X-rays of Governor Soludo's outburst on HE Peter Obi by ADELANI ADEPEGBA and DIRISU YAKUBU
Many people are angry with Governor Charles Soludo's recent severe criticism of Peter Obi's performance as the governor of Anambra State, his dismissing of the chances of the Labour Party's nominee in the upcoming presidential election, and his criticism of the Igbo's campaign strategy.
No one anticipated it, but Anambra State Governor Prof. Chukwuma Soludo's lengthy and critical essay on Peter Obi's chances of becoming the Labour Party's presidential candidate has people talking about a potential conflict between the two Anambrarians, as the residents of the state liked to be referred to.
In his article titled "History Beckons and I Will Not Be Silent (Part 1)," Soludo was frank in his assessment of Obi's ambition, Ndigbo's political future, South-East development and security, and other issues pertaining to Obi's stewardship while he was the governor of Anambra State, as well as his contentious investment in a brewery company and others.
According to Soludo, the LP candidate is playing a game, and with the LP, Obi lacked the essential support system to win the president.
In reaction to criticism of his claim that investments credited to Obi while he was the state governor were worth "next to nothing," the governor made the comment. Using the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Obi ruled Anambra State from 2006 to 2014 before switching to the People's Democratic Party and eventually the Labour Party.
Supporters of Obi reacted angrily to the former Central Bank Governor's prior criticism of his predecessor, especially on social media. His essay on Monday has stoked even more resentment among Obi's fans, known as "Obidients," with many of them accusing Soludo of envy.
Obi seems to have verified Soludo's claim that the billions of naira he invested on behalf of the state in the private companies had declined drastically in his measured reaction to the current value of the investments by his administration. In response to the accusation, he stated, "The one they are saying is worthless, we put $3.5 billion in International Breweries, during a meeting with the Lagos Business School alumni. You could consider International Breweries to be a multinational corporation. It is a component of AB Beer, the largest brewer in the world. The share was at a time being sold at N50. Today the share is about N5 or so and then maybe that was what was referred to. But overall, what I left is less than five per cent, that particular investment is less than five per cent.’’
Though the presidential candidate also made an effort to defend the sizable sum of money he left for his predecessor, Willie Obiano, his justifications failed to address the fact that the savings did not lower the state's poverty rate, which according to Soludo increased from less than 25% in 2005 to about 53% under Obi in 2010/2011 but decreased under Obiano to 14.78% in 2020.
However, despite the social media vituperations, it appeared that Soludo's attempt to front-load the important concerns was lost in the hysteria that followed his piece. Nobody is discussing Ndigbo's political future or how alliances and negotiations might help them achieve their goals. In order to solve the issue plaguing the South-East area, Soludo had encouraged South-East leaders to strategize and negotiate with the two candidates most likely to win the general elections in 2023.
The jailed Indigenous People of Biafra leader Nnamdi Kanu's release, as well as South-East economic change and restructuring, were among the issues the economics expert claimed that negotiating was important to resolve. Additionally, he emphasized the necessity of projects such as free trade zones, export processing zones, motorways connecting the South-East to the North and South, and rail lines to the five state capitals.
As his opponents appeared to be viewing his position through an ethnic lens, the governor's concerns that the attempt to intimidate people who were not in favor of Obi's presidential ambition may damage the future political and economic interests of the Igbos did not also receive any questioning.
The governor made the case that the South-East needed to form strategic partnerships in order to lead the nation by citing Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate. By pointing out that the current Nzogbu song and dance method would get Ndigbo nowhere, he rejected the claims that he was likely antagonistic to Obi's aspiration.
He said, ‘’When will Ndigbo understand and learn politics, especially of Nigeria? When Bola Ahmed Tinubu defied the political wind of the time and stood out as the “only man standing” in AD and later AC (before ACN) against a sitting president of Yoruba descent, no one accused him of being anti-Yoruba.
‘’Indeed, everyone recalls that both Tinubu and President Obasanjo disagreed politically, and probably still disagree — but neither is being accused of being anti-Yoruba.
‘’Under Tinubu, the South-West strategically organised under a different political party, the ACN and went into a formidable alliance that kicked out a sitting president, and that alliance is not broken yet. Igbos, in their frenzied Nzogbu nzogbu (it is our turn dance”) but without organisation or strategy) politics, have sadly found themselves in a political cul-de-sac. Tragic indeed! When will my people smell the morning coffee?’’
Even while Obi's popularity seems to be on the rise, as was already mentioned, whether he is able to convert the support he is receiving on social media into actual votes in 2023 will depend on that. And as the governor noted, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to translate rage and social media agitation into political outcomes.
“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 brutal truth (and some will say, God forbid) is that there are two persons/parties seriously contesting for president: the rest is exciting drama,’’ Soludo stated to the chagrin of those who already see Obi as the next president.
The economist was blunt in his dismissal of the potential popularity surge on social media that his kinsman may be counting on to win the election, stating that without structures, Obi's dream of becoming president may just remain a fantasy.
Soludo argued that the LP lacks the framework to win the presidential election in 2023 and suggested that Obi might not even finish third in the contest. ‘’Analysts tell him you don’t need ‘structure’ to win. Fantasy! Of course, LP won governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun on social media and via phantom polls, while getting barely 2,000 votes on ground,’’ he stated sardonically.
To address the party's absence in the rural areas, Obi and his party should intensify their grassroots mobilization efforts rather than berate the economics professor for his critical observation. In reality, 'Obidients' working twice as hard as the top political parties and converting their anguish and anger into electoral victory for their candidate is the finest method to retaliate against the former Central Bank Governor or show him wrong.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, commented on the situation and emphasized that those criticizing the governor for hammering Obi since both men are of Igbo ethnic descent had missed the point.
He said, “I don’t believe in ethnic politics. I believe in the politics of inclusiveness and ‘Nigerianity.’ No Nigerian can win the next election on the basis of his tribe or ethnic group. (President) Buhari tried it in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and failed. It was when he stretched his hand across Niger and Benue in 2015 that he won.”
Anthony Sani, a former Arewa Consultative Forum secretary general, claimed that the Anambra governor's assessment of the Labour Party presidential candidate was accurate.
He noted, “There is nothing new that Governor Soludo has said that has not been said by some of us. For example, because of resolutions by Southern Governors and their socio-cultural platforms that the president must come from the South; this time, the votes in the south will be shared by Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Bola Tinubu of APC.
“Because Peter Obi defected from PDP, his votes will come largely from his supporters in PDP who have defected with him. In the North, the votes will be shared between Atiku of PDP, Kwankwaso of NNPP who decamped from PDP and Bola Tinubu of APC who the 14 APC governors aided his emergence in the primaries. Bola Tinubu will carry the day in the North because of APC governors and the fact that NNPP has weakened PDP.
“And when you add the fact that the Labour Party has not fielded candidates for governorship, Senate, House of Reps and State Assemblies’ seats in many states for lack of capacity and the matter of the G-5 governors led by Governor Wike; then you cannot fault Governor Soludo’s political arithmetic.’’
Punchng, 'Soludo vs Obi: A reality check or naked dance in marketplace?' (online, 2022) <https://punchng.com/soludo-vs-obi-a-reality-check-or-naked-dance-in-marketplace/>.