|Sunday, September 19, 2021|
onetime White House counsel, Richard Goodman, once characterized a great American, Robert Kennedy, as “a constellation of contradictions”. And the famed author, Harry Barnes, described the greatest of the patristic fathers, St Augustine, as a complex combination of opposites. Like most great men, Chukwuma Soludo, the gubernatorial candidate for the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) is a paradoxical blend of contrasting and opposing qualities.
He was a village boy that rose from rural deprivation and drudgery to the corridors of power; hobnobbing with presidents and prime ministers. He is erudite, urbane, cosmopolitan and deftly discerning, but remains inextricably bind to the customs, traditions and mores of his town people. From the pedestal of fame and attainments, he remains “a true home boy, deeply rooted among his age grade, village and town”. He is a reformer; his transformation of the Nigerian economy bordered on a revolution. He is essentially a revolutionary that operated within conventional limits. He is a consummate insider, but, in many ways, remains an irascible outsider; with his impulse towards the defiance of the status quo evident. This is evinced by his humility, genuine concern for the disadvantaged, something of a disdain for elitism, and moral proclivity for equal opportunity for all.
Consequently, from his early days, he devoted his time, resources and labor to provide educational and economic opportunities for the indigent, downtrodden, and forgotten. So many people, especially, from his hometown have benefited from his philanthropy. It was in gratitude for what he has done for them that the people of Isuofia led by their king honored Chukwuma Soludo. Therefore, on August 14, 2021, Isuofia, literally, came to a standstill, a celebratory standstill, as the king, His Royal Highness, Igwe Moghalu of Isuofia, a retired colonel in the Nigerian Army, conferred a chieftaincy title, Dike-Udo Isuofia, on Soludo. The title, which means the Mighty Man of Peace of Isuofia, was conferred on him in recognition and appreciation of his service to his people and community and enormous contribution to their wellbeing and progress.
He has successfully lifted so many out of ignorance and poverty. He abhors mere hand-outs because hand-outs have a tendency to breed beggars. His approach is to establish individuals by giving them education, and financial independence. It is an approach underpinned by the proverbial: teach a man how to fish, and he is empowered to feed himself for life. According to Christian Aburime, “I have watched him spend enormous amount of his time offering advice to parents and their children on how to grapple with, and overcome, the challenges of life, often using himself as a case study”.
In his belief that the surest way to success is education, he has sponsored hundreds of students to various levels of academic attainments. After all, the building of a great society and country is contingent on first building great men and women through education. In 2000, he instituted a scholarship scheme for his Umunna (kindred), so that financial constraints cannot stop anyone from obtaining a university education. In 2001, he became the pioneer chairman of his village Education Trust Fund. He was the highest donor to the Trust Fund, which grants scholarships and bursary to indigent students in his hometown. Hundreds of graduates have benefitted from this scholarship and bursary programs.
Twelve years ago, Soludo "adopted" a primary school in his village, Amoji Primary School. At his personal expense, he provides all the 900 pupils in the school with free and qualitative education. He furnishes them with uniforms, footwear, game wears, textbooks, and writing materials. He employed about ten additional graduate teachers to augment the teaching staff in the school. He furnished the classrooms, and equipped the computer lab with 40 computers. Thus, he turned this once ramshackle public primary into a state-of-the-art model primary school. In addition, he assists in the running of five other primary schools in Isuofia. He pays the salaries of about twenty five Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) teachers in the five schools. Every year, he pays the fees for Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) and Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) for hundreds of secondary school students, including all the students of the Holy Child Secondary School, Isuofia.
He has been assisting widows, and the other vulnerable and helpless in his hometown, with his interest free micro credits, to set up their own businesses. For over fourteen years, he has operated a revolving interest-free micro financing for Umuada, and the women organizations in Isuofia church parishes, amounting to tens of millions of naira. He has also built houses for the poor and elderly. Fascinatingly, he has painstakingly shielded his philanthropy from the limelight. To him, they are his own way of being grateful to God for His blessings, for which he expects no thanks and no praise.
As we cast our vote for a new governor on November 6th 2021, we must recognize that power is morally neutral. Depending on who wields it, gubernatorial power in Anambra State can be deployed as a ruthless enemy of the people or employed as a selfless servant of the people. We must therefore meticulously scrutinize the gubernatorial candidates: pore through their education, credibility, commitment to the collective good and demonstrated capacity and capability in prior public service. We must reject the ignorant, charlatans, and con artists. We must also reject those out to mortgage truth, principles and social justice to selfish and cliquish interests.
We should vote for ChukwumaSoludo. He is a man seasoned to high purpose and noble temperament by education, training and experience. He is a proven, distinguished public servant. He is a quintessential leader: honorable, visionary, and courageous.