Soludo and Anambra: Matters arising
Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has since secured the electoral mandate as the next Governor of Anambra State. Incidentally, this is of the top three most developed states in Nigeria. But sadly enough, the State is contending with the scourge of insecurity.
We recall here that Soludo won by an overwhelming majority, receiving 112,229 votes, about twice more than his closest rival Valentine Ozigbo of the People’s Democratic Party. It is an indication of the value which the majority of Anambra people place on his candidacy which he must now reciprocate with hard work, with a view to delivering the much-needed indices of democracy.
Anambra is in dire need of a turnaround in every area. It is currently the headquarters of a secessionist movement led by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which in recent times has reportedly visited violence on people who refuse to observe its ‘Sit-at-home’ orders. The violence has risen to the point that the Nigerian army saw the need to increase its personnel in the state and the federal government hinted that it might resort to a State of Emergency if things did not go back to normal.
Anambra’s internally generated revenue (IGR) performance continues to dwindle, despite the huge potential in relation to commercially viable cities like Onitsha, Awka, and Nnewi
Although Soludo would only assume office sometime in March, still this is no time for victory parties and euphoric binges. Rather, it is time for work; time to assemble the team and put in place the structures that are capable of bringing change to the troubled state, often regarded as the cradle of the Igbo people.
The new governor-elect cannot afford to let the violence continue because of the wider and dire implications for the economy of the state. The sit-at-home orders continue to take a toll on the revenue of the state and the income of the citizens. They now have fewer days in the week to do business and more days to stay at home, idling away, doing almost nothing.
Anambra’s internally generated revenue (IGR) performance continues to dwindle, despite the huge potential in relation to commercially viable cities like Onitsha, Awka, and Nnewi. In the first half of 2021, it generated N12.8 billion leaving the state languishing at 17 among the top 20 list of states with the most IGR in Nigeria.
Read also: Soludo: Beyond the victory dance
Low revenue means the state cannot afford to take on major developmental projects. Thus without increasing revenue, Soludo will struggle like his predecessors to provide education, quality healthcare, tackle erosion threatening several communities, power supply, clear unpaid salaries or consistently pay N30,000 minimum wage and at the same time upgrade state road infrastructure. Persistent insecurity also means serious investors would be reluctant to invest in the state. It also means sons and daughters of Anambra in the diaspora who would have loved to come home and invest would need a lot of convincing to do so.
Education is also impacted negatively as students have more days at home and fewer days to learn. Meanwhile, some parents are too afraid to send their children to school for fear of kidnapping and other attacks. Whereas, Anambra’s developmental ambition requires all the intellectual and financial investments it can get. This is now Soludo’s cross to bear.
Therefore, his first major task will be how to resolve the security crisis in the state. Central to the immediate foregoing is how Soludo will address the restiveness of IPOB members who nearly hampered the success of the election and his emergence as governor. For example, now that the elections are over, would the IPOB sit-at-home order continue?
It is never too early to engage with every interest group with the goal to find lasting peace.
This would require a judicious mix of diplomacy and some level of firmness.
It is also heart-warming to note that the governor-elect has already said he plans to call the separatist groups for dialogue. It has to be properly handled so that it does not go the way of other negotiations handled by current governors in the southeast. All told, therefore, between now and March when he is due to formally assume office, the Governor-elect should use the time to prepare adequately, such that he will hit the ground running when he becomes the substantive Governor of Anambra State. The people and History demand no less.