Soludo’s tortuous journey to Agu-Awka

Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the Anambra-born economist and technocrat, is not an ordinary Nigerian. He is a man of class and has many enviable feats. After his several exploits in academics and international financial organisations as a first-class economist and scholar per excellence, he came to the political limelight in 2003, following his appointment as economic adviser to then-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

His stellar performance in the office earned him a bigger appointment as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in May 2004. His stint in CBN brought about tremendous successes, growth and reformations in the country’s economy and banking sector. It was his policy of bank consolidation that was implemented against all odds and intimidations that has kept the Nigerian banking sector thriving and surviving to date.

Following his outstanding performance and records at the CBN, many had expected that he would be reappointed for a second term in office on merit when his tenure expired in May 2009. But that never happened as it was then alleged that some forces in the Presidency had positioned Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, then of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, to succeed Soludo.

To the surprise of many and unlike his predecessors at the CBN, Soludo made a foray into the murky waters of Nigerian politics in 2010, when he picked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship nomination form in Anambra State. Many people questioned the rationale behind his entry into partisan politics immediately after serving out as CBN governor but Soludo was unperturbed by the criticisms that trailed the move.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian in March 2010, Soludo made it clear that there was nothing wrong in his decision to join politics, stressing that if he didn’t offer himself to serve his people in that capacity, he lacked the moral right to question governance in his state.

There were almost 50 governorship aspirants that bought the PDP nomination form alongside Soludo. Nobody gave him chance as many saw him as a political neophyte. The battle for the PDP governorship ticket was tense and fierce. It was laced with intrigues and several litigations that made it impossible for the leadership of the party to conduct primaries within the timeline stipulated by law.  Efforts by several peace committees set up by the party’s national leadership led by Chief Vincent Ogbulafor to intervene in Anambra PDP imbroglio could not yield positive results.

Relying on the provision of its constitution, the party’s leadership, with the backing of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, picked Soludo as the PDP candidate for the election. Many thought that the choice of Soludo would mark the end of the needless and several litigations that had characterised the party’s gubernatorial election processes in Anambra then but no avail. Some aspirants used their proxies who were party members to return to court to challenge the choice of Soludo.

While the matter was still in court ahead of the election, President Yar’Adua’s ailment deteriorated and he has flown abroad for treatment. With Yar’Adua’s incapacitation and the subsequent emergence of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President, the opposition against Soludo’s emergence as PDP’s candidate moved from the court to the political arena.

Betrayal, treachery, sabotage and conspiracies against Soludo by PDP members in the state ahead of the election became so glaring, disheartening and alarming. Two days before the election, the Supreme Court ruled that Soludo was the rightful candidate of the PDP in the election.

Soludo went into the election like a lone ranger, emerging the second runner up behind Dr. Chris Ngige of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and then-governor Peter Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in an election that was allegedly marred with irregularities such as snatching of ballot boxes and massive disenfranchisement of voters especially in Idemili North and South areas that had the highest number of voters in the state.

While Ngige challenged the outcome of the election in the court and lost, Soludo moved on with his consultancy job as a globally renowned economist. He also continued to build his political structure at the grassroots using his many support groups.

He later registered as a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in his ward. Many people were sceptical about the move and some openly condemned it. But Soludo was not daunted. In 2013, he attempted to contest the governorship seat on the platform of APGA but was denied the party’s ticket following the sudden reconciliation of Governor Peter Obi and the then APGA national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, which eventually led to the emergence of a dark horse, Chief Willie Obiano as the party’s candidate in the election.

Despite the upset, Soludo remained a loyal and committed member of APGA. He supported and campaigned with Governor Obiano across the length and breadth of Anambra State during the governor’s second term campaign. He coined the popular campaign slogan for Obiano then tagged ‘If it is not broken, why mending it’, which invariably means that Obiano had done well and deserved a second term. Soludo allegedly played some behind the scene roles that led to Obiano’s resounding second-term victory.

Ahead of last Saturday’s governorship election, it was already in the air that Soludo would succeed Obiano. But some who lack the political sagacity to understand political arithmetic in Nigeria failed to understand it.

Before the APGA primaries, the coast was already clear for Soludo to emerge as the candidate and that was exactly what happened with the support of Governor Obiano and other party bigwigs.

The legal route his opponents toed to stop him from contesting was put to an end with the Supreme Court judgment that affirmed his candidacy. Despite the political braggadocio and grandstanding of the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Andy Ubah, and those of other political parties, coupled with the prevailing insecurity in the state, the people of Anambra braved the odds, came out en masse and voted for Soludo and his party.

Soludo’s emergence as governor-elect of Anambra on APGA’s platform is a product of perseverance, resilience, commitment and endurance. It is a dream whose time has come and nobody could stop it.

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