By Casmir Igbokwe
My daughter’s emotional message on Whatsapp says it all. “Daddy,” she advises, “please be careful in Anambra o! You are the only father I have o…I love you and I don’t want anything to happen to you.” My wife, ordinarily a courageous woman, went into serious prayers the day I travelled for the governorship election. She couldn’t advise me not to go because she knew my mind was made up. Most of my loved ones advised me to either stay clear of Anambra during the election period or be mindful of my movement. They are not to blame because the hype about insecurity in Anambra State was such that you would think that war planes were dropping bombs everywhere.
But it has all ended in praise. And it is now I fully understand the import of the kolanut with seven lobes discovered in November last year at the inauguration of Soludo Promoters Forum (SPF) at Igbo-Ukwu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. Usually, Igbo kolanuts have three or four lobes. But when it comes with seven lobes, it is seen in Igboland as unique and a sign of a big thing to happen. It is usually kept aside for an elaborate celebration at a later date. That kolanut was celebrated at the inauguration of SPF, Isuofia chapter, on January 1, this year. It was the first sign of a big thing that was destined to happen in Anambra. That big thing has now been confirmed by Professor Chukwuma Soludo’s landslide victory last Saturday, November 6.
It is worthy to note that this victory did not come easy. Different people threw variegated stones. Some went to Jigawa State to procure bizarre court judgement against Soludo and his party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Some gunmen invaded his country home in March and killed his three police orderlies while he was addressing the youths of his community. But he triumphed over all that.
Though the governorship election was largely peaceful, it was almost marred by the malfunctioning of the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). I was in my polling unit at Isuofia as early as 8am. But I could not vote until about 3.30pm due to the problematic machine. Many others, including Professor Soludo, suffered the same fate. A visibly disturbed traditional ruler of Isuofia, Igwe (Col.) C.A.O Muoghalu (retd) and some of his cabinet members as well as the President General of Isuofia People’s Assembly, Mr. Jude Okeke, moved round different polling units in the town to show solidarity with the people. INEC should improve on this BVAS for future elections.
Besides, the earlier sit-at-home directive by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the entire South-East from Friday November 5 to Wednesday, November 10 to protest the continued incarceration of its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, helped to heighten tension. Tale bearers went to town, talking about how Anambra people were running out of the state for fear of being killed. To worsen matters, fake news merchants sent out the story that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Anambra has been assassinated. With this information, many of those who had wanted to brave it and return home cancelled their planned trip. Anambra wore the toga of a state fighting a war.
The shooting at Ekwulobia roundabout in Aguata Local Government Area of the state on Friday, October 29, sealed every hope of many people planning to return home. Some gunmen had reportedly invaded the area and killed two security men. They were said to be shouting, “No election in Anambra!” We were later regaled with a video clip of the encounter between the gunmen and the combined team of soldiers and policemen at Nnobi junction in Idemili South Local Government Area of the state. In that video, the sound of gunshots boomed. People were forced to lie flat to avoid being hit by stray bullets. The scene was a replica of a real theatre of war.
Having conditioned my mind for the worst, I hit the road a few days to the election. And so when the police in Benin stopped my vehicle for a routine search, I never bothered. One of the officers, in the name of searching for only God knows what, opened my bag and started removing every item inside the bag. Even my pants were not spared. With fingers that may have been infected with coronavirus, he rummaged through every part of my bag, but found nothing. He ordered that the burnet be opened. He surveyed the engine compartment as if he hid any contraband there. When he found nothing, he allowed the vehicle to go. I had a strong feeling that the man was part of what triggered the EndSARS protests of last year.
Nevertheless, I entered Anambra expecting to see some of the over 34,000 stern-looking soldiers and policemen harassing people on the road. I saw none. I only saw a police checkpoint at Head Bridge, Onitsha. From Onitsha down to my town, Isuofia, I saw no police or soldier on the road. People were freely going about their normal business.
IPOB softened the ground more by cancelling the one-week sit-at-home order it earlier declared. The group urged the people of Anambra to come out en masse and peacefully exercise their franchise and resist being intimidated by anybody, group of persons or security agents.
No doubt, Soludo is a child of destiny. Although he was born into a poor family, he rose to become a global man by all standards. He not only made a first-class in Economics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he was the best graduating student at graduate, postgraduate and doctorate levels at the same UNN. Little wonder he became a professor in his 30s. His tenure at the CBN was probably the best in Nigeria’s history. During his reign as the CBN governor between 2004 and 2009, he championed banking consolidation that changed the landscape of our banking industry for good. He has consulted for many global institutions. Currently, he is a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and chairman of Anambra Vision 2070, a committee set up to fashion out a strategy for the emergence of Anambra as a fully developed economy in the next 50 years. A multiple-award winner, Soludo is Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR), Nigeria’s third highest national honour.
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State did not make any mistake when he urged his people to “rally round Professor Soludo who will do far better than all previous governors of Anambra State, including me.”
Anambra people deserve commendation for heeding this call. Despite all odds, they voted according to their conscience. They dread going back to Egypt. Victory song is sweeter when it is won in a hard way.
Congratulations Professor Soludo on this sweet victory! The full import of the kolanut puzzle has become manifest. Now, I can assure my daughter that all is well that ends well. Truly, Anambra is the light of the nation!
- Casmir Igbokwe is a celebrated Journalist and Columnist