The Soludo verbal salvo and variegated responses

In the last few days, the polity has been heated by comments made by Chukwuma Soludo, the sitting governor of Anambra State against the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi.

The development has continued to headline political conversations online and offline across Nigeria, triggering a slew of divergent reactions.

The Anambra governor’s comment is also generating a backlash from supporters of the LP candidate who believed Soludo’s outburst was unnecessary.

Soludo had unequivocally declared that Obi, his predecessor in Anambra, will not win the 2023 presidential election in an article titled ‘History Beckons and I Will Not Be Silent (Part 1)’, issued last Monday.

Soludo in the article said that he had already told Obi his opinion on the possible outcome of the 2023 presidential election.

According to the governor, the probability of Obi winning the election “is next to zero.”

“Let’s be clear: Peter Obi knows that he can’t and won’t win. He knows the game he is playing, and we know too; and he knows that we know.

“The game he is playing is the main reason he didn’t return to APGA. The brutal truth (and some will say, God forbid) is that there are two persons/parties seriously contesting for president: the rest is exciting drama!

“That many Americans may not like the fact that Joe Biden (79 years) and Donald Trump (76 years) are two frontrunners for president in their parties does not remove the fact that if both of them emerge as candidates, definitely one of them will be president in 2024”, Soludo had said.

The Governor’s article comes amid criticism of his recent comment on the worth of investment Obi made for Anambra, when the latter was governor.

In a recent interview on Channels Television, Soludo had said the investments by Obi for Anambra are now “worth next to nothing”

However, in a swift response to the criticism, Obi, on Tuesday at the 2022 Lagos Business School (LBS) Alumni Conference in Lagos, said Soludo remains his brother.

According to Obi, “Soludo remains my brother, we are very close. I remain prayerful for him. For other things which I didn’t succeed, God has given him the opportunity to do it and succeed.

“So, if there is anything pending, governance doesn’t finish, people are still in government in America, so you stop where you will stop, other people will continue from there.”

Making clarifications on the investment, Obi said, “The one they said is worthless, we invested 3.5 billion naira in International Breweries. That facility is there employing directly and indirectly over 10,000 Anambarians. The shares were at a time being sold at N50, today the shares are about N5 or so.

In the last few days, members of the Obidient movement have criticised Soludo over his comment especially on social media, they said the outburst was unnecessary and done out of envy.

Equally, in Southeastern Nigeria, tempers are rising; some of Obi’s supporters say that some political leaders and elites from the zone are actively working against his presidential bid.

Some made reference to the former governor of Imo State some months ago, Emeka Ihedioha, who had made a similar statement, calling those supporting Peter Obi and Labour Party saboteurs.

Ihedioha, in a video, said Nigeria could not afford to make mistakes in the 2023 election and that there were two parties in the election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Ihedioha’s comment perhaps stems from promises made earlier in the year, by PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar that he would hand over power to a president from Igbo extraction after his tenure.

Atiku’s promise to the Southeast came, amid criticism of the PDP, for refusing to zone the presidential ticket to the region after years of support for the party.

Read also: PDP crisis: Wike ready to meet anyone in court over N1bn allegation against Ayu

So, some PDP leaders and political elites in the South East just like Ihedioha, sees Obi presidential bid as capable of scuttling that arrangement, such that his ambition can derail Atiku’s victory.

Thus, there have been diverse reactions to Soludo’s article across all spectrum of the society in Nigeria in the last few days. While some have criticized the Anambra Governor’s comment, others have applauded him, stating that what he said was true.

Reacting in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Evaristus Nwokoye, Anambra Integrity Forum, said they stand fully with Soludo, noting that Soludo’s view on Obi’s presidential ambition is no indication that he is not a patriotic Igbo man or that he hates Peter Obi.

The group said in the history of Nigerian politics, the South East and Ndigbo in general are disposed to support any political party of their choice.

According to the group, “Even among the South West, South-South and the entire Northern Nigeria, politicians choose to belong to parties of their choice and there has never been any reason whatsoever to bully those who oppose one another.

“APGA is the 3rd largest political party in Nigeria and Labour Party is a party that has played substitute roles for aspirants who failed to secure nominations in the frontline parties as rightly stated by Soludo

“It is on record that Soludo had severally urged Peter Obi to return back to the party that made him, which is APGA but he turned down the offer.

“At this stage, there is no way the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) would step down for Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Soludo’s appeal to Peter Obi to return back to APGA was with a belief and aim to create a strong political base, to bargain at the centre and negotiate its share on the table of tribes and geopolitical zones in the country.

“In the history of politics in Nigeria, the number of votes, so far pulled by the South East with the least registered voters, have never been enough for any presidential candidate to win or lose a presidential election.

“Ndigbo as a people should use APGA as a platform to build the strong force that would take them to the presidency just like Sen. Ahmed Bola Tinubu used the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to carry the South West into the presidency.

“Against this backdrop, it will be difficult if not a near impossibility for the South East alone to deliver Peter Obi as President”.

Wale Ogun, public affairs commentator said it would be political naivety to write off the former Anambra governor, adding that there was still time for Obi to prepare for the presidential poll.

“Well, as much as I cannot say Peter Obi will win the 2023 presidential election, it will be wrong to dismiss him and write him off the way Soludo has done.

“Obi may not be the strongest of the candidates, but he certainly is not the weakest or among the weakest, he is a very strong contender by all means and because election is still about three months away, many things will still happen between now and then and many tables will still be rearranged, so writing him off the way Soludo has done smacks of political naivety on the part of the Anambra State governor.”

While vehemently expressing his condemnation and disapproval, the founder of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chekwas Okorie said he was scandalised by the whole development and

“Honestly, I feel scandalised by what is going on. I feel scandalised because I am the founder of APGA. Peter Obi was the one I gave the nomination to be governor for eight years.

“Soludo is the one that has become governor on that platform now. And despite what happened during my time, Peter Obi and I have reconciled. And we have put that behind us.”

According to Okorie, “Now, I have returned to APGA and am working on rebuilding it into a national party, as that was its original purpose. APGA is a national party for engagement so that Igbo people should have a platform.

“Such opportunities never presented themselves except when Azikiwe was around. He used NCNC and NPP at various times for engagements.

“We saw an opportunity now that there is increased confidence in the electoral process than before.

“So, for this kind of thing to begin to happen, between two prominent Igbo sons, who are all products of APGA, notwithstanding that Peter Obi is now in the Labour Party, is heart-rending. That is why I said I feel thoroughly scandalised.

“Now, going beyond that, I also without any equivocation believe that Soludo did not conduct himself properly. This epistle he wrote as part one, for me is uncalled for.”

Speaking further, Okorie said the article was not necessary because he didn’t see how Peter Obi provoked him in his campaigns or anywhere.

Okorie said, “And honestly, everybody should be happy for Peter Obi as he is making the wave only Azikiwe made during his time.

“And even when I join the train as I still intend to, I will not cross words with Peter. Instead, I will be looking at how APGA and the Labour Party will go into an alliance for better results when the time for alliance comes.

“Those types of relationships come close to election time. By then, people would have been able to tell themselves basic home truths about possible outcomes.

“But to come and engage in this type of fight amongst ourselves, I am sure I am not the only person embarrassed.

“I will urge Soludo not to go further with the so-called part two or three as he may want to call it.

“He should now listen to the voice of reason including myself as I occupy a centre in the history of APGA. I am saying that he should stop. If he doesn’t want to support Obi’s presidential bid, he should just keep quiet.

“APGA is one of the two oldest parties registered in Nigeria since 1999. But, it is not good enough that in 20 years, APGA has suffered such stunted growth. So, every concerned person should be talking of how to expand it, and let Peter Obi be.”

Achike Udenwa, a former governor of Imo State, said anyone contesting for the president of the country should expect different perspectives from people about their candidacy.

“Well, there is nothing strange about it. There is no way you will come out to run for an office, even at that level of the presidency and you expect everybody to say yea.

“You will receive a lot of backlash from here and there; some true, some false. There is nothing strange about it. These are personal opinions. That someone expresses his personal opinion doesn’t mean that opinion is correct.

“Looking at it from the point of Igbo attacking Igbo is a myopic outlook to it. Peter Obi cannot make it if he is presented as an Igbo candidate. He is not an Igbo candidate.

“There is nobody that comes out at that level that doesn’t receive a backlash. Even in your own family, you will get it. That is what is in politics. I don’t think that signifies a lack of unity among the Igbo. It is politics.

“Tinubu is running for the same office. Read the papers every day, the social media, and everybody is attacking him. Atiku is running too, check the North; a lot of them are attacking him.

“Please, let us not take it as a sign that the Igbo are not together. There is nobody that will come out and all Igbo will like him. When Zik came out in 1979 to run for the presidency, of course, under the NPP, a lot of Igbo were in the NPN.

“They were attacking him; they did not work for him. So, it is nothing strange. I will be surprised if anybody comes out and all of us support him. I will be very surprised.

“That is not democracy. We should not be frightened by such things, they are expected. You will get it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. You will be surprised that from your family, you will still get some opposition,” he said.

In his view, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former governor of Anambra, said he was shocked by Soludo’s comment, which according to him was not necessary.

“I’m shocked. I’ve tried calling him and he is not answering. By now, he would have understood the impact of what he did and should go into hiding. But we must talk to him. It’s highly embarrassing. Someone, who hasn’t done anything to you, “Ezeife said.

Speaking in defence of Soludo, public affair commentator, Obiora Nwanekwu said the Anambra governor said nothing wrong and was only speaking as leader of APGA and in the interest of Igbo.

“We are now in a new election season and Peter Obi now expects the support of his home base, which is under the control of the party he fought viciously over the years. He undeservedly expects that APGA will roll out a red carpet for him and his Labour Party.

“Igbo conventional wisdom also expects that all Igbos owe it a duty to support Peter Obi. Unfortunately, life does not work that way, especially after the bitter experience APGA had in 2019.

“That is not even the point. Much as popular sentiments amongst the Igbos is that it is a foregone conclusion that Peter will win the next election, APGA thinks otherwise based on their understanding of Nigerian politics.

“They justifiably feel Peter will only succeed in cannibalising APGA votes in Anambra and yet lose the election. This will be double jeopardy. Peter fails to win and APGA is weakened.

“No right thinking political party will agree to suffer collateral damage on account of a risk that will amount to double jeopardy,” Nwanekwu said.

The Publicity Secretary of the LP in Lagos State, Bunmi Odesanya said the comment by the Anambra Governor was not necessary.

“Soludo just exhibited an uncommon sense of putting his foot in his mouth! He’s a professor, an Intellectual, for crying out loud. There’s absolutely no substance in his letter. From beginning to end, it’s sheer unwarranted hostility and jealousy to his brother Peter Obi,” he said.

Skip to toolbar