By Marcel Okeke
Anambra State, with the epithet: ‘Light of the Nation’, has, for many years been known for churning out pleasant surprises in several facets of life. In recent years, if the story is not that of secondary school students from the state coming tops in global science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) competitions, it will be the news of producing students with the best results in West African School Certificate Examinations; or, fielding of candidates with some of the highest scores in the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams. But all these are in the field of schooling and youth education.
In the political sphere in 2021, when the whole world watched literally with mouth agape, expecting the most violent and crises-ridden gubernatorial election in history, the pleasant surprise came when the Anambra November 6, 2021 election turned out to be adjudged as one of the most peaceful ever in Nigeria. Practically, all actors, umpires, observers (local and foreign) were generally unanimous as to the transparency and credibility of the election and its outcome; the clear winner being Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
In readiness for his inauguration as Governor come March 17, 2022, Soludo had last week empanelled an 80-person transition committee; again, this was a pleasant surprise to not a few Anambra people but also to political observers and stakeholders within and outside Nigeria. The sheer size of the panel; the star-studded composition; its multiparty or non-partisan form as well as its novel inclusiveness in terms of gender, geography and competencies of the members—all make it a model for future reference.
Ordinarily, transition committee or handover planning panel is not a ‘big deal’, especially since it is the same political party that is in power that will be handing over to one of its own. Chief Willie Obiano, the incumbent Governor of Anambra State who is of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) shall be handing over to Prof Soludo, who is of the same APGA. But the ‘Soludo Transition Committee’ is a novelty and speaks volume of the new ways of doing things and the ‘New Anambra State’ that will evolve under his watch. Who says a transition committee is only set up to perfunctorily rummage through heaps of dust-coated files of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of a passing Administration, and stacking them for the new helmsmen of an incoming Administration? And in addition, perhaps, also organise a lavish inauguration ceremony for the new Administration/Government?
Definitely, beyond these mundane and traditional roles, the Soludo Transition Committee will create a ‘New Order’; some sort of blueprint, not only for the public/civil service but also for the socio-economic turnaround of Anambra State in a record time. Already, Professor Soludo himself had put together, as part of his campaign manifesto, a very robust economic roadmap to “transform the state to a One-State-Megacity” that is liveable and prosperous. (One is however not privy to the content of the document). But who says ‘enough is enough’, especially when it comes to the generation and pooling of creative and novel ideas on how best to attain a quantum leap in the sustainable development of Anambra State?
And here comes handy, the inputs of the galaxy of very experienced and versatile personalities that make up the Committee, befittingly led by a known brand (‘Madam Due Process’), former Vice President (African Region) of the World Bank and former Minister of Education, Dr (Mrs) Obiageli Ezekwesili. Some other very notable names on the panel are: Prof Pat Utomi, an eminent political economist and management scholar; Prof Chidi Odinkalu, a legal guru and human rights activist; Prof Osita Ogbu, former Economic Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo; Chief Osita Chidoka, former Minister of Aviation and ex-Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission; Dr Olisa Agbakoba, a legal luminary; Dr Forster Ihejiofor, a seasoned medical doctor and international business tycoon; Mr Joe Anatune, Communications and PR Consultant, among others.
This star-studded assemblage, by itself, is a pointer to the Soludo unique approach to putting in place the solid substratum for leapfrogging Anambra State into the 4th industrial revolution. His ‘One-State-Megacity’ vision for Anambra obviously cannot be realised with a “business as usual” model; but rather an unusual method that ensures no stone is left unturned in fashioning a comprehensive reference book for expedited development of the State. Indeed, the Megacity vision is most apt for the State now to effectively discard the already anachronistic and divisive development pattern over the years in Anambra that rested on ‘triangular coordinates’. This pattern of development by successive Administrations in the State wittingly or otherwise focused attention on Awka (the state capital), Onitsha (the commercial hub) and Nnewi (the industrial centre) almost to the utter neglect of the rest parts of the State.
This ‘Old Order’ is one of the issues the Megacity vision (or ‘Even Development Model’) would address very expeditiously. Contemporaneously, the Soludo Administration will pay deserved attention to the various geopolitical zones of the State. The hitherto retarded growth of many towns and cities in the State will now be reversed; with each zone made to be riding on the crest of its comparative resource endowment advantage(s). This will not in any way deny Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi their ‘flagship’ positions in the development strides of the State. The fact is that no part of Anambra State lacks the resources (human, natural and others) to meaningfully explore and develop to move the State “From the Third World to the First”, according to Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore.
Incidentally, Prof Soludo’s antecedents are already a catalogue of pleasant surprises. As Chief Economic Adviser to the President in 2004, he crafted the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), arguably the first of its kind in the development odyssey of Nigeria. In the same year, once he was named helmsman at the Central Bank of Nigeria, he promptly crafted and implemented a nonesuch banking consolidation policy that created “Big, Strong and Reliable” globally competitive banks in Nigeria in a record time of eighteen months. This has not only put Nigeria on the world banking map but also practically got Nigerian banks immune to the shocks and ravages of the 2008/2009 global financial meltdown. In 1982/83 when his fellow students feared he had entered a ‘tango’ with one of the difficult lecturers, Professor M.N. Ogbonna, Soludo (the student) suavely turned the man into a mentor of sorts; leading to an enduring and mutually beneficial relationship between them.
So, the pleasant surprise of 80-person transition committee can only show that the man—Soludo—is up to something great for his State. The Committee has barely two months to do so much, including the hammering out the nitty gritty of funding sources of proposed programmes and projects of Soludo Adminstration. They are also expected to spot and map out modes for exploiting synergies and complementarities with the Federal Government, other States and critical private sector operators to fast-track the socio-economic transformation of the State.
The upshot of all this is that sooner than expected (in the pleasant surprise mode), the dilapidated federal roads in the State will begin to regain attention; the process of riving the moribund Onitsha river port will commence; the ravages of massive flooding and gully erosion in the State will be addressed. Similarly, Anambra’s recognition as an oil-bearing State will begin to yield dividends; completion of the second River Niger Bridge will be expedited. In the field of agriculture and food production, real mechanized/commercial farming will begin to displace the current prevalent subsistence practice. In the area of transportation/haulage, the possible benefits would begin to materialize for Anambra State as a “Gateway State” to much of South-South, South-West and North-Central geopolitical zones of Nigeria. Indeed, the possibilities are limitless!
In all these, the point must be made that the Soludo-led Government is very unlikely to suffer any ‘trust deficit’ on the part of the people of the State, a challenge that usually create deep gulf between the government and the governed. So, with the mandate of the electorate, the certainty of trust and confidence of Ndi Anambra, the State is set to truly become “The Light of the Nation”. And in the words of an African-American civil and human rights activist, Ella Baker, Anambra is set to “Give light, and people will find their way”.
Okeke, an economist & business strategist, wrote from Lekki, Lagos