By Kayode Komolafe
0805 500 1974
Journalism scholars may find a useful material for their reflection on the sociology of news in the unfortunate incident involving two prominent ladies last Saturday at the otherwise exemplary inauguration of Charles Chukwuma Soludo as the governor of Anambra state.
It should interest media theorists that the negative news of the incident has virtually eclipsed the positive news of the significant thing that happened in Awka, the state capital. The trend of news is so bad that if you ask some people feasting on the bad news in the social media what the event was in Awka last Saturday, they may not even remember a word of what Soludo said at his inauguration.
However, the real thing that happened at the Government House in Awka was the unusual inauguration speech of the new governor. The speech was imbued with a noteworthy declaration on governance and politics.
The political resonance of the Soludo declaration will, perhaps, still be felt four years from now when the promise implicit in his statement would be remembered. That is when people would ask questions about the realisation of the vision of Anambra which Soludo optimistically spoke about in the conclusion of the speech.
There were important symbolic gestures at the ceremony: the clothes and shoes Soludo put on were made in Anambra; the car in which he was driven to the occasion was assembled in Anambra; the food and drinks were produced in Anambra and Soludo paid for the refreshment himself; the ceremony was deliberately programmed to be business-like as the governor said it would be truly his first day at work and so there were no inaugural balls.
Besides, contrary to the views of his critics that he is a haughty professor of economics, Soludo was humbled enough to know that the history of governance in Anambra state did not begin with his becoming governor. He acknowledged the respective places of his “elected” predecessors in history : Nnamdi Azikiwe (the Great Zik of Africa), Michael Okpara, Jim Nwobodo, Christian Onoh, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Chris Ngige, Peter Obi and Willie Obiano. He said of these gentlemen: “You all did your best for our people.”
It is a noteworthy expression of humanism and compassion that Soludo also mentioned the three policemen killed during an attack on his campaigns – Inspector Murtala Saudi, Sgt Mudassir Ahmed and Sgt Samuel Ishaya. Remarkably, he pledged to continue take care of their families. Some “unknown gunmen” killed these policemen when a youth meeting being addressed by Soludo was invaded.
Soludo also put on display the courage of his conviction on the state of insecurity in the Anambra like other states in the southeast zone and the agitation of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and their Eastern Security Network (ECN). Not many members of the Igbo elite would speak clearly on the problem in that tone because of the rising populism of IPOB in the southeast. Indeed, the governor walked a tight rope in the matter. He denounced criminality unequivocally. Without delegitimising the agitation of IPOB, Soludo said in clear terms that the weekly sit-at-home order issued by some agitators had proved to be unhelpful to the socio-economic lives of the people in whose name IPOB is fighting. After all, Soludo was among some elements of the Igbo elite who once visited the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, in detention.
Significantly in the speech, he underscored the crucial role of community and individual efforts in the development of infrastructure which is a commendable culture in the southeast including Anambra state. He gave examples of individuals constructing kilometres of roads in their respective communities. It is wise for the governor to have factored such efforts into the development agenda of the state.
In concrete terms, he asserted what he described as “our agenda with Anambra people.” The agenda is embodied three vital documents – Anambra Vision 2070 (a 50-Year Development Plan); The Soludo Solution: A Peoole’s Manifesto for a Greater Anambra and The Transition Committee (Combined Report) which is based on the other two documents. He expectedly stressed the role of the private sector as well as public-private partnership in this agenda.
Soludo said that “our goal is to build Anambra into a prosperous smart megacity.” Prosperity and smart development, yes. But there may be something problematic about hoping to turn Anambra state into to a megacity. The economic structures of the two geo-poltical entities – a state and a city – are vastly different. Maybe, the governor meant Onitsha or Nnewi. Certainly, the whole state cannot be another megacity in Nigeria. To imagine otherwise may amount to a mechanical transposition of concepts of development.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about the speech for a Nigerian politician was that Soludo delved into the ideological arena. Now, that is not expected from the archetypal Nigerian politician who talks glibly about the alleged death of ideology. Soludo seemed to prove that he is not one such politicians when even in his inaugural speech he spoke about “a Pan Africanist ideology that integrates the social democratic values with the principles of competitive markets.” Soludo demonstrated that it is not for nothing that his political party is named All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He correctly situated progressivism in Nigerian nay African poltical political history. He mentioned the following leading lights of progressive politics among others: Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah (of Ghana) Obafemi Awolowo, Julius Nyerere ( of Tanzania), Aminu Kano, Joseph Tarka and Michael Okpara. As a matter of fact, there was coalition of progressive parties in the First Republic called the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA), of which APGA seemed a resurrection. Soludo said that “ our ideology is a combination of the “Zik’s neo-welfarism, Awolowo’s scientific socialism and Aminu Kano’s democratic humanism.” Here is a reasoned declaration that is eminently suitable for political debates. By this proposition, the debate would be advanced beyond ethnic and religious balancing in the nomination of candidates for elections.
This is very important because politics cannot be played productively in an ideological vacuum. Ideology provides the compass for a president or governor in power. In fact, the ideas could provide a proper understanding of the conduct of public officers in office. It is because of the lack of ideological politics that governors cannot approach development as a structured process to advance the common good. This process certainly goes beyond random execution of projects based on whimsical and selfish proposals from their contractor-friends.
There are universal features of progressive parties from the Democratic Party in the United States to the Japan Progressive Party. Bernie Sanders won the hearts of American youths when he presented a clearly social democratic programme while seeking the ticket of the Democratic Party. To be progressive, a party must have at a least the commitment to advance human progress to some extent.
So the policies of the APGA government in Anambra state on education, healthcare, infrastructural revamp, job creation, social protection, gender inclusion, environment etc. would now be subjected to the social democratic standards.
There is certainly a content to progressive politics.
Soludo would also be watched with some curiosity especially from the Left to see how he governs along the lines of a progressive ideology. As a student, he was in the youth wing of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the most conservative party in the Second Republic. He was inspired by colourful and intellectual politicians such as the former Senate president, Senator Chuba Okadigbo. But then a number of progressive, even radical, elements were leading members of NPN for some reasons. He was a consultant to the World Bank and other development institutions. Even some former officials of the World Bank such as Nobelist Joseph Stiglitz have made progressive criticisms of the Bretton Woods Institutions.
All told, Soludo’s ideological trajectory in life will play out now that he has a historic opportunity to put to test the APGA’s ideology with a focus on “people-centred“ development at the level of a sub-national government. He has provided a good sketch of the party’s development agenda in the inaugural speech.
Soludo, therefore, deserves best wishes across the ideological spectrum in this experiment.