One paragraph jumped out at me while reading Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s acceptance speech last week. He said: “On February 7th, 2010, INEC declared as winner of the Anambra Governorship election a candidate who had described the election as a sham on Channels TV and refused to vote in protest. Two hours after the declaration, I addressed a press conference and congratulated him, and walked away without a legal challenge. I was probably the first candidate of a major political party to do that in Nigeria.”
This is only half of the story. The other half is that Soludo, fresh from a tour of duty as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was rudely introduced to the skullduggery of Nigerian politics and quickly bailed out. While he struggled to become PDP’s flagbearer, many untoward things happened to him. The most traumatic would have been the kidnapping of his father, a septuagenarian. A whopping 47 aspirants sought the same nomination, and each was confident of victory. Although 12 of the aspirants were weeded out at the screening stage, they however appealed their exclusion. Their names were restored by an appeal panel headed by Sen. Ike Ekweremadu. The appeal panel looked at 1,357 petitions against the process and against Soludo. The panel upheld only 174 and threw out 1,183 petitions. The entry of Governor Suswan of Benue State to calm the situation and conduct ward congresses did not help matters, even when the he imported 326 of his own people from Benue State to help him manage it. In all of this confusion, time ran out for the party and the PDP National Executive Council (NEC) had to hurriedly submit Soludo’s name to beat INEC deadline. But matters did not end there. Four aspirants headed to court to stop INEC from recognizing Soludo as PDP candidate. Guess who led the charge to court? Chief Valentine Ozigbo, one of the 12 beneficiaries of the Ekweremadu-led appeal committee.
Although the High Court declined to entertain their suit because it lacked jurisdiction, the quartet nevertheless appealed the judgement. Justice Mary Odili, then of the Court of Appeal, was head of the appeal panel. She read out two lead judgements that not only barred Soludo from contesting but also stopped INEC from recognizing him as Governor. INEC, never changing, quickly accepted the ruling. Fortunately, this was the time that Nigeria had an activist, no-nonsense Supreme Court. Justice Odili’s appeal panel ruled against Soludo on 16 December 2019, and his counsel appealed to the Supreme Court same day. The INEC statement deflated Soludo and his supporters who thought it was a waste of time to witness what the Supreme Court would say. The following day, however, the Supreme Court met and rubbished the Odili-led panel judgement in an offhanded manner. Justice Oguntade, who read the lead judgement said the case brought to the “court below” was on a matter of jurisdiction and that the “court below” had no business jumping into extraneous matters that have not been concluded at the originating court. An elated Soludo stormed the Supreme Court with his supporters and made big statements – after he was informed of the outcome.
It was however a pyrrhic victory. When eventually Soludo contested the election, he finished in third place, behind Gov. Peter Obi (APGA) and Sen. Chris Ngige (ACN) the first runner up. With this poor performance, the only way he could have contested the Peter Obi win in court and hope to make a headway was if there was a lapdog Supreme Court, with a master PDP in power at the Centre. So, he congratulated Obi and walked away, as he recalled last week. The story of his tortuous journey to the governorship seat did not end there.
Fast-forward to three years later (2013) when Soludo decided to pitch tent with APGA and to immediately declared his intention to run for the governor’s seat. At that time, Gov. Obi was concluding his second and last tenure as governor. I believe it was at this point that Soludo may have discovered two of APGA’s top taboo secrets. One: An Anambra Governor that is not of the ruling party at the Centre must quickly make peace with and become an ally of the President and his ruling party. Two, since Peter Obi, the fortunes of a commercial bank has been tied to governorship electoral outcomes.
This second secret is worth exploring further. In 2013, a certain bank executive director, Chief Willie Obiano, was persuaded to join APGA. He did, on the exact same date that Soludo joined. This created a discord between party leader, Sen. Victor Umeh and Governor Obi over which of the two joiners should be lifted up to the governorship seat. While Sen. Umeh supported Soludo, Governor Obi favoured the bank director. In the high-wire politics that followed, Soludo aspiration was, once again, rubbished as part of reconciliation moves. Speculations were rife that President Goodluck, an ally of the Governor, ordered that Soludo should be proposed as APGA candidate. Soludo, however, refused to budge and was left with no choice than to prevent him from going into the primaries. This it did by disqualifying Soludo for “failing a question.” Even when the aspirant showed evidence that he did not fail that question, the panel still found a way to interpret the evidence as proof that he indeed failed.
This was how bank director Willie Obiano had an easy pass to the throne, thanks to the political machinations of Gov. Obi, backed by a powerful presidency.
An embittered Soludo waited for a chance to hit back at President Jonathan. The opportunity presented itself in the 2015 general elections. The PDP ruling party was corrupt, but there was one Minister who helped the party to whitewash its sins with a stellar performance as Coordinating Minister of the Economy. Brilliant mind that he is, Soludo delivered powerful below-the-belt blows to Madam Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s performance, marshalling out factual and a lot of non-factual matters to help the effort to degrade the Jonathan Presidency among voters. He was working as an expert volunteer to the Gen. Muhammadu Buhari Campaign and to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as they mounted a robust struggle to unseat Jonathan, the man who denied him the opportunity to become Governor.
Governor Obiano himself was a spectacle to watch, as he publicly equivocated while covertly working for the hated APC to make at least a 25% headway in his State.
Today, it appears that Soludo has been rewarded for his yeoman efforts at unseating Jonathan. In the effort to install him as Governor, it was interesting to watch party chairman, Dr. Victor Oye, and the Governor repeatedly cry out to “father” Buhari to intervene and remove the hurdles arranged by both APGA party insiders and the dreaded APC candidate. In the runup to the elections, members of Buhari’s media team individually mounted a media campaign to support of the APGA candidate, and against their own party candidate, Andy Uba. A few powerful APC stalwarts in Anambra refused to assist Uba.
When Soludo eventually prevailed and was declared winner, President Buhari was among the first to congratulate him. With this endorsement, the path effectively closed for the fourth-placed candidate, APC’s Sen. Andy Uba, to pull off a Supreme Court magic as the party did with the governorship elections in Imo State. Thus, the first secret of APGA remains intact, and Soludo will mount the saddle as an strong ally of the ruling party at the Centre, and the President. Prof Soludo is already an ally of Aso Rock, as a member of the President’s Economic Advisory Council. And the
Presidency has watered the grounds for partnership by ensuring – with his public statement of support – that Senator Andy Uba does not make a headway akin to the Imo magic.
What will happen to the second secret? The Anambra 2021 governorship election represents a seismic shift in the fortunes of the commercial bank. Governor-elect Soludo may not have as much interest to protect in this bank as do Obi and Obiano. When provoked, he may not take the drastic step that a certain governor in Enugu State did to deal with a recalcitrant godfather; all he needs to do is to pull State funds out of the bank and it will return to its struggling status before Obi became governor.
In potential subterranean contest with the godfathers, Soludo’s recall of the events of 2010 can also be interpreted as a veiled warning to the man who destroyed his ambition in 2009. The months and years ahead will determine whether this secret will continue to remain secret or will be exposed in a potential dog fight with the Anambra godfathers.
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One paragraph jumped out at me while reading Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s acceptance speech last week. He said:…
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