Home News Crashing a Dream: The Genesis of Obi–Soludo war

Crashing a Dream: The Genesis of Obi–Soludo war


By Kote Obe

I returned to Anambra State in 2008 to meet a state and people that were excited and upbeat. And they had every reason to be so happy.

Anambra had two governors those were the exact words of the master of ceremony at the first major function that I attended on my return at the All Saints Cathedral open arena, Onitsha. One was the governor of the state, Peter Obi who was then the rave of the moment having retrieved the mandate the people gave him in the 2003 election; the other was the governor of money, Charles Soludo, who was then the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

The function was a special ceremony organised by the CBN to encourage communities to set up microfinance banks to boost local economies.

Present at the ceremony were the two governors. Obi and Soludo walked side-by-side like twins in their sparkling suits to the admiration of everyone. In their mid-40s, they exuded energy, confidence and brilliance. The alumni of the University of Nigeria were so proud of the duo and they showed it all over the venue in their badges and mufflers. The vice-chancellor of UNN then, Prof. Chinedu Nebo was even there.

The two governors spoke eloquently and gave high hopes to the audience. While Soludo spoke on how the bank consolidation he supervised insulated Nigerians from the then global economic meltdown, Obi urged the people to invest wisely in stocks for there would always be a reward, he being a beneficiary of portfolio investments.
A great platform to take off from had already been set by Obi’s predecessor, Chris Ngige, another UNN alumnus, whose solid road infrastructure projects had rekindled faith in Anambra people that something good could still come from the government after a long time of the people fending for themselves through self-help projects.

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That look of Soludo and Obi at Onitsha that day looked like the look of the future for Anambra state, which seemed to have done away with the politics of godfatherism and its unpleasantness in the state. It seemed the state had been freed from the old brigade and a new post-Independence elite had taken charge. Anambra people from all over the world began to identify with the development at home.

A few months later, the League of Anambra Professionals, LAP, hosted the two great sons of Anambra at the Zodiac Hotel in Enugu. Soludo was rounding off his tenure as governor of the CBN and there were so many expectations of him, given his age, energy and success at the CBN. The two clinked glasses, toasted and shared jokes. They looked like a pair that would work for the greatness of Anambra state and chart a future for the state. But that party at Zodiac Hotel seemed to me to be their parting point.

After a few weeks, Soludo’s tenure as CBN governor tenure terminated and was not renewed. Obi, whose first tenure was ending on March 17, 2010 had kicked off his reelection plans. Many had expected Soludo to support Obi to go for a second term and perhaps enjoy a reciprocal gesture from Obi. But lo and behold Soludo, buoyed by the ratings he got from his CBN tenure, was eyeing Obi’s office. This threw bad blood between their camps.

Soludo’s entry into the race created a problem. The race would have been an easy walkover for Obi with other candidates. But with Soludo something had to happen for him to win. Soludo chose PDP, the ruling party at the federal level and indeed the largest party in the country and Anambra state as of then.

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That was where the parting started. Nobody could explain how it happened. Obi smartly won the heart of President Goodluck Jonathan, who chose to ignore a crisis that erupted in the Anambra chapter of the PDP where Chris Uba fought Soludo to a standstill. Even though Soludo eventually won the ticket of the PDP, it took a last-minute Supreme Court verdict to validate his candidacy.
Obi played a fast one by guaranteeing APGA support for Jonathan in his reelection bid if Jonathan supported him in Awka. In return, Jonathan tacitly withdrew support for Soludo. It’s on record that Jonathan did not honour or send delegates to the flag-off of the campaigns of Soludo.
But many believed Soludo’s falling out of favour with Jonathan’s government, which had also denied him reappointment as CBN was the handiwork of Prof Dora Akunyili, Jonathan’s minister of information. Akunyili, who was the aunt of Soludo’s wife, had a no-love-lost relationship with Soludo. She was said to have opposed his marriage to her niece over class differences.
That meant that PDP in Anambra state lost the federal might support a PDP federal government would have given it in the February 6, 2010 election.
Soludo lost in that election, coming third after Obi and Ngige of the Action Congress. He quietly went home without challenging the outcome of the election in court.
Soludo’s loss was celebrated in Obi’s camp, which included Akunyili. It wasn’t long after that his mother-in-law, Dora’s elder sister died. When Dora went to the burial at Isuofia, Soludo’s boys destroyed her canopy and chased her away. She had to host her guests in her father’s compo at Nanka.
By the time Obi was rounding off his second tenure, Soludo had sneaked into APGA in the hope that Obi had forgotten the past. Soludo looked like the best candidate for the APGA ticket until the party primaries panel disqualified him and Willie Obiano was brought by Obi as the preferred Candidate. Again Soludo didn’t challenge his questionable disqualification.
He simply hung around until Obiano and Obi fell out, and jumped on the scene as the guardian angel of Obiano. When Obiano was finding it difficult to impress the people about why he deserved a second term, Soludo came up with his famous declaration, “If it is not broken, why mend it?”
Obiano’s second-term reelection victory over Obi’s PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze, was sweet revenge for Soludo, who replaced Victor Umeh as Obiano’s godfather. By the time Obiano was leaving in 2021, he handed over the APGA ticket to Soludo, who defeated Obi’s candidate, Valentine Ozigbo.
After the last election, the two had been pretending to be brothers again until Soludo lashed out in a TV interview against Obi’s legacies in Anambra State. Not done yet with the controversies that the interview was generating he came out with his last letter where he accused the Labour Party presidential hopeful as a pretender.
After 14 years, a friendship that had given hope for the transformation of Anambra state has crashed to smithereens.

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Obe, a journalist lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.