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Soludo fought off Nigeria’s two leading political parties, winning the support of the people in Anambra’s governorship election in the southeast. Ahead of his inauguration in March next year, there are mixed expectations with regards to his ability to engineer true change in the state, which is renowned for its industrial exploits. Will he be a true reformer or a flash in the pan?
“You can tell where one is heading to from where he’s coming from. Soludo will deliver,” says Samuel Ohuabunwa, former president of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). “Soludo has proven himself.”
Dictating the tune for Nigeria’s economy
Soludo, who currently serves as a member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC), is as much an economist as he is human — a statement that most Nigerians would agree with.
In July 2003, Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo handed Soludo his first appointment within the federal government, chief economic adviser – a role in which he set out to get the country on to the path of sustainable growth with some prominent programmes, such as the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) and the States Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (SEEDS).
He has the political support and has learned the roads as a politician.
The professor of economics also served as the chief executive officer of the National Planning Commission (NPC), at a time when the process that established the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s statistics agency, was initiated.
In May 2004, almost a year into his service as Obasanjo’s chief economic adviser, he was appointed to head Nigeria’s apex bank.
During his tenure, from 2004 to 2009, Soludo was seen as a revolutionary governor of the central bank and was credited for a number of prominent policies and actions, including his decision to consolidate Nigeria’s banks, even though that shrunk their number at the time from 89 to 25.
At the CBN, he was a “very courageous man who changed the fate of Nigerian banks,” says Ohuabunwa, a 2023 presidential aspirant. “Before he came, Nigeria had very poor banks with no place in global reckoning. However, he came and consolidated the banks and today, we have very strong banks in the country that have global appeal,” he tells The Africa Report.
In March, the 61-year-old spoke of how his “brutal revolution” at the CBN nearly cost his life and that of his family. “I received 19 written threats to my life,” he told journalists. “[…] there were attempts to kidnap my children at Offa in Kwara state, so it was a very brutal revolution. I had to evacuate my family during the banking consolidation because when you want to uproot a system, it is usually a deadly routine.”
The economist or the ‘Nigerian politician’?
Ambrose Igboke, a Lagos-based public affairs analyst, is betting on Anambra transforming into “a new Dubai” under Soludo, who he says has the potential to attract foreign direct investments (FDI).
“He has the political support and has learned the roads as a politician,” Igboke says of Soludo’s political journey. “We are looking forward to a paradigm shift and economic betterment of Anambra, and once Anambra gets it right, l think the rest of Igbo land will also do so.”
Many of these Nigerian politicians are the same and I don’t see Soludo being any different.
Soludo’s camp also believes that economic development will be among his top priorities in Anambra. According to Don Adinuba, his media director, the former central bank governor will transform the state into “one of the fastest-growing states in the country in the next two years.”
Beyond the economy, he tells The Africa Report that Soludo will address all aspects of Anambra’s development challenges. “No part or section is more important and he’s going to tackle all of them,” he says.
However, Okey Awoke, a youth leader in Onitsha, a town in Anambra and the economic hub of the southeast, feels Soludo “won’t be any different” from Governor Obiano, who he says, “came in with so many hopes for the people but has not performed.”
“Many of these Nigerian politicians are the same and I don’t see Soludo being any different,” Awoke says, as if he has given up on Soludo even before his tenure kicks off. “Although he is more popular than Obiano, he will most likely follow in his footsteps, which have not really benefited Anambra significantly.”
There are also concerns over Soludo’s commitment and how well he can tackle the many challenges facing Anambra and the southeast.
In the build-up to the elections, as he campaigned under the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), engaging with various groups in the state, he heavily weighed in on a number of issues, except perhaps the most important: the violent secession that has threatened the peace of the southeast.
Despite the fact that the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – the leading pro-Biafra group – are concentrated in Anambra, Soludo, like a number of other governorship aspirants, largely kept mum on how to contain the ballooning influence of the group in the region, as his campaign train swept across the state.
Soludo will also grapple with a number of issues confronting the southeast.
The region has continually alleged marginalisation in political appointments at the federal level over the years and with the 2023 presidency closing in, demands for the emergence of a president of Igbo extraction are going through the roof.
Given Anambra’s strategic position in the southeast region, Soludo will be expected to lend his voice to the course to remain in the good books of the Igbos. Some are already asking if indeed he can remain loyal to APGA, the party that has dominated politics in Anambra for the last two decades.
Any chance of alignment with Buhari and APC?
In 2010, Soludo took his first shot at the governorship race under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but lost to Peter Obi, APGA’s candidate at the polls, who is now ironically the leader of the PDP in the state after running as the party’s vice-presidential candidate in 2023.
Following his loss to Obi, Soludo ditched the PDP for APGA and later lost a bid to fly the party’s flag in the state governorship election in 2013.
In seeking the good of Anambra, is it likely that he will fall into the warm embrace of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)? Only time shall tell.
Starting March 2022, as he steers the affairs of the state for the next four years, Ohuabunwa is willing to bet on what he can do. “Soludo has shown that he has the capacity to bring about change… Anambra has made a good choice.”
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