By Joe Anatune
Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, journalist, media entrepreneur, Nationalist, first President of Nigeria and Owelle of Onitsha is very deserving of the honour that His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano has bestowed on him by declaring his birthday as a public holiday in Anambra State.
I urge other South East Governors to do the same in their respective states. It was the great Zik, who dreamt of a great economy and set this into motion in the now nostalgic Eastern region that was once the fastest growing economy in the world.
Again, he it was, who encouraged a generation of our foundational leaders to seek education and knowledge within and outside our shores to be able to ignite his transformational agenda.
Yes, it was the enigmatic Zik that set up the University of Nigeria, Nsukka that has been responsible for grooming a horde of thought leaders that have made and continues to make the difference in the development of Nigeria, nay the world. We shall come back to this another day.
There is however, an ”invisible hand” (ala Adams Smith) of the Zik’s brand essence that we have curiously not been able to unravel or demystify, in our leadership recruitment process which unfortunately, has been preventing progress. This forms the kernel of this write-up.
Zik was like the American salesman/steel maker, Andrew Carnegie, who put in his service people better than him in specific areas that improved the lives of men and women around him. He had what today’s management scholars call emotional intelligence and people skill. It was him that recruited from Ohuhu, Umuahia the courageous, unforgettable and indomitable Dr. Michael Okpara, a man this generation of Ndigbo hold in great admiration. He brought out the best in Dr. Akanu Ibiam, a humble and wonderful leader that is still unsung by Ndigbo and Nigeria.
There were other great Nigerians he mentored: Chief Akinfosile, Chief Ogunsanya, Eyo Ita, Mbonu Ojike, Mokwugwo Okoye, Osita Agwuna, Dr. J. O Okezie, Dr. Raymond Amanze Njoku, Bob Ogbuagu, Dee Sam Mbakwe, Mbazulike Amechi, Kolawole Balogun, M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu, Abiodun Aloba, Nduka Eze, G. Onyeagbula, M. Aina, G. Ebo, J. Inoma, S. Aderibigbe, Jim Nwobodo, Solomon Lar and many others. These are great achievers in their own rights.
Zik sought and went for the best and brightest, and the difference, like the 7up advertisement asserted, was clear. His footprints are all over the nooks and crannies of the defunct South East region of Nigeria. The secret of his success and why today Obiano and Ndi Anambra are celebrating him is that he deployed resourceful people in his service. Merit evidenced in capacity to think and do was like a second skin in the DNA of this remarkable man, like the DNA of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, former lecturer, global development consultant, Presidential Economic Adviser, CBN Governor, Chairman, Anambra Vision 2070 and Member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.
During a recent Zoom birthday celebration of Soludo, my brother and friend, Elivis Emecheta from Abatete, told us a story of how Soludo’s merit centric disposition made possible the banking career of his niece at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Summarized, Emecheta’s niece was tops in the recruitment exercise of the apex banking institution prior to Soludo’s coming on board as CBN Governor. As she is from Anambra, her recruitment was put on hold because in the then entrenched practice, a new Governor was expected to come with his preferred personnel from his State. However, contrary to that practice, Soludo, once convinced that the recruitment was transparent and that all the Anambra people on that list had something to offer, gave his nod. Emecheta’s niece and others on that list are today, good ambassadors of Anambra state in CBN and are primed for great responsibilities and challenges.
So, whether we are talking about banking consolidation, Transcorp, African Finance Corporation, NEEDS, SEEDS, new CBN branches in Awka, Umuahia and Asaba, rehabilitation of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, revamping of Federal Bureau of Statistics, Centres of Excellence in University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, University of Ibadan and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, rehabilitation of Ekwulobia-Ufuma-Umunze roads, adoption of Amoji Primary School and turning it into one of the best primary schools, etc, the secret to these well celebrated transformational achievements remains the uncommon wisdom of using the right people to drive progress. At the end, the real winners are the citizens, the critical masses and the larger society, who enjoy in the abundance of plenty, live in harmony, peace and happiness, and secured in the assurance of the safety of their lives and property.
This is what the clamour for him is all about, for those who may still be sitting on the fence. True, Ndi Anambra are not begging him to run for governor in 2021 as some people think. They are only urging and encouraging him to do so because they see in him, the combined qualities of the Ziks and Okparas. They are urging him because they hunger for an era when Anambra will be the fastest growing economy in a liveable, smart Megacity. That is why the Elites of Anambra under the banner of Soludo Promoters Forum are today in the arena, ”showing the light”, and striving to give politics a new identity in the steps of Zik and his protégés. Many other support groups are in every village in Anambra singing the same sweet song. Soludo for now is seeking God’s guidance. Anambra however is waiting.
Happy Holiday, Ndi Anambra. Happy birthday to the great Zik of Africa!
*Joe Chukwudi Anatune writes from Awa in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State