Soludo: A chance for Public Intellectuals

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Listening to Prof Chukwuma Soludo make mincemeat of his opponents at the Anambra governorship debate, I said to myself “is this finally a chance for the Nigerian public intellectual?”

Although Nigeria’s first President was a cerebral public intellectual whose oratory and grasp of nuance was phenomenal, the country has experienced a downward trend in the capacity of successive leaders who came barely prepared for office. The result is that political leadership at the national level in Nigeria has never carried any hint of charisma. Nigeria’s political leaders hardly inspire the people. Not even their families!

But in Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Anambra is bucking the trend. First, it is not the practice among Nigerian politicians to anoint brilliant successors but governor Obiano did just that. He pulled all the stops to give Soludo a chance; a towering public intellectual whose ideas of what an ideal society should be may be given a chance to flower on November 6, 2021. Next, of all the candidates on the ballot, Soludo is the only one whose preparation goes beyond a huge stash of cash for vote buying. He has a compendium of his ideas packaged in a coffee table book which anyone can use as a guide to access and judge him when he assumes power. In fact, Soludo is adequately prepared for the office he is seeking. But will they let him?

Today in Anambra, everyone knows that Chukwuma Soludo is the hope for a brighter future. To a people whose worldview is deeply rooted in the fluidity of life as captured in the saying that nwata kwoo aka, osolu okenye rie nri, it would be a travesty to deny Chukwuma Soludo the office he has so much prepared for. Indeed, for a state which prides itself as Light of the Nation, it would be inconceivable to settle for less. That would dim the light.

Soludo’s dominance of the gubernatorial debate organized by Arise Television has laid bare the stark differences between preparation and chance or providence. Soludo has gone through the mill, absorbing all the rigors of training and experience and applying himself to situations that made personal growth inevitable. On the other hand, his opponents appear to have taken the shortcut to their destinations at worst or are simply counting on providence at best. But the leadership of a state like Anambra is not a walk in the park. The governor of Anambra State has no “holiday,” no breathing space and no time for long introspection. He has no liberty to leave Anambra in the hands of God for an hour. Events will force him to stand up! That is why Soludo is the man for the job!

And so, we just might eventually have a serious public intellectual as the chief executive officer of a state. We just might have the chance we have been waiting for; a chance to test the hypothesis and the theories, to place assumptions on the fire grill of reality; a chance to restore dignity to scholars and workers whose only pride is their knowledge. Nigeria has a large tribe of public intellectuals. Brilliant men and women who give lectures and speeches across the world on how societies should organize for success. But back home, the crude politics we play discourages most of them from showing interest in political leadership. Kingsley Moghalu took his chances in the last presidential election only to realize that Nigerian elections do not care for knowledge or personal excellence.

Chukwuma Soludo offers Nigerian public intellectuals the first real chance. Will Anambra take it?
Mr. James Eze is Chief Press Secretary to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State.