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Anambra’s three big SONs

By Ochereome Nnanna
FORMER Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, once described the late Tai Solarin as “an illiterate”. Are you shocked? How can one of Nigeria’s most refined gentlemen in the political arena who is not known for the use of strong language even under severe pressure describe one of Nigeria’s most outstanding educationists and social critics as “illiterate”? Let Ekwueme himself answer the question.

We take it from his book: From the State House to Kirikiri on page 231. But before I quote him, let me situate the gist to enable us follow it. By October 1986, the General Ibrahim Babangida regime wanted to release the politicians jailed by his predecessor, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, so as to put the past behind him.

But he was hampered by a section of the Lagos press, which complained about indiscriminate release of former political office holders. Babangida therefore decided to set up a judicial panel to examine each of their cases.

Ekwueme welcomed the judicial panel because it enabled him to defend himself against charges of corruption being bandied in the media and even by the former Head of State, Buhari. The Justice Sampson Uwaifo Panel eventually cleared him of all allegations and in fact, painted a picture of him as a saint.

Tai Solarin was one of those against the release of the jailed politicians, especially those who were not of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). This discriminatory attitude of Tai’s and some of the Lagos press which were pro-Awoist was what made Ekwueme livid enough to burst out this uncommonly.

He wrote in his book: “I took grave exception to any statement suggesting that Tai Solarin’s views on the matter (of the release of politicians) were relevant. This was because as far as I was concerned, he was an illiterate; an illiterate not in the sense that he did not have any formal education, but in the sense that he was, in my view, totally incapable of independent and objective thought.

As far as he was concerned, everything Shagari did was wrong, even from day one of his presidency when his programme was yet to unfold. Contrary wise, everything Awolowo did was right”.

It is sad to note that Ekwueme’s notion of illiteracy (inability to make independent and objective surmise of situations) is still at play among some opinion holders, especially writers with regard to the large number of aspirants seeking the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State. Most of the culprits of this jaundiced reflex are from the same theatre of opinion Ekwueme identified.

Once they saw the 47 aspirants, they clapped their hands this way and that and exclaimed: “E-e-eh! Anambra again!” Pray, is there anything patently wrong with a large number of people aspiring to one office?
Personally, I don’t think so.

They have enriched PDP to the tune of nearly N200 million despite the party’s undisguised fondness for Professor Charles Soludo’s candidacy. The problem, for me, is not the number. It is the motive behind each aspiration. Few of these chaps are interested in the service that being governor connotes.

They want the power. Even if the impending primaries are free and fair, they would not line up behind the winner and help him to build the Anambra State of the dreams of well meaning Anambrarians and Nigerians.

They will invade the mushroom parties and use them to wreck their state and party. Many of them will start acting the script of enemies of Anambra and Igbo people in their quest to get even for failing to get the ticket. That is where Anambra politics leaves so much to be desired.

Before I close, I want to observe that of the lot of them who have expressed their interest for the job, I isolate three big contenders whom I call the SONs of Anambra State. They are Soludo, Obi and Ngige. Charles Soludo, the former CBN Governor, has published his very inspiring vision of Anambra State by 2030: a combination of Dubai, Silicon Valley and Taiwan.

But can he generate the consensus among the hot-headed elite of the state to work with him if he wins? Peter Obi of APGA has re-laid the foundation for the growth of Anambra, working within the blueprint of the League of Anambra Professionals (LAP) of which Soludo is a member.

Failing to correct the waywardness of some sections of the elite, he sidelined them and worked almost solo. Obi has done more than any governor that ever ruled Anambra State in terms of total simultaneous development. But his APGA is strangely not the first party of choice for political aspirants, and the common people don’t exactly lay down their coats for him to walk on when he comes around.

Ngige is a crowd puller with the largest charisma among the Big Three. He knows how to deal with the elite. He knows how to appease the criminal mafia cabals of Anambra State to pipe down and allow him to work, and he did quite a bit of work, especially roads.

He knows how to pass the goodies around, quite unlike Obi. After these, how much is left to do the work? When he left office in 2005, many of his close aides became multi-millionaires. His party, the Action Congress (AC) has little or no grounding in Anambra State.

Someone describes Anambra State as Nigeria’s “political laboratory”. We hope “Experiment 2010” will not lead to an explosion that will pour corrosive chemicals on the rest of us.

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