First of all let me restate my credentials for those of you that do not know me, I am not a public official, I have never held public office and I have been passionate and focused on one general area of National Development, with four specific focus pillars, for the past five years, and these are Leadership Development, the promotion of and the equipping of Entrepreneurs, as well as the fundamentals and the resources for the empowerment of the Nigerian Women and Youths.
So I like to think that I have become an expert on these subjects in the last five years as I live and wake up every morning thinking of nothing but how to reposition our Micro, Small and Medium Businesses, how to develop our Women and Youth owned businesses and how to support our Leaders to get the right tools, the ideas and the resources they need to make things happen for Nigeria in general and for these groups in particular. You will not find me taking on our established authority because they have not done things my way or because they have made some mistakes.
I believe there are better ways to get my voice heard and I have access to the certain decision makers so I get my voice heard in that way, and in some cases I write my opinions in public forums without violating the rights of those I seek to advise. I know that my way or my ideas may not be the best way and I also know that everyone and I mean every one including Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo makes mistakes. So I seek understanding first rather than to condemn others.
When I was very young our teacher would always carry out what she called the “MINDSET” experiment. I am sure a lot of you are familiar with it. She would pour water into a glass and stop at the half way mark and ask us “is this cup half empty or half full?” I was always the half full guy in the class room. And I would hold onto that position all through my education and all through my life, and I am still now the half full guy in the room. I am an unapologetic opportunist. I see great things happening for Nigeria and those that are not happening yet I still see the positive aspects and potentials that these things will happen given enough time. So you can tell how disappointed I was when I read the article by Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo on the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan and this administration. There were so many things wrong with that thesis, to say the least, it was the strategic way in which Prof Soludo designed it to look objective but it was full of personal attacks and petty issues, you will have to have a strategic mind or you may have to read it a number of times before you can catch what I am talking about, so I will break it down for you in this paper.
Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo
I must first of all confess that Prof Soludo is a great man and a very intelligent scholar. We were lucky to have him as our Chief Economic Adviser to the President and subsequently Governor of the Central Bank at the time he served. Anybody that reads my write ups will agree that I, only a few weeks ago wrote a very objective article on the performance of Prof Soludo and Hero in him that saw to the banking consolidation revolution, which ushered in a new era in Nigerian Banking and which was what was needed at that time. However the point is that times change and whereas Soludo was needed at the time he served as Central Bank Governor to drive the process of building mega Banks in Nigeria. It was Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as Central Bank Governor, currently the Emir of Kano, that was needed to clean up the mess that resulted not long after the consolidation, in which many of the Super Star Commercial Bank CEOs who now had access to monumental volumes of cash as a result of the successful consolidation policy started behaving like kids in a candy shop and went on insider borrowing sprees that nearly brought down our economy.
Sometimes it scares me to think what if President Yar ‘adua had actually renewed Prof Soludo’s tenor. Considering his cozy relationship with these super star CEOs of Banks would he have had the courage or the will to rain them in? That is a discussion for another day. Let me look at his paper for a second.
I first started by asking myself what was Prof Soludo’s Strategic intent on writing that paper. And with all due respect to the Professor whom I have had the highest levels of respect for, i think his strategic intention was to misinform the Nigerian people. And this is why I say so.
There is something in military and diplomatic circles known as counter intelligence. On one hand Intelligence is when you gather information and provide it to decision makers on strategic aspects of your opponents or competitor’s plans or activities. And in this case your opponent or competitor may be a foreign Government, a competitor company or an adversary in the work place etc. On the other hand Counter Intelligence is when you deliberately misinform the other side by providing them with information that they believe to be intelligence, they believe to be true and they will go out and act on it.
Prof Chukwuma Soludo’s article was an attempt at Counter Intelligence because some people who do not know may actually believe him and go out and vote based solely on what they believe to be true, as narrated by Prof Soludo. And from my analysis not much of what he was saying was credible, much of it was simply not true and in some cases he straight out lied to us.
1. Opening Statement: He started out by saying that he has been traveling the World and only on occasion does he follow up on Nigeria’s affairs. I felt that was rather condescending. He is a Nigerian and the international community only respects him because of the strategic roles he played as Nigeria’s Chief Economic Adviser and Governor of Central Bank. So I would rather see a more Statesmanship approach to his and others like him, when they write about Nigeria, especially as they call themselves our Leaders. The World will read what you write, Nigerians will read what you write so please our Leaders, our fathers, our mothers and our big brothers and sisters let us treat Nigeria with much more respect.
2.Savings: Prof Soludo went on about how ineffective saving as a Government is when people are hungry. He said His Excellency Peter Obi missed the point in his savings approach to Governance. However the same Prof Soludo in the very same article says that he did a great job by saving Nigeria $45 billion when he was Governor of the Central Bank. Fellow Nigerians as Governor of the Central Bank you are also an economic adviser to the President and the Federal Government, if Prof Soludo by his own admission says that Governor Peter Obi did wrong to save money for future Governments of Anambra State, and by definition Soludo does not believe in saving then why did he not advise President Obasanjo to spend all our foreign reserves? His Excellency Peter Obi can defend himself, however I know that with the exception of Governor Fashola, Peter Obi is still considered one of the most effective performing Governors in the history of Nigeria’s State Governments. And Soludo can NEVER take that away.
3.Price of Crude Oil: Prof Soludo talked about the price of crude oil when he was Governor of the Central Bank and I have checked, prices stood at about $46 a barrel in May of 2005, climbed to and hovered around $60 to $70 for most of 2006. Prices fell below $60 early in 2007 but climbed to an unprecedented $80 by November 2007 and then all the way up to $140 a barrel by early 2008 which it maintained that price a while before it fell again to the just above $45 in late 2008 and it subsequently rebounded in early to mid-2009. There are a lot of reasons for the oil price to be bouncing up and all over the place and none of those reasons have to do which the skills of the President or his Economic Managers.
In actual fact the present oil price fall is as a direct result of four major issues. First of all there is over supply coming from mostly OPEC countries especially Saudi Arabia, UAE etc. and the Shale Oil fracking companies in the United States, this over supply is putting a lot of pressure on the international price. Secondly there is so much investment going into alternative energy with the German Government investing over $1.4 Trillion, yes you read it right, $1.4 trillion dollars in the largest energy project in the World nicknamed the “Stromautobahn”, which is a combination of wind turbines that will harvest power from the winds out in the sea and supply it to the heart land of the Germany’s industrial base. In addition the European Union has called for a 35% target for all NATIONS of the EU to get their Energy from renewable resources by 2020.
German has set a more ambitious target of 80% of its energy to come from renewables by 2050, and they have put their money where their mouth is, with the $1.4 trillion Energiewende (German Energy Revolution) project which has been nicknamed Stromautobahn. Thirdly there is so much pressure on Russia from sanctions being imposed by the west that Russia is willing to sell its crude at any price. And finally the only growth market for crude oil in the World today is Asia, especially China and India and both Nations are slowing down their consumption of crude oil due to the slowdown in the demand for their products and services from their European customers.
I believe Prof Soludo should know all this, so why does he pretend that he doesn’t? The exchange rate of our currency will continue to depend on our ability to earn more foreign currency and so we need to expand our ability to earn by expanding our exports, as long as we depend on oil for foreign exchange our naira will rise or fall in relation to the price of the crude oil.
4.Rebasing of the Economy: Prof Soludo made a caricature about the efforts to rebase Nigeria’s economy and said in his article it amounted to nothing. He made bold to say that on all the indices used by international reviewers Nigeria’s economy is showing poor results, he went as far as to score the Administration an “F” on the economy. On this I cannot be more ashamed of Soludo, than to say this. Prof Soludo lied to the Nigerian people. Hear him; “First, my friend was educated that re-basing the GDP is no achievement: it is a routine statistical exercise, and depending on the base year that you choose, you get a different GDP figure. Re-basing the GDP has nothing to do with government policy”. First of all he is full of contradictions, he says we have failed to make progress on any of the economic indices, then he says in the same thesis that our over $510 billion GDP economy is not progress, (he used $540 billion in his article). He even went as far as to say that the rebased figures of the economy is NOT as a result of any Federal Government Policy in the statement above. Again he is dead wrong. The figures that gave the Nigerian economy a boost after the rebasing came from the fact that new industries have been created and have grown in Nigeria since the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. The Entertainment Industry that is presently employing highest number of young people in Nigeria outside the Agriculture sector is a big one. It has never featured in the calculations in our Gross Domestic Product before the rebasing. And for the benefit of those who do not know, our GDP is calculated by summing up or totaling all the goods and services bought and sold in financial transactions in the economy in a given year.
So is Prof Soludo saying that the millions of naira that are being earned by Don Jazzy, Banky W and P square, by Omotola and Ramzy Noah are not real? That the N120 million earned by “30 days in Atlanta” the Movie is not real? That the hundreds of United States citizens especially their young people I have personally heard singing along to the tune “Dorobuci” after they have purchased the song on iTunes is not real money? The fact that Radio stations in the USA, and I have personally witnessed this, are playing Nigerian music to their American audiences, and stimulating purchase orders, for Nigerian music which in turn is fueling a new export industry for Nigerian entertainment, is no longer a fact? What about the Internet and the Telecommunications industry which is an economy into upon itself.
It also was a major part of the rebasing of the GDP, as this industry did not exist as a basis for previous calculations of our GDP. And whereas the Telecommunications Revolution was started by President Obasanjo as even I have pointed out in previous write-ups, it was President Goodluck Jonathan that has consolidated the Telecommunications industry and provided additional policy support for it to keep growing, there lies the justification to include it in the GDP calculations, hence the need for rebasing the GDP.
So is Prof Soludo saying that the over $6 billion that the four GSM telecommunications firms are earning every year is not real? Or that the Value added services industry which was built on the back of the GSM industry and is presently worth over $1 billion a year is also not real? Is Prof Soludo saying that over one million recharge card resellers that are presently in every village across Nigeria are not real and that the money they are earning and using to feed their families does not exist? I think Soludo should rethink his position on the rebasing of the GDP, as he is misinforming the Nigerian people and he is being disingenuous.
Prince Nicholas Okoye is the CEO of ANABEL GROUP, Founder of EMPOWER NIGERIA and the convener of the Nigeria Leadership Summit.