By Christian ABURIME
Contrary to the misleading news making the rounds on various media platforms about the existence of personal rift between Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo and Mr. Peter Obi, the duo met at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka, exchanged pleasantries and embraced each other, signifying that no love was lost among them in the first place. The event was the 70th Birthday Thanksgiving celebration of the Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor.
Political pundits had always said that what transpired between the two Anambra great sons was a situation of divergent political views, which is usual in the science of politics.
Governor Soludo described what people tag rift between himself and Obi as mischievous and insisted that the former Anambra governor remains his brother, irrespective of their political differences.
When Governor Soludo came into the church, he had quickly gone to where Obi was sitting and hugged him, while people watched with surprise.
Though many didn’t expect to see the two men in such posture anytime soon, their surprise meeting came on the heels of controversies that trailed Governor Soludo’s response to some issues, particularly Obi’s presidential ambition.
Speaking further, Governor Soludo stated that he would soon be meeting with Obi to iron out their differences, adding that their disagreement was essentially political.
The Governor also used the opportunity availed by the Thanksgiving celebration to dismissed the rumour of $28m bribery allegations he allegedly collected to run down the LP presidential candidate.
Said Soludo; “Today is very special. When we came into the service, it was the first time, my brother, Peter Obi and I are meeting at a public event and in a Catholic Church which the two of us belong to. I think it was divine.
“Let me tell you, we spoke two times, just last night. We are brothers. You know I am not one of those politicians that speak from two sides of the mouth. I can’t pretend. I am a politician, but also want to make heaven. I will keep saying the truth.
“There is no rift between Obi and me at a personal level. Nobody snatched each other’s wife. What appears to be the rift between us is fundamentally political differences. Nothing else.
“So for those forging blackmail and all that, including the one they said I collected a bribe to say what I said, I asked them to bring it so I will use it to construct roads. If Soludo is into bribery, I would have been a multi-trillionaire now.
“On the fundamental differences we have, we are going to meet in the next few weeks. We’ve agreed to discuss and iron out our differences. We must get it done. Anambra is for all of us.”
While thanking God for the life of the Bishop, Governor Soludo pointed out that the cleric has been of great influence on him and his government.
“You changed my thinking when you visited my village house in 2019 and rejected the foreign wine offered to you in the place of palm wine. Today at the Governor’s lodge, the highest wine served there is palm wine.
“I was also humbled by the moderate type of car you drove to my house. You told me you chose not to go with a vehicle far above the average of those you are pastoring. I think this is exemplary.
“When you see me drive Innoson cars, that’s part of the inspiration I got from you. If not for security, I would have been riding bicycles to work.
“We are taking the prudence you taught us to the next level because when we came in, it cost us over N137m to clean offices. Now, it costs barely N11m. I can only promise to take the message to the world.”
In his goodwill wishes of the cleric’s 70th birthday thanksgiving, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia, Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpalaeke said that Bishop Ezeokafor’s footprints of committed, painstaking priestly and episcopal ministry are written all over the Catholic faith.
The Cardinal admired the Bishop’s resilience and assured him of his prayers, wishing him many more years of fruitful and fulfilling ministry.
Most Rev. Ezeokafor, who hails from Nanka and an ambassador of the Catholic Diocese of Awka disclosed that apart from his birthday, he is also celebrating his 15th Anniversary of Episcopy and described it as 15 years of excellence, dedicating a record breaking number of churches, reconstruction of retreat and pastoral centre, Okpuno and the building of Peter University, Achina.
The Governor was accompanied by Dr. Onyekachukwu Ibezim, Deputy Governor Anambra State, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Ernest Ezeajughi and Protocol Officer, Hon Chinedu Nwoye
Also at the occasion were the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Uche Okafor, Deputy Speaker, Dr. Paschal Agbodike, Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, Senator Uche Ekwunife, APGA Senatorial Candidate for Anambra Central, Hon. Dozie Nwankwo, Sen. Victor Umeh (Labour Party Senatorial Candidate for Anambra Central, Senator Victor Umeh, Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, among others.