THE INJUSTICE OF CONSENSUS CANDIDATE: WHY ANAMBRA SHOULD REJECT PROF. SOLUDO

The PDP - inner caucus - has again expressed their penchant for crass paternalism by the selection of the erstwhile governor of the Central Bank as its flag bearer for the Anambra governorship election come 2010 and again undermining the very dignity of what they are seeking to promote. The technical capacity of Prof Soludo is actually not the issue. As the erstwhile governor of the central bank and an eminent Professor he is qualified to vie for an office. As a citizen of the federal republic of Nigeria, it is also his right to vote and be voted for. However, what is at stake here is what the human right charter borrowing a phrase from John Stuart Mill terms " Liberty of conscience".

Democracy is spirit and those who come to it must come in spirit and truth. The spirituality of democracy is rooted in the idea of human equality which is not a physical or material concept. This equality then expresses the fact that a people or members of a group that are equal have a part to play in anything that concerns their wellbeing and in consonance with their consciences, anything less generates alienation. Paternalism on the other hand expresses the idea that only the father or guardians know what is good for the members and therefore imposes such idea of the good on them irrespective of what such members think or what their consciences advice. Given the fact that some people may have a predilection to wrong choices, it does not warrant an imposition of ways that are against their consciences.

It is on this background that the people of Anambra should reject the so called consensus candidate of Prof Soludo. Firstly his emergence clearly alienates the members of the PDP as a party whose voices ought to be heard and whose consciences ought to be expressed with their votes. This alienation is fundamentally opposed by the Igbo concept of Olundi, (people's voice) and Oluanyi (our voice) which in turn expresses the deepest fear of an Igbo person when he echoes olumefula - let my voice be heard, let it not be lost, Ikemefua - let my power not be lost. The procedural justice that involves the ritual of vote casting is not a mere playing-out. It is sacred; it is like the incantations of the chief priest who calls or beckons on the gods to affirm their presence. This spiritual work of the Ifa priest or Eze mmuo is not a child's play. That is why it is given to one whom the gods chose themselves or whom the community entrusts it to. Like the ritual of incantation, the procedural casting of votes is the beckoning of a people to affirm their voice, power and conscience. Elections then - Intra party or inter party - are rituals of affirmation. The people - who are not mere matter - are called to come out and express their voices. Here, it is always believed that majority knows what is good and then what they affirmed should hold.

The duty of the umpire, like that of the Chief priest is also sacred, since what he or she beckons is sacred. The chief priest should not chant his or her own fabrications which offend the gods nor chant obscenities just to please some people. If he does, he knows that he is at the mercy of the gods, who might strike him with madness - thanks to Agwu, the god of insanity. The impartiality of electoral umpires takes its clue from the sacred nature of such duties. Though, it is really awful that our umpires do not have any pretence of the idea of retribution - either here or hereafter.

The second problem with the imposition of Professor Soludo's is that it imports this idea of crass paternalism to Igbo land. Paternalism as I said earlier is premised on the fact that some people do not know what is good for them and need to be forced or be chosen for. Certainly this may be good for kids and children, we sometimes impose ways and schools on our kids but to tell me that the PDP's inner caucus knows what is good for all the PDP members and the state in general is preposterous. Actually, Andy Uba! may turn out to be better than Soludo, who knows (onyemaechi). Managing the central bank may be an additional credit or may provide an additional experience but certainly, it is not a prerequisite nor is it a sufficient condition to being a good state-governor. Our not knowing the future or possessing any crystal balls therefore excludes the crass paternalism of the PDP style.

The PDP's imposition of candidates makes a mess of the Igbo concept of Oha na Eze(the people and the king). The concept of Oha na Eze is an inclusive concept and not a juxtaposition. The Igbo's does not separate the king from the people as if the people take directives from the king. That is why the Oha comes first before the Eze. Oha na Eze and not Eze na Oha. Actually Oha na Eze is just another way of saying Oha bu Eze (the people is king), since igbo's believe that oha bu nwa, (the people are our kids and so they are precious )and in turn says nwa bu eze. (Our kids are king). It is not new saying that Igbo's do not have kings. (Igbo enwe eze). The custodians of tradition and history are still around to testify to this. Oha na eze then is just a way of recognizing a mode of coordination. Eze is an embodiment of coordination and not an issuer of directives. Those who like to play elision game with history and culture must take note before engaging in their hideous game of subjection. The Ekwueme's of PDP and all Igbo Juggernauts should take note.

Our people now behave as if democracy is an importation to Igbo land. It may be an importation to the amorphous Nigerian state but not to the Igbo's. Recently, precisely on 5th October, in a conversation session with Wole Soyinka in the National University of Singapore auditorium, the chief priest of Ogun argued that Democracy was in Yoruba land despite their having a Monarchy. He actually likened it to that of the British, namely constitutional monarchy. What this means is that Nigerians are not foreigners to the whole idea and concept of democracy. Appellations and nomenclatures may differ but certainly if any Igbo man or woman has been to kindred meetings (Ogbako Umunna, Mmanya Orie, Mmii Orie) he or she will know that there is nothing different from what obtains there and today's parliament or senate. Perhaps most Igbo's now base overseas or are Lagos and Porthacourt brought-ups that they forget tradition. Tradition and certainly good tradition gives life. If elders like Ekwueme will be there and be instrumental to such anti-Igbo, anti-democratic decisions, then we have a long way to go. Things have really fallen apart.

If the people of Anambra still have any sense of tradition not to talk of democracy in them, they should unanimously reject Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, not because he is not technically competent, he may be, but the dignity of a people, the common good and above all the liberty of conscience must be respected. When we talk of human rights violations, we think that it is an abstract idea, in Chukwuma Soludo's candidacy, we have a palpable case of human rights violation. Finally as most Anambra people are Catholics, It may be good to quote from the recent encyclical of Pope Benedict named Caritas in veritate. He says:

Development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirements of the common good. Both professional competence and moral consistency are necessary. When technology is allowed to take over, the result is confusion between ends and means, such that the sole criterion for action in business is thought to be the maximization of profit, in politics the consolidation of power, and in science the findings of research. Often, underneath the intricacies of economic, financial and political interconnections, there remain misunderstandings, hardships and injustice. The flow of technological know-how increases, but it is those in possession of it who benefit, while the situation on the ground for the peoples who live in its shadow remains unchanged: for them there is little chance of emancipation.