By Okey Ndiribe
One time Speaker of Anambra State House of AssemblyÂ Dom Obieke, remains a strong voice of supportÂ forÂ the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the February 6, 2010 gubernatorial election, Professor Chukwuma Soludo.
For nowÂ he has abandoned both his business and legal practice to spread the message of Soludo to all nooks and crannies of the state.Â He spoke to newsmen in Lagos on sundry issues concerning the forth-coming poll.Â Excerpts:
Why is there so much excitement aboutÂ Soludoâ€™s candidacy?
Two factors account for the excitement which no gubernatorial candidate in Nigeria â€™s history has ever generated. The first is the calibre of the PDP candidate, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, who towers well above his rivals; Soludo is a well respected figure across the globe.
The second factor, which is more important, is that he is a game changer.
Game changer? Please, explain what you mean.
There were elements within the PDP who thought they would win the partyâ€™s ticket easily, but once he joined the race everything changed, the gubernatorial race changed. And there were candidates in rival parties who thought they were headed home for victory until Soludo emerged the PDP flag bearer.
These candidates were praying fervently for anyone other than Soludo to become the PDP candidate. Soludo is by far superior to them academically and intellectually. I make bold to say that never in our national history has an individual running for the office of governor prepared a manifesto as comprehensive and sweeping as what Soludo has done.
It is a manifesto driven by the strategic vision to transform Anambra State into Africaâ€™s Dubai â€” Taiwan , otherwise known as ADT. Anambra has the potential to join the emerging economies of the world, and Soludo has drawn up a blueprint on how to achieve this strategic objective within the shortest possible time.
Instead of joining Soludo in providing development_centred politics to the people who have been short changed by the political class, the self-acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics and his cohorts have teamed up with the opposition to ridicule the PDP.
Are you suggesting that some elements in the PDP are in cahoots with the opposition to subvert PDP victory in the forthcoming election?
Havenâ€™t you noticed that the unusual coverage the Anambra State government-owned radio and television stations, for instance, have been giving to the ranting of the disgruntled elements, who call themselves ex -gubernatorial aspirants but are actually fronting for the self-proclaimed godfather of Anambra, who is hell bent on his brother in-law from Uga becoming the next governor and his other in-law from Awka becoming the deputy governor?
As you can testify yourselves, a substantial percentage of the anti-Soludo media campaign is funded by Government House, Awka. Governor Peter Obiâ€™s desire to remain in office knows no limits.
Professor Soludo has refused to utter any negative word about him in public or in private or even against any rival for the office of governor. He regards Gov Obi and Dr Chris Ngige as his good friends, and wants them to play according to the rules of the game because Anambra has had more than its fair share of political crises.
If Gov Obi and ex Gov Ngige are Prof Soludoâ€™s friends, why is he running against his friends?
The issue here is not personal relationships, but overriding public interest. In fairness to both Dr Ngige and Gov Obi, they mean well for Anambra State . But they have a limited vision. They are keen on paying salaries of public servants and providing infrastructure like roads.
These are routine and rudimentary responsibilities. With all sense of responsibility, I am convinced they have no idea what it will take to make Anambra the Dubai or Taiwan of Africa; a state with a high industrial economy and sophisticated modern facilities, attracting huge investments from far and near.
Critics say it is not right for Soludo to be a party member when he was the CBN Governor. How do you react to this view?
Anyone who raises this question is clearly out of tune with the times. The Supreme Court ruled about four years ago that civil servants can join political parties. Besides, it is assumed worldwide that every central bank governor shares the philosophy and ideology of the administration which appointed him or her into the office. Who does not know that Allan Greenspan, the immediate past Chairman ofÂ Federal Reserve in the United States , is Republican.
The current Chairman, Ben Bernaike, is also Republican, though they were at various times retained by Democratic administrations because of their competence.
Questions have been raised about the manner Soludo was nominated.Â How democratic was the selection process?
He was nominated in a most democratic manner, perfectly in line with the party constitution. The ward and state congresses were deadlocked.
The attempt to use statutory delegates also failed. With a few hours to the deadline given by the electoral commission for the submission of candidatesâ€™ names, the PDP national leadership chose a person who could win the election for the party.
The name happened to be Chukwuma Soludo. I would like to respectfully ask: why are people keeping silent when the AC, APGA, ANPP candidates were handpicked?
In APGA, the attempt by Emeka Etiaba to challenge Gov Obi resulted in his being forced out of the party. Why are commentators interested in due process keeping mute over how a PDP member of the House of Representatives emerged the PPA gubernatorial candidate? Mrs Uche Ekwunife, to the best of my knowledge, is still a member of the PDP.
How would you see the forthcoming election? With the PDP being a house divided against itself, are you not worried that the party would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
The election will be a three-cornered fight. Soludo will definitely win, with Ngige coming second; Ngige does not have the infrastructure to fight a major election in Anambra State, but he is a household name.
A tree cannot make a forest. Peter Obi will take a distant third position, despite such antics as playing sectarian and tribal politics. Unfortunately for him, all five leading candidates are practicing Catholics. His attempt to project APGA not as an Igbo party but as an Anambra party is dead on arrival.
The PDP has always beenÂ on the ground; all it needed was a solid name and a face to re-brand it in the eyes of Anambrarians. Soludo is the solution in truth and spirit. In other words, Soludo remains the game changer. He has captured national imagination in a way no candidate has, hence the simulated scurrilous attacks.
His declaration of interest has caused a mass movement in the state, with tens of thousands of members of other parties joining PDP every week.
We are forming a solid Soludo campaign group in every ward. When he declared interest on September 22, some 100 000 enthusiastic people attended the solidarity rally in Awka, and they waited patiently from 10 in the morning till about 7 pm. Many who saw the huge crowd thought it was a presidential rally.
Newspapers now sell in the country by splashing Soludo in the headline. The great news is that Anambra will not be the same from March when he assumes office. He will use our resources so creatively to make the state a model in good governance and transformative leadership.