ANALYSIS: Can Soludo provide solution to IPOB uprising, Anambra development challenges?

3 weeks ago 20

With his victory in the Anambra governorship election, Charles Soludo must be reflecting on how to meet the expectations of residents of the state.

The former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was declared the winner of the November 6 poll after a supplementary election in Ihiala Local Government Area where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had suspended the exercise on Saturday due to an unspecified security threat.

The returning officer, Florence Obi, who is also the vice-chancellor of the University of Calabar, called the election for Mr Soludo, the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), who polled the most votes in 19 of the 21 local government areas of the state.

He polled a total of 112,229 votes, defeating his two closest rivals – Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who recorded 53,807 votes and Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who got 43,285 votes.

Busy roundabout at Ekwulobia, Aguata LGA

What Next?

Mr Soludo will not take office until March next year when the second term of incumbent Governor Willie Obiano comes to an end. Considering that both men are members of APGA, Mr Soludo can look forward to a smooth transition process.

The three months before his inauguration also affords him time to finetune his programmes and policies and plan the appointment of his officials so that he can hit the ground running towards fulfilling his campaign promises.

He ran a campaign with the slogan “SOLUTION”, which couched how he would address the economic and sociopolitical challenges of the state which has the second smallest landmass in Nigeria after Lagos, but one reckoned to be richer than its physical size in human capital endowment.

When PREMIUM TIMES spoke with a cross-section of residents of the state after the election, it emerged that they were not asking for too much – just a government that works to enhance the state’s economy and ensure equitable distribution of opportunities.

Many described the election of the former CBN governor as the dawn of a new era after what some saw as the disappointment of the outgoing governor.

“If I must be frank, nothing has worked in the last four years under Willie Obiano government,” Anthony Ezechukwu, a motorcycle spare parts dealer in Aguata Local Government Area, said on Sunday after it had emerged that the APGA candidate was coasting to victory.

“Soludo must not let us down,” the middle-aged man said.

At that point when Mr Ezechukwu spoke, Mr Soludo had been declared winner in 18 out of the 20 local government results called, while Mr Ozigbo of the PDP and Ifeanyi Ubah of Young Progressive Party (YPP) had won one local government area each.


IPOB

First test

With insecurity the dominant concern in the state in the runup to the election, one of Mr Soludo’s first tests as governor will be how he addresses the insurrection of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which had cast ominous dark clouds over the election and probably affected voters turnout.

Although the state is notorious for voter apathy, the 10 per cent turnout in the November 6 poll is low even by its low standard. Out of the over 2.4 million registered voters, only 253,000 or 10.27 per cent participated in the exercise.

A sit-at-home order by IPOB had hampered economic and social activities in the entire South-east and people remained sceptical even after the outlawed separatist group announced a withdrawal of the order in Anambra two days to the election.

It will require diplomacy and firmness on the part of the incoming administration to ensure the withdrawal of the order is not just temporary. Mr Soludo has promised to call the separatists for negotiations but it remains to be seen how the belligerents among them would look at the wave of an olive branch.

TEXEM

PREMIUM TIMES’ reporters witnessed first hand the awe, fuelled by fear of attacks or harassment, in which residents hold IPOB and the enforcers of the sit-at-home order. Across Anambra’s three senatorial districts, the story was the same. This may pose a stumbling block for the governor-elect unless he finds a way to appease or suppress the separatists.

“Please, I can’t say anything against IPOB,” Precious Ibeh said to the reporter in the commercial city of Onitsha where she works. “What I really yearn for is peace and unity to reign whether they (IPOB) get what they are agitating for or not.”

Other residents who spoke about the separatist group and the challenge they pose to Mr Soludo, argued largely in defence of its agitation. But many also apparently bought into the governor-elect’s SOLUTION agenda concerning insecurity in the state.

Chiamaka Okafor, an indigene of Njikoka Local Government Area, who works in Abuja, said she supports the group’s right to peaceful agitations but denounces the harassment and violence associated with it. She also believes local political leaders have been poor in handling the development.

“The APGA-led government is lackadaisical about the issue of IPOB, but it is the same in other states. Imo, Abia, Ebonyi are not doing anything.

“No governor in the South-east has come out to say this is what we want to do but I bought into Soludo’s submission when he talked about the place of dialogue. It seems like we don’t know what the demands of these people are anymore.

“This agitation can be traced to the civil war, to scores which are yet to be settled,” she argued.

“Soludo knows better…”

Infographic of Mr Soludo's performance at the poll alongside that of APC, PDP and YPP governorship candidates.Infographic of Mr Soludo’s performance at the poll alongside that of APC, PDP and YPP governorship candidates.

However, Ms Ibeh and Ms Okafor shared similar a expectation: that Mr Soludo will run Anambra better than the incumbent governor, Mr Obiano.

They said the incumbent rode into power on the back of the achievements of his predecessor, Peter Obi, but has performed below people’s expectations. Mr Obi is now in the PDP and actively campaigned for the party’s candidate, Mr Ozigbo.

“People used to consider Anambra and the South-east in general as a safe place but you cannot say that is the reality now that people are not even sure of going home for the festive season. All this within eight years of Obiano rule,” Ms Okafor said.

“Given the background of Soludo, it will be heartbreaking if he does not perform better. During the gubernatorial debate, he made a lot of statements on how he pulled Nigeria out of different financial constraints.

“If he could do that for the 36 states and the FCT, Anambra State with 21 local governments should not be difficult for him to manage. As a professor of economics, he cannot afford to fail. For the sake of his name and international reputation, he cannot afford to let us down,” Ms Okafor, who is a constituency project manager at UDEME in Abuja, said.

On his impact on the infrastructure, education and economy of Anambra, Friday Nnamdi, a bike-rider in Nnewi South, said he would score Mr Obiano below 30 per cent.

“I challenge you to ask workers in the governor’s office how many times our governor comes to his office. He spends most of his time in Government House so he can’t possibly see how bad our roads and classrooms are,” Mr Nnamdi said.

However, a commercial driver in Ekwulobia town in Aguata Local Government Area, who only identified himself as Eze, believed Mr Obiano tried his best as governor.

He said the governor maintained some projects of his predecessor.

But except for the three flyovers constructed by the administration, Mr Eze could not remember physical projects delivered by the administration.

Also, Naomi Oleribe, a video editor, argued that Mr Obiano did not perform as poorly as stated by his critics. However, Ms Oleribe only rated his performance at 40 per cent.

“People just don’t like him because he performed way below his predecessor, Peter Obi. In fact, most of us voted for him because he (Peter Obi) campaigned for him,” she said.

 @WillieMObiano]

More expectations, APGA must continue

Apart from the respect many residents expressed for Mr Soludo as a former CBN governor, many said they voted for him to keep out both the APC and PDP from the control of Anambra.

Many of the residents said they see APGA as their own, despite Mr Obiano’s alleged poor performance and would prefer the party continues to run Anambra, the only state under its control.

“We don’t want APC, we really don’t. PDP is an option but APGA is the party that we know and we want continuity, that is why we are supporting Soludo.

“With the support we are giving him, I pray that God will touch his heart to give us the dividends of democracy that we deserve, better than the past administration,” Ms Ibeh said.

Ms Oleribe said she expects Mr Soludo to tackle the challenges of urbanisation in the state, check the activities of miscreants at motor parks across the state and involve the youth in governance.

“I want Soludo to look at the problem of urbanisation. We need to find a way to package all our motor parks littered everywhere so that everything will move faster and become more organised.

“Nobody is talking about the harassment and daily extortion going on in our parks, most especially in Onitsha and other parts of the state. Nobody cares. But we believe that Soludo cares. We want it sorted out, we want a conducive environment. There is this feeling you get when you alight at Upper-Iwenka, the fear that your bags may easily get snatched by these miscreants and agbero (touts) in that particular place and beyond,” she said.

In his acceptance speech after being declared the winner by INEC, Mr Soludo promised not to deliver the people of Anambra.

“To the estimated 17 million Ndi Anambra within and outside our homeland (state), this is your moment, seize it! This victory is your victory. My role will be that of your chief servant, and I will work every minute of the day with you to make you profoundly proud. I will need the guidance, advice and contribution of everyone to succeed,” he said.

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