Chief Uchenna Okoli, a Nigerian and America based International businessman, is a loyal chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). In a media interaction in Lagos midweek, the respected Senior Citizen from Aguata Local Government of Anambra State predicted that, if the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Charles Chukwuma Soludo is fielded by the APGA as its candidate, the party would retain the state post 2021. Excerpts: Jumu’ah Abiodun
As a major stakeholder and chieftain the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), in Anambra State, what is your take on the forthcoming governorship election in November?
The coming election is very important especially for the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). APGA must get it right to win the election. If the party gets its wrong, God forbids, that would be the end of the party not only in Anambra, but in the whole of Nigeria. Remember Anambra is the only state the party is controlling right now.
Though, the party is supposed to be controlling about five states by now if not for the rigging of the election and many other things that went with it. Initially, we had two states, Anambra and Imo, but Rochas Okorochas sold us to the All Progressives Congress (APC). The other three states in the South-East were also taken from us. So, it is only in Anambra State that APGA is operating. And the party is very strong in Anambra. So, this election is for the party to win. If the leadership does the right thing, APGA will not lose the election.
What do you mean about doing the right thing?
The right thing is about fielding the right candidate. Let me tell you, when the current governor, Willy Obiano came to power, detractors said he was not a politician. They said he would destroy Anambra, he would pull the state backwards and all sorts of nonsense.
Now, under him, APGA is stronger than ever. If you see how he systematically eliminated those money bags and trouble makers that would have caused problems for our party, you would understand what I mean.
It is now gratifying to know that, right now, it is the real APGA members that are governorship contestants in the state. And they are all eminently qualified. However, out of the lot, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Charles Chukwuma Soludo is more qualified than the rest. The former Nigeria’s Apex Bank Governor, Soludo, stands taller and shoulder higher than the rest of them.
Mark you; I am not campaigning for him. He has never asked me to campaign for him. But as far as I know as a patriotic Anambrian and a loyal chieftain of the APGA as well as a stakeholder in the state, the cap fits Soludo now.
And unless someone else who is better than Soludo is brought forward, we would be in trouble if we don’t field Soludo in the November election to succeed Obiano. I am not a prophet of doom, but if we fail to hand the party ticket to Soludo, we would lose Anambra State.
What are the qualities you see in Soludo that give you the confidence that he is the best among the equals?
It is not a gainsaying that Soludo is a man full of knowledge and wisdom. With what he did in the CBN as the governor, you would agree with me that, he is in good position to continue the good work of Obiano. He has what it takes to take us far from where Obiano would stop. Now, some people say Soludo is arrogant and full of himself and all sort of nonsense.
The fact of the matter is that they don’t know this man Soludo. If they say the man is so busy and serious that he has no time for frivolities, I can agree with them. But, to me, that is not arrogance. It is simply a concentration on serious matters that would be of general benefit for the state in particular and Nigeria in general.
If you go to him, he will give you time and listen to you. If you go to his house, you will see him always busy doing one research or the other for the benefit of humanity. He is always busy preparing for presentations for the Nigerian government or governments abroad.
Sometimes, I sympathise with his wife. I don’t know how she handles a husband with very busy schedules. But he still has time to take care of his family. If you go to his house, you would be surprised that the family is full of love. You would wish your family is like that of Soludo’s. The family is full of love, accommodating, entertaining and very kind to the people. People just misjudge him from afar.
In your view, why do you think Soludo is misunderstood and not liked by some people?
The reason is simple. If you want to do a good thing in Nigeria, you would have a problem. Soludo also has that baggage. And that baggage is what everybody who wants to do the right thing in Nigeria also has, just like Dora Akunyili. Remember Soludo stepped on the toes of so many people in Nigeria when he did the Banks Consolidation!
Let me give you an example. I am not holding forth for him because he didn’t pay me to talk for him. But I am exercising my right of expression as a patriotic Nigerian allowed by the constitution to do so. I am expressing my personal views as Uchenna Okoli from APGA. So if anybody is aggrieved, the person should sue me and not any other person.
Soludo stepped on the toes of many people especially those who lost money or got their banks closed due to the consolidation and so, they are not happy with him. So, some of them are doing whatever is possible within their power to destroy the chances of Soludo becoming the governor of Anambra State. That is the baggage the man has.
But one good thing that is going well for him is that the grassroots people love him. Those people, who are enjoying the consolidation that he stuck his neck out to do, love him. The consolidation is the reason Nigeria’s banks are among the top banks in the world.
Nigerian banks can now finance large projects across the world. If not for Soludo, we would be gone! That is why some people dislike him. That is why they want to kill him? The same thing happened to Dora Akunyili. They wanted to eliminate him.
The last time he ran for governor, his father was kidnapped. And now it was Emeka Ezenwanne, who is the current Commissioner for Utility and he is very close to him.
Soludo is a person who can change Anambra, who can make Anambra better than it is now. Obiano is doing an excellent job. His project is something somebody like Soludo would take further if given the chance.
If somebody not knowledgeable enough like Soludo is put there, all Obiano’s projects and landmark achievements like hotels, Airport and others might be ruined. It is only someone like Soludo that can make Obiano’s legacy shine and achieve the purpose Obiano did it.
How did you feel when he was attacked recently during a Town Hall meeting?
I was surprised and at the same time not surprised when he was again attacked recently based on what I had said earlier. Though some people don’t want him to be there, the majority is behind Soludo. A lot of groups are rooting for this man. And in democracy, only the majority carries the votes.
I will wait till the APGA primaries. As a loyal party member, I will support whoever wins the party’s ticket. But unless a miracle happens or someone better than Soludo surfaces from nowhere, Soludo will win the ticket and go ahead to win the election.
Are there no other formidable contestants as Soludo?
I agree we have other contestants from the Senate and the House of Representatives who are also qualified. But my problem with them is that, we gave them a mandate for four years in the National Assembly, but just within a year, they started coming back home to become governor. My worry is, why couldn’t they wait for governorship and let other contented candidates contest as lawmakers in the first instance?!
We have a lot of problems in Nigeria like kidnapping, banditry, assassination, Boko haram, we have bad roads and roadblocks where a lot of extortions by uniformed security agents are going on among others. And they are the ones supposed to make laws on how the menace should be curbed. They would just abandon their duty posts in Abuja to showcase governorship ambitions in their various states.
They should have completed at least their first four years in the National Assembly so that we can use their performances as parameters to judge their competence. But abandoning the mandate given to them as Lawmakers halfway to struggle for the governorship seat, to me, is not tidy enough.