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The Governor of Anambra State, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo shocked the entire Nigerian political sector when he became the first sitting Governor in the South-East to go head-to-head with the supporters of the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi. In reaction, Obi’s supporters who refer to themselves as ‘Obidents’ called for the head of the Professor for daring to crucify their Messiah in his long and critical treatise.
Last Monday, Soludo published an article he titled, ‘History Beckons and I Will Not Be Silent (Part 1).’ To be clear, the piece was his honest appraisal of Obi’s ambition to become Nigeria’s next President, the political future of Ndigbo, the security, and development of the South-East, and other salient issues bothering how Obi governed Anambra.
In the article, which was done ostensibly in response to criticisms that followed the statement he had made days before about Obi’s investment being next to nothing, Soludo summarised Obi’s aspirations as a ‘game’ that they were both fully aware of. As expected, Obi’s vociferous supporters didn’t find the article funny and Solduo is now in the eye of the storm.
It is important to point out that a careful review of the reactions to the article clearly showed that a greater part of those who were reacting never bothered to read through it before jumping into the fray. This is sad as it clearly depicts the dearth of the reading culture in Nigeria.
Today, many people see reading as ‘stress’ that they should not ‘disturb’ themselves about. This has made deep thinking and critical analysis almost impossible. If Nigeria is ever going to stand a chance in the future, then conscious efforts must be made to correct this anomaly. No country can ever develop like this!
Africa Digital News, New York emphatically points out that Governor Suludo is no pushover by any standard. He has always been an opinionated member of the Nigerian political elite class. Again, this is not the first time he will be baring his mind in an election season. He is known for his long essays before every election that usually gets to form discussion points afterward. In 2015, just before the general elections, he wrote a piece he titled; ‘ Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond The Election’, that article went on to dominate political discourse for a while. 2023 is almost here and being Governor has not given Soludo many reasons to rethink his seasonal articles. He dropped it like a hot pot last week, and the reactions have not stopped pouring in.
The first we must state here is that, regardless of what Soludo wrote, engaging the points enumerated therein constructively, is more democratically healthy than attacking or mudslinging at his person. His position, although controversial and touchy should elicit healthy debates because joining debates is surely one of the best ways to learn. On this count, ‘Obidents’ have not fared well. If Soludo’s treatise stated that Obi cannot win the elections, the best way to have gone was to say he will win while stating contrary facts to counter the Governor. If Solduo declared that Obi mismanaged Anambra’s resources, the best thing to have done was to win the debate with logic, facts, and numbers.
It is sad that healthy debates are now losing the battle of opinions to populism and bandwagon. This does not portend good for Nigerian politics and the Nation-State as a whole!
The social space in the build-up to the Presidential elections appears to be lacking in balance. Those who have contrary opinions on any issue cannot freely say them if they lack the courage to be subjected to the dangerous fires of ‘Wotowoto’.
The standard rule has now become, ‘shut your mouth’ or go under the fire. Yes, it is understandable that many Nigerians have been failed by their leaders and their anger is justifiable. However, unleashing anger at dissenting views and opinions is tyranny and it must be curtailed.
Soludo got it wrong with the label he tried to hang on Obidents.
We know that social media clap backs and vituperations are not actually peculiar to Nigeria alone. All over the world, there is a certain trend of social media abuse and insults which is often propelled by a ‘cancel culture’. It’s happening almost everywhere from the US to the UK and around the globe.
Soludo should understand that the advent of social media has created a virtual reality where people now see themselves differently when they are on their keypads.
It has nothing to do with Peter Obi or his followers. Insinuating that Obi is a reflection of his followers is wrong and uncalled for. There is no video of Obi on the Internet where he was seen abusing or insulting people who had contrary opinions to himself. Obi has over the years, remained a humble man who has not really lived up to his financial status publicly.
Again, Soludo got it wrong with his weak attempt to ‘Igbolise’ Peter Obi’s rare ambition. Obi has never accepted the efforts of some of his supporters to paint his ambition with an ethnic brush. He has always admonished Nigerians not to vote for him because he is an Igboman. While on that mischievous plot, Soludo tried to create fear in the minds of Igbos who were hell-bent on voting for Obi. According to him, it will amount to a waste of votes and will lead to the exclusion of the Igbo race from the power dynamic of Nigeria. It is somewhat ironic that the Governor could reason like this knowing fully well that the last time an Igbo man held any of the top two positions in the country was over 40 years ago when Alex Ekwueme was Vice President. So, the question is, has not being in Aso Rock stopped Igbos from their geometric growth economically, or has it made the lives of Northerners and South-Westerners better than that of those from the South-East? The answer is a big No!
Throughout Soludo’s long essay, he kept highlighting the republican nature of the Igbo man, yet, he didn’t have problems with trying to tell republican people that their political choices were worthless. Reminding republican people that there were only two candidates in the race when the electoral umpire listed 18 is being clever by half. Pushing a narrative that only candidates who can win should be voted in elections is not what intellectuals like Soludo should be caught pants-down doing. For intellectuals, voting is always about the ideas they like and the candidate that embodies them.
Again, writing off Obi’s aspirations as a game was all shades of wrong. Prior to winning his election to become Anambra’s number-one citizen in 2021, Soludo had endured two failed attempts in 2010 and 2013. It is unlikely that Soludo would have taken it in good faith if someone from his local government had written off his aspiration as a ‘game’ on those two earlier attempts.
Again, trying to cast aspersions on socio-cultural groups like Afenifere, PANDEF and the Middle-Belt Forum for endorsing Peter Obi’s aspirations is not something a Governor should be caught doing.
Those leaders have premised their choice of Obi on equity, fairness, and justice and they are very right to do so. Soludo’s decision to dismiss them without discussing their reasons only succeeded in making him sound vindictive.
The most laughable part of that argument was when the same Solduo went on to ask Ohaneze Ndigbo to negotiate on behalf of Ndigbo. If he believes that Ohaneze wields so much influence, then why not Afenifere, PANDEF, and the middle-belt forum?
What is the way forward?
It is commendable that Soludo raised important issues around the need to politically restructure Nigeria. This is a good call, but then, rather than dismiss Obi as though Obi is anti-restructuring, he could have spent the time he took to write that lengthy piece to try to galvanise Igbos on the need to insist on restructuring and making it an important issue. The attack on Obi was needless and from every indication sent wrong signals to other ethnic nationalities about the Igbo race. This is not the way to go looking at the complex ditch Nigerian has found herself in.
In conclusion, since Soludo is quite convinced that the best deal for Ndigbo was through his party – APGA, this is the best time to lead the charge. He should be willing to build the party across the regions and not just stay on Facebook to dish out tons and tons of articles. He should be everywhere in the South-East from Abia to Imo, to Enugu, to Ebonyi trying to build APGA and market it to Ndigbo.
The grandstanding will not help. As far as the 2023 elections are concerned, there are 3 governorship positions, 45 Senatorial seats, and over 100 State House of Assembly positions up for grabs. Soludo should lead the way with that mission. Anything short of this is a political witch-hunt on his predecessor whom he calls ‘brother’.
And for Obi, the task he has undertaken is no mere one. As Soludo admonished, he must be ready for the ‘humongous work’.