By Nairalovers Nigeria
The last time they talked him into bidding for the PDP ticket in Anambra State’s gubernatorial race, the quest almost ended before it got under way.
The “him” in this case, was Charles Chukwuma Soludo, decompressing in London, still not fully recovered from being edged out of his perch as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The “they” comprised an amorphous group, but the principal figure was President Umaru Yar’Adua, who had signed off on Soludo’s defenestration from the CBN, with other persons of consequence in the PDP who were forever scheming to “capture” those states not governed by the biggest party in Africa.
In his revealing January 21, 2013, Op-Ed piece for THISDAY (“What Obasanjo and Yar’Adua told me”) Soludo recalled how, on inquiring about him, Yar’Adua had been told that he was holidaying abroad and how he had been told that Yar’Adua would like to meet with him on his return.
Their goal, Yar’Adua told Soludo when they finally met on July 26, 2009, was to get him elected governor of Anambra State in the election scheduled for February 2010 so as to finally endow the state with the leadership it had never had the good fortune to enjoy – the kind of leadership encapsulated in the technocratic skills Soludo had applied to nation’s economy and financial system, as well as his accomplishments in those fields.
Why then was he denied a second term at the CBN?
But I digress.
If Soludo thought this was a fanciful goal, considering the power of incumbency in Nigerian politics and the rugged tenacity that the incumbent, Peter Obi, of the APGA, had displayed over the years, not forgetting the malignant influence of the Ubah clan on the political life of the state, his diffidence must have dissolved there and then.
Himself The Fixer, Tony Anenih, he was told, had been mobilised for the project and could hardly wait to go into action, if only to demonstrate that, recent setbacks notwithstanding, he was still a past master at turning losers into winners and winners into losers.
Soludo did not have to make any commitment then. He should go discuss the matter with his family and associates. But if he decided to run, he would enter the race knowing that Yar’Adua would “come out fully” to ensure that he won the prize.
His wife stood resolutely against the idea, but Soludo felt sufficiently buoyed by his consultations with friends and associates to tell Yar’Adua one month later that he would enter the race, but with preconditions.
The Federal Government would have to build an airport and dredge the River Niger to enable medium-sized ships sail all the way to Onitsha, where an international seaport would have to be constructed. The Anambra-Kogi road would have to be upgraded to a dual-carriage highway. Because one-third of its land mass was threatened by soil erosion, Anambra would have to be given special drawing rights from the Ecological Fund.
Nor was that all.
The Federal Government would also have to complete the Greater Onitsha water scheme, designate Anambra an oil-producing state, and as a “pilot state” for large-scale commercial agriculture. Finally, it would have to speed up construction of the second Niger Bridge.
With these things in place, Soludo said, he was confident that, after two terms of working 24 hours a day, he would have transformed Anambra to the point that Federal allocations would be devoted wholly to capital projects. Re-current expenditure would be wholly internally generated.
But with all these things in place, who needs Soludo’s intimidating antecedents and credentials to transform Anambra into “an international city”? And why would the Federal Government do those things for Anambra and not for other states?
But I digress again.
The important thing is that Yar’Adua agreed to all these demands, according to Soludo, who then asked for four more weeks for wider consultations. The deal was sealed.
Thereafter, the waters got muddied.
Yar’Adua fell ill, went to seek treatment in Saudi Arabia, and was never in control again. Soludo’s 78-year-old father was kidnapped. His captors demanded a ransom of N500 million, but later reduced it to N300 million, warning darkly that “the worst” would happen if the demand was not met promptly. They freed him unharmed after six weeks, under terms that were never disclosed.
Soludo’s opponents sought to envelop him in scandal, charging that he had profited from improprieties in the printing of small denomination polymer banknotes handled by an Australian company when he was CBN governor. More than 1,300 petitions were filed, their major contention being that “outsiders,” were trying to impose Soludo on the Anambra State branch of the PDP. The petitions moved the PDP to suspend the party primaries indefinitely.
When the process finally got under way, party officials had to be imported from Benue State to conduct the election of delegates. Following a shuffling and reshuffling of the delegates, the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Soludo winner of the ticket.
The high court voided the outcome. That verdict was affirmed on appeal, but reversed by the Supreme Court, just in time for the election proper.
In the event, Peter Obi was reelected governor. Soludo placed third, with just under 20 per cent of the vote, behind second-place winner Chris Ngige. The Fixer apparently went missing in action, or was thoroughly out-fixed.
Given the circumstances, running for governor of Anambra again after this ordeal should have been the last thing on the mind of the average political aspirant. No outcome was guaranteed, what with the predatory Ubah clan lurking in the shadows.
But Soludo is not your average aspirant.
With one deft stroke, he served notice of his intent to re-enter the fray. “The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs,” he wrote, echoing Plato, “is to be ruled by evil men.
He was as good as his word.
When Anambra’s gubernatorial space opened up in 2013 as Obi was completing his second term, Soludo entered the race, this time on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), having fulfilled all requirements
They were waiting for him in a well-planned ambuscade. Citing all kinds of rules and regulations and applying them in the most tendentious manner conceivable, they eliminated him on the threshold. The party’s grandees and fixers simply declared him unqualified for the race. And that was that.
Undaunted, and politically much wiser after a cooling-off period of eight years, Soludo has recently renewed his gubernatorial quest, still on APGA’s platform, to replace William Obiano who is not eligible for re-election.
Again, they were waiting for him, this time with deadly force.
Soludo was returning from a parley with youths in Isuofia, in Aguata Local Government Area on April 2, when unidentified gunmen attacked his entourage, killing three police and abducting the state’s Commissioner for Public Utilities. He was released several days later, on terms that were not disclosed.
For a while, the whereabouts of Soludo, the gunmen’s principal quarry, were unknown. Then, he surfaced in Lagos, to much public relief.
His fighting spirit, I wager, is urging him not to submit to such tawdry tactics, and so are his teeming supporters. His sworn adversaries, on the other hand, are probably daring him to return to the turf and suffer even grimmer consequences.
What to do?
Not being a grass-roots politician, Soludo cannot campaign effectively for the November 6 poll from exile. I doubt whether any authority, local, regional (think Ebube agu) or federal, can guarantee his safety on the stump. If they can, will they be available to protect him and his administration in the event of his winning the election? Will they let him govern?
Contemplating the Soludo saga, even the most seasoned professional students of Nigerian politics who think they have seen it all must be scratching their heads in puzzlement.
In this corner, the question of the moment is: Who is afraid of Dr Soludo?