Soludo has a right to speak his mind on Peter Obi’s record and candidacy and should not be gagged or subjected to a figurative ethnic lynch mob, but it is also appropriate to interrogate his words, even his motive, if there are plausible grounds to do so.
So, in that spirit, let’s ask: what exactly is Soludo’s point?
That Peter Obi was wrong to invest or save Anambra state’s money as a rainy day fund as most prudent fiscal managers do?
That Peter Obi is responsible for the depreciation of that investment, which initially yielded much return but then lost a lot of value as the Buhari economy eroded stock values, killed the stock market, and decimated the private sector?
Investments, by their nature can go north or south, depending on the vicissitudes of the economy, both local and global. Every investor in stocks, including yours truly, knows this. Should individuals and states not invest in stocks because of this? Is any investment in stocks and shares not by its nature speculative and aspirational?
Is Soludo saying that Obi should/could have anticipated or foreseen the crash of the investment, thereby crediting Obi with the supernatural gift of clairvoyance?
That Peter Obi was wrong to exercise his well documented frugality in his management of Anambra State’s resources?
That Peter Obi was wrong to leave varying amounts of funds and little to no liability and debt for his successor?
Anyway, it’s interesting that Soludo has now backed off the initial criticism of Peter Obi’s investment being worth nothing (which had the unintended effect of confirming that Obi indeed made well-intended investments for Anambra) and is now comparing the quality of Obi’s roads and Ngige’s?
In politics, voters reward good intention, empathy, vision, and forward thinking and forgive their disappointing outcomes, especially if such outcomes are the result of externalities. That’s one of the reasons Soludo’s Arise TV interview claim fell flat and provoked the backlash that it did.
I hope we’re not approaching a point when we’ll start demonizing Obasanjo for renegotiating and then paying off Nigeria’s $30 billion debt, which Buhari has now ran back up to more than $100 billion. I hope we will not soon start putting the debt management and fiscal policies and acumens of Buhari and Obasanjo on the same level of badness.
I hope we have not muddied the water so much so that we don’t see a difference anymore between a governor who paid salaries promptly, did not plunge his state into debt, left no liabilities, and left monies and investment for his successor and a governor who owed salaries, left a huge debt burden, liabilities, an empty treasury, and other encumberances.
I hope we’re not entering a territory of false equivalences in which all governors are the same and we’re not allowed to compare them or cautiously appreciate the ones who, despite their shortcomings, clearly distinguished themselves from their gubernatorial peers.
I hope, finally, that we have not gotten to a cynical point where it is no longer possible to objectively, if cautiously, pronounce one public official to be qualitatively better than the other in terms of their records in office.
*Ochonu is a Nigerian professor based in Nashville, Tennessee, United States