Let’s Reflect On How Soludo Saved Nigeria As Another Recession Looms

Joe C Anatune

Onward Anambra and Happy Easter. We should not despair. Those old enough during the civil war, know we haven’t seen nothing. This is the time to work hand in hand with our government to tame the rampaging corona virus and collectively take the glory.

The economists and policy makers across the globe are hinting that the ‘day’ after corona virus is grim. Some warn that the economic slowdown would be worse than the last one we had in 2016. They all seem to agree that something serious must be done in the supply side of the demand and supply equation, for Nigeria and the federating units to bounce back.

There is also a preponderance of opinion, that our next sets of leadership recruitments in the political and corporate domains should reflect these foregoing imperatives. I am sure that Ndi Anambra will not lose sight of what this portends as we march to 2021.

Obviously, sacrifice is the central message of today’s truly sober and sombre Easter, which we are commemorating. True sacrifice entails deploying one’ s God-given talents for the good and advancement of society. It demands vision, passion, hard work, perseverance and commitment. Simply put, it is gritty application of endowments. Indeed, it is rough and tough.

Cee Cee Soludo did just that during his remarkable watch of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigeria was saved from the havoc of the 2008 global financial meltdown. How did he pull the chestnut out of the fire? Let me reproduce excerpts from a piece I once did on that remarkable feat:

”When he was appointed the Economic Adviser to former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Executive of the National Planning Commission, Chukwuma Soludo saw the need to put together, a plan that will mobilise the resources of Nigeria to make a fundamental break with the failures of the past and bequeath a prosperous nation to generations yet to come.

He galvanised Nigerians and critical stakeholders in furtherance, and the result was the conceptualisation and launch of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) and its state counterpart, SEEDS. This was in 2004.

On page 78 of the NEEDS document under the sub-title “Financial Services,” the policy thrust for the sector was ‘’to build and foster a competitive and healthy financial system to support development and avoid SYSTEMIC DISTRESS.’’ The document identified low capitalisation of the banks as a draw back and the imperative to address it as one of the many reforms the sector needed to support development.

It is important that policy makers should not lose sight of the institutional memory they can glean from documents like NEEDS.

It is therefore, noteworthy that 3 years after the inauguration of NEEDS, the world was thrown into one of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929.

The “Too Big to Fall” movie of 2011 by Henry Paulson, Secretary of Treasury that focused on the actions he and Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke took to address the situation is an interesting watch any day. Recall that the biggest investment bank in USA, Lehman Brothers, collapsed and sparked unprecedented crisis in the global financial system. Tried as they did, even America’s Federal Reserve and Treasury Department were unable to pull the chestnut out of the ravaging fire so to speak, as housing prices fell by 31.8%. Banks lost money to defaults in mortgage repayments, interbank lending freeze and credit to customers and business dried. Key financial centres of the world were affected, but Nigeria was not affected. What happened?
There was vacancy for Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2004. Obasanjo was on a head hunt for neither a banker nor a retired one, but somebody in his words ‘’who understands development. He appointed and redeployed Professor Chukwuma Soludo to the position because he believed he is a development thinker and doer. Soludo set sail swiftly with the reforms he had earlier encapsulated in the NEEDS for the financial sector.

He wasted no time as he hit the ground running by announcing far reaching sector reforms. The most apparent was the consolidation of a motley crowd of 89 banks into 24 big and strong banks that have today, become global players.

Now, you can clearly see how planning ahead and taking the needed actions can save a country and generations from avoidable disasters. More important, we need planning to leapfrog our society from good to better whether we shall be alive to see the benefits or not. Yes, the solid, consolidated banks were able to withstand the global shocks which without his foresight, none of the rickety, previous 89 would have survived the global meltdown.

Again , history beckons on Soludo to do what he knows best for his home state, Anambra, as he leads a crack team of wise men and women to envision the security, prosperity and happiness of the good people of Anambra state for another 50 years. Hopefully, the plan will avert Anambra state from possible, avoidable future disruptions such as ACFTA, Climate change, e-commerce and many more.”

There is no doubt that humanity will find a way to pull back from the current low. But what happens thereafter to the future of Anambra State is something to reflect on. If we do so based on verifiable facts, then it would have been a magnificent but sombre Easter well spent.

*Mr. Anatune writes from Awa, Orumba North LGA, Anambra state

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