By Rotimi Fasan
THE race to the governorship election in Anambra, now fixed for February 6, 2010 by INEC, indicates things are not going to be easy in the State. Politics, since Nigeriaâ€™s latest experiment with her â€˜nascent democracyâ€™, has never been an easy affair in Anambra State.
That things would turn out the way they are became clear the moment the ruling APGA party fell into disarray, some would say, as a consequence of the underhand games of the main opposition PDP that would, in the intervening weeks, wrestle itself aground by its failure to organise a transparent primary election for its governorship aspirants.
But in its usual way of pretending to be orderly in a state of disorder, â€˜Africaâ€™s largest partyâ€™ dug deep into its bag of tricks and produced a governorship candidate in the person of Chukwuma Soludo, until lately Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The emergence of Soludo only hours before the expiry of the deadline for the primaries would, for a few days, create a false sense of normalcy that would make the PDP raise its twisted umbrella in self-congratulations. The euphoria that greeted Soludoâ€™s candidacy in some quarters would soon go up in ashes following a court injunction nullifying his election.
Beyond the immediate context of the on-going skulduggery in Anambra is the fact that the stage for the latest fiasco had been set way back in 2003 when the PDP stole victory from the jaws of defeat and installed Chris Ngige governor after alleged sessions of oath-taking in filthy shrines.
The parting of ways between Ngige and his godfathers in the PDP, notably his much younger financier, Chris Uba, would have spiralling effects that Anambra is yet to recover from six years after. Viewed against this backdrop, what is now unfolding in Awka, including the abduction of the father of Chukwuma Soludo, is the playback of an old song.
True, nobody can yet say with any measure of proof that the abduction of the elder Soludo is a fallout of his sonâ€™s misadventure in Anambra politics. Yet nobody can say either that the two incidents are unconnected, especially as it happened only days after the PDP primaries in the State which Soludo won.
Abduction for ransom has in recent years become rampant in the entire East, and anybody with some form of visibility knew they were potential targets. Some states have for this reason not only criminalised the act but made it a capital offence.
Thus, when Soludo ventured into the open to stake his claim to the governorship, he must have been aware of the potential risks he was exposing himself to. That he relocated his wife and children abroad is one indication if no other of his awareness of this risk.
Yet for somebody of his status, a former Governor of the CBN with high connections in Nigeriaâ€™s ruling party, he is a very attractive target. And Soludo ought to have weighed the various options before him, including relocating his entire clan, before stepping into the treacherous waters of Anambra politics.
That he failed to consider this is a mistake he must continue to regret.
But what does this all say about Anambra politics? The first thing is that politics in Nigeria is fast being defined by how it is played in Anambra where it has become a cash-and-carry affair.
The lightning manner Soludo emerged to corner the PDP gubernatorial ticket even when he had never been publicly known to be a card-carrying member of the party says a lot about the contemporary practice of politics in Nigeria. His emergence would be followed by allegations and counter-allegations of bribery in tens of millions of dollars.
The truth or otherwise of this is difficult to ascertain. Difficult because one cannot be sure who was bribing who, as it doesnâ€™t look like those making the allegations would have done things differently if given the opportunity.
What cannot be doubted, however, is that money was and is a terrible factor in terms of how people define their entitlements in Anambra politics.
Take the case of Chris Uba who came out last week to refute allegations that he knew something of the disappearance of Pa Soludo. In an interview with The Nation, Uba not only denied the allegation but accused Chukwuma Soludo of hiding his own father for whatever reason.
Fuming at what he considered a failure to recognise his contribution to the PDP, Uba all but called Chukwuma Soludo a crook and a carpetbagger who turned to politics in order to protect himself from certain prosecution for his uninspiring and, impliedly, shady tenure as Governor of the Central Bank. â€˜Immunityâ€™ (from prosecution?) is, according to Uba, the only reason Soludo wants to go into politics.
But Uba has threatened to expose the Professor-turned-politician whose secrets are all too well-known to him. And whatâ€™s Ubaâ€™s own justification for believing he has been short-changed in the scheme of things in Anambra?
It all rested, if one must judge from his interview, on his financial contributions to the PDP: Over N800 million to procure â€˜brand newâ€™ 406 cars for PDP executives in Anambra, 5,000 motor cycles, 5, 000 bags of rice, 5,000 wrappers and, of course, N500,000 for mobilisation in each of the local governments in the State.
This is pure buy-and-sell politics. Not once did Uba say anything about a definite manifesto or principle guiding his donations. It was crude lucre all the way- all a matter of cash and nothing more.
This is what politics has, today, been reduced to in Nigeria. It is why the people of Anambra need to pray hard for God to save them from the tribe of merchants, misnamed politicians, that have seized their state by the throat.