FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo has described Professor Chukwuma Soludo’s governorship in Anambra State as an appetizer, prophesying that the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, will still have the main menu either nationally or internationally after his tenure as governor.
Obasanjo, who was the guest at the celebration of one year in office of Soludo as the governor of Anambra State, described him as a good economist who turned out to be a good governor of the CBN.
He said: “I made him my chief economic adviser. I was very happy with him and I sent him to the CBN. He was the second CBN governor who did not have commercial bank background.
“In the course of my experience with Chukwuma, I had mapped out for him something greater in my mind until one day he came to me and said he was going to contest for governor of Anambra State.
“I did not disguise my anger and I said no because I see him as something national or international. However, he went and didn’t make it, but I wanted him to see governorship as an appetizer and then the main menu will come later. So you are on your appetizer stage.
” 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.
” I commend your efforts in economic transformation and road infrastructure and with what you have done in one year, you will do so much in the next three years.”
Obasanjo recalled how someone warned him about putting Igbo people in strategic positions in his government.
He added: “On one occasion, someone came and warned me of the consequences of making two Igbo people the Minister of Finance ( Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) and the CBN governor ( Professor Chukwuma Soludo). But I believe on the status of January 1970 when Biafra died and was buried, actually in the house of my friend, Chief Simon Okeke at Amichi.
” I believe that wherever you are and whoever you are, you must make yourself friendly to those who are afraid of you and earn their friendship by being good to them.
” For me, the appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Professor Chukwuma Soludo were probably the best of the appointments that I made when I was the president.
“I used to have fun because Chukwuma was not a fan of the World Bank and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala came from the World Bank and we had someone who was on the desk for Africa at the World Bank. Anytime he would come to Nigeria, we had to prepare as if we were receiving a president as he would write to tell us the things we were not doing right. I would give a copy to Okonjo-Iweala and a copy to Soludo to give me drafts. Soludo would say no to almost everything. Of course, I would go through the two drafts and then write a letter that would go to the World Bank. One day, I called Soludo and said never say no to the World Bank, otherwise, they might rub your face on the ground.
” One could still say yes to them and never do their bidding. That was the way we handled World Bank and we succeeded.”
He advised Soludo to place emphasis on such areas as palm oil, cassava production and aquaculture where the state could have a comparative advantage.
He also argued that Anambra could become a centre for drug manufacturing in the country.