By Joe Anatune
The sizzling news in town is that President Muhammadu Buhari has woken up to the reality that Nigerian economy needs urgent rescue and has appointed a seven-man independent Economic Advisory Council to advise him on how to rebuild the economy.
A name that stands out in the list is the cerebral world renowned economist, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR. Just his name alone on the list is making many Nigerians to take a second look at the Buhari presidency.
According to many, it shows that perhaps President Buhari is getting serious about the economy.
But what makes Soludo so special that heads turn and eyes roll whenever he is mentioned in connection with economic transformation? In 2003, President Obasanjo sought after him and appointed him as both the Chief Economic Adviser as well as Deputy Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Planning Commisson (de factor Minister of National Planning).
This was before he went to the Central Bank in 2004. The important point is that he was not a member of any political party then. He was a thorough bred professional economist, criss-crossing the world as consultant to 19 international organizations and professor of economics in Nigeria and the USA. As at 2003, Obasanjo had then just been re-elected into his second term, and after a lacklustre first term, Obasanjo needed to rejig the economy and Soludo was beckoned to carry the mantle. Together with other members of the then economic management team, they worked and Nigerian economy grew at average of 7% per annum from 2003 to 2009 up from 3% in Obasanjo’s first term.
Fast forward to 2019. Buhari has struggled through economic recession during his first term in office and the economy growing at 1- 2% per annum. He has just been re-elected into his second term and everyone agrees that the economy is going south.
President Buhari has assembled a 7-man team to advise him on the economy and sundry matters, and again, the inimitable Soludo is summoned to duty.
This time round and like in 2003, Soludo does not belong to the ruling party, the APC. He is a member of Board of Trustees (BOT) of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but Buhari has tapped him purely for his professional competence.
Buhari needs him, and Nigeria needs him. Will he and other members repeat the magic of the 2003-2009? Will Buhari listen to his prescriptions or has the Buhari team already made up their mind on what they want to do and simply brought the Soludo and others to give a good image to the government? Will President Buhari listen? We will never know until after some years.
The question remains: what is so special about this man Soludo that two presidents (Obasanjo and Buhari) at different eras and under two different political parties that he did not belong to, found him as ‘the man’ fit for the economy? The word is exceptional competence or excellence.
If you are a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, it doesn’t matter who the manager is, if he wants to win matches and succeed, he has to field you in crucial matches. Excellence has no hiding place. Whether Soludo likes it or not, in so far as his cerebral brain and prodigious mind continue to churn out ideas and his exceptional capacity to execute plans to precision remains active, Nigeria and Africa will never let him rest.
It is not just Nigeria that thinks that Soludo is very special. The world knows it. Before he joined the government of Nigeria in 2003, he had lived in Ethiopia, UK, and USA and travelled to 43 other countries as itinerant scholar and consultant to 19 international organizations including: African Development Bank (AfDB), Abidjan; UN-Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; The World Bank, Washington DC; International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris; The European Union, Brussels; Organization of African Unity (OAU), and later African Union (AU); United States Agency for International Development (USAID); UK- Department for International Development (DFID); IBM Consulting, Washington, DC; International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada; Chemonics International, Washington, DC; United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Austria; United Nations, New York; Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Dakar, Senegal; African Economic Research Consortium, Nairobi, Kenya; Common Market for East and Southern Africa, COMESA; United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD; United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.
Furthermore, Soludo has been an international adviser to several international organizations. For example, he has been: Member, UK-DFID International Advisory Group, 2005- 07; Member, Chief Economist Advisory Council, The World Bank, 2005- 2012; African Member on 10 -Member United Nations Commission of Experts for Reforming the Global Monetary and Financial System (the Stiglitz Commission): 2008- 2009; Member since 2011 (and chairman of Finance committee), The South Centre, Geneva, Switzerland—(International inter-governmental think-tank organization of 54 developing countries including Nigeria, China, India, Brazil, etc and currently chaired by former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa); Member, IMF External Advisory Group for the Triennial Surveillance Review in 2011; Member, Technical Advisory Group, Natural Resource Charter, Oxford University; 2009-2012.
The point is that there must be something special that the rest of the world and Nigeria continue to see in this man, Soludo. For a man who met the requirements to be a professor at the University of Nigeria at the age of 32 but finally promoted to professorship at 38, became chief economic adviser to the President at 42 and Governor of Central Bank at 43, the star in Soludo seems to be glowing brighter by the day.
The prayer of many people from the South East is that someday he would deploy his exceptional talent and skills to the transformation of their region.
And in particular, as we get closer to Anambra 2021, the majority of Ndi- Anambra are earnestly waiting for Soludo .
For now, we pray for him and his team.
*Joe Anatune writes from Awa in Orumba North Local Government Area, Anambra State.*