By Ingram Osigwe
Sixty looks good on him just as Anambra looks up to him. As he turns 60, it is the fervent prayer of many Anambranians that he answers the clarion call to serve for they are ready to be led by him.
On July 28, 1960, 63 days to Nigeria’s independence, something significant happened at Isuofia, then a rustic community in today’s Aguata local government area of Anambra state: A baby boy was born and his parents named him Chukwuma.
In Igbo language, Chukwuma translates to “God knows”. Of course, only God indeed knew the future of the infant boy or how were his parents to know that their new born, Chukwuma Charles Soludo, was set for great things; that he would be a “paragon” in all facets of life?
Indeed, only God knew that Charles would be a brilliant scholar, a gifted Economist and a consummate technocrat who would play a challenging but critical role in stabilizing the Nigerian economy, first as Economic Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo where his (Soludo) NEEDS and SEEDS initiatives buoyed the economy, and later as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, where he undertook the most difficult task of reforming and reinventing the Nigerian Banking sector via the famous bank consolidation.
Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo is 60 and there is every reason to celebrate a man who has given Nigeria his best. He is not just a gift to Isuofia, Anambra and Nigeria but one to humanity.
It was in recognition of Professor Soludo’s economic re-engineering finesse that President Muhammadu Buhari last year appointed him a member of his Economic Team.
As a critical factor in the success that became former President Obasanjo’s economic policy, many Nigerians, especially Anambrians, recall how their son, Charles, burrowed himself in the task of pulling Nigeria from economic doldrums that the Obasanjo presidency inherited from the departing military regime.
Writes Chinedu Nwoye in Vanguard Newspaper of May 21, 2020:
“It was quite exhilarating to know that Ndi Anambra remember the grand vision Prof. Chukwuma Soludo worked very hard to provide for the success of the second term of the Obasanjo presidency. The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, NEEDS and its state counterpart, States Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, SEEDS, represent the first and perhaps the last time in Nigeria’s economic history that the economic agenda of the federal and state governments were planned, coordinated and executed in a coherent manner”.
Though celebrated nationally and internationally as a poster boy of uncanny achievements, as John Mason would say, “you can’t travel the road to success without a puncture or two”. This applies to this Isuofia born avatar. Soludo is a homeboy who tasted the vagaries of life at formative stages. Like any other child growing up in the post-civil war East-Central state, today’s Southeast geopolitical zone, he experienced vicissitudes and obfuscations.
Life was not rosy and it even became grimmer for him following the death of his mother when the young Soludo needed her most.
Thus, from ground zero, Soludo struggled to make meaning out of life, rising like Phoenix to photogenic achievements and accomplishments.
On completing his secondary school education, he proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he studied Economics. He graduated with a first-class degree in 1984.
Afterwards, he went on to obtain his Master’s degree (MSc) in Economics in 1987, and a doctorate (PhD) in Economics in 1989, from the same University, graduating as the best student on all levels of his study.
Upon graduation, he won the departmental and faculty prizes for the best graduating student. These were followed by the best graduating master’s degree student prize and the vice-chancellor’s prize for the university’s best graduating PhD student when he finished his doctorate programme.
In 1998, Charles Soludo became a professor of economics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and in 1999, he became a visiting professor at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, USA.
Professor Charles Soludo was a lecturer in Oxford, Cambridge, and Warwick University.
He lectured on multi-country macro-econometric modelling, techniques of computable general equilibrium modelling, survey methodology, and panel data econometrics, etc. Also, Charles Soludo has authored, co-edited, and co-authored about ten books.
Because goldfish has no hiding place, in 2003, the love for fatherland spurned Soludo into answering a national call as the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo had no problem fishing him out to serve in his government as Economic Adviser and Chief Executive of the National Planning Commission of Nigeria.
Soludo’s superlative performance as Economic Adviser and Chairman of the National Planning Commission was to be a catalyst for elevation to a higher calling. Thus in May 2004, President Obasanjo appointed him into the exalted office of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as well as Chairman of its Governing Board.
Over a decade after leaving office as CBN Governor, Professor Soludo is still hailed as the man who brought sanity to the banking sector through the clinical consolidation of the Nigerian banking system in 2005, during which he presided over the consolidation of the country’s 89 banks into 25 as part of a drive to increase liquidity.
Economists and other financial experts agree that the 2005 bank consolidation exercise was the elixir that boosted the Nigeria economy at that time, ensuring that country’s commercial banks now have the asset base to fund manufacturing, agriculture, trade and the services. Ultimately creating more jobs and stabilizing the economy.
Essentially, experts opine that without the much needed Soludo bank reforms, multinationals and major economic players especially in the oil and gas sector, owned by banks, wouldn’t have been in existence, as so many banks wouldn’t have the capacity to fund such.
A broad spectrum of Anambra’s are insisting that at 60, it is time Anambra possess its possession. And that possession is Chukwuma. They are agreed that it is time the cerebral and urbane academic returned home to replicate the economic ingenuity he gifted Nigeria.
They say their illustrious son is the most suited to continue from where Governor Obiano stops next year at the end of his eight year tenure. Infact, many insist that Professor Soludo is the main issue in next year’s gubernatorial election in the state.
And come to think of it. From any angle the Soludo personage is viewed vis avis Anambra 2021, the cap fits him. It is tailor-made because he won’t be coming to learn on the job, he is already imbued with the know-how, the nitty-gritty of management of people and resources by the virtue of his public sector experience, his academic erudition and vast knowledge of the primary kernel of governance especially as it applies to the peculiarity of Anambra.
With the permission of Anambra’s electorates, Professor Soludo, as the next governor, will be bringing his wealth of experience garnered over a period of years spanning over three decades to bear on the governance of that state.
Soludo won’t be groping for a blueprint after election; he already has it in his kitty.
The man who was hailed as “the Paragon” by admirers during his undergraduate days due to his academic wizardry comes prepared, armed with innovative ideas as to how to take Anambra, in a quantum leap, to the next phase of socio-economic and infrastructural revolution.
And what do we say to such a man at this auspicious occasion of his “born Day”? Certainly, thunderous 60 cheers is fitting and prosper for Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo as he turns 60 today.
– Osigwe, a media consultant and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos