Gov. Soludo’s Declaration On The Platform

Soludo

By Paul Nwosu

Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR, has sparked off an animated pan-Nigerian discussion following his authoritative lecture entitled “Towards Sustainable Democracy and Free Market Economy in Nigeria” at The Platform, the facility for national dialogue convened by Senior Pastor Poju Oyemade. It was the second coming of Prof Soludo at The Platform in five years, and his resounding message addressed the many issues afflicting the nation. It is not in the constitution of Soludo to evade providing solutions for Nigeria’s multi-dimensional problems.

It needs to be recalled that back in 2005 Soludo had delivered the National Democracy Day Lecture organized by the Federal Government on the topic: “The Political Economy of Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria”. As Nigeria marks 64 years as an independent country and 25 consecutive years of democratic experiment in the 4th Republic, it is fitting that Soludo is the mastermind to undertake an evaluation of the country’s practice of democracy and a free market economy.

Even as he is a serving state governor, Soludo insists on speaking as a citizen because nation-building ought not to be left to politicians and governments alone. In the words of Soludo, “It needs to be emphasized that whatever intrinsic values bestowed by democracy, they mean little to the woman who has no food to eat or place to sleep”.

Citing informed sources, Soludo argues that “with Nigeria’s current per capita income of about $1,200, the sustainability of democracy in Nigeria will require an extraordinary effort”.

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For him, Nigeria’s case can be likened to making progress while standing still. With Nigeria dropping from being the “largest economy in Africa” to fourth, the budget ranks amongst the lowest in the world.

Soludo avers that it is incumbent on President Bola Tinubu to declare a State of Emergency on every sector. He makes the case that the Federal Government’s recent decision to go “back to the first National Anthem might be a pointer to the fact that our future is in our past.” Going back to the negotiated competitive federalism forged by the country’s founding fathers may not be a bad idea after all. Devolving a great deal of the responsibilities under the Exclusive List to the States and allocating a significant portion of revenues to the States could be beneficial for the country’s development. According to Soludo, “A friend remarked recently that everyone is a federalist until he/she gets to the centre.” It is ironical for him that the All Peoples Congress (APC) that put forward a strong case for restructuring while in opposition is going against the grain now that the party is in federal power.

Soludo points out that the idea of autonomy for local governments goes against the principles of true federalism. He stresses that this will take Nigeria back many decades on the road to a true federal structure.

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In his understanding, the concept of a single term for elected office-holders is gaining momentum and may be a viable option for the country to make progress. Also, consolidating the National Assembly into one with no more than five representatives per state could be a cost-effective solution. Do we need a National Assembly costing over N300 billion a year to maintain? Soludo asks.

A key issue in Nigeria is the struggle for improved minimum wages for workers as being demanded by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) which has already elicited a strike all over the country. Soludo makes the argument that unsustainable minimum wages could lead to job losses and economic challenges in Nigeria. He had added the sums and seen that if the money coming into the coffers of Anambra State were to be divided among the citizens, each person would only end up with N2,500.

Soludo uses the example of his tour of duty as Anambra State Governor to stress that the country across board must drastically cut the cost of governance. The slogan in Anambra State is “Doing More with Less.” The telling words of Soludo are rendered thusly: “Extreme prudence is the reason we are delivering historic results on infrastructure and all other sectors and still refused to borrow a kobo in over two years (State Assembly approved for us to borrow N100 billion since 2022 but we insist that we will only borrow for projects that will pay back). Our budget is restructured with 23 percent on recurrent while 77 percent goes for capital spending. We have cut cost of governance to bare bones. For example, it used to cost about N137 million monthly for facility management, and we cut it down to N11 million; we dont have Office of First Lady and no appropriation for that. My wife drives my personal vehicle I came into government with. We dont do these to impress anyone but out of personal conviction, and knowledge that Anambra can’t afford the waste. Currently, Anambra is ranked among the top five states with fiscal sustainability. We have a target to pay for our recurrent expenditure with IGR so that we can invest FAAC receipts in our future. In sum, we must reorder our priorities if we must maximize value for the people given the paucity of resources.”

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Soludo opts for the re-invention of a new charge of national re-orientation not unlike Military President General Ibrahim Babangida’s Mass Mobilization for Self-Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) which will this time assure proper public accountability, patriotism and nationalism.

Soludos final words strike like thunder: “Lets build the greatest black nation on earth, together!”

PAUL NWOSU
Commissioner for Information
Anambra State
 

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