ANAMBRA 2021: WAITING FOR THE IJELE

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One of the things going for Anambra State is her rich and abundant human resource in all spheres of human endeavors. Recently, one of her citizens, Professor Charles Egbu was appointed the first black Vice Chancellor of a British university.

This rich human capital is also reflected in the number and quality of candidates who turn up during each election cycle in the state. As the state gears up for another gubernatorial election next year, the quality of aspirants so far is impressive. No fewer than 25 aspirants from different political parties and with solid academic and professional backgrounds have thrown their hats into the ring. Individually, they’re good talents but none is an Ijele. In Igbo cosmology, Ijele is the biggest and greatest masquerade known for its dignity, grace and majesty. Among the masquerades, Ijele is like the iroko tree in the forest. As a mark of respect, Ijele doesn’t share the arena with other masquerades.

As the countdown to 2021 election continues, various interest groups across political divide seem to be in agreement on who is the Ijele candidate and have been clamoring for him to step out. The groups have been clamoring for Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo to join the 2021 gubernatorial race in Anambra State.

Born on July 28, 1960, (60 years ago), Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR, is currently the Chairman of Anambra Vision 2070 Committee and member of Presidential Economic Advisory Council. Given his sterling achievements and exceptional feats, Soludo’s odyssey is a typical grass-to-grace story. An exceptionally brilliant man, Soludo earned a distinction in WASCE, a First Class degree in Economics; an outstanding M.Sc and a Ph.D in Economics in addition to awards as the best graduating student at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His post-doctoral trainings and research were done in some of the world’s finest institutions – University of Oxford, UK; University of Warwick, UK; Cambridge University as Smuts Scholar; Brookings Institution, Washington DC; UN Economic Commission for Africa and many others. With over 80 scholarly publications, 15 books and over 250 monographs to his credits, Soludo attained the rank of Professor at the age 38 at UNN and was a visiting Associate Professor at Swarthmore College, USA. He is a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Bankers (FCIB); Fellow of Economic Society (FNES) and was awarded Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) from three universities. His intimidating cognate experience spans across the globe. He has lived and worked in Ethiopia, UK and the USA and have travelled to over 45 countries as a consultant. He has at various times consulted for over 18 international organizations including the World Bank, IMF, European Union, African Union, USAID, UK-DFID, ADB, IBM Consulting, USA, UNCTAD, IDRC Canada etc.

His public service record is impressive having held five substantive positions at the federal level between 2003 and 2009. He was the Chief Economic Adviser to the President; Deputy Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Planning Commission; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; Chairman, Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC) Plc; as well as membership of more than 25 technical/policy committees. His consolidation of the banking sector is still outstanding and stands him out as a courageous person. The testimonial written on him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004 is instructive: “Charles Soludo is a true Nigerian. He is the sort of Nigerian that we all know we can rely on. Among his numerous virtues is courage. I have found in him a man who can take tough and realistic decisions, stand his ground, educate others on the salience of his decision, and work very hard to ensure the decision is effectively and efficiently implemented. His dedication to duty is first rate. His leadership qualities are admirable and his willingness to listen and learn is simply infectious. Prof. Soludo has within a short time emerged as one of the leading lights of our nation. Not because he has a godfather but by sheer hard work, loyalty, dedication to duty, commitment to the nation, creativity and undiluted association with the reform agenda”.
These are the exact qualities that will be needed in post-COVID-19 Nigerian economy. According to the 2019 Annual States Viability Index (ASVI) report, many states are insolvent as their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in 2019 were far below 10% of their receipts from the Federation Account Allocations in the same year. With COVID-19 disruptions to the global economy, the future is still gloom. Therefore Anambra State in post-Willie Obiano administration will require creative financing, courageous reforms and a lot of international and multilateral assistance. This does not require somebody who will be learning on the job. The situation requires somebody who will hit the ground running and Soludo fits the bill.

As we continue to wait for the Ijele, here is wishing the Odenigbo Aguata na Orumba, Odenjinji Aguleri and a humble man, happy 60th birthday.

By Tony Onyima, Convener of Idemili Amaka, a coalition of Idemili Professionals and former Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism writes from Umuoji.

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