BY EMEKA EJERE
It is getting increasingly likely that the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chukwuma Soludo will emerge as the winner of the yet-to-be concluded Anambra State governorship election which commenced on Saturday.
Soludo, who had earlier amassed more votes in each of the earlier announced six local government areas, has also led his opponents in two additional local government areas – Agwuata and Orumba North.
He won Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Aguata LGA, the three top contenders’ native council. But the three gladiators had won in their respective polling units.
In a very likely event of the direction of victory remaining till the announcement of the final result, Soludo will begin to receive congratulatory messages for realizing an age-long dream of occupying the number one political office of Anambra State.
In a clime where corruption scandal is a common tag for public office holders, maintaining a spotless public image years after a five-year term of overseeing Nigeria’s number one treasury house is not a common feat. That is the story of the last but one governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Since leaving the CBN top job, the 60-year old professor of Economics has remained a star, meaning different things to different people who view him from the angles of excellence, integrity, performance or the rest of his core values.
As CBN governor, he demystified the banking sector, performing what most Nigerians thought was impossible, including the banking sector reform, a revolutionary recapitalization exercise that pruned operators with less than N25 billion capital base off the nation’s banking landscape. The motive was to put an end to hitherto recurring bank liquidations that saw customers losing hard-earned deposits.
There is no gainsaying that the multiplier effect of that historic step was phenomenal as thousands of people secured jobs in the bigger banks that eventually emerged; many more jobs were created in companies financed by these bigger banks just as thousands of small, medium and large enterprises saw opportunities to access credit facilities from the banks. Also, hundreds of people that now have bureau de change and microfinance bank licenses, among others, owe their gratitude to the ingenuity of this radical economic thinker.
Soludo served the federal government as chief economic adviser to former President Olusegum Obasanjo and chief executive officer of National Planning Commission during which he authored the economic agenda of the government called NEEDS.
Many years down the line, the nation has not stopped tapping from his wealth of experience. Soludo currently serves as a member of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) appointed by President Mohammadu Buhari, to replace the Economic Management Team of the federal government.
EAC’s mandate is to advise the president on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues working with the relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies.
An eminent patriot, Soludo has continued to contribute to nation building, taking positions on issues of serious national importance and proffering solutions to economic problems. For instance, in 2017, he insisted that Nigeria must take steps to eliminate the regime of multiple exchange rates, advising that the difference between the then official and parallel market exchange rates of the naira must be reduced to three to five per cent.
On the ravaging Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the erudite professor argued that it was wrong to adopt the ‘cut and paste’ approach to mitigating the pandemic in Nigeria and Africa. He advised African leaders to re-assess the total lockdown, insisting that the continent could not sustain a total economic shutdown. Arguing that the structures to support the lockdown in most African countries do not exist, he maintained that African leaders cannot continue to shut in citizens without food.
With a distinction in the West African School Certificate (WASC) from the Uga Boys Secondary School in Anambra State, a first class honours in Economics, MSc, PhD in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and promoted professor at the age of 38, having met the requirements to be professor at 32, Soludo has proved to be a gifted solution provider to social and economic problems of the world in general and Nigeria in particular.
A world class technocrat and scholar, Soludo had lived in Ethiopia, United Kingdom, USA and travelled to 45 other countries around the world as consultant to countries and about 20 international development and financial institutions even before the federal government called him to serve Nigeria. His advice saved many countries and created millions of jobs. His is a story of a man who has earned his place as a global citizen and still remains a humble village boy as he prefers to call himself.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the world has honoured him with scores of awards among which was the best governor of the central bank in Africa and in the world at the time. Even many years after leaving office, Soludo is still recognized as one of the 100 most influential Africans. In Nigeria, he has received over 100 awards and honours, including the third highest national honour, Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR).
Former President Obasanjo once described him as “one of the leading lights of our nation whose leadership qualities are admirable and his willingness to listen and learn is simply infectious”.