The governor of Anambra State, Prof. Charles Soludo finally replied to the Social Media Backlash from Comments on Peter Obi.
My attention has been drawn to some of the tirades on social media following my frank response during an interview on Channels TV regarding the “investments” Mr. Peter Obi claimed to have made with Anambra state revenues.
Sadly, several of the comments left the issue of the interview to probe or suggest motives, inferred from my response on “investments” that I am opposed to Peter Obi’s ambition and therefore committed a “crime” for which the punishment is internecine abuse and harassment even to my family. Some people even suggest that the gunmen who went to attack a checkpoint at my hometown on Saturday 12th November but were gunned down were part of the mob reaction. I used to think that for decent people, certain conducts are off-limits and that in Anambra, politics is not warfare.
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Of course, as a Christian, I know that telling the truth can be very costly, even suicidal. Our Lord and savior were crucified simply for telling the truth the people did not want to hear. I promised that I won’t be the usual politician, and will not knowingly lie to the people. I am not an Angel but rather than knowingly repeat the same deceitful character that politicians are known for, I would leave public office. It is a vow I made to my God and to my family. Only God knows how many days I will be on this seat but whether I am on it or not I will always say it as it is— knowing fully the suicidal consequences of telling the truth in a political arena, especially in a country where lying and deceit by politicians have become the culture and celebrated as being “smart”.
Ideally, I should just have laughed off the infantile exuberances as many friends advised (I am used to this, having been in the ‘Arena’ for a while). I always re-read the quote “The Man in the Arena…” by President Theodore Roosevelt (1910) to remind myself of the burden of public office. Several well-meaning Nigerians and Ndigbo called to advise that I should just ignore them. A respected Igbo elder-statesman who called advised that I should just ignore what he described as “Peter Obi and his social media mob”. According to him, “everyone knows that he is going nowhere, but they are looking for who to blame”. After some 20 minutes of discussion, he advised that I should personally author a response— just for the records.
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Everyone knows that I don’t follow the winds nor succumb to bullies, nor shy away from a good fight especially when weighty matters of principles and the future of the people are involved. One lesson I learnt from my former boss and mentor, President Obasanjo, is never to be on the fence. I learnt that one must always take a stand: for better or for worse. I do so with every sense of humility, and leave history to judge. Most people have commended me for “tactfully avoiding being drawn into the Peter Obi issue” until now.
Since I am now being forced into the Arena on this matter, I have a duty and a right of reply, if only for the records, and to also give the social media mob something substantive to rant upon and rain their abuses for weeks. In this preliminary response, there are some things I will refrain from saying here because, in the end, February/March 2023 will come and go, and life will continue.
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At the outset, let me state that this exhibition of desperation, intolerance and attempt to bully everyone who expresses the slightest of dissent is reprehensible. This is Hitler in the making. When the revered Arch Bishop Chukwuma stated that in Enugu State, they were not obedient, he was ferociously bullied on social media. Any dissent has tagged a saboteur or, in my case, it could be that I want to contest for president after office or that I am envious of Peter Obi. Is Soludo envious of Peter Obi? Totally laughable! But this is the same person I was asking to return to APGA in March 2022 and contest for president and yet envious or doesn’t want him to be president.
This is madness! Seriously speaking, the obdurate attempt to muscle the republican Igbos to maintain the silence of the graveyard is antithetical to everything Igbo. It is not who we are. Insulting other ethnic groups and religions or denigrating others is certainly not the path to Aso Rock. If this is not checked, it may indeed endanger the future political and economic interests of the Igbos.
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In his time, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was the undisputed all-time leader of the Igbos but he had his arch-rivals and even independent candidates won landslide elections against his party, NCNC, in Igboland. Obafemi Awolowo had stiff opposition among the Yorubas while Ahmadu Bello had his share of opponents in the Northern region. Today, no one has accused Afenifere or other strong presidential candidates from the South West of being “anti-Yoruba” because Tinubu is a frontrunner, nor has anyone accused Kwankwaso and several other Northern candidates of being “anti-North” for not supporting Atiku. As a full-blooded republican Igboman and democrat, I reject this despotic intolerance.
Yes, I fully understand the anger of some urban and Diaspora youths and some Nigerians who are dissatisfied with the trajectory of the country or with the candidates of the major parties and wished other options. Not knowing much about others, some see Peter Obi as the contrast they wished for. I get the point. But this is a democracy: the minority will have their say, but the majority their way. Translating anger and social media agitation into political outcomes requires humongous work.
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For full disclosure, let me state that Peter Obi and I are not just friends, we call ourselves “brothers”. But we have political differences: he left APGA for PDP after his tenure as Governor while I have remained in APGA since 2013. During the last two governorship elections in Anambra in 2017 and 2021, he led the PDP campaigns but APGA won a landslide in both elections. By the way, in 2016, he visited and proposed that I defect to PDP and contest the 2017 election against the incumbent Willie Obiano, but I declined. After my victory in November 2021, he called to congratulate me as I did to him in 2010.
That is the Anambra way: we fight fiercely during campaigns but share drinks at the next social events. After all, it was the great Zik of Africa who taught us that in politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies but only permanent interests.
By Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, CFR