By Law Mefor
When one read the statement from the so-called Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, demanding Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, the governor of Anambra State, to step down due to his purported incapacity to address security concerns in the state, one was taken aback. The call was ostensibly in response to Thursday night’s vicious attack in the state that claimed the lives of two police officers. May their souls rest in peace.
Unidentified gunmen had ambushed Chief Chris Uba’s vehicle, a prominent figure in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Two of his security personnel were killed in the attack, and the politician managed to flee in his bulletproof car. What was one of the state’s most tranquil holidays in recent memory was marred by this isolated tragedy.
Generally, one should disregard the assertion made by the unidentified and incipient COSEYL since it lacks reasoning and is essentially an attention-seeking tactic. However, it presented a chance to assess the security situation in Anambra and the South East.
It is hardly two years since Soludo assumed office on March 17, 2022. By the time he took power, the South East, including Anambra state had practically become an ungoverned space. As in many other South East states, no LG was secure in Anambra before the transfer of power by Willie Obiano, Soludo’s predecessor. Up to eight local government areas in Anambra state had been seized by criminals before Soludo’s rise to power. This made it impossible for the governorship election to be held in many places in the state in November 2021. These eight Local Government Areas and the entire state have been liberated.
The South East zone used to be the safest in the country. But that was long before Soludo came to office. Between non-state actors and security personnel, including the military, there has been a seeming declaration of war. Both sides engaged in killings and counter-reprisals, which made the situation more dangerous in the South East and Anambra state. Moreover, unknown gunmen (UGM) had surfaced, spreading blood, sorrow, and panic long before the coming of Soludo.
The mysterious UGM soon proved to be a conglomeration of numerous malevolent entities functioning under that evil franchise. Under the guise of UGM, security agents and non-state entities unleash violence and terror against the state and its citizens. To conduct their operations of assassinations, kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies, Yahoo ritual and cult killings, cult conflicts, and other violent crimes, criminal elements concealed themselves behind the same façade called UGM.
As someone who fully participated in the Soludo Transition Committee (STC), which was led by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, I recall that one of the main concerns raised by the committee members was the toxic environment that Anambra state had become which we feared would work against what could pass as the greatest socioeconomic and developmental blueprint in history, which we assisted Professor Soludo in sorting through and synthesising from his robust manifesto, Anambra 2070 Rolling Plan, which Soludo also led a committee to develop when Willie Obiano was governor and from our ideas.
Many of the STC members who were from outside of Anambra state and Nigeria had to enter and exit the state covertly because of the pervading insecurity. The state of insecurity was so apparent that our last handover meeting had to be abridged.
Remember that Soludo focused on addressing insecurity as his priority upon taking office, understanding that progress would be unattainable without security, peace, and order. He had to extend an olive branch and granted amnesty to agitators who were camp dwellers, pleading with them to come forward and collaborate with him in rerouting all legitimate grievances for constructive outcomes. He requested that people quit stay-at-home every Monday, which cost the state billions each week, but he was rebuffed by the enforcers.
Numerous camps had been set up in Anambra forests, particularly in the Anambra South Senatorial District and some areas of Anambra North, when Soludo assumed office. Non-state actors had taken the time to organise and establish these camps for their operations. It meant these camps were not created overnight. Stakeholders in the state of Anambra should inquire about how and when these camps were constructed, who paid for them, and who allowed them to be built in the first place.
In an attempt to end these camps, Soludo had to devote time and resources that could have been used to address the problem of social amnesties. Positive outcomes are being produced by Governor Soludo’s multifaceted strategy of combating criminality, which includes the use of contemporary security technologies, cooperation with security agencies, and the recent hiring of 2,000 physically fit individuals to beef up the Anambra State Vigilante Group.
Despite this massive diversion caused by insecurity, Soludo has gone far in reconstruction and established a strong basis for a prosperous and livable Anambra state. His ambitious decisions about youth skill acquisition, particularly in the area of digital skills and reskilling, education, and road infrastructure are revolutionary. Up to 10,0000 qualified teachers have been employed since Soludo came into office. This is to reposition education in the state. In a deft move, the Governor awarded 250km of roads in his first year in office. These roads crisscrossing the 21 Local Government Areas of the state are at various degrees of completion and some have already been delivered.
Through his One Youth Two Skills programme, Soludo is educating young people in Anambra in the skills necessary for them to become the rightful owners and forward thinkers of a smart Anambra. After completing the One-Youth-Two Skills initiative, the first group of 5,000 Anambra youths are now equipped to launch their own companies and start making their own money.
The press release requesting Soludo “to immediately resign and apologise to the good people of Anambra State for leadership incompetence and lack of capacity to defend his people” was therefore infantile and embarrassing to read, to say the least.
Today is just unmatched from the time Soludo took over. Since Soludo has reduced Anambra’s level of insecurity to the barest minimum, he should be commended rather than demonised. Since security has greatly improved, the majority of Ndi Anambra who were unable to celebrate Christmas in the state two or three years ago went home and moved throughout Anambra freely, including yours truly. Therefore, what occurred in Uga on Thursday, December 29, was unexpected, unfortunate, and isolated, and it shouldn’t be politicised.
The politicisation of security is what has continued to fuel it in Anambra and the South East. For their benefit, politicians foster insecurity to undermine the administration and help themselves seize power. That’s how banditry and terrorism entered Northern Nigeria and are currently spreading elsewhere.
The truth is that people who ride tigers will inevitably find themselves in their bellies.
There are moments when I wonder where Soludo would have landed the state if insecurity had not interfered with his takeoff. Even though Soludo has accomplished in less than two years what other governors could not accomplish in one whole term, he could have accomplished much more had there not been such a high level of insecurity at the beginning of his administration.
Similar to the sad December event, Soludo was personally attacked a few days after assuming office and was also attacked during his campaign in his Isuofia home, which resulted in the deaths of two or three policemen.
One cannot but keep pleading with politicians to keep politics out of security. That’s what rational individuals do. Politics shouldn’t be played with security.
It sounds like petty politics to demand Soludo’s resignation when the Governor should be applauded. Such misdirected missiles ought to be directed toward security solutions as opposed to heedless, naive, and aggressive behaviour.
Yes, Soludo is the answer, and he is truly working. He should be given the chance to implement his vision of building a prosperous and livable Anambra for the benefit of all.
· Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; [email protected]; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.