.
Now, what is the import of the foregoing? Soludo carries a cross, in form of the charge of assisting others and society to overcome poverty. Whether it is in lifting his immediate family members, his community, his state, Nigeria or Africa, all you see is mother care kind of total devotion on his part to assist others and nations to succeed and overcome the debilitating effects of poverty. Fortunately, his jobs as university teacher and public servant have provided him the avenues to help people learn how to put food on their tables, lift them from poverty and attain psychological degrees of personal fulfillments fulfillment.
Therefore, having lived in both Nigeria and America, and seen that good ideas, excellent execution, commitment to the general good and above all, a good, caring heart for the poor and downtrodden are the differences that make sustainable progress possible, I owe our people the duty to canvass these fine ideals. At 68, I feel utterly unfulfilled that we are far behind where we are supposed to be. We have failed our children. But I am poised to work assiduously to ensure that we do not fail our grandchildren who I want to see visit or live in Umunze and contribute to its progress. The remarkable and admirable footprints of Soludo Solution in Nigeria, in Africa and indeed across globe, inspire me with the clear belief that there is still light at the end of the tunnel.
I join the call for him to come home and run for Governor of Anambra state in 2021. I will leave the comfort of Houston and be in Umunze to join hands to campaign for his victory across the length and breadth of Anambra. I will urge our people here to do the same. This is my birthday resolution. Soludo Solution is a fantastic choice – for today and tomorrow. I am working on it and it makes me feel good. Join me.
Sir Okoli (Nwachinaemelu Umunze), a medical laboratory scientist, writes from Houston, USA