Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has described appointments of Governor Chukwuma Soludo and Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as probably the best he made during his tenure.
He said Soludo, who worked closely with him as an economic adviser, “never misadvised me”, adding that his performance impressed him so much so that he was asked to lead the apex bank.
Speaking in Awka, Anambra State to commemorate Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s one year in office, Obasanjo recalled his work with the professor of economics as well as the WTO DG, noting that from his personal experience, nothing wins friendship like one being friendly.
Soludo served as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while Okonjo-Iweala was the Minister of Finance, during Obasanjo’s administration which spanned 1999 to 2007.
The former president stated that Soludo, who worked closely with him as an economic adviser, “never misadvised me”, and the economist’s performance impressed him so much so that he was asked to lead the apex bank.
Describing Soludo as the second Nigerian CBN governor who was not a commercial banker of some sort, the 85-year-old statesman, however said soon after appointing the academic, he found himself in an encounter with a dissenting voice.
“Somebody came to me and said, ‘Wow! You have ruined the economy of Nigeria.’ I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘An Igbo woman, Minister of Finance; an Igbo man, Governor of the Central Bank? Then you have clearly completed the task of ruining the economy of Nigeria.’
“I don’t know why he said that, except for what I can call Igbophobia, and I don’t take that lightly. It remains, it persists. But when you have that type of thing that was said to me and the type of thing that you know is going on, as I have just called it, what do we do with it?
“I believe we have to go back to the scripture, which says we must conquer evil with good. And whoever you are, wherever people are afraid of you, you must make yourself friendly to those who are afraid of you and earn their friendship by being good to them, and that is what we have to do.
“From my personal experience, nothing wins friendship like one being friendly. The appointments of Okonjo-Iweala and Soludo were “probably the best of the appointments that I made when I was president”.
Obasanjo further said he did not initially support Soludo to become Anambra State governor.
He said, “When he approached me to seek my blessings that he wanted to be Anambra governor, I declined, telling him he would be more useful in a national or international role.
“The experience I had of Anambra governorship then was that of Ngige and Chris Uba. I once told Soludo that this is what will continue to happen if people like him are running away from governance.
“So, when I told him I was disappointed in him going for governor, he also reminded me that I had earlier accused him of running away from governance.
“When he came back and told me he wanted to run, I told him he can go. I also told him – don’t forget that I reserve you for national assignment, so you can use governor as an appetizer.
“From what I have heard and what I have seen, you have not disappointed me and I believe you have not disappointed the people of Anambra State.
“When you are done with this, you can think of something international, or national, that is where you belong.”
Earlier, Soludo had taken time to enumerate his feats in the past one year in office, including employment of 5,000 teachers at once, 3,000 health workers and construction of several roads in the state.
He said, “Here, our mantra is ‘doing more with less’. We want to build a state that everyone will be proud of and my children and great grand children will be happy to live in.
“We want to transform Anambra to a liveable and prosperous homeland, so that wherever we are, we will desire to be here. The Igbo man no matter where he lives always desires to be brought back and buried here when they die.
“But we want to build a place we will not only be happy to be brought back for burial, but that we will also like to live in.
“For me, I will be proud to live here, even when I am done with this job.
The goodwill is here, the environment is getting better and we shall continue to strive to make it work. We only ask that wealthy Anambra people should help us by bringing back part of their investment.
“If we can get Anambra people in other states, who can pay their taxes here, then just sit back and see your money work for you.
He added, “Nigeria is a place where governors only employ massively when they are leaving office, but in one year, we have made many employments in the education and health sector, and we are planning more.”