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Yes, let the debates start

By Ochereome Nnanna
ON Wednesday, September 15, 2010, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo, wrote a widely published article in which he warned that Nigeria’s economy was going down.

He added that unless great care was taken, the nation was doomed to a severer  form of structural adjustment than what we had experienced before.

In a sharp and acidic repartee, the Federal Executive Council, which held its regular meeting on the same day the article was published, delegated the Minister of State for Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, to accuse Soludo of being responsible for the problem with the economy.

Let me just restate my earlier argument that Soludo served this nation with all  his might and recreated the financial sector to a state of unprecedented buoyancy. But he got carried away with his success and became so over-protective of the captains of the sector  that the rot set in while he snoozed.

When the man on the seat now, Malam Lamido Sanusi, took over, in a bid to right the wrongs of the Soludo era, he destroyed investor confidence and plunged the financial sector and the economy into a state where it is no longer of any use to business operators.

If Sanusi had merely corrected the weak risk management problem of the Soludo era without ramming the banking sector into distress, we would not be in the situation we find ourselves.

It is evident that the Federal Government decided to respond to the Soludo warning in the manner it did because it smelt some political motive in the timing of the article.

It was published on the day that General Ibrahim Babangida flagged off his presidential rally, and three days to President Goodluck Jonathan’s flag-off. It is public knowledge that Jonathan and Soludo have not flowed together politically.

It was widely held that Jonathan did not want Soludo to win the February 6, 2010 governorship election in Anambra State and deployed strategies accordingly.

The reason adduced was simple. Soludo was seen as a man sponsored by the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua to use the Anambra governorship as a nursery to gain some experience in executive office, so that at the end of Yar’ Adua’s second term in office he could be one of the prime candidates for president if the PDP decided to zone power to the South East.

Yar’ Adua was truly impressed with Soludo’s handling of his job as the CBN Governor and had mulled the idea of reappointing him, but was persuaded to go for Sanusi by Northern ethnic hawks.

That Soludo was seen as a possible threat to a Nigerian president of South-South extraction in 2015 was evident in anti-Soludo public comments of South-South opinion leaders such as Dr Patrick Dele Cole shortly after Soludo plunged into partisan politics with the full backing of the PDP apparatchik.

Yar’ Adua’s death decided it in favour of Jonathan and the South-South. It is also evident that Soludo mingles more with the pro-North, pro-zoning Igbo politicians than with those running the pro-Jonathan show.

However, politics apart, and if the Soludo article is viewed strictly on the value of its contents, I believe it was a timely, patriotic whistle-blowing not necessarily directed against the Jonathan-led Federal Government, which is just a little over six months old.

In the dim past, what Soludo did was regularly done by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who, in 1981, warned of an impending doom in the economy. In the same manner that Minister Maku returned the blame to Soludo’s doorstep, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) Federal Government led by Alhaji Shehu Shagari, lampooned the main opposition leader, Chief Awolowo.

Awo’s warning was depicted as another political brickbat by a disgruntled loser of the 1979 presidential election. However, by 1982, President Shagari sent an executive bill to the National Assembly seeking enabling powers to introduce a set of austerity measures.

The series of belt-tightening measures plunged Nigeria into a prolonged economic famine, from which we recovered only after Babangida liberalised the economy and the nation returned to an oil boom from the days of General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

I had expected the Federal Government, if they felt like responding to Soludo, to tackle him point for point, with facts and figures, providing an insight into steps being taken to head-off the doom he was foretelling.

All the presidential aspirants on the racks seem to share one thing in common: They do not appear to have much idea of how to repair a 50-year-old nation that is on the brink of failure as a state. Jonathan is continuing with his late boss’s visionless, living-by-the-day approach to governance.

He even told us on his Facebook forum that he would hence “promise less and do more”; forgetting that letting us into his vision and strategies will help us to contribute our ideas and quotas in enriching and actualising them.

On the threshold of our golden jubilee, we have a crop of presidential aspirants who are depending on ethnic and sectional calculations for their winning the race. There are enough issues in the economy and the polity begging for solution. We have wasted 50 years going down the drain.

Who will take us to the Promised Land? Who will unite Nigeria? Who will make Nigeria work? How will they do it? These are the things we want to hear from these people who want our mandate.

I am definitely not the first to call for the debates to start. But I am joining the chorus. It will be a pity if we give our mandate to someone who has not convinced us that he has the solutions to our problems. At the rate we are going, that is what may happen.


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