BY: Emeka J. Okoli
Ex-Merchant Banker and Stockbroker; and currently Financial Consultant and CEO, Additive Technologies Ltd (from Ndiowu, Orumba North LGA).
This is the season of politics in Anambra. Majority of Ndi Anambra see Soludo as the consensus candidate for the election. Even majority of opposition members (APC, PDP, and YPP) also agree. However, there will always be pockets of opposition. I read two articles recently asking Soludo to tell us how Ndi Anambra benefitted from his CBN tenure, and I laughed in Pidgin English. They even raked up Okonjo-Iweala’s emotional response to Soludo’s scathing critique of their government’s economic policies in 2015 but failed to circulate Soludo’s over 6,000-word comprehensive response. The Ijele masquerade is entering the village square with thunderous applause and some others are getting desperate. As a former banker myself and from Anambra, I decided to research this issue and here I make a part response. I know that Soludo would be too modest to do so himself.
When I hear someone ask that kind of question, it is a sad reminder about how low we have sunk in this country— where public officers are shamelessly being asked to be nepotistic and to corner public resources for their village/state. And yet, the same people complain and expect Nigeria or state to develop with that type of mindset or expectation. I hear that some politicians even shamelessly list both real and fake names of people that they claim to have “facilitated” or “helped” to get jobs. They have no regard for the personal dignity of the persons whose names they publish, and we are unwittingly promoting or celebrating a culture of nepotism as leadership. This mindset will encourage a Governor to think of his village only or first, instead of the state.
Where is the selfless leadership bequeathed to us by our founding fathers— Dr. Azikiwe, Dr. M.I. Okpara, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, etc?. These leaders developed the cities of Enugu, Aba, Calabar, PortHarcourt, Onitsha etc and not their villages. They built the University of Nigeria with campuses at Nsukka, Enugu, and Calabar; farm settlements, etc and did not site them in their villages. The same applied to Obafemi Awolowo in the Western Region and Ahmadu Bello in the North. To develop Ana Igbo and Nigeria, we must return to the transformative and selfless leadership of the past based upon merit and need rather than nepotism. I stand with Soludo because of his vision of “One Anambra, one people, one agenda” and his commitment to a comprehensive and simultaneous transformation of all parts of Anambra. A patriotic presenter at Odenigbo FM, Anambra recently countered a questioner who sought to celebrate nepotism by reminding the questioner that Soludo was the example of public service beyond selfishness or “my-village-only mentality” and hence was the best suited to be Governor of Anambra.
President Obasanjo appointed Soludo, first as Chief Economic Adviser/CEO National Planning Commission, and later as Governor of Central Bank (purely on merit). The goal was for Soludo to fix the Nigerian macro economy, and particularly as CBN Governor to ensure price and financial stability. Soludo as a Pan-Africanist – who was in a haste to put Nigeria’s economy and financial system on the world map did his job with first class grade. Soludo saw the entire Nigerian economy as his constituency and promoted excellence and productivity throughout Nigeria. For Anambra, that’s the type of Governor we need: a Governor who will try to develop all parts of Anambra simultaneously as he did at CBN.
He remains the only CBN Governor to ensure single digit inflation for 24 consecutive months. Low inflation benefited every Nigerian, especially the poor. The NEEDS reform programme (authored by Soludo), together with his globally acclaimed banking consolidation (which provided trillions of Naira credit to thousands of businesses) created unprecedented employment and prosperity in Nigeria from 2003- 2009. It is estimated that about 12.8 million jobs were created for Nigerian youths during Soludo’s tenure (2003 -2009). Nigerian millionaires and billionaires who have been borrowing billions of Naira from the banks and creating millions of jobs since 2005 largely owe their success to Soludo’s banking revolution. It is not an accident that 2003- 2009 (period that Soludo was in government) remains Nigeria’s golden economic era since independence— seven years of sustained 7- 8% annual economic growth rates, and everyone was better off.
Since Soludo’s revolution, no Nigerian has lost his deposit in a bank. Yes, Soludo built Nigeria’s foreign reserves from US$10 billion to all time high of US$63 billion and even after paying $12 billion to cancel Nigeria’s foreign debt and hit by the global crisis of 2008, he still left $45 billion behind. Not one penny has been added to it since he left office. Under his leadership, the exchange rate strengthened to N112 to one US$ before the global crisis of 2008/9. He licensed over 1000 Bureau de Change (BDCs) and each received hundreds of thousands of US dollars per week and thousands of traders and travelers had easy access to foreign exchange. He also licensed over 1000 Micro Finance Banks. He and President Obasanjo envisioned the creation of Transcorp Plc. Soludo also envisioned and created the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) — with all the transformative effects on Nigerian and African economies, and touching tens of millions of lives. We can go on….and on….This is a man with the magic wand.
No wonder, Soludo is the only CBN Governor to be decorated with the third highest national honour (CFR). No wonder also, he is the only CBN Governor not only to be a triple winner of the global best governor of central bank but also African best governor. It is instructive that during his birthday last year (11 years after he left office), thousands of tributes were still pouring in from all over the world, Nigeria, and Ana Igbo including from Chief Mike Adenuga (owner of Glo) and Alhaji Aliko Dangote— all celebrating his historic transformation of the Nigerian financial system and economy. Many are not shy to say it boldly that without Soludo’s foresight and revolution, the financial system and economy of Nigeria today would be many times worse than it is. This is the type of leader we need to celebrate.
On Anambra and Ana Igbo, I still believe it is sad that someone (even so called “educated”) would expect a former public officer to demonstrate how nepotistic he was in office, by publishing the list of “how many of ‘his people’ he employed” while in office. Not how many millions of jobs his policies and programmes created in the economy! Do we want Soludo to compile and perhaps publish a book with names of persons he may have assisted to get jobs in over 400 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government, including CBN? Or even names of persons he assisted to get admissions into universities? Or those he assisted in getting contracts? I am sure the Soludo brand will never descend that low.
It must be stressed that jobs in government offices constitute a very tiny part of Nigeria’s labour force. Over 90 percent of the jobs are in the private sector and Soludo’s policies and programmes have created millions of jobs in the private sector. That’s the difference between Soludo and others. We need a Governor who has vast experience in crafting and implementing policies and programmes to create prosperity and jobs. Oil price is down and the covid pandemic is ravaging. We need the Soludo solution to consolidate on Obiano’s achievements and take the state to the next level.
From my own research, I am bold to assert without any fear of contradiction that I don’t know anyone else who has enunciated and implemented policies and programmes at the federal level that have impacted the economic lives, jobs and prosperity of Nigerians and Igbos more than Soludo. Above, I listed just a few broad impacts, but let me give a few hints on the specific effects on Ndi Anambra…..
** Of the 12.8 million jobs created in the private sector of the economy during Soludo’s tenure, can you estimate how many were garnered by the highly competitive Ndi Anambra? Soludo will enable an Anambra economy that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the youths— not only employment in government. He has done it for Nigeria, and Africa: he will do it for Anambra.
** Check out the multi-billion Naira businesses— farms, manufacturers, hotels, distribution companies, etc that have sprung up in Anambra since 2005, and which are financed by the bigger banks created by Soludo. How many jobs have they created? That’s the Soludo effect.
**· How many Ndi Anambra are employed in the airlines, private airports such as MM2, telecommunication companies, trading companies, manufacturing companies, entertainment industry, etc being financed by the mega banks created by Soludo?
**· How many hundreds of Ndi Anambra were employed or promoted at the CBN, Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company, etc under Soludo through a competitive process?
**· How many of the 66,000 jobs in the mega commercial banks created by Soludo are from Anambra? Without Soludo’s policy, thousands of those jobs were not possible. Indeed, many banks were closing on monthly basis before Soludo. Go to these commercial banks and see the young Nigerian professionals, including from Anambra making their waves since Soludo’s revolution in 2004/2005.
** It is on account of Soludo’s banking consolidation that several Nigerian banks have migrated from being mere subsidiaries of foreign banks, to become the parent and managing companies of other national banks in over 40 African countries and beyond. Nigerian banks, owing to their enlarged strengths since the Soludo Effect, now export banking expertise and manpower abroad where they go to turn around and manage other banks. Soludo changed the tide of expertise and job flows in favour of Nigeria, and many Ndi Anambra are beneficiaries. However, only the very discerning could see these.
**· By the way, do you know how many hundreds/thousands of businesses of Ndi Anambra whose deposits in banks were saved by Soludo’s banking revolution, and how many thousands of jobs he saved? Also, since Soludo’s revolution, no Nigerian or Anambra person has lost his money in a bank. Soludo promised that no Nigerian will lose money in the banks again, and since 2004, it is a promise kept.
**· Soludo initiated and started building CBN’s centres of excellence at University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (for South East and South South—former Eastern Region); Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (for the North); and University of Ibadan (for Western Region) each costing over N7 billion. An example of Soludo’s fairness in distribution of infrastructure and excellence.
**· Soludo built new CBN Branch offices at Awka, Asaba, Umuahia, Abakaliki; completed Enugu branch; refurbished Owerri; among many others around the country. How many jobs were created in these branches? How have these affected the economies of Anambra and those states? Former Abia State Governor described the Umuahia branch as the biggest federal government investment in the state.
**· How many hundreds/thousands of Ndi Anambra benefitted from the CBN’s N500 million entrepreneurship training programmes at Onitsha taught by the UNN Centre for Entrepreneurship Studies (2007- 2009)? Other centres were cited at Lagos and Kano.
**· How many jobs were created by contractors from Anambra who executed CBN’s projects?
**· How many jobs were created by construction companies that executed several federal road projects in Anambra which Soludo either facilitated the inclusion in federal budget or facilitated the release of their funds, including the Ekwulobia- Umunze- Ibinta road, and Ekwulobia- Nnobi road?
**· How many thousands of jobs were created by the over 141 micro finance banks licensed in Anambra by Soludo? After Lagos and Abuja, Anambra had the third highest demand for MFBs and Soludo licensed them. Assume that each bank had just average of 40 staff: that would be about 6,000 direct jobs (not to talk about the businesses they finance and their suppliers). Note that some MFBs employ over 100 staff—
**· How many jobs were created by the hundreds of BDCs licensed by Soludo? If each employed at least 5-10 staff, estimate the number of jobs. After Lagos, Abuja, and Rivers, Anambra had the 4th highest demand for BDC services and Soludo licensed them. So rather than travel to Lagos or Abuja to access BDC services, Soludo effectively “democratized” access to forex such that traders and travelers everywhere had very easy access to it at very cheap price. Can you estimate the impact on hundreds of thousands of traders and their businesses?
**· What about the technological revolution in banking services following Soludo’s banking revolution, including the explosion in ATM services and electronic banking (transition to cashless economy), and how these saved traders the hassle/risk of carrying cash from Onitsha, Aba, etc to Lagos, etc?
I can go on and on—–
I am also compiling Soludo’s silent but humongous philanthropic activities especially in his community, Isuofia where he has been training people in various schools since age 26; facilitated and tarred over 4 kilometres of road; interest-free micro-credit funds for women associations in all church parishes in his town; adopted a primary school a decade ago where over 900 pupils have everything provided for them including uniforms, sandals, books, writing materials, teachers, computers, etc; scholarships for university students in Nigeria and abroad; JAMB admissions and jobs for youths; building a world class teaching hospital; pays school fees, SSC and JAMB fees for hundreds of secondary school students; resolved a 20 year crisis in his home town and restored lasting peace, etc. For many years before he joined Government he was the highest donor and chairman of his village Educational Trust Fund. Do I mention that he pays salaries of about 30 PTA teachers or that he sponsors primary school football competitions, etc, etc? Soludo recognizes that equal opportunity to qualitative education is the best way to empower poor children and youths to secure their future.
As a Christian, he has facilitated the building and dedication of many churches, and has recently received an award for excellent service by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria for his services in its finance council. Soludo insists that his works of charity are in thanksgiving for God’s blessings and does not want them publicized. But in this season, we will disclose some— even if against his wish. The list is too long. Part Two will follow