It was William Shakespeare who wrote these eternal lines: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” Professor Chukwuma Soludo’s journey to the government house of Anambra State has been a long and winding one, marked by obstacles, complicated calculations and aligning of stars. He made his first bid for Anambra governorship in 2010.
Soludo made efforts to contest in one or two other election circles but was denied the chance by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He bided his time. This time around, Soludo clinched the party’s ticket as well as victory at polls. It was a hard-fought victory, which ought to be celebrated as a golden moment by all who wish Ndi Anambra and indeed Ndi-Igbo well.
The 2021 Anambra governorship election was unique in many ways. At a point, many people had cause to doubt the possibility of holding the election. Insecurity was rife in the state, with the nefarious activities of the faceless and ubiquitous Unknown Gunmen.
Though the political gladiators continued their campaigns for the Anambra governor’s seat, INEC kept warning over the potent threats to the election. These palpable warnings came amidst the media reports that INEC ad-hoc staff were pulling out, which later manifested in inadequate manpower for deployment, ultimately forcing a supplementary election in Ihiala Local Government on the Tuesday the 9th, when INEC could not deploy on the 6th, Saturday.
Then came the most devastating of them all: the declaration of sit-at-home by the IPOB between 5th and 10th of November. Sit-at-home has been successful in the South East as streets and markets are always deserted every Monday it is declared. The initial feeble attempts by the South East governors to stop it failed woefully.
So, there was very little doubt that the call for sit-at-home, which spanned the Anambra Election Day, was bound to adversely affect the election and possibly truncate it. The Federal Government was determined to hold the election after the mulling of state of emergency in the state was shouted down by Nigerians. Some 60 thousand security operatives of all the key agencies were deployed to Anambra. There was no doubt that the enforcers of sit-at-home would be up in arms against ready, trigger-happy security operatives with bloodbaths logically and apprehensively anticipated.
A divine intervention then came when the Council of South East Traditional Rulers and Bishops waded in and got IPOB to accept the truce they brokered and agree to call off the 6-day sit-at-home. This paved the way for the election to hold at all. Surprisingly, the election was relatively peaceful though not without the hangover of fears injected in the buildup. Yes, there were isolated pockets of violence, which led to the cancellation of results in some wards.
INEC as usual was found in its tardiness and deployed very late in so many cases. INEC had two major issues, which could have marred the entire exercise but – thank gracious – the Commission was able to pull through. One was inadequate manpower , which reared when many of their ad-hoc staff pulled out for fear of being in harm’s way.
The other issue was the poor performance and malfunction of the BIVAS voting machine. In many areas it took like an age to accredit just one person. As a result, many were disenfranchised, giving the impression that there was voter apathy. This is not quite the fact. Giving the circumstances leading up to that election and the historic fact that Anambra has never registered a fantastic voter turnout even on a good day, the Anambra governorship election should be adjudged as ok.
Yes, overall, the election went well. Though there were glaring shortcomings, they were not quite sufficient to detract from the outcome of election or diminish its essence, or render the declaration of Soludo as the winner a pyrrhic victory.
One listened to the two main contenders – the PDP and the APC – recount the imperfections of the election. But the question is: was there a way Soludo could have benefitted from these imperfections or caused them? If no, it means all the political parties and their candidates suffered the fate equally. Therefore, it would amount to being a sore loser for any of the political parties or their candidates to repudiate the result or reject Soludo’s victory, as was the case with the APC that called for outright cancellation of the Anambra governorship election.
The YPP candidate who placed 4th in the election, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, and his PDP counterpart Val Ozigbo, should be singled out for commendation for the reason that they have already congratulated Soludo. Others have to follow suit, especially the APC candidate Sen. Andy Uba. Even though it is any candidate’s or political party’s right to go to the electoral tribunal to challenge any perceived infraction, this is one election that does not really require such legal fireworks. Let no such frivolous petition be allowed to taint the election and its outcome, and distract Soludo from quickly settling down to deliver on his transformation agenda.
Ideas rule the world and Anambra state can be turned into a smart one-city state like Dubai that can work for all, for both rich and poor. Like Soludo himself said in his victory speech, Anambra is big enough to accommodate everyone and their wonderful ideas. Since there can be only one governor at a time, God Himself has primed Soludo to be this time around. The least his opponents and other Anambrarians can do is give him support and join hands with him to transform the state.
Soludo is a firm and fair-minded person, a visionary and courageous leader who can deliver. His ideas and leadership style remind one of MI Okpara the Premier of the Old Eastern Region who ran the region’s economy so effectively that it became the fastest growing in the Africa and even in the world. Soludo can re-enact the Okpara era and lead a process of restoration of the lost glory of the south east.
Campaigns are over. The election has been contested, won and lost. It is now time to usher in a new era for Anambra state and indeed the South East. It calls for a lot of sacrifice, the first being Soludo’s opponents letting go and taking the hand of fellowship which he (Soludo) extended in his acceptance speech.
•Dr. Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: [email protected]; follow me on tweeter:@LawMefor1.