It is crucial to state from the very beginning that Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo is a man of destiny. He did not hide it from anybody that he wanted to become the Anambra State Governor. The job has now met the man.
The twice-told Nigerian story is the matter of dubious godfathers almost always handing over power to ill-prepared godsons. Chief Willie Obiano as Governor of Anambra State did not follow the familiar debilitating trend. He insisted on backing the very best, a dogged performer who is poised to take Anambra State up the stratosphere. The choice of Soludo garnered unprecedented statewide support such that his election became a fait accompli.
Soludo comes upon the saddle of Anambra State governorship fully prepared. He assures that he should be held to account via the contents of his manifesto. In the spirit of matching words with action, Soludo has reiterated that the native son’s motor company, Innoson, would supply the government’s vehicular needs. He insists on putting on Akwete clothes, and the demand for the local product has since soared.
Soludo’s devoted application to any job he is doing is indeed outstanding. In fact he would rather inform that he is rendering service instead of doing a job. Little wonder he is affably known as “Soludo Solution” in the general field of economic matters, while in the specialized sector of banking he is dubbed “Mr. Consolidation.”
He is that one Nigerian public figure who is not afraid to take hard decisions. For instance, the tenure of Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo as Central Bank of Nigeria Governor was quite eventful. The cerebral man who dared to venture into spheres where angels feared to tread had his fervent admirers and steadfast revilers. Nobody apparently stood on the fence on the issue of Soludo. It is a mark of the mystique of Soludo that the then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who failed to give the erstwhile CBN Governor a deserved second tenure ended up officially congratulating the man.
Written with presidential seal, Yar’Adua’s commendation of Soludo went thusly: “As your tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria comes to a glorious end, I write on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria to place on record our debt of gratitude to you for your dedicated service and uncommon sense of duty over the past five years. I am confident that your worthy antecedents in the CBN and in prior appointments in the service of our nation remain sources of inspiration to an entire generation. As I wish you even more astounding successes in the years ahead, it is my fervent hope that you will readily avail us of your distinguished service when the need arises in the future. Yours sincerely, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.”
It needs to be recalled now that Soludo has come to the Anambra scene that ever since his appointment to the CBN post in June 2004, Soludo blazed a trail that left his fellow countrymen and women almost breathless. Keeping pace with Soludo became well-nigh impossible. Barely a month in office, he met the Bankers Committee and promptly released a 13-point agenda designed to turn around the financial sector of the country. The feather on the crown was the banking consolidation initiative of Soludo. Before consolidation, all of the banks in existence in Nigeria put together could not match one South African bank. The recapitalization initiative led to the making of 24 big banks out of the 89 banks previously in existence in the country.
Through the efforts of Soludo Nigerian banks have been able to go global. The banks opened up offshore branches, thus becoming true global players in the financial world. New York, Paris, London, and sundry capitals of African countries now count Nigerian banks and bankers amongst the top players.
Soludo courageously made all the banks to adopt a common year-end strategy, thus stopping the hanky-panky stratagem of banks cooking their books. He stressed that the banks must undertake a strict observance of sound corporate governance. He upped the ante in macroeconomic stability, and through his efforts foreign investment found pride of place in Nigeria.
His work in the microfinance sector was nothing short of revolutionary. Some 800-odd microfinance houses were granted licences, spreading across the country thus: Southwest 40.5 percent, Southeast 21.2 percent, South-south 14.3 percent, North-central 12.9 percent, Northwest 6.9 percent, Northeast 4.1 percent. The micro finance houses were meant to carter to the needs of petty traders, transporters, barbers, local farmers etc.
Soludo breathed fresh life into the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting (NSPM) Company, and he made ATMs a fact of daily Nigerian life.
It is this selfsame uncommon zeal that Soludo has brought to his Anambra tour of service. He does not want to dance to the tunes of hero-worship attached to the title of “His Excellency”. He simply wants to be addressed as “Mr. Governor” or even the homegrown sobriquet: “Charlie nwa Mgbafor!” For him, there is enormous work to be done instead of succumbing to the banal luxuries of high office.
Being launched into office with costly ceremonial fanfare is not cool by Soludo; he would rather get his hands dirty in the slums of Okpoko in Onitsha from the first moments of power. A hands-on leader, he prefers to show the way through personal example. As Chinua Achebe wrote in The Trouble with Nigeria, “The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”
It is incumbent on me to give the last words to Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo through the lecture entitled “The Purpose and Price of Disruptive Change” which he delivered recently: “Every society that has prospered and endured has been led by men and women who have discovered a higher purpose beyond the self. For such people, politics is a vocation for selfless service and not a job. Such people are driven by a single purpose – to make a difference and leave legacies. Whenever and wherever competence is augmented with character and developmental ideology, the society wins.”