The notion of politics as a game is as old as politics itself. As most of us already know, politics originated in ancient Greece with the philosopher Plato who wrote about the nature of justice, what constitutes good government and what is best for humanity.
Subsequently, another philosopher earned the title: father of politics when he elaborated on politics through his writings focused on citizenship and forms of government as well as constitutionalism, etc.
Somehow, the game of politics can be likened to Ludo which is a strategy board game for two to four players, aimed at one person defeating opponents by racing their token from start to finish after rolling the dice with a view to earning higher numbers in the bid to advance his/her token over and above other players in the game.
Like politics, Ludo is a game of tactics, strategies, probabilities, and counting. And like Ludo, politics is played by deploying all the aforementioned tools for winning in contests so that ultimately the fellow who scores the highest number at the polls, would finish ahead of competitors and thus win the contest.
Charles Chukwuma Soludo (an ex-university don and central bank governor) entered Anambra state governorship race in 2021 with as many as 17 other contenders.
He was particularly pitched against three other very formidable competitors-Andy Uba, (political denizen) Valentine Ozigbo, (high corporate world high flyer) and Ifeanyi Uba (business tycoon) with himself as the fourth in what looked like a game of Ludo as earlier described.
And after a hard-fought battle of tactical maneuvers, strategic deployment of resources to garner votes for himself, and counting the votes on election day, Soludo prevailed.
But the egghead and public policy wonk had previously failed in the game of politics in Anambra state. It would be recalled that in 2009, after exiting the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN where he had served as governor, (2004-2009) Soludo got into the murky waters of politics by joining then ruling party at the federal government level, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Thereafter, he vied for the governorship of Anambra state in 2009 on the platform of PDP and failed to win against Peter Obi, then incumbent governor and the flag bearer of APGA. Learning very quickly to dexterously play politics which is clearly like the game of Ludo, Soludo figured out that he was in the wrong party if his mission to govern Anambra state was to be accomplished.
He then tactically switched platforms to APGA, the party where the political hearts and souls of Anambra people apparently reside. The bond between APGA and Anambrarians, is in part, inspired by the spirit of the founder of the party, late Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, who is one of the greatest leaders from the east of the Niger, and perhaps the most charismatic personality of his time from Igbo land.
Given that Peter Obi who had served as a two-term governor of Anambra State on the platform of APGA, failed twice to determine who became the governor of the state when he switched to the PDP and fielded or backed candidates of his new party twice against his successor and former mentee, Willie Obiano flying the flag of APGA (pronounced, APUGA by Anambrarians) with Oseloka Obazee, defeated by Obiano in 2017 and Valentine Ozigbo again losing in 2021 to Soludo who is another APGA candidate, by now it might have dawned on most people that it is the platform of the party, in this case, APGA, that Anambra people vote for, not necessarily, the individuals.
That is most likely the underpinning reason for, Soludo, as an astute strategist, to review (with the aim of cracking the code) his first failed attempt at becoming the new occupant of governor’s mansion in the state capital, Awka, and got defeated by Peter Obi, also known as okute- rock in Igbo dialect.
Having figured out that the point at which he fell short is that he engaged in the contest on the platform of PDP which is the second-best party to the people of Anambra, Soludo quickly and tactically pivoted his political career into APGA by identifying with the party that is presumably Anambra’s preferred platform and evidently the numero uno for producing the state’s governors in nearly two decades.
Although he failed to win in APGA’s primary election the first time he made an attempt at clinching the ticket in 2013, he persevered until he finally succeeded in being APGA’s flag bearer in the 2021 gubernatorial contest.
And as the saying goes: the rest is now history as Soludo is currently the governor-elect of Anambra state and has duly received the certificate of return from INEC.
In an opinion piece titled: Anambra Elections: “When Losing Means Winning For APC” which l wrote and published widely in both traditional and new media platforms immediately after the 2017 gubernatorial elections that were won by Willie Obiano of APGA with Tony Nwoye of APC in the second position, ahead of PDP’s Oseloka Obazee, l highlighted the fact that electing APC candidate as Anambra state governor was an equivalent of the biblical metaphor of passing the camel’s head through the eye of the needle.
Since that theorem was propounded in 2017, the outcome of the 2021 election currently under scrutiny clearly indicates that nothing has changed significantly in Anambra politics. Certainly, it took the man, Soludo a lot of gumption and chutzpah to doggedly pursue his dream of leading Anambra state in spite of the odds stacked against him that included escaping death by hair’s breadth which was an attempt by his political rivals to cow, intimidate and possibly scare him out of participating in the electioneering process. Apart from the naked act of intimidation against Soludo by merchants of death, the schism within APGA, allegedly fueled by the numerous conflicts between the outgoing governor, Obiano, and some foundation leaders of the party owing to some perceived irreconcilable differences bothering on his overbearing nature, was also a significant factor that militated against the emergence of Soludo as governor.
But the scaremongering conveyed via the shooting to death of three policemen attached to him during a town hall meeting was in futility as he had passed through such treacherous paths in the past, and came out triumphant, when he served as CBN governor and ruffled feathers by consolidating the number of banks whose number was over 100, post-consolidation, into less than 25, after the exercise.
As it may be recalled: “Soludo, Banking ls No Ludo,” is the comical title of a caustic opinion piece published in the mass media, denouncing Soludo’s sweeping reforms following the radical changes that he has made in the financial services sector targeted at consolidating the number of banks in Nigeria.
The highly abrasive essay aimed at generating public opprobrium towards Soludo as CBN governor was influenced by aggrieved stakeholders in the banking sector who were being compelled to merge or give up their banking licenses when the minimum share capital of banks was jacked up from N2b to N100b in compliance with Soludo’s new policy as head of the apex bank, CBN.
After defying and weathering the initial resistance by bankers and bank owners reflected by the uproar in the public arena, what seemed like an impossibility turned out to be the best thing that happened to Nigeria’s banking sector.
That is evidenced by the fact that banking is currently one of Nigeria’s greatest exports to Africa and indeed the world; spreading from west, central, and East Africa, to the Southern African region all the way to UAE, China, and even Europe as well as the USA.
This is in addition to the fact that the better-capitalized banks which have become the norm rather than the exception in Nigeria’s financial services landscape have become an effective antidote to the scourge of distress in the banking sector that was a sort of albatross on Nigerians who had huge sums of their hard-earned funds trapped in failed banks.
What the bold initiative of Soludo in the banking sector and the salutary outcome of his revolutionary policy signpost, is that he is a visionary, goal-getter, and high achiever.
And that is why there is ample confidence amongst the majority of Nigerians that the ex CBN governor is most likely to repeat the feat that he achieved as ‘governor of money’, when he assumes duty as the governor of the good people of Anambra state from March next year.
Such optimism being expressed by a broad spectrum of Nigerians is not misplaced because, the state is now like a new canvass for Soludo, (in a literary sense) to deploy his uncommon gift of socioeconomic, human, and material resource management as well as leadership wizardry that he dexterously applied in the banking sector, by painting his own equivalent of Mona Lisa, in Anambra state, (development-wise) as the legendary artist, Leonardo Da Vinci did, when he created the iconic Mona Lisa work of art.
As March 2022 beckons for Soludo to take over the mantle of leadership in Anambra state, it would not be surprising if another screaming headline in the media such as: “Soludo Governance Is No Ludo”, surfaces in parody, as he embarks on the new journey in the political leadership of a state.
But hopefully, as he did when he was the helmsman at the CBN by being a positive game-changer, perhaps before his first term in office as Anambra state governor runs out, Soludo whose penchant for making high impact changes in any endeavor that he engages in, may trigger a positive paradigm shift in governance at the state level in Nigeria.
So fingers are crossed. If Soludo meets the high expectations that he has set in his numerous speeches and action, maybe more Soludos would sprout across the country to fill the national political space as more professionals with proven track records of success in their chosen careers would become motivated to join the political fray.
Amongst the multiple positive developments in the political process in Nigeria’s democracy in the past 21 years that may be pulling more professionals into party politics, is the incremental improvements in the electioneering process leveraging technology.
It is indeed heartwarming that the application of technology in service delivery that has proven to be an efficacious tool against fraud in all its ramifications is slowly but surely being adopted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Initiatives such as the introduction of Permanent Voters Card, PVC, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS and the new electoral amendment bill 2021 passed by the National Assembly, NASS authorizing electronic transmission of election results, (awaiting presidential assent) are some of the harbingers of higher integrity in the electoral process that may lure into party politics, more professionals who would have loved to serve, but lack the skills to handle the rough and tumble endemic in the political environment in Nigeria.
Two more clogs that need to be removed for further improvements in our political office election process are:
(1) votes buying which are increasing rather than abating nationwide, (but which was admirably shunned by Anambra women as evidenced by a video that was trending on the social media)
(2) the vice grip of the judiciary on the electioneering process as the onus of elected public office holders has inadvertently been shifting from the masses to the judges and their cohorts that keep rendering judgments which are at variance with the will of the electorate.
As our country continues to strive to deepen the democratic process with the introduction of the much sought internal democracy within the political parties, hopefully, the process of selecting candidates transparently would be less rancorous and acrimonious as winners and losers in both primary and main elections would be easily and transparently determined.
If the current positive evolution of politics in Nigeria persists and gathers momentum, the dirty aspects of the game of politics such as under-the-table deals packaged during nocturnal meetings to upturn popular decisions would ultimately be consigned to history.
And the welcome development of people of high integrity and accomplished professionals throwing their hats into the ring is already manifesting from Akwa Ibom to Edo, Anambra, and even Nasarawa states, where non-professional politicians have supplanted professional politicians. Those who recently got catapulted from the private sector into the role of governor without first of all serving in an active capacity in public office are: Willie Obiano, Godwin Obaseki, Abdullahi Sule, and now Chukwuma Soludo amongst others who are currently in the saddle as governors of their respective states.
However, the jury is still out on whether or not there has been a difference in the performance of the aforementioned nonprofessional politicians in office compared to their predecessors that are professional politicians.
In that regard, all eyes are currently on Soludo to see if he would spur development or leapfrog the economy of Anambra state which has the potential of being Nigeria’s industrial hub, leveraging the bevy of industries in Awka and Nnewi axis of the state.
His scorecard after the first term in office would surely give insight into whether or not the entrant of non-professional politicians into political governance space in Nigeria would usher in prosperity for the critical mass of Nigerians, assuming they are able to convert the theories that they have been propounding into practice.
By the way, do folks realize who Soludo’s running mate is? His name is Onyekachukwu Ibezim. A medical doctor and the younger brother to the Archbishop, province of the Niger and Bishop of Awka Diocese of the Anglican Church, Reverend, Alexander Ibezim.
In a state like Anambra where Christianity is a strong motivator for voting and bishops are deemed to be next to God, it is safe to conclude that it must be a combination of both the spirit of Odimegwu Ojukwu, the founder of APGA, and God’s grace that have made Chukwuma Soludo, governor.
Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.