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Soludo and the balloon of great expectation

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FEW hours ago, Obiano’s tenancy of Agu Awka  expired. His contributions will be there for posterity to judge. More importantly, the spotlight  turned to Prof Chukwuma Soludo immediately after taking Oath of Office as the Executive Governor of Anambra State.

For many, Soludo’s election remains a watershed moment in the history of the state. They believe that he is gifted with the magic wand that will enable him to consolidate on the legacies of the previous governments and thus transform the state to “African Dubai-Taiwan” which was the catchphrase of his manifesto when he first threw his hat in the ring in 2010. 

To prove preparedness and readiness for the task ahead, Soludo promised to hit the ground running. He noted that he will start work from Okpoko, a slum neighbourhood at the outskirts of Onitsha immediately after his inauguration – which reportedly will be unflashy and last for 40 minutes.

Since the transition kicked off, Soludo and his spin doctors have been romanticizing about the New Anambra — which is a diplomatic disapproval of or perhaps a departure from, if not the extant, the successive governments of the state. Occasionally, titbits of what his administration will do and what it will not do are released online to the anticipating public. But history has shown that a thin line that separates “what is” and “what ought to be.” This raised the question — Can Soludo dare the lions?

Presumably, Soludo has no option but to do the needful. Failure or excuse in this regard will birth the greatest opposition that his administration will have to reckon with throughout its lifespan.  The people who had invested so much hope, trust, faith, and fortune in his personality.  For them, Soludo is the knight with the shining sword who must answer the call of history by cleaning the Augean stable and inaugurating the New Anambra.

If you move around the streets of Awka, Nnewi, or Onitsha, you will hear the rank and file submitting grudgingly to the last vestiges of Obiano’s administration. One operator of a tricycle who complained bitterly of the extortion that government-backed  touts subject them to whenever they pick a passenger from a Bus Stop said,  ‘Soludo will become governor and stop all these.”

Sanitisation, if not overhauling, of the system is what the people are looking forward to. While one can hold to Soludo’s “if not broken why mend it” to a certain extent, the incoming governor should face the fact that it’s broken in many sectors and the buck now stops on his table to mend it. 

Declaration of state of emergency on roads is what ndi Anambra wants to see as one of the immediate interventions of Soludo’s administration.  Under the fading government, many roads in Anambra dilapidated to a worrisome level.  This comes alongside floods which usually transform major roads in Awka into small streams during rainfall.  The ramification is that the states’ meager landmass continued to be chopped off by gully.

Unemployment is another problem ndi Anambra will hold Soludo to his words. According to the latest report from the National Bureau of Statistics on unemployment and underemployment for the last quarter of 2020, Anambra State recorded an unemployment rate of 44..22 per cent  and an underemployment rate of 16.48 per cent. Though not ranked among the worst-hit state, the figures above –  notwithstanding the difference between official and unofficial figures in our clime – suggest that much work is needed in that regard.

Ndi Anambra expects the new administration to nip in the bud,   growing problems of insecurity in the state. That the tragedy at Ebenebe could happen without perpetrators brought to book aptly defined the security challenges the state faces in particular and the country generally. Some time ago, a similar event occurred at Ozubulu and to date, nothing has been done about it.

For Anambra to look like what Soludo has been preaching ever since Obiano appointed him the chairman of the Anambra Vision 2070 Committee, the El-Rufain strategy must be adopted. Unarguably, Anambra suffers from poorly planned urban development.  Many structures must be pulled down for us to replicate Dubai or Taiwan in the state.

Also, attitudinal change and a sense of discipline among civil servants are of great importance. Time has come in which people will take or perhaps claim ownership of their government.

It is on record that during the short reign of Gen Murtala Muhammed that civil servants were in office by 7 am. We need to bring back that culture of responsibility in Anambra, where like every other state in Nigeria, civil servants start work by 10 am and are often bribed before they can perform their statutory duties.

Another important sector the incoming administration should take a critical look at is the extant colonial educational curriculum that is being run all over the country. That we still maintain the outmoded colonial schemes that were designed to raise staff for colonial administration explains why we keep producing graduates who wait for government to provide jobs.

But the philosophy of education in the 21st Century hinges on self-employment. That education is in the concurrent list made it easier for the incoming administration to rejig it. The new curriculum should encompass coding, graphic design, and other ICT studies down to primary school level. 

Agriculture, science, and technology present opportunities that people believe that the incoming administration will take advantage of.  Having bragged of having the necessary contacts and goodwill during the electioneering, people expect to see that materialized in job creation and infrastructural development.

Finally, Soludo should appreciate the fact that he wasn’t elected to govern Anambra alone but to provide the leadership that is lacking in the Southeast. It’s incumbent upon him to coordinate other governors for the greater Igbo project in the Nigerian state.

That said, Soludo needs our prayer as he takes over the reins of power.  ndi Anambra are confident that he will deliver, the social contract they entered with him is that he will bring to fore the essence of government – which according to Abraham Lincoln is all about doing for the people what they can’t do for themselves.  Will Soludo rise to the occasion? Time shall tell.

Asikason Jonathan, a public affairs analyst, writes from Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State.

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