Thoughts on Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s Latest Outing on Channels Television
By Ebuka Onyekwelu
The Candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance – APGA, was on Channels Television’s Politics Today earlier this evening to discuss his “people’s manifesto” among other debates and issues surrounding his desire to govern Anambra state.
The conversation which lasted for almost thirty minutes was both insightful and comforting, even as it brought some grey areas to fore. So here are my thoughts on the interview.
The interviewer, Seun Okinbaloye started by asking Prof. Soludo to respond to security concerns and deployment of security personnel ahead of next weekend’s election in Anambra state. In response, Prof. Soludo simply said “it is not new”. Particularly during a one-state election, and therefore that it is a welcome development. Looking at the response given by Soludo, it was a perfect response. In truth, deployment of security personnel during one-state election is usually massive because all the focus is just on that one state. But Soludo did not say anything about “continuity” which the interviewer mentioned as in fact a guide to his answer. So Seun repeated the question in a different way, observing that Soludo is coming on the strength of continuity, then noting that security is a major issue in Anambra and asked pointedly if he has the solution to the security issues. Prof. Soludo said the security issues needed to be put in context and in which he said that Anambra has been the safest state in Nigeria for seven years and a half. He then went on to describe the recent security issues as “a surprise… a sudden shock that is different from the normal”… Then, he concluded by assuring that the governor and federal security agents are working to put the situation in check. Thereafter, he answered the continuity question. “For me, when you talk about continuity in terms of the party in power that is APGA”… Among other things, he said “APGA has served Anambra well” and then said he intends to “build on the foundation built by APGA over the last sixteen years”. In all, Prof. Soludo mentioned Peter Obi and Willie Obiano, even as he accorded both men their due place. Now, Prof. Soludo’s idea of continuity may shock some people because many might expect to see him focus on Willie Obiano. But he rather went all the way to clearly illustrate that his own idea of continuity spans beyond Obiano’s government.
Then to the third question; again, it was on security. Seun requested to know what Soludo will do. The specifics he will do in terms of security in Anambra state. At this point, especially under review, you can see that Seun is resolute to extract a certain kind of response from Prof. Soludo. I am certain that Seun must have heard when Governor Obiano said that the insecurity in Anambra is politically motivated. He must also have heard some talks on how some politicians are using violence as a bait to scare voters. And so, from the get go, he expected Prof. Soludo to discuss exactly how opposition or politicians are using violence to destabilize the election or intimidate and scare voters so that they can manipulate the election. These are mere speculations that in themselves are politicization. Prof. Soludo started with saying how he intends to consolidate on the security architecture created by Obiano. But finally, he yielded to Seun and said, “Some people said the recent happening seems to be politically motivated by some people who are desperate”… Apparently, he did not say enough so Seun wanted him to say more when he interrogated his (Soludo’s) proposition that non-state actors are going to be dialogued with. Seun mentioned IPOB agitation, threats and intimidation and asked if he was going to dialogue with them, to which Soludo answered again, “In a democracy, you dialogue, in a democracy you discuss…you cannot shoot an idea”. On a general scale, those were fair responses from Soludo. Although he would have stood his ground along his earlier comments on security, especially seeing that Seun was bent on getting him to say something in the line of the alleged political motive behind the recent security concerns, which are mere conjectures.
In the next question, the interviewer queried how Soludo intends to create one hundred and thirty thousand jobs annually, where and how. Then he also mentioned that Soludo will be inheriting debts from Governor Obiano, even as people are speculating that Anambra’s debt profile is rising. Therefore if he (Soludo) wins the next week’s governorship election, how does he intend to manage it and if he intends to borrow more. “You have asked too many questions”, Prof. Soludo said in his opening response. Then, rather dramatically, he narrowed the questions down to debts which were mentioned in passing by the interviewer. In his answers, “I deal with facts, I don’t deal with speculations”. Prof. Soludo would have avoided narrowing the questions down to debts. He had options and could have conveniently talked about his intention to create thousands of jobs, among others. That is clearly his strength and he would have stayed on it. When he also wanted to answer the debt question, perhaps, a different approach would have been a lot better than “I deal with facts”. Of course, a professor of economics deals with facts, that in itself is a basic fact. Soludo’s response gave rise to the next question that was now centred on Anambra state debt profile from Debt Management Office – DMO. So while Prof Soludo was rolling out his beautiful ideas on turning Anambra into an industrial, technology and leisure hub in West Africa, he was interrupted along the way by Seun. “You talked about facts”, Seun said; the figures released by DMO says Anambra’s domestic debt is N60 billion, while external debt is $116 million. So he asked what Soludo said about these facts. To this, Prof. Soludo said he does not want to challenge DMO, but then according to him, there are questions. At the end, Soludo remarked that these are figures seen on social media. This clearly was a low point. And to think that Prof. Soludo himself would have avoided this scenario perfectly is just something that’s instructive. Prof. Soludo’s comments about DMO’s data is a two edged sword clearly uncharitable to DMO and social media. This was totally avoidable.
The seventh question followed immediately and was on what Anambra would be noted for in the first four years of Prof. Soludo’s government if he wins. This question was well answered. Prof. Soludo moved straight to talk about his plans to build an industrial, technology and leisure hub, provide training and venture capital to the tune of billions to empower young people so as to build the next generation of millionaires and billionaires.
Finally, Seun wanted Prof. Soludo to respond to accusations of religious politics. In response, Soludo said he was asked to run the election by a coalition of more than forty pressure groups, numbering over half a million Anambra people, across all religious groups. Among other things, he also said he thinks he is too big to play religious politics. First of all, the idea of being begged to come and serve is not very good, nor does it speak to one’s willingness to serve on his conviction that he is capable of serving. A simple sentence like, “well, that’s what you get in politics, but that’s part of why we are here. We want our politics and governance to be about real issues that impact the lives of our people”, would have been a lot better.
In the final analysis, Prof. Soludo showed a lot of confidence and displayed a complete grasp of critical governance issues. Although his language at certain points lacked political balance that is of absolute necessity for any political leader in all his public engagements.
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