Soludo: I’ll Hit the Ground Running with My Agenda

Anambra State governor-elect and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Professor Chukwuma Soludo, yesterday unveiled his agenda for the state on the ARISE News Channel, in his first post-victory television interview. Soludo promised to run an all-inclusive government that would focus on problem-solving and value addition to the state.

In the interview with the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, shortly after he was declared winner of the governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday, Soludo pledged to hit the ground running and demonstrate quality leadership at a fast pace.

He said he would pursue peace and unite the people in order to bring the much-needed value to the state.

Soludo was declared winner of the November 6 governorship election after polling a total of 112,229 votes to defeat his closest rival, Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who scored 53, 807 votes to emerge second. Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) got a total of 43,285 votes to emerge third, while Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) came fourth with 21,261 votes.

Ubah won in one local government, just as Ozigbo, while Soludo won in the remaining 19 local government areas.

The Returning Officer for the 2021 Anambra State governorship election, Florence Obi, announced the final results in the early hours of Wednesday at the INEC headquarters in Awka.

Not unexpectedly, National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Oye, who also spoke on Arise News Channel, said he had started receiving calls from some of those, who had defected to other political parties at the heat of the election, but were now willing to return. Oye said the party would welcome them back if they showed sufficient remorse and true repentance.

Meanwhile, congratulatory messages have begun to pour in for Soludo, with President Muhammadu Buhari, not only congratulating the governor-elect, but also saying he looks forward to working with him in the collective interest of the country.

Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi; former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in the Saturday election, Valentine Ozigbo; and former PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, congratulated Soludo for a victory well deserved.

Equally identifying with the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), were a former national publicity secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh; former presidential hopeful and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim; and governorship candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Ifeanyi Ubah, among others.

Similarly, foremost civil society election observation organisation in Nigeria, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), called for improvement of election equipment by INEC, especially, its newly introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

Interestingly, Soludo’s victory at the just concluded governorship election reverberated in neighbouring Abia State, with a resurgence of hope among the APGA faithful for electoral ahead of 2023.

Speaking to his plans for Anambra, Soludo said, “We have fought a political fight and we have gone to court and now is the time for us to come together to build the state. The incumbent governor wanted me to succeed him among all other contestants, and he worked hard to ensure that APGA won the election.

“Now that APGA has won, and the governor-elect has emerged, it is time for us to work as a political party and also extend our friendship to other party members in the state, in order to build the state.”

He said anyone willing to support the state would be welcomed, saying, “It is about bringing value to the people and I will work with those who will bring value to the people, and turn Anambra State into an industrial hub that we all envisage. I will reach out to them in the ‘Anambra Spirit’ in order to develop the state together.”

Asked about his plan for women and youth representation in his government, Soludo said, “There will not be a dramatic change in women and youth representation in my government, because I will be focusing on problem solving. If the women and youth show the capacity to deliver, so be it, and I will engage them to deliver on value.

“When I was Central Bank Governor, I gave responsibilities that had to do with trust and integrity to the women, and they never disappointed me. Anambra has a youthful population and I will not discriminate between gender in my administration, and, above all, my manifesto is a youthful manifesto.”

Soludo assured the people of Anambra State that anybody with useful values to offer would be engaged to do so.

On the transition process and how he would run the state after the swearing-in ceremony in March next year, Soludo said he had some experience in governance in the past, having managed huge bureaucracies with six parastatals, long before becoming Governor of CBN.

He stated, “I have understanding of a few things on how government and institutions work, and the bureaucracy in governance. Again, my governorship will be a continuation of APGA government, so, I expect a very seamless transition process and good governance.”

Soludo said he would not have begrudged anybody if he had lost the election, but would simply have thanked God.

According to him, “In 2010, I was conscripted to run for election in Anambra State, and when I lost the election to the former governor, I congratulated him two hours after INEC declared him winner of the election, and I walked away after the thanksgiving service. Also in 2013, I was disqualified from contesting the election under APGA and I did not leave the party because of my disqualification. But I remained in the party and still supported the party.

“I have persevered after loosing election twice in the state, and I believe this is the right time that God Almighty has planned for me to emerge as winner. Now is the time for me to serve the people of the state and I see it as a divine journey for me, and I am grateful to God and to all the people of Anambra State, including the judiciary, and President Muhammadu Buhari.”

The former CBN governor believed his victory was divine, stressing that he would not be overwhelmed by his triumph at the poll. He said his focus would be the enormity of the work ahead of him as governor.

Asked the possibility of APGA winning elections outside Anambra State and becoming a regional and national political party, he said the name of the party, which was registered since 2002, would continue to speak volumes for the party’s mission of becoming both a regional and national political party.

“The first election that APGA won was in the South-east, and we will continue to work hard as progressives to stretch our winning strategies to other states across regions,” Soludo said.

On his part, the APGA national chairman, while speaking on moves by defectors to return to the party, explained, “For me, people disagree to agree. You mentioned the deputy governor, nobody did anything to him. He just chose to embark on an adventure.

“He was not denied anything. He had everything he should have. He had everything, but suddenly he jumped out of the team. So, how are you going to blame somebody who jumped out of a 21- storey building?

“What do you expect will happen to him? He will crash and end up blaming the building or the builder. All those people that left without justification, they went on sheer adventure, and some of them have been calling to return to the party. For me, they can come back if they show sufficient remorse, because APGA is a party for all of us.”

Buhari to Soludo: Rally stakeholders for transformational leadership

President Muhammadu Buhari, while rejoicing with Soludo, enjoined him, as a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Committee, to rally other stakeholders to tackle the challenges confronting the state and the South-east, in general.

Buhari, in a release by his media adviser, Femi Adesina, added that he looked forward to working with the incoming governor for the peace, security, and development of not only Anambra State, but the entire country.

The president also praised the security agencies for their determination to ensure that the election went on as smoothly as possible. He commended INEC for the successful conclusion of the exercise, despite the initial challenges encountered.

Democracy is the real winner – Fayemi

Fayemi said the Anambra election attested to Buhari’s sincerity and commitment to delivery of a free, fair, and credible electoral system. The Ekiti State governor said democracy was the real winner at the Anambra election, with the successful and peaceful conduct of the poll.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, the governor said the will of the people of Anambra State, expressed through the ballot box, had prevailed. He hailed all stakeholders, including the electorate, INEC, security agencies, election observers, political parties, and their agents for working together to deliver an election devoid of violence.

Fayemi praised the people of Anambra State for their perseverance and tenacity in participating in the poll, despite some technical hitches that were recorded, and ensuring that their votes counted.

Saraki: Anambra poll outcome has crucial lessons

Saraki congratulated Nigerians, particularly, the people of Anambra State, for the success of the governorship election. He advised the people not to allow the crucial lessons, which the results of the election signified, to go unnoticed or be ignored.

In a statement by the head of his media office, Yusuph Olaniyonu, the former senate president commended the stakeholders and others, who initiated and participated in the dialogue that created the peaceful atmosphere for the election.

He praised the security agencies for the diligence and professionalism displayed by the officers and men on duty. He also lauded INEC for the successful deployment of technology to improve the election process, particularly, the adoption of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and electronic transmission of results.

Saraki said, in the statement, “The Anambra State electorate has taught the rest of Nigeria a lesson about the need for people to vote according to their conscience, to conduct polls devoid of violence, and stand firm in defence of our votes.

“All stakeholders also have to work on the issue of vote-buying. It is a problem, which we must find a solution to, otherwise, it will continue to undermine our democracy. These are some of the lessons from Anambra State, which must not be ignored.”

Gbajabiamila: Soludo coming with experience and skill

In a congratulatory letter to Soludo, Gbajabiamila said with the former CBN governor’s antecedents as an accomplished professional, he believed the Anambra governor-elect would bring his experience and expertise to bear.

Gbajabiamila told Soludo in the letter, “You are taking office at a time of profound challenges and tremendous opportunity in our country. All of us, who hold public office, have an obligation at this moment in history to take active measures, guided by considerations of the best interests of our people, to overcome these challenges and provide conditions for our citizens to thrive.

“You have in your professional life shown a tremendous capacity for effectiveness; you have demonstrated personal integrity and have already accomplished much more than most can ever hope for. I am confident that you will thrive in this new role, and your service will glorify God and elevate the people of Anambra State and all of Nigeria. I wish you success, and I assure you of my support.”

PDP candidate congratulates Soludo

The PDP candidate, Ozigbo, in a press statement he personally signed, said he had called and congratulated Soludo on his victory at the poll.

Ozigbo stated, “I have just called Professor Chukwuma Soludo and congratulated him on being declared the winner of the Anambra State governorship election, 2021. I wished him well and prayed for his success.

“Let me also use this opportunity to congratulate all the men and women, who contested our dear state’s governorship this year. You all have shown a determination to see that Anambra is better. It was an honour to run this race with you.”

Ndi Anambra have spoken, says Metuh

Metuh said, in a statement, “Finally, Ndi Anambra have spoken and their voices were heard loud and clear. They have, through their votes, democratically made their choice of who governs them for the next four years.

“Though the outcome of the election might not have swung the way some individuals, especially, those within the political circles, desired, but Ndi Anambra have spoken and their choice must be respected and accepted.

“It is on this note that I call on all Ndi Anambra, irrespective of political affiliations, to put politics and issues of the election behind and come together as one people that we are, and join hands with Prof. Soludo to chart a new course for our dear state. I implore contenders, who are hurting over the outcome of the election to sheathe their swords and put aside all personal interests for the sake of Ndi Anambra.”

Olawepo-Hashim: Nigeria is greatest winner

Olawepo-Hashim commended Buhari for creating an atmosphere of non-interference in INEC’s conduct of the election in Anambra State. In a statement by his media assistant, Mr. Segun Abifarin, Olawepo-Hashim said the victory belonged to Anambra and Nigeria, in general.

He congratulated the “a wonderful person of Anambra State, who against all odds, filed out peacefully and performed their civic responsibilities,” stressing, “Our dear country Nigeria is the biggest winner. Glory to God as the country has again proven prophets of doom wrong.

“All Nigerians should celebrate this victory. Though my party, APC, did not come top in the final result, we can boast that our government created the atmosphere under which the votes of the electorate are beginning to count.”

It’s democracy in action, says Secondus

Secondus said by Soludo’s victory, the people had spoken and democracy was in action. He said though he had desired his party, PDP, to come out victorious, “as a true democrat, we will always respect the will of the people, where and when it’s allowed to prevail.”

Secondus mocked the All Progressives Congress (APC) for trying to reap where it did not sow in the hope that untoward acts could give them victory.

NLC calls for democratic reforms

In its congratulatory message, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called for deeper reforms to democratise the appointment of the leadership of INEC, establish an Electoral Offences Commission, and the institutionalise proportional representation in Nigeria’s constitution and electoral law.

NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said Soludo’s victory was a testament to the confidence he enjoyed from majority of Anambrarians, but added that the advocated reforms represented a more sustainable recipe for deepened political process and value-laden democratic outcomes in Nigeria.

Ayuba stated, “This is the hallmark and beauty of democracy. There is no doubt that the consummation of the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State was fraught with anxious moments, as many Nigerians followed the process with bated breath. The thuds of armoured tanks and the echoes of gunshots that trailed the campaign train turned the once peaceful state into a theatre of battles.

“The dicey security situation was not helped with the agitations of the IPOB, especially, the sit-at-home order which hung a huge blanket of uncertainty over the November 6, 2021 election.

“We commend the resolve of Anambra people to put the enemies of democracy to shame. Many voters in the state dared the pre-election day violence and showed up on election day to cast their ballot.”

Ifeanyi Ubah: I won’t challenge result in court

The YPP candidate, in a press statement, said, “I have just called the newly elected governor of our dear state, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, to congratulate him on his victory at the just concluded November 6, 2021 Anambra governorship poll.

“As a democrat and law-abiding citizen, I wholeheartedly accept the outcome of the election and would like to use this medium to congratulate Prof. Charles Soludo on his victory. It is imperative to state that I do not intend to challenge the electoral results as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through any court or judicial process.”

TMG tells INEC to improve use of technology

TMG called for the improvement of election equipment, especially, the BVAS. It urged the security agencies to investigate and charge to court all security operatives, who engaged in violation of human rights, and gross misconduct during the election.

Chairman of the group, Comrade Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, noted that the pre-election season, which witnessed a lot of violence that marred campaign rallies of the various parties in parts of the state, eventually led to low voter turn out, an omen, he said, was bad for democracy.

Rafsanjani said, “The stand of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the strong presence of security operatives had an effect on how voters came out to exercise their franchise.” He called on government to stand up to the challenges of insecurity in the country, so that the 2023 election would not witness voter apathy, as was the case in Anambra.

Vice Chairman of the group, Mrs. Miriam Menkiti, also lamented the poor performance of the BVAS, which she said frustrated voters across the 21 local government areas of Anambra State.

Menkiti stated, “It is shocking that despite the consistent statement by INEC that the card readers were all set for the elections, we still witnessed a high rate of poor connection of the BVAS in various part of the state.

“TMG appeals to INEC to live up to the task of providing smooth elections for Nigerians in the 2023 general election, which will be cumbersome and overstretch the electoral umpire.”

Soludo gingers up APGA in Abia

In nearby Abia State, APGA members saw Soludo’s victory as the sign of a political possibility in the state in 2023. Leader of Abia State chapter of APGA, Hon. Obinna Ichita, told journalists that the party received the outcome of the Anambra poll with great joy and high hope for better things ahead, as the 2023 general election drew near.

Ichita stated, “We (Abians) now know that it is normal to ply on good roads; it is normal to have potable water; it is normal to have quality healthcare services that APGA has provided in Anambra over the years.”

He said come 2023, Ndi Abia could not afford to continue to entrust their collective destiny to PDP, which had over the past 20 years “proved to be incompetent”.

Ichita declared that APGA was a proven credible alternative.

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