Soludo: Factors that aided the making of a ‘Double Governor’

THE aged saying of “nothing good comes easy” became palpable in the Anambra State governorship election, held on Saturday, November 6, with a supplementary poll held on Tuesday, November 9, 2021. 

While the electioneering lasted, the entire state and the ‘Ndi Anambra’ (people of Anambra) sat on the edge, with high voltage palpitation. 

The fear of ‘to be’ or ‘not to be’ dominated the entire landscape as all the political gladiators deployed all arsenals in the political firmament to tilt the scale of victory in their various directions. 

Like in all contests, irrespective of the class involved, a winner must always emerge. 

And so it was with the Anambra 2021 guber national race, where the almost combustive tension in the state was diffused, deep into Wednesday morning, when, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, as the winner of the tension-soaked contest, 48 hours after the first ballot was cast. 

While the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Professor of Macro Economics, had earlier led the poll in 18 local government areas of the state, leaving his main challengers, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP)’s candidate, Valentine Ozigbo with one local government and the candidate of the Young Progressives Party, YPP’s candidate, Ifeanyi Ubah, with another local government, the projected candidate for the election, and the one, who received most defectors while the campaigns lasted, Andy Uba of the central ruling party of the All Progressive Congress (APC), was left with nothing. 

That feat, which in all ramifications proved all political permutations in the contest wrong, notwithstanding, it was not yet Uhuru for the professor as elections could not hold in the entire Ihiala Local Government Area of the state, where violence and other factors truncated the victory dance of Soludo and his All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), although, temporarily. 

Following the calculation that the 148,000 plus registered voters in Ihiala LGA was far ahead of the winning margin between Soludo and his co-contestants, especially the candidates of the PDP, YPP and the APC, a supplementary election was scheduled for November 9, to allow the residents of the locality to exercise their franchise in the universal adult suffrage election and also to give them all a sense of belonging in determining who rules the state. 

The Returning Officer for the election, Professor Florence Obi, Vice Chancellor, University of Calabar, had said that there was need for the election to hold in Ihiala so that the people would not be denied their civic rights and to give room for the winner to be declared successful. 

That in itself raised the adrenalin of the gladiators, with Ozibgo of the PDP, expressing uncommon confidence that he could use the lone LGA result to upturn the victory cart of Soludo, packaged and delivered in 18 LGAs. 

Thus the public, particularly residents and voters in Ihiala LGA were urged to come out en masse to exercise their franchise without fear of molestation, victimisation or intimidation. 

No doubt, the government and INEC, working with relevant security agencies, assured ‘Ndi Ihiala’ (people of Ihiala) that adequate security arrangements were put in place to protect lives and property during the election. 

The people were, therefore, encouraged to come out and vote for the candidate of their choice, as Onye-Anambra (the Anambra person). 

The people’s confidence was buoyed by the fact that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which had threatened the peaceful conduct of the election, almost declaring it a “no-event”, made a sudden change of posture and cancelled the sit-at-home order earlier announced and encouraged ‘Ndi Anambra’ (Anambra people)  to come out and vote. 

Hence, Ihiala and its residents in the area had no reason for apathy in the supplementary election, which, in all purposes and intents, was the “beautiful bride in the dance arena,” ready to be betrothed by the political suitors. 

Now, the issue moves to how Soludo did it. Could it be political dexterity, luck or sheer determination of the Ndi Anambra (Anambra people) to make the former boss of the bankers bank, the captain of their ship? 

According to some APGA stakeholders, the major factors that aided the emergence of Soludo, as the next governor of the state were: 

his unalloyed loyalty to the incumbent governor of the state, Willie Obiano, a fellow banker, and Victor Umeh, a former APGA national chairman and now the senator, representing Anambra East/ West Federal Constituency; 

the support of Obaino’s wife, Ebelechukwu Obiano; 

Soludo’s constant contribution towards the sustainability of the party; 

and sympathy votes from the people, who decided to reward him for his past efforts and shots at the position, at two consecutive times without success. 

Soludo, it would be recalled, ran for the position in 2008 under the PDP, against Mr Peter Obi, of then APGA, and lost. 

In 2013, he returned to the contest again under PDP and lost to Governor Willie Obiano, who was a political son and associate to Obi. 

Soludo, after losing the election, in 2013, decided to join APGA to continue his political journey and adopted Obiano as his mentor, godfather and political squirrel to help in cracking the knotty palm kernel the governorship has turned out to be. 

The gamble paid off. 

According to a source within the party, the governor-elect did not contribute 30 per cent financial resources for the electoral process. 

The source emphatically hinted that 24 APGA political support groups brought the financial war chest and deposited same on Soludo’s lap, sponsored his election to victory materially, financially and otherwise. 

The source expressed worried that the party might plunge into a leadership crisis, shortly after the handing over ceremony. 

The crisis, he noted, might come as a result of sharing formula for appointments. 

Towering above the aforesaid factors in support of Soludo’s victory is the goodwill of the late founder of APGA, the Nkemba of Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Eze Gburugburu 1 on Ndigbo. 

Sources within the state agreed that the evocation of Ojukwu’s name in the campaigns was enough for any candidate so associated with the Oxford-trained soldier and veteran of the Nigerian Civil War, to win any election. 

And APGA maximised that to the fullest. 

From donning campaign branding materials with Ojukwu’s emblems and portraits in intimidating eyeballing, to invoking and evoking the name of the historian turned soldier, APGA, never failed to tell Ndi Anambra that a vote for Soludo was in actual fact, an endorsement vote for the late Nkemba of Nnewi. 

The cliché caught fire as the cult-like followers of Ojukwu pitched their tents with APGA and its candidate. The rest, is, indeed, history. 

But, even as APGA has been declared the clear winner of the poll, many pundits are left wondering what could have happened to the most favoured party , the APC, and its equally romanticised candidate, Senator Andy Uba. 

The confusion is not out of place because during the buildup to the election itself, APC conducted itself as the “king-in-the-making,” attracting defectors in droves to its camp and taking them to the Aso Rock Villa for photo-ps with President Muhammadu Buhari. 

Leading the legion of defectors, even at the most critical stage of the electioneering was the deputy governor of the state, Dr Nkem Okeke, who dumped his erstwhile APGA and flew to Abuja to go and receive the APC flag in the Villa. 

Before then, the hoard of Senator Stella Oduah, Senator Joy Emodi, Honourable Chris Azogbugu, member of the National Assembly, currently representing Nnewi North/South/Ekwesigo Federal Constituency and about five state lawmakers, had dumped PDP and APGA for the APC, which they allegedly formerly labelled “a Fulani party.” 

But “when the push comes to shove,” the APC came a distant third position, without winning a single LGA, where the relatively unknown YPP won one. 

Nigerian Tribune gathered that APC and its candidate failed to win the election mainly because of the role Uba family played in Governor Chris Ngige’s abduction saga and 2003’ Okija Shrine scandal. 

Besides the Ngige saga, the Andy Uba’ May 27, 2007 ‘shadow’ governorship stint that lasted for 14 days, before he was removed by the Supreme Court on June 14, 2007, for Peter Obi of APGA, also contributed to the abysmal performance of the APC at the November 6 election. 

Nigerian Tribune also gathered that the arson against public property, especially the burning of government house, state-owned Radio Station, Anambra Broadcasting during Ngige administration in 2006, also came to haunt the APC. 

For PDP and its candidate, Mr Valentine Ozigbo, Nigerian Tribune findings pointed to the current politics of Anambra State, which has never been in favour of any first-comer to govern the state, with the exception of Obiano, who rode on the popularity of his now-estranged mentor, Obi, to become the governor. 

Another factor against Ozigbo was the issue of the abandonment of party heavyweight, like Dr Obiora Okonkwo, who defected to Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), to pursue his number one seat position, who, according to the findings, was the major financial and a grassroots mobiliser of the party in the state. 

It was also gathered that the PDP candidate, Ozigbo, came second because the people saw him as a newborn baby that had not committed a sin. 

Also his large heart towards Ndi Anambra, especially, when he was the chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Transcorp PLC, gave him the sympathy votes that pegged him at the second position. 

It was equally gathered that in the political permutation class, stakeholders believed that should Ozigbo win the election, he would have been “a soft target for the APC to take on and the chances of the scandal of ‘Supreme Court Governor,’ like it happened in Imo State, would have been higher.” 

So, the Ihiala LG supplementary election was like a video assistant referee (VAR) scenario as it is in a modern-day football match. 

It is seen as such because, by the afternoon of Sunday, November 7, APGA had 18 local government areas out of the 20 in which election had been concluded in its net; PDP had Ogbaru LGA, while YPP had Nnewi North. 

But for the referee to be able to correctly declare ‘Soludo is the winner’, the election in Ihiala LGA had to be concluded. 

Thus, as it is in checking the VAR, Anambra people and the world waited for the result until Wednesday morning. 

In the end, despite the fears and all the suspicion and general misgiving, the people of Anambra chose APGA and its Soludo. 

Soludo has reaped not just from his patience and perseverance in APGA, but the benefits of the strength of the party in Anambra. 

APGA, as a political party cannot boast of any earthshaking political figure in its fold, but the party prides itself as ‘the root of the grassroots.’ 

One of the party’s slogans is “nkea bu nke anyi” (This is our own), that is, a mass movement of people who take their destiny into their hands and stick with the consequences of their decision. 

Considering religion as a factor, Soludo is Catholic. His deputy, Dr Onyekachukwu Ibezim, a medical doctor and one of Obiano’s advisers, is Anglican and the younger brother of the Archbishop, Province of the Niger and Bishop of Awka Diocese, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Alexander Ibezim. 

However, what determined the election was not the faith denomination of Soludo, Ozigbo or Uba but mostly the political parties. It is a common belief that even if Soludo was an Anglican, he would still have won.

 

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