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Soludo: If abroad, stay there

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By Dele Sobowale
My apologies once again: The devil was at work again. The piece published last week, “Soludo: Triumph and near tragedy” had been published in August 2007. Coincidentally, when I asked my P.A to “send the Soludo article to the papers” he reached for that one. It was both unfortunate and fortunate as it turned out.

There was only one reason I did not murder the guy for that costly error. Reading the piece again, I suddenly realized that the beginning of the end for Soludo was already predicted in that column written two years ago – precisely. Now read the right one with that in mind. —Dele.

From the sublime to the ridiculous there is only one step —Thomas Paine, 1737-1809, Vanguard Book of Quotations, p. 236

Leadership is always somewhat mysterious. Leadership can be summed up in two words: intelligence and integrity or to use two synonyms: competence and character —John Brademas, US Congressman;Vanguard Book of Quotations, , p.125).

GOD save us  from professors. And let me finish the message above to Soludo: If you are in Nigeria, run out as fast as you can because the game is up.

Readers of this column would recollect the article entitled ‘Thanks, Governor Lamido Sanusi.’ That piece fetched me four categories of insults through GSM text messages and phone calls. The first group wanted to know if I, as a professed economist, considered consolidation a waste of time.

The answer to that was simple. No consolidation, per se, was/is beneficial but we derailed when it degenerated to “bigness for its own sake”as frequently celebrated by the former CBN governor.

The second group “discovered” that I am a tribalist for not endorsing the re-appointment of Soludo and for welcoming Sanusi. Today, as we all start understanding how the banking sector had been thrown into a turmoil in the last four years, and feeling the lash, it will not matter if you are Igbo, Efik, Birom, Yoruba, or Nupe, you will be involved in this calamity.

For sure, if you bought shares in any of those banks, so far denounced, you might as well throw your share certificates into the waste paper basket. The third was sure that the banks would ignore my writings. To him, my reply was simple. “That is the last thing the banks will do”. Now he knows better. In fact, I was once approached to stop the series by an interested party.

The real insult, and the unforgivable one, was published weeks ago. The block head, had written to inform me that “Soludo is an international scholar and not in your (my) class”. I hope the fellow is still reading this page because he was definitely correct. At Jankara University, we learn only three subjects: “commitment to truth as close as you can get to it; “street wisdom designed to warn you when a scam is in the making; “intellectual integrity to ensure that people can, by and large, rely on what you state or write.

On all, three, Soludo and I are certainly not in the same class. In fact we are light years apart. If we were not, the Nigerian banking sector would not be in the mess it is now; neither would the Nigerian Stock Exchange – which has another “international scholar”, not in my class, as the director general.

Despite the abuse suffered on account of him, I still want to offer the same advice given to Ribadu to Soludo, he should stay away from this country for a while. But, before getting to the reasons for the suggestion, let me address once again the first challenge and another one concerning Soludo and consolidation. Some have accused me of supporting consolidation and hailing Soludo, at the start, only to deny both later. The charges are not totally correct. Let me quickly explain myself starting with consolidation.

Consolidation is not a home-grown concept; it did not start with Nigeria and it will definitely not end here. It is like economic reform – countries undertake them when it is the best option to move the nation forward. So, I fully endorse consolidation and I applaud Soludo for introducing it at the time.

The disagreements started half way down his tenure as will be demonstrated below – starting with the CBN turning blind eyes to robbery of bank customers in order to beef up their balance sheets. I still have with me a copy of the Guide to bank charges last published in 2004 as my witness.

Consolidation in Nigeria took a different turn from the global models in two ways: first the time given the banks to raise the share capitals was too short going by universal precedents; second no sooner did the banks scale the financial hurdle without finishing the task of capacity building than they got engaged in competition for market leadership thereby stretching themselves beyond limit.

Unfortunately, they were encouraged by the Central Bank to pursue “bigness for its own sake” all in a bid to have some Nigerian banks among the top 1000 world wide. Then IPOs started flying like confetti all over the place and in order to get them sold, the banks themselves started lending money to people who had no business in the capital market to take loans; they even lent to their own subsidiaries and stockbrokers.

Reading the prospectus accompanying each and every IPO, as an Area Boy, I knew that what is too good to be true is most probably untrue. Then I kept a close personal watch. It did not take long to realize that what we had on our hands was a great swindle; partly condoned by the CBN, until the change of guards.

Now we read about one customer owing the banking system N80 billion; a company owing N37 billion; Transcorp, chaired by “Professor” Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, who is also the director-general of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, is saddled with N31 billion debt and low revenue.

There are also charges of deliberate misinformation of falsified reports. Yet, at one of his last meetings with the media, the Governor of Central Bank promised to post inspectors to the banks to ensure proper accounting and professionalism. Have the inspectors been compromised?

As Soludo’s tenure came to a close, it became clear that the second term ambition was designed to give the CBN, and especially the governor, more time to clean up the mess before it became public knowledge. Unfortunately for Soludo, the president was not in the mood for that. Irrespective of the motives for the change, the revelations of the past three weeks have justified it.

Today, all those superficial columnists, analysts and those who wanted Soludo retained because “he is my brother” should apologise to Nigerians. The calamity which five more years of the former CBN governor could have produced is unimaginable.

To be continued….

P.S. This article was written before Professor Soludo appeared at a function held in his honour by a group calling itself LAP. If his presence in Nigeria had been known, the title would have been Run Soludo Run.

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