an Absalom rebellion in Abia

Chido Nwakanma breaks down the bold visions and great expectations in the Soludo Solution expoused in the new Anambra Governor’s inaugural speech.

Do you know that the average Keke rider in Onitsha, Anambra State contributes N90, 000 to taxes annually? Or that the pepper seller in the market similarly contributes N50, 000 per annum from the N200 she pays daily? Or that the taxes they pay ends up in private pockets rather than in government coffers, whether local or state?
Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo outlined on 17 March 2022 his bold vision for Anambra State, incorporating an “agenda for an itinerant tribe in search of a liveable and prosperous homeland”.
Taxation will form a significant part of the vision to transform and develop the state as will technology. Soludo aims to “transit beyond petroleum into the digital world of the 4th Industrial Revolution and envision Anambra as an industrial, technology, and leisure/entertainment hub of West Africa”.

The soludo solution
The inauguration

Taxation Tripod

The Governor spoke on taxation in three areas.

First is the promise to ensure that citizens derive value for their taxes. Soludo disclosed that he paid above N10million tax in 2021. He promised a value-for-your-taxes dispensation. There will be a litmus test for expenditure based on two questions: “a) if this is my hard-earned money from work and profit, can I spend it this way? b) Is this the best way to spend the taxes and levies collected from the poor traders and okada riders? If I cannot answer Yes to both questions, I will hesitate to do so”.

Second, Governor Soludo expects every Anambra Citizen to pay their taxes. He wants them to count on his pledge of accountability, transparency, impactful and careful management.

Third, he envisions an Anambra Diaspora Tax whereby Anambrarians living outside the state contribute to taxation. However, seeing as citizens pay taxes where they live, how would the Anambra Diaspora Tax work? What would be the parameters? Would be it flat or graduated? Would it not amount to double or triple taxation for such citizens?

Bold ideas and visions

The inaugural speech resounded with ideas and bold visions befitting a professor of economics and first-class brain. It was an example of the Big, Hairy and Audacious Goal syndrome articulated by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. “A big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is a clear and compelling long-term goal guided by a company’s values and purpose”.

Characteristics of BHAG include paradigm shift, working outside comfort zones and an ambitious yet accessible to explain goal.

Hear Soludo: “To effectively implement our ambitious agenda, we need 25- 30% of state gross domestic product (GDP) annual investment levels, which is about $2.58 – $3.09 billion. Public sector investment is less than $100 million per annum at current levels. The gap seems daunting, but we are undaunted. The internally generated revenue is barely 0.5% of state GDP.”

The Contract with Anambra People, Soludo added, “derives from three seminal documents: (a) “Anambra Vision 2070—a 50-Year Development Plan”, which I chaired the drafting; (b) “The Soludo Solution: A People’s Manifesto for a Greater Anambra”; and (c) “The Transition Committee (Combined) Report”—which built upon the first two”.

The soludo solution
Presenting Anambra Vision 2070 document

Philosopical drivers

The philosophical drivers are One Anambra, One People, One Agenda. The goal is to “build Anambra into a liveable and prosperous smart megacity”.

The Anambra State Soludo Solution has five pillars.

  1. Law and order (homeland peace and security);
  2. Economic transformation as Nigeria’s next axis of industrial-tech and leisure;
  3. Competitive and progressive social agenda (education, health, youth, women and vulnerable groups);
  4. Governance, the rule of law and a rebirth of our value system; and
  5. Aggressively tackling our existential threat posed by the environment—towards clean, green, planned and sustainable cities, communities, and markets.

It also includes a vision of a new framework for service delivery and development in Public-Community Private Partnership (PCPP). Tasks under PCPP include adopting schools, building roads/infrastructure, managing government assets, receiving and managing development matching grants, participating in sanitation and securing law and order.

Other elements of the Soludo Solution include:

Made in Anambra and concentric circle patronage

“The Anambra State Government will only patronise Made in Anambra products and services unless such goods or services are not currently made in Anambra, then made in Nigeria, Africa, in that sequence. We are making a statement when you see me in Innoson vehicles or my Akwete dress with a pair of shoes made in Ogbunike/Nkwelle Ezunaka and Onitsha.”

Mr Governor and his deputy chose an IVM all-terrain vehicle (jeep) as official vehicles and served local delicacies at the function.

Everything Technology

Technology will be a driver of production in Anambra, connecting it to the world and the world to Anambra. The state will plug into and take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA). Expect a high level of digitisation in services.

“We will soon inaugurate the Anambra Innovation and Technology Advisory Council to drive the emergence of the digital tribe and mainstream technology and innovation across all aspects of our lives, our International Investment Council, our Global Friends of Anambra in Development, as well as the Council on the Ease of Doing Business.”

Anambra Standards

It will serve as a new benchmark with a focus on excellence. Goods and services produced in Anambra State must meet the relevant criterion. Opportunity lies in having a committee to work with various professional and occupational groups to dimension the Anambra Standards for various goods and services.

Swords in ploughshares

Soludo called on the combatants who have turned Anambra State and the East into a crime scene to put down their arms. He reprises Isaiah 2:3-4. “We can’t build this homeland by turning the sword against each other. Ndi Anambra love their land, but the recent upsurge in criminality poses a great threat. My heart bleeds to see and hear about our youth dying in senseless circumstances. Every criminal gang—kidnappers, wicked murderers, arsonists, rapists, thieves- now claim to be freedom fighters. Criminality cannot be sugar-coated. This must stop. All the stakeholders must now review the narrative and the action plan.”

Maximising the Benefits

“With Ohanaeze’s estimate that some 11.6 million Igbos living in the North and over 7 million in Lagos state and over 70% of our non-land assets scattered all over Nigeria and the world, we need Nigeria and Nigeria needs us. We need Africa and the world, and they need us”.

Will Soludo deliver? Can he deliver? Critics say the speech is an excellent example of the theoretical prescriptions of an economist.

Human Capital experts state that past performance is a predictor of potential. The nation can reference Soludo’s past performance in creating today’s big banks from a market of 89 banks of varying size and capacity. He made it work despite strong opposition. It worked even as the capital base prescribed for the banks then seemed outlandish.

An actual area of concern for Soludo watchers is the predisposition to hubris. He needs the collective wisdom and participation of Ndi Anambra. Mr Governor must continually connect with ALL stakeholders and never dismiss any. His initial moves of banning the revenue touts are welcome, but it creates enemies in the immediate. What is the plan to avoid a vacuum?

The Soludo team also must manage expectations. It will be an interesting case study.

Vision is one of the critical elements in successful development praxis. The other is the capacity to execute. Indeed, the ability to execute distinguishes achievers from laggards in Nigeria’s public sector management. Governor Soludo must get the civil service on his side as the ones who know the cemeteries and how to make the dead walk. In the first instance and another chapter of four, Anambra State will live in exciting times.

The Soludo solution: vision and expectations