Agunwa Anakwe, a lawyer and Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Third Republic , rarely speaks to the media. He is by his own admission taciturn and almost shy, preferring to work in the field and behind the scenes. Often described as ruthlessly efficient and always strategic in planning, he was the Director General of the Chris Ngige Campaign Organisation in 2007.
Anaekwe has now cast his lot with Prof Chukwuma Soludo, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in the February 6 2008 election in Anambra State .Â Anaekwe, now the DG of the Soludo Campaign Organisation, spoke to newsmenÂ recently.
Why are you no longer with Dr Chris Ngige, the former Anambra State GovernorÂ who is running as the Action Congress candidate in the forthcoming election in the state?
Dr Chris Ngige and I were among those who brought the PDP to Anambra State in 1998 when the party was formed. We were then called the Ekwueme believers. As you know very well, circumstances forced progressive elements like us out of the PDP, and we formed the Action Congress. However, when President Yarâ€™Adua assumed office in 2007, he initiated the Dr Alex Ekwueme reconciliation committee within the PDP which sought to bring back to the fold all those left the party for one reason or another.
I came back because, among other reasons, I can never say no to His Excellency, Dr Ekwueme, who practically formed the PDP and turned it into Nigeria â€™s mass movement at the beginning.
Dr Ekwueme was the leader of G-34 and Chairman of the Steering committee which brought the party into being. He was also the first chairman of the partyâ€™s Board of Trustees.
As Prof Soludo, our indefatigable candidate, has noted, the Southeast is the ancestral home of the PDP. Whereas most disaffected people who left the party heeded Dr Ekwuemeâ€™s call that we return home, a few people like Dr Ngige chose to remain in their new parties.
Dr Ngige and I now belong to different parties. Therefore, I cannot be working for his gubernatorial ambitions when the PDP has a solid and eminent candidate in Prof Soludo. May I point out that as of 2007 when I was working for Dr Ngige he was the best candidate. Soludo was not then in the race. Things are now different.
So, you are genuinely convinced that Prof Soludo is the best candidate in the election?
Absolutely. I would like every literate Nigerian to go through his manifesto, which he personally crafted. There is no manifesto like that in any gubernatorial election in Nigeria â€™s history. The manifesto is what the French call a tour de force.
Only someone who has thought through the Anambra condition and has original and imaginative ideas on how to get the state in the right and radical direction could come up with this kind of manifesto, which has now set a new standard in the quality of debate expected of the candidates.
What is unique about the manifesto?
Almost everything, but let me single out the vision to turn Anambra into the Dubai or Taiwan of Africa. The African Dubaiâ€”Taiwan (ADT) concept is totally new in Nigerian politics. ADT is about visioningâ€”and this is the element most lacking in Nigerian and African politics. Our leaders donâ€™t dream dreams any more. They think governance in the 21st century should be about paying salaries of civil and public servants and building elementary infrastructure such as roads and providing distribution transformers to communities.
No one thinks of how to provide jobs to hundreds of thousands people who yearly graduate from the universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and secondary schools. No one thinks of how to build industries, both small and big, which will employ these new graduates of chemical engineering, chemistry, industrial engineering, etc.
Neither Ngige nor Gov Peter Obi knows how to stimulate the economy, to say nothing about our state becoming the Dubai or Taiwan of Africa. Can they tell us how many jobs they have created or big companies they have attracted to the state as governors? Gov Obi has a worse record. He has not employed even teachers in government â€“owned schools since he became the governor over almost four years ago.
He denies workers in the employ of the state government their legitimate entitlements. Thatâ€™s why doctors in the state went on strike for one year until recently.
Critics could say that Soludoâ€™s ADT may be good in theory but not in practice. Whatâ€™s your reaction?
Only someone who is mentally lazy could argue like that. Every major achievement in the world began as a dream. Who would have believed that Singapore would today be one of the greatest economies when it was in 1965 kicked out of the Malaysian Federation for contributing nothing to the wealth of the Federation? The development miracle began with the founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who made a first class in the university, just like Soludo.
Did any person in the world give Dubai – a swath of desert- any chance of becoming an economic oasis when the programme for its transformation was launched? As we are talking, the authorities in the United Arab Emirates are out with the dream to make Abu Dhabi a more resounding economic success than neighbouring Dubai .
How did Soludo come about the idea of making Anambra the Dubai or Taiwan of Africa ?
Frankly, I donâ€™t know. But I do know that in 2006 he delivered a keynote address at the annual meeting of the League of Anambra Professionals in Awka where he did an arresting analysis of the development situation in the state, and asked both the people and government to immediately set in motion the machinery for Anambraâ€™s transformation within a short period. I am reliably told that Gov Obi was in the audience when the address was given and he clapped enthusiastically. Every word uttered in the address is very relevant to this day.
Did Soludo deliver the address because he was already then nursing the ambition of being the governor?
How was it possible? He was invited to deliver the keynote address on the Anambra development crisis by the LAP leadership which included Gov Obi. This wasÂ because LAP valued his high intellectuality, his realistic analysis of issues and his ability to create visionary scenarios, as well as his deep love for Anambra State . Soludo is always steps ahead of his contemporaries. As I have said repeatedly, he is a genius, pure genius. He will use his ingenuity to develop the state when he becomes the governor next March.
Why do you consider him a genius? To call Soludo a genius is rather a very strong statement. I hope you will agree.
I donâ€™t use words carelessly, and I am not known to be too generous in assessing human beings. Here is someone from a very humble home who barely knew the mother because she died when he was very small and his father retired as a junior worker in a local community. He attended only community primary and secondary schools, yet he passed every subject with distinction.
He was an exceptional student in the university, and at only 38 years he had become a full professor in Nigeria â€™s most conservative university. He has taught at some of the worldâ€™s best universities and research institutes and think tanks like Oxford and Brookings Institution, not minding the fact that he himself attended only a local university in Nigeria .
He is the only African chosen to joinÂ the United Nations panel of 10 experts to look into how to restructure the worldâ€™s financial markets and the international economic system in light of the global economic meltdown; the panel is headed by Joseph Stiglitz, the American economist and Nobel Prize winner. By the time he was made the chief economic adviser to the president in 2003 he was already consulting to 18 international institutions across the globe.
Have we seen much of his brilliance since Soludo joined partisan politics?
I hate to say this, but the truth is that Soludo has been dazzling. Since he showed interest in contesting for the office of governor, he has become the most discussed Nigerian politician. His participation has changed the political calculations everywhere.
No governorship aspirant, let alone a candidate, has mobilized as many as 100, 000 enthusiastic people in one place as Soludo did on September 22 when he officially declared interest in running.
Yet, he did not plan to contest until a few days earlier. Do not forget it was a large number of eminent Anambra people led by the great Alex Ekwueme who convinced him at the last minute to give up the international job offers from the IMF, Oxford University and Brookings Institution and help reposition the PDP in Anambra State because the image of the party was very bad as a result of horrible things done by some members like kidnapping a sitting governor, abducting a sitting local government chairman, burning of key state structures, taking a governor to a notorious shrine at midnight to take an oath that he would surrender the stateâ€™s treasury to a so-called godfather, and obtaining horrible and politically motivated judicial orders which destroyed the very officers who gave them.
If Soludoâ€™s brilliance had not been exceptional, he would not have known how to beat the other 46 aspirants who ran against him for the PDP nomination. We shall soon launch a determined campaign in all the over 300 wards in Anambra, the type the country has never witnessed.
I am excited about the campaign because, among others, Soludo is the only person Dr Ekwueme has endorsed to run even when he was an aspirant. In 1998 when Dr Ekwueme was asked by the feuding 18 aspirants to name one of them so that others would step down he declined. He also refused to endorse any PDP aspirant in 2003 and in 2007.
I expect Soludo to secure at least 55% of the votes in the forthcoming election, with the other candidates sharing the rest. I wish you were in Awka some two weeks ago when the entire leadership of the Progressive Peoples Alliance in the state joined the Soludo Campaign. The former state headquarters of the PPA is now the Soludo Campaign headquarters.
You said it was eminent Anambra people led by Dr Ekwueme who convinced Soludo to run. But I thought some media reports alleged it was Chief Anenih.
Nothing could have been further from the truth as regards the media allegations. I think the media reported it was Chief Anenih because it was the former BOT chairman who let the cat out of the bag, or, as we say in Igbo, it was Anenih who broke the Nsugbe coconut by disclosing that the party was politically motivated. It was Anenih who announced that he would not mind changing his name from Anenih to Anene (to make it sound Igbo) if this was what it would take to help make Soludo the Anambra governor; the occasion was the party Dr Ekwueme, Chief Anenih and Alhaji Dahiru Mangali held in Abuja for Soludo to thank him for his meritorious service as the CBN Governor.
Talking about Soludoâ€™s tenure at the CBN, questions have been raised of late about his leadership following the new banking reforms.
If the reforms are the basis of the so-called questions, then, there are absolutely no questions. The problems in the banks were discovered by the auditing of the banks which Soludo personally ordered and chose the officers to carry out the assignment and gave them the terms of reference.
He deserves our commendation for this bold initiative. The reports of the probes were handed over to the CBN leadership a few days after Soludo left office in June. His successor said on assumption of office in June that he would continue from where Soludo stopped. This is precisely what he is doing.
To me Soludoâ€™s greatest achievement is that no bank failed in Nigeria when banks were failing like a pack of cards in the United States and the United Kingdom ; 115 banks have failed in the United States in the last one year. The situation would have been different if the bank consolidation exercise had not taken place in 2004 and 2005.
What is your view on the polymer scandal?
There is nothing whatsoever like a polymer scandal involving Nigeria â€™s Central Bank. You must be referring to the allegation by an Australian newspaper named The Age which alleged that Securrency of Australia was paying high commissions to its international marketing agents in different countries probably to bribe government and central bank officials.
This was a mere conjecture. But what did we see in a section of the local press? Headlines screaming â€œSoludo fingered in N750m polymer bribery scandalâ€, â€œEFCC, police probe Soludo for N750m fraudâ€, etc. The amount bandied about is interestingly the entire amount paid the marketing consultants.
The Australian government, the parliament and the Australian police have all investigated this conjecture by The Age. For your information, Securrency is an industry monopoly worldwide. So, how can it offer bribes when it has no rival anywhere in the world?
What is your view on the running battle between Prof Soludo and Chief Chris Uba?
The challenge before all Anambra people is how to realise the dream of making the state the African development tiger. Soludo is busy trying to achieve reconciliation in the party and in the state, and has given every possible support to the Senator Onyeabo Obi Reconciliation Committee.
Let us give this committee a good chance to succeed, instead of devoting energy to those Spiro Agnew, a former American Vice President, would call the nattering nabbobs of negativism.
Prof Chinua Achebe has described those characters as renegades who want to turn Anambra State into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. The state will witness accelerated development from March when Soludo takes over.