By Olu Fasan

PROFESSOR Charles Chukwuma Soludo, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, was recently sworn in as Governor of Anambra State. Watching the low-key inauguration on television, I was gripped by Soludo’s inaugural speech, delivered in his deep rich voice. But beyond the enthralling voice, the speech’s content and substance were greatly captivating.

In the Nigerian context, Professor Soludo’s inaugural speech was unique; utterly striking for its intellectual depth, philosophical underpinnings, policy principles, strategic direction, and the explicit enunciations of personal beliefs and governance style. Truth is, Soludo will be a very cerebral, action-driven leader. Few can doubt the emergence of a philosopher-king!

Of course, it’s far too early for a definitive characterisation, which must be anchored on empiricism. But this early observation, based on Soludo’s inaugural speech, is set within the wider context of what, from ancient times to the present, great philosophers have told us about who should run the affairs of a state.

In The Republic, Plato made the case for philosopher-kings. He argued that philosophers should rule because they possess the special knowledge (gnosis) to create an ideal society. For a political community to be governed well, Plato said “those with the most intelligence should rule it”.  In De Re Publica, Cicero similarly argued that those who govern a country “should be the best and brightest in the land”.

Modern-day scholars have followed the ancient philosophers by arguing that a precondition for good policy is that technocrats are in charge of making it. “Technocrats” traditionally referred to civil servants, but a different kind of technocrats are not bureaucrats. They are “technopols”, a term coined by economists Jorge Dominguez and Richard Feinberg to describe “technocrats who assume positions of political responsibility”.

In the seminal book titled: The political economy of policy reform, the famous economist Professor John Williamson argued that successful technopols possess two qualities. One, they are “able to judge what institutions and policies are needed in specific circumstances in order to further the common good”. Two, they have “the skills of a successful politician, able to persuade others to adopt the policies they judged to be called for.” Thus, a technopol is a philosopher-king, who has a unique knowledge to judge what should be done and the persuasive ability to carry others along to get it done.

Now, given Professor Soludo’s antecedents – first-class economics professor, influential chief economic adviser to a president, successful CBN governor, and respected consultant to multilateral institutions, – there’s little doubt that he’s a “philosopher-king”, one of “the best and brightest in the land”, and a “technopol”. But the inaugural speech showed a deep thinker, with strong ideological orientation and moral compass, who had thought deeply about how to transform Anambra State.

Of course, Soludo has the special knowledge, the “gnosis”, to create the Anambra of his dream, but we must wait and see whether he has “the skills of a successful politician”. Yet, everything starts with the right vision, with strong intellectual and problem-solving mindsets, with integrity and strong moral character and with a governance style that is transparent, inclusive and rooted in servant-leadership. Well, Professor Soludo brilliantly captured all these critical success factors in his inaugural speech.

Take personal philosophy and governance style. Soludo’s belief in servant-leadership is unmistakable with statements like”I applied for this job and you – Anambra people – employed me as your chief servant” and the repeated commitment to “work very hard everyday”. He vowed to shun profligacy, with a golden rule: “If this is my money, will I spend it this way?” And he promised inclusive governance with the “One Anambra, One People, One Agenda”, while acknowledging “all the stakeholders of ‘the Anambra project’”.

But beyond personal philosophy, a political leader needs an ideological orientation that shapes his or her world view and that drives his or her policy choices. Sadly, in Nigeria, politicians are motivated purely by self-interest, while political parties lack ideologies. It is, therefore, refreshing that Professor Soludo fully articulates and embraces an ideology.

First, Soludo said his party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA,was “a nostalgic rebirth of”the grand alliance of progressive parties in the First Republic, under the rubric of the United Progressives Grand Alliance, UPGA. He then traced his party’s ideology to a combination of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s “neo-welfarism”, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s “scientific socialism” and Alhaji Aminu Kano’s “democratic humanism”.

From the above ideologies emerged APGA’s “Pan-African market progressivism”, which Soludo defined as “a Pan-Africanist ideology that integrated the social democratic values with the principles of competitive markets”. He said: “Anambra under our watch will mirror this ideology”, adding: “and we believe that this should be Nigeria’s compass to the future”.

This is fascinating. I have long argued that Nigeria needs a party that combines economic efficiency, underpinned by free and competitive markets, with strong defence and social justice. Sadly, neither of Nigeria’s two main parties, APC and PDP, believes in any ideology, let alone in the integration of market economy and human development. So, credit goes to Soludo and his party for talking up the value of ideologies.

Of course, an ideology needs complementary policies and actions. Here, again, Professor Soludo did not disappoint. His inaugural speech was rich in policy details, captured in three documents: “Anambra Vision 2070; “The Soludo Solution – A People’s Manifesto for a Greater Anambra”; and “The Transition Committee Report”. Only Chief Awolowo prepared for government this way, setting out an elaborate programme of government in granular details. True progressives don’t merely mouth the slogan; they show intellectual rigour.

All the above said, Professor Soludo recognised the challenges. Apart from Anambra’s lean finances and acute security problem, he identified the limitations imposed upon the subnational units by what he called Nigeria’s “unitary federalism”.

Professor Soludo has set a transformational agenda for Anambra State. In a true federal system, the state’s potential will be unleashed. But Nigeria’s unitary federalism will stifle progress. Even a philosopher-king can’t avoid Nigeria’s structural obstacles. I wish him well!

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