AKUNYILI VS SOLUDO; THE UNFOLDING DRAMA
For many observers, the recent exchanges between Professors Dora Nkem Akunyili and Charles Chukwuma Soludo on the events that took place at the burial of late Mrs Gloria Uzonwanne(Soludo’s mother in-law and Akunyili’s sister) have been both surprising as well as revealing. The two very erudite Professors threw civility into the wind and hauled verbal missiles at each other, forcing their respective narratives down the throat of a bewildered public. Many of us who admire the academic records of these two erudite scholars were to say the least insulted. Everyone knows that to get a PhD is not a kettle of fish not to talk about becoming a professor. The curriculum vitae of the duo clearly indicate that they are accomplished intellectuals. Professor Soludo got his PhD at the age of twenty nine while Akunyili got her own at the age of thirty one. Their seasoned experience profile which cuts across public and private sector is a surprising contrast to their conduct
If you look at the fact that both Professors hail from nearby communities, you can now imagine the wealth of talents that exist supposedly in Anambra State and indeed in Iboland. But if you visit the state you will meet embarrassing development deficits, infrastructural decay, gully erosion site, rooftop refuse dumps, indescribable poverty, lawlessness and insecurity. The frustration of bad governance can easily be blamed on the fact that the military stayed so long in politics that vibrant intellectuals lost interest. How about the intelligentsia? Anambra state probably boasts of more professors than all the south eastern states put together. This unfolding show of peculiar to Anambra state may mean that intellectuals may not necessarily have the answers after all.
And so what really happened in Anambra during this burial that led to the political muscle flexing between Soludo and Akunyili. Several versions of the same event exist in the public domain. Depending of course on who is speaking. But the first person to raise alarm or go to the media may not necessarily be the one saying the truth. Anyway generally in Ibo land, the chief mourners of the dead are usually direct relations. In this case, husbands, wives, daughters and sons. Then others will join. And so listening to the narratives from both sides, it is Nonye(Soludo’s wife and daughter of the deceased) who should be at the center with her father and immediate family members.
Of course Professor Akunyili as the younger sister of the deceased can be part of the ceremony but not to set up a parallel event in her late sister’s compound. Nor is it proper for her security operatives’ stampede, beat up or molest anybody before,during or after the burial. The honorable minister may think differently based especially on that fact that she is an incumbent minister but process is process and culture is culture! If indeed her father’s village was a few kilometers away, the best would have been to put her own show there. After the burial she would have moved her guests quietly in that direction especially as she sensed that Professor Soludo may not take her "stealing the show" kindly. In all, the events of that day was a strictly family affair and not for the media. Issues like this often pop up especially in the so called big families. But as a Minister of information, I am certain that Professor Akunyili simple saw an opportunity to fan her ego and get publicity and may be political mileage. That was why she went to the media first.
To many, these are peripheral issues, the core issues between Soludo and Akunyili remains the battle for the soul of the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra State. Professor Soludo may have the brains may be to transform Onitsha to the Dubai of Africa but the fact remains that he lacks the enduring political structures(at least for now) to win a free and fair election in Anambra State. There were strong speculations that he "procured" the so called "consensus candidate" the other time. But not without very convoluted legal fireworks even with blessings from above. His emergence left cracks within the PDP in Anambra state which has not healed till date. And so if 2011 elections meets Anambra PDP the way things are at the moment, they will still loose at the polls.
Not with persons like Chris Ngige who is quite popular among the grassroots and Dr. Andy Uba who was once elected governor and who ran on the platform of labor party in the last election. And so, without being a politician, it is clear that the reconciliation that PDP Chairman Okwesilieze Nwodo is proposing in Anambra state will not be an easy job. But as a former gubernatorial candidate, Prof Soludo is an automatic party leader at the state level. However for many, the fact that Soludo seem to have been imposed by "Abuja" does not go down well with them. And the forty seven aspirants who lost out during the PDP primaries scattered to other political parties with the crowd.
On the side of Professor Dora Akunyili, one can see a bit of political opportunism. A classical case is point was when she jumped ship when it became clear that the then Vice President Goodluck Jonthan would emerge as Acting President She made headlines though, and many applauded her but for me, it was easy to see more politics in her action than patriotism. She had never told anyone that she was contesting for any position and in fact when her posters came out, she promptly denied. However all her body language indicates a political Oliver Twist! And so rather than pick up quarrels with her relation, Akunyili should borrow a lesson from the political bruises that her inlaw sustained the other time and advice herself. Here is a man (Soludo) who has had the very best as the Chief executive of the Nigerian apex bank.
The rumor mill has it that he acquired for himself, some international profile and some financial comfort. What else was he looking for? Instead of taking up some consultancy somewhere or retiring to a quieter life, he started listening to sycophants who started whispering things to his ears and secretly fitted a conduit pipe to his deep pockets. They assured him that he could move from governor of CBN to governor of Anambra State. He (Soludo) had boasted severally then that Governor Peter Obi should be ready to pack out of Awka government house. He was so confident. His campaign was awash with cash partly donated by incumbent PDP governors. Little did he know that he was just hearing his own voice in an apparent political hallucination.
On the part of Dora Akunyili, my sense is that her assumptions may be that Anambra State may be another NAFDAC, an easy ride! But it won’t be long before she changes her mind if she does not want her in-law to teach her.
Professors have something in common, they have enjoyed very juicy positions in public service and they should sink into the sofa of private life in contentment. Alternatively they should continue in the political jig saw puzzle in Anambra. The public especially in Anambra should disregard their false alarm and not allow Soludo and Akunyili to magnify a minor family squabble to a state PDP affair. President Jonathan has promised that the 2011 election will be the free and fair. This means that only popular candidates who win majority votes will be elected. Those ones who rely on the powers that be in "Abuja" to impose them on the hapless electorate may be shocked to know that the game is up! For Dora Akunyili and Charles Soludo,the drama is still unfolding. Ours is to watch from the sidelines.
Uche Igwe is a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and Visiting Scholar Africa Program, the Paul H. School of Advanced International Studies Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC.