What Soludo’s emergence as governor-elect means to South East Nigeria



By IKE CHIOKE

On November 6, 2021, the people of Anambra State set high standards for their
neighbours in the South East region of Nigeria and beyond when they voted a professor
of Economics, former governor of the Central Band of Nigeria and one of Africa’s
leading critical thinkers, Chukwuma Soludo, into office as their governor. The whole
country had waited with bated breath during the campaign. The question on everyone’s
mind was, would merit finally overwhelm mediocrity in Nigerian politics?
But Soludo’s landslide victory has raised hopes of better days for Nigeria, moreso for the
South East region, afflicted by a crippling vacuum in political leadership for decades.
Indeed, since the demise of the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Dim
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, South East Nigeria has grappled with the weight of
uninspiring political leadership, which lacks the strength of character to awaken the
people. The cost of this prolonged leadership vacuum has been high in economics and
blood.
It is understandable that Soludo’s victory should raise hopes…hope that tenacity would
always pay off; hope that the Nigerian society has a capacity to redeem itself and hope
that given the right conditions, the best among us might get a chance to lead us.
A sense of justice pervades Soludo’s emergence. In 2009, he had lost his first stab at
becoming a governor to Peter Obi. Unfazed by that experience, Soludo had re-launched
his bid for governorship in 2013, but was disqualified by the All Progressives Grand
Alliance screening committee. He did not allow the experience to shake his loyalty to the
party. And on March 31, 2021, he survived the greatest obstacle to his dream of
becoming governor when he escaped, unhurt, from a violent attack by gunmen who
disrupted his engagement with the youths of his Isuofia hometown. A faint-hearted
candidate would have ended the journey that day, but Soludo trudged on. The underlying
lesson here is that if the force of our dream is not strong enough to survive the fire of
adversity, we fall by the wayside.
Soludo is not alone. Igboland has a long line of bright minds, who had shown a great deal
of interest in providing political leadership to the people. Before Soludo’s success, Prof
Barth Nnaji had made a silent bid to lead Enugu State, but was discouraged by the blood
and gore that marked the politics of the state at the time. Nnaji is extraordinary. He is
cited as the first black man in American history to become a distinguished professor of
Engineering, the first African to become Director of the United States National Science
Foundation, and the first Nigerian to win the Baker Distinguished Research Award,
which is widely considered as the Nobel Prize for Industrial Engineering. Beyond all
these, Nnaji is renowned for his expertise in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. He
shied away from Enugu politics and never looked back. What a loss!