Breaking News
Translate

Why I will never negotiate with Anambra treasury, by Soludo

*Insists evil will continue to triumph except..
*Reveals: I expected the worst from detractors
*Explains: ‘Why other opponents have targeted me’

Former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate in the 2010 Anambra governorship polls, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, in this interview speaks on his emergence as the party’s flagbearer and intention to create an African Dubai-Taiwan out of the state, among other issues. Excerpts:

By Jide Ajani

SOME people out there resent your entry into the governorship race.  Their grouse is that it was bad enough that you were dragged into the race by some forces other than the leadership of the PDP in Anambra State; but the feeling of angst rests on the fact that you, at your level, allowed yourself to be dragged into the race?
Well, that’s a bit funny; that funny in a country where you have gross insufficiency of human capital and I want to draw your attention to what I said to the people in the United States of America, USA, when I was a professor in 1999 and I think when they were bidding me farewell somebody suggested that it would have been nice for me to stay longer.  My response was that I needed to go back to my country.

The reason or one of the reasons I gave was that if God in his infinite mercies decided to create me as an African and more so as a Nigerian, then my purpose in life was to leave the place better than I found it. For me, the issue as to drag or non drag, obviously, without question I can count on my finger tips, the ‘Who is who’ in Anambra who did not directly come to ask me to run for this office and so there was the pressure.

But more than the pressure was for me a conviction, the conviction that if not us, who?  If not now, when?  I saw my state going.  What would the position of governor of Anambra add to myself, little or nothing?  Rather it would subtract. In the next few months I would be 50, having been abundantly blessed by God – the poor boy made good and having come this far in life, I think that the only way I can say thank you to God is to serve. I just want to say this for a fact, that yes, you’ve, by the Grace of God, accumulated and made some name for yourself nationally and internationally, may be the most convenient thing to do now would have been to go on and accept any of the three offers I had from overseas and be comfortable, have happy, easy life.

But looking at my state of origin, going down the drain, the elites happen to be on the run, the people are moving in hundreds of thousands out of Anambra, the hotel occupancy has dropped so significantly, wealth creation is not up, poverty is increasing and unemployment on the rise, no new jobs being created, the place with all the potentials to be Africa’s Dubai_Taiwan, is really degenerating into one desolate large dungeon as it were and my heart bleeds and I ask myself ‘if we don’t fix it, if my generation can not fix it, will it be our children or grand children who will?’
For me, that was one major reasons why I decided to throw my hat into the ring as an overriding consideration that I can say, as you put it, dragged me into it, the burden of conscience to give back because what is there else to life for me.

Those offers you mentioned, what exactly were they?
I would not like to mention it but it suffices to say I had offers.

This issue of service to the people, we’ve heard it over and over before with people always saying I want to serve; so what would you point at that needs fixing?
Anambra in my view is underperforming relative to its potentials.  My reading is that it is not performing up to 10 per cent of its potentials and as I outlined in my vision of Anambra as an African Dubai-Taiwan, this is a state that has all the potentials to be on the global map but it is a desolate village, that’s what Anambra is.

It’s a tragedy and this dates back to a long history.  It’s a case of a people so richly endowed in human and natural resources and yet we can’t get our acts together.  The fundamental issue of lack of governance dates back a long time and inability to provide the kind of leadership that is developmental and that is why today in Anambra, kidnapping has become a culture, joblessness is second nature, okada-riding is the fastest growing business in Anambra, I could continue.  Jobs are being lost and citizens are moving across the Niger to Asaba and the push-factor is so much that people are not investing in the state and in a society where no investment is taking place is a dying society and I look at this and I think about the future of my children and I see no hope, I see no future and for me, therefore, even the educational system is still in shambles and the same goes for the health sector, these things are not just there.

Soludo
Soludo

You know you could drive round and round and round in this state from morning and in the evening you could count how many kilometers you’ve covered and some body would exclaim, what a lot of work but what have you got and where have you gone, nowhere but you’ve been driving.  So, you could exact so much effort, burn so much fuel, see the evidence that you’ve worked so hard, but all those put together leads nowhere and that is where the concept of vision comes in. It sets out the strategic direction so that you can measure progress, how far you are from the destination – that’s what we’ve had in Anambra.  Roads, yes; some buildings, yes; but what are they supposed to add up to improve the welfare of the people?

If all these things do not add up to creating jobs, they don’t add up to reducing poverty, they don’t add up to good health care, they don’t add up to having an improved society, they don’t attract people to your society, then it’s a colossal failure and so what I see in Anambra, for me, my heart bleeds. And to the extent that people can’t even sleep in their homes, the elite is on the run and that is the clearest sign of not just a failed state but one that is decaying.  Because you can have a failed state and people are still there, people still find it manageable to stay, where people are running away, that is where Anambra State is now.

This your Dubai-Taiwan pet project sounds bogus but more important is the fact that we’ve heard this sloganeering before.  People came with high-sounding ideas which led nowhere?
No, I disagree.  Nobody has defined such a vision before.  This is the first time that we are defining the vision we have, different from what people do.

What does it mean? Define that vision?
My own vision of an African Dubai-Taiwan is rooted on a number of things.
First is the endowment of Anambra State, its comparative advantage, its locational advantage and its natural/human advantage.  It has some of the most fertile land in Nigeria and a vast area of land.  We have also got more deposit of gas, even more so than oil;  the largest concentration of the most enterprising people in Africa is in Anambra.  It has a boundary with the north, it has a boundary with the West and the South South states, it has three South East States as border.  Anambra State has all.  It has Onitsha, with potentially navigable inland water ways – River Niger and Anambra River.  And it is heavily populated and with a grand vision you can turn Anambra State into anything you want.  You can turn it into a desolate village that it is turning into now, or you can turn it into the African Dubai-Taiwan and I see infinite possibilities of what Anambra State can become.

International organisations

What I say to the people is that they shouldn’t take it as promises, that they should go and check my records, whether in international service or academic service, or when I was consulting for 18 international organizations before joining government, or when I was in government as chief economic adviser to the president and the person who designed the NEEDS agenda which was the basis for Nigeria’s debt relief and other reform and development milestones or the banking sector consolidation, which the Financial Times described as unprecedented in the world and that earned me the accolade as the Central banker number one in the world by the Financial Times in 2006; or being a member of the United Nation’s team to rescue the world’s financial system. The records are clear and they are there.

Anambra PDP candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo (middle) flanked by his running mate, Senator Emmanuel Anosike (left) and Hon. Chuma Nzeribe (right) at a press conference in Abuja recently. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.
Anambra PDP candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo (middle) flanked by his running mate, Senator Emmanuel Anosike (left) and Hon. Chuma Nzeribe (right) at a press conference in Abuja recently. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

So when I define my objectives and set my goals, I am used to people saying this is impossible.  When I took over the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, a bankrupt company, one which was borrowing to pay salaries, heavily in debt, couldn’t produce up to N1 billion notes in up to 10 years, a comatose bankrupt company, people said I couldn’t turn it around.  I took it over and I wanted to prove a point that we can, as black people, be as good if not better than others, I was told it was impossible.

In fact, the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, warned me that I was risking everything I had because he knew the complexities of the company because the challenges were just monstrous and that was why they were looking for a foreign technical partner to come and take it over and we took it over and by end of last year this same company had produced up to N3 billion notes, gone from a bankrupt company to one that became stable.

A digression please!  This issue of mint and the award of contract?
No, what I’m referring to was the policy we tried to use to turn it around, that was what the Vice President referred to.

Okay what about the hullaballoo of contract with an Australian firm?
That wasn’t anything, there was nothing.  A newspaper did an editorial berating some people that you just do not take a rumour with no basis whatsoever.  When you talk about the failure of Anambra State, I wonder.  This failure did not just happen on the people it was gradual.  You had four years of Chinwoke Mbadinuju of PDP.  You had almost three years of Chris Ngige, also of PDP.

Wouldn’t you agree that the situation on ground in Anambra State today is a PDP-created situation?
I will tell you that the failure of administration, you can blame it on the party but in the final analysis, you blame the leader, whoever happens to be governor – it’s a governance issue.  You provide leadership to the followers. Let me give you classic examples.  It is the same parliament that Chris Uba put in place and which tried to remove him by force in the first instance, with the purported resignation letter. It is the same legislature that later worked harmoniously with Ngige and jettisoned the person who put all of them there. The same parliament was inherited by the incumbent governor and the same parliament impeached him.

So, it’s not so much anything about the party.  Within the same party, the same parliamentarians behaved in three different ways.  It’s an issue of leadership, not just the party.  You could have party this and that, the  politics of it but if you’re governor you are governor because after you’re sworn in, you belong to the party but you have to begin to be governor of the state, the people so it’s not just party, it’s a failure of leadership as governor. And I must also tell you that if you flip what I’m saying, the current governor, whatever he has done, he has also done with PDP-controlled legislature so whatever he has done is to be split in half; it is to be shared.  If you make it a party issue, whatever he has done should be split into two between PDP and APGA because whatever he has done, he couldn’t have done alone because the legislature plays a role in governance.

If PDP did not want him to work, they could have stopped it because the parliament approved and made appropriations so whatever he can claim to have done should be split in two. If you make it a party issue, there is as much blame and accolade for PDP because PDP has always dominated the legislature, today, there is no single APGA member in the house of assembly, it’s PDP.

Still, on this failure, while you were in the presidency and while you were at the CBN, would you want to point to any interventionist engagement of yours with a view to steming this fall into a state of decay that we witness now?
I can not begin to say that here.  I have just completed a very sensitive national engagement and I wouldn’t stand in the media and begin to tell you that I used my office to benefit my people in this instance or that instance. However, there is one thing I can say and which is that I have letters written to me by the current governor, either thanking me for what I have done or how I have assisted him in getting things done; or letters requesting my assistance with regards to specific issues but I do not need to put in the media contents of those and what actually happened.

There’s this old recurring issue, you may call it one, borne out of myopia but there are those who expected you to have positioned some Anambrarians, as they call them, in some positions; or better still jobs?
Well, I like the way you put it, an old recurring issue. Those who are saying it know within themselves that that is a silly thing to say.  It’s a silly thing to say, whether during my tenure as the Chief Economic Adviser, and the initiator of NEEDS, or as the person who developed the framework for their own SEEDS, all is about job creation. As governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, the transformation I had in the banking sector, as well as the revolution in the banking sector through consolidation, employment in that sector almost doubled under my watch.  We do not need to begin to say how many of them were from Anambra.  As governor of CBN it is for the country and not governor of CBN for Anambra State.

*Soludo
*Soludo

Even at that, the job of the CBN governor is to keep the macro economy stable so that the private sector would triumph.  I can also tell you that as a consequence of what we did in the banking sector, the quantum of credit going up from N1.19 trillion, the size of the banking loan in the entire 89 banks then, rose to over N7 trillion as at the time I left office and I could claim with every sense of modesty that much of the new jobs created in the economy then was as a consequence of the credit that was fuelling the economy.

Technical education
How many Anambra people were there, you can go and check? Even as governor of the CBN, I was so worried about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, and I can tell you, we set up the Entrepreneurship development centres where those who have gone to school but wanted some technical education on how to run businesses could go there.  I tell you what: we have one in Kano, one in Lagos and one in Onitsha where Anambra people are being trained to become self-employed.  Maybe when we do the numbers – even though that was not the idea – I can tell you that we would probably have created more jobs, through that one alone, than the state government would have done in four years.  This state has been losing jobs because the environment is very hostile.

You said you will not negotiate.  Courageous as it sounds, politics is about negotiation and consensus building in a particular context.  Now, you’ve sent the signal, what was that meant to herald?
I said it and I mean it.  I’m not going to negotiate with the treasury of the state.  If that is what it means to negotiate or to build consensus or to carry people along or be seen to be amenable to people, I won’t build consensus around the state treasury.  If it is for us to come and discuss how to share the money that is off limits!  Coming to negotiate with me is not a problem but the state treasury is off limits.

And because the treasury must have to be used, it’s too little too miniscule to do the job then some people want to come and share out of it, no.  If people say because I have spent so so billion to do this, then you must do this in return monthly or however from the state treasury, how?  It’s not part of the negotiation and I won’t do that because it doesn’t make sense.  Why?  Why?  What for?

But these people you know, have money, and their capacity to foul things up and fight have been proved to be legendary, even beyond what common sense would envisage?
Talking about fighting people because of the money they have and their contacts.  How many people have you seen fighting this governor?  I don’t know how many people who are fighting this government.  You see, it’s a very wrong perception.  This government has had it good and people have let him be and he has just been doing his thing and he hasn’t come out to say that he has not been able to do this or that because people are fighting him.  He says he has done very well and that is his best and he has done so quietly so it is not true that Anambra State people are perennial fighters.

But you’ve had a taste of these people?
Yes, that is part of the politics of it.  People will try but the ultimate to it is the triumph of good over evil and in other words, deliver good quality governance to the people and you will never ever be able to totally and completely wipe off opposition which is inherent in politics even within the same party.

The President of America today knows even within his own party the groups that do not support him or share his vision over certain issues because there is no time everybody will go to sleep and clap for you.  How far has he gone with his healthcare reforms despite the majority which the Democrats have in the Congress?    That is the nature of politics.  Special interest groups will fight for what they consider to be their rights – it does not mean they are right.  Your challenge is to keep delivering inspite of them, the challenge is to deliver and I will deliver.

Your candidacy itself was enough to generate ill-will and it did generate ill-will in some quarters and you’ve been moving round to resolve the issue.  How far have you gone with the reconciliation?
Majority of the people who were initially not on board are on board now.

Are you saying this with confidence or you’re speaking politically?
I’m confident.  Majority of the people are on board and I can tell you that about 90% of PDP is on board. You see, when you mention names, this name that name but for each name you mention I will mention 10 that have signed on, that are also with sufficient clout.

Part of the delays we’ve been having is because everyday you’re having a deluge of people coming in and wanting to sign up for us and this matter need clear thinking and positioning.  People want to be accommodated and you have to accommodate them.  For instance, you’re setting up campaign team and people who are coming in always want to be part of it and so you have to keep tinkering with what you already have, you finish that list today new people again come in.

People are also coming from the other political parties too because they have seen the air of freshness that we’re bringing in. This is part of the complications that we’ve had to contend with and which we’re contending with.  In other parties it is simple, what the other parties have is what they have but in the case of PDP, people are rushing in; it’s a deluge.  We’ve made significant progress and we’re continuing.

You’re supposed to be lucky to have a national base of goodwill but then, some key players see you as relying on and believing that outsiders would swing it for you?
I think the people who are saying that know that they are being insincere about it. I have been endorsed by what you might call the most credible segment of the leadership of the state, starting from Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who literarily is the founder of the PDP, he’s with us, he’s an Anambra man.

You go down the line, look at the members of the campaign team itself.  Is it Chief S N Okeke, former Chairman of the Police Service Commission? Is it Ibeto?  You do not need to begin to look for the who is who in Anambra behind our campaign, it is there, the credible segment and which is what the people have been yearning for.  The rank and file are also a strategic part of what we do as you’ve been seeing them since you came.

More fundamentally is that what makes PDP different from the other mushroom parties is that it’s both a national and international party.  And when you have a political party with a national outreach and you also have a personality like myself, with a national and international outreach, then, obviously I’m going to enjoy endorsements from people from within and outside the state.

When Obama was running for the presidency of the United States, , have you forgotten that he was getting endorsements from all over the world including Nigeria.  Even more fundamentally, for the people of Anambra State is that this interest being shown by other Nigerians in Anambra because of our own participation in the process now shows that we have the needed contact, goodwill and the reach to be able to mobilize even external resources for the development of the state.  It means we’ll have the support of other Nigerians to get this job done because you can not do it alone.  We need other Nigerians and we need the support of the international community.  The more support we have, and the governor who enjoys the support of the national and international community and local community is the one that would deliver the dividend to the people.  I think there is no other candidate in this election who has half of my reach and contact to be able to get things done and transform the lives of the people of Anambra other than myself, and I say that with all modesty.

Talking about transformation, how have you been so transformed since you joined active politics? And did you envisage that things would get this bad, using the kidnap of Pa Soludo as an example?
I expected worse but we thank God.  The SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, we expected worse because from the onset, I did not see any benefits on a personal level, nothing.  I’m still to see what governorship of Anambra State would add to me personally.  Is it to be governor, with the title, or what, I do not know?

The primary thing is service and for me eventually it becomes an emotional thing that you’re able to touch lives and that you’re even able to volunteer yourself to touch lives.  There is no greater reason to live than that and that is why I’ve said I’ve got to say ‘thank you God for blessing me so much’.

Political process

But what I would advise people like me to do to save this country, especially in the light of my experience, my experiences so far actually strengthened the reason why I got involved that evil can only persist when majority of the people decide not to do something. There is only one way that this society can get better and that is for those who have the capacity, for decent credible people who had the capacity to move on, to join and enter because there is no other way to make the society better other than the political process.  No matter the amount of money you have as an individual, there is a limit to what you can do in terms of charity.

For instance if you’re a priest and you’re preaching and there is bad governance, joblessness, hunger and anger in the land, your job is more difficult.  Because poor hungry unemployed people who are angry are the ones you’re preaching to and you’re telling them to be of good behaviour, then your job is more difficult and the society is more at risk.  How can a hungry, angry, jobless person be of good behaviour?  For how long?  Public service is the best form of philanthropy.  If you want the society to move forward, join the process.

But why do you think the attention is on you?
Why would the attention be on any other person.  Even the attention generated was as much as within the party as well as from other parties too -  it was all about my candidacy.  Why would you focus on any other person?  Every other candidate believes that if he can pull Soludo down then he has won and, therefore, it explains why my emergence as PDP candidate generated as much controversy.

As for the other parties, did they do a convention?  Who cared what they did?  None of them had primaries like the type of primaries we had in PDP. Is it Action Congress, AC, where they just handpicked somebody? Is it All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA?  In fact, somebody in APGA expressed interest in the governorship ticket, he said let’s go for a free and fair primaries. He was hounded out of the party.

So, PDP’s own happened until we hit a logjam and the national exco had to wade in, in accordance with the constitution of the party. Let me tell you, if someone else who is not perceived to be of any threat had emerged from PDP, we wouldn’t have had any noise.

For me, it is understandable. In each of the 21 LGAs and in each of the 326 wards in Anambra, it is PDP versus another party – in one ward, it is PDP versus AC, or another ward, it is PDP versus APGA; everywhere we go it is either first or second and some of these so called other strong parties, in some wards they exist, in some other wards they do not exist.  So, it is about the numbers and we have the numbers, it is clear for all to see. The other candidates know that our emergence is the game changer, not only for the politics of the election but a game changer for the future of Anambra State.

This your Dubai-Taiwan project, what are you doing about power because that would be the starting point?
You see, that is why I talk about having a vision.  You see where the national power thing is going and where do you key in the state own idea; you have to think strategically.  I’m already talking to two groups likely to develop independent power plant in the state – I’m already talking with them.  If we started about four years ago, by now we’ll be talking about when to commission.  But we wouldn’t become an African Dubai-Taiwan without getting uninterrupted power supply and this does not happen in one day; and even to build an African Dubai-Taiwan doesn’t happen in one day. So, when you’re in the process of getting to your African Dubai-Taiwan, you begin to build the requisite infrastructure, an airport, whether it is cargo or passenger, having and industrial city or town, with the Taiwan elements like the SMEs which would kick start so many things in the society.

The entertainment, relaxation component will also come the moment we reverse the push factor and convert it into a pull factor.  What we have now is a push factor, people are running away but what we would enthrone would be a pull factor; we will turn it around and pull people back into Anambra.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.