SOLUDO MOVES IN OJUKWU’S SHOES
Taking advantage of the euphoria of his victory in the recent elections for governor of Anambra state, the former governor of the CBN, Professor Charles Soludo, assured last week that as governor, he would work hard to increase the popularity of his party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance. (APGA), in other parts of the country, adding that the party would no longer be considered a regional party.
The governor-elect, who made the pledge during a speech on Arise TV last Wednesday, said the APGA would “mainstream” his neo-progressivism and get Nigerians to buy into his ideas.
The last days have been eventful in the life of Soludo, whose victory in the election on November 6 is the expression of the people’s confidence in their ability to govern the state and the proof that the APGA is still the party to beat in Anambra.
As most Nigerians would agree, the governor’s election was a decisive battle for the party, a platform that has been in charge of Anambra for the past 15 years. A defeat for the party in the election, which at one point looked like an imminent possibility, would have meant the end of its existence. This possible outcome did not escape Soludo himself, who noted during his campaign that his defeat at the polls would mark the end of the platform.
The party’s survival was at the heart of this little speech. The APGA was hanging by a thread, in the midst of recurring internal crises. Soludo’s resounding victory meant he had survived his latest threat and would continue to survive for another four years, at least.
While the governor-elect’s victory is a welcome relief and his commitment to boosting his popularity would warm hearts, his future still hangs in the balance.
Founded in 2002 by Chief Chekwas Okorie, who later invited Chief Emeka Ojukwu to take over its leadership, Ojukwu became his candidate in the 2003 presidential election, but he lost the election to incumbent President Olusegun. Obasanjo, placing third behind Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari, who was second. The idea behind its founding was to have a Southeast-oriented political platform that would take charge of the region and challenge power at the national level.
He did a good job initially, eventually taking Anambra in 2006, the year Peter Obi reclaimed his 2003 tenure and with Ojukwu, a highly respected figure among the Igbo, as a founding figure he seemed destined for greater Exploits.
In 2003, the party’s candidate for governor in Enugu state, Mr. Ugochukwu Agbala, was denied victory by then governor Chimaroke Nnamani, who deployed the apparatus of power. state to retain its seat. And in 2011, the APGA took control of Imo State, with Rochas Okorocha as the candidate for governor.
The party’s fortunes quickly deteriorated, not helped by Ojukwu’s death in 2011, Okorocha’s decision to abandon him in 2013 to join the All Progressives Congress and the merchant and uninteresting leaders that emerged afterwards. the ousting of Okorie as national president.
Today, almost 20 years later, the PGAA dream is closer to evaporation than actualization. Now the burden of responsibility rests entirely on Soludo’s shoulders to turn the tide, especially as the country prepares for another general election in 2023.
In March 2022, Soludo succeeds Obiano as party leader and his biggest task would be to take the APGA beyond its current level. According to Chief Okorie, who does not consider the party to be in full control of Anambra state, this will not be an easy task.
Former Governor Peter Obi and outgoing Governor Willie Obiano, who should have succeeded Ojukwu as party leader, failed to push him past Anambra. Although it is believed in party circles that Obiano has been relatively successful, even claiming that the party has made forays into the neighboring state of Benue, whenever it extends beyond Anambra , it quickly folds into its shell.
This may be due to the fact that, as many have argued, his successive leadership has strayed from its original mandate of being a rallying point for Ndigbo to become, like most other political parties, a place where the positions go to the highest bidders. The consequence of which is the alienation of many, who had invested their emotions and resources, including those who initially saw it as a platform to rekindle the Igbo spirit.
Soludo’s emergence as governor is seen by many as yet another opportunity to reposition the party, a project he has now vowed to undertake, but which will not, by any stretch of the imagination, be an easy undertaking.
Soludo’s commitment may sound refreshing to the ears of many who have seen the party stagnate in the hands of leaders who saw no need to actively push it beyond its home enclave. Okorie welcomes the vision with open arms and promises to help reposition and redefine the party’s strategy, even though he has full confidence in Soludo’s ability to make a difference. He said this should be done urgently as the 2023 elections are fast approaching and neither the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) nor the All Progressive Congress (APC) are likely to present a presidential candidate from the South East. .
This commitment made, Soludo has its work cut out for it. First, he should think beyond Anambra. His status as state governor puts him in a position to lead the Southeast. Either way, it won’t be an easy task.
Starting from Anambra itself, Soludo’s emergence as the party’s candidate a few months ago nearly tore the party apart. This sparked a wave of defections, one of which was capped by the defection, just days before the election, of Dr Nkem Okeke, deputy state governor, to the APC.
Okeke’s defection, perhaps more than anything else, regardless of suggestions that he was drawn to APC, testified to the degeneration of the party. Before him was Sunday Umeoduagu, a former board member, who also pitched the tent with the ruling party. Six members of the Anambra National Assembly also left for the APC.
Soludo’s first task would be to reconcile the aggrieved members of the APGA in Anambra, and perhaps encourage Mr. Peter Obi, Obiano’s predecessor who joined the PDP shortly after handing over to the governor. outgoing, while the two men bitterly separated, to return to the party.
Party leaders, however, are optimistic, confident in their leader’s ability to make a difference. One of them insists that the governor-elect must however look beyond Anambra to rebuild the APGA.
Noting that many residents of the south-east have very little or no trust in traditional political parties except the APGA, the party leader believes this is an opportunity for the party to grow beyond from Anambra.
They want Soludo to do things differently. They want him to end the undemocratic practice of selling party tickets for elective office to the highest bidder and to tackle the threat posed by the party’s Anambra-centric leadership, which has functioned as overlords over other states, in order to achieve a progress.
For a successful tenure as governor of Anambra state and head of the APGA, Soludo must understand that in order to attract other southeastern states towards the ideal of the APGA, he must allow a local leadership to emerge. In other words, it will not be someone who sits in Awka and dictates who becomes a candidate for a position in Imo or any other state.
*** By Obi Nwauball