The Anambra governorship election to be held on November 6th has thrown up so much dirt. It has proved the cliché; portraying politics as indeed a dirty game. The electioneering campaign has been so smearing that even a saint would not be spared. Of all the eighteen in the race, the candidates of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Professor Chukwuma Soludo and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Andy Uba, have taken more of the bashing.
Two claims that have been bandied about against Chukwuma Soludo particularly need interrogating for the reason that they have been spun out of context and branded lies told by the former CBN governor just to win the governorship election. In these two instances, the suppositions are not quite correct and therefore smack more of propaganda than setting the records straight, thus providing the irresistible reason for this intervention.
The two issues now branded as lies are the role Soludo said he played in the birthing of Transcorp Hilton and Andy Uba’s claim that he made Soludo governor of the CBN, which the latter repudiated. Let the two issues be put in the right perspective and you be the judge.
Recall that Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel, which opened its door to first guests in 1987, became Nicon Hilton around the year 2000, when the Noga Intl Hotels pulled out. Soon after, during privatization, Nicon Hilton became Transcorp Hilton. This happened when in 2005, the Federal Government of Nigeria privatized NIRMSCO Properties Limited – the then-owner of the Nicon Hilton Hotel, Abuja. As part of a consortium, Transcorp plc purchased a proprietary stake in the company and became the core investor, while the federal government retained the remaining 49 per cent. Hilton International LLC was initially engaged to manage the property.
Soludo was by then the CBN governor when this transformation happened with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President. As CBN governor, there was no doubt that Soludo would have a hand in the policy initiative that yielded Transcorp Hilton and others like it at the time.
The full story of how the group led then by Ndi Okereke-Onyiauke took over Nicon Hilton, using the Blind Trust in which Obasanjo had vested interest but later divested himself, is for another day. The fact is that without Obasanjo on the advice of Soludo there wouldn’t have been Transcorp Hilton as at then. So, if Soludo says he inspired the new corporation by getting Obasanjo on board, it is nothing but the gospel truth and whoever calls it a lie is either ignorant or is simply being mischievous.
Soludo as CBN governor did not overreach himself by playing such a role. CBN is statutorily responsible for monetary policies of the government. But the apex bank equally plays a lot of interventionist roles in the fiscal sphere such as advising on privatization and similar policy directions. It is not therefore out of place for Soludo to see the strategic importance of Transcorp Hilton, which has remained the foremost hotel in Nigeria.
On the role of Andy Uba in Soludo’s emergence as CBN governor (2004–2009), one may ask: was it Andy Uba that recommended Soludo to Obasanjo or someone else? Obasanjo is alive and can correct me if I am wrong. Andy Uba may have put in a word to his principal, President Olusegun Obasanjo (as he then was) for Soludo. However, what happened was that it was a search party, led by a world-class economist, Professor Emmanuel Edozien that recommended Soludo to Obasanjo. Andy Uba was not in that search team and based on his cognate experience and claimed specialization, he was not really in a position to make the search party. He is not a banker or an economist (some say a physiotherapist), and was not in a position to advise on who could become CBN governor.
As at the time of his appointment as CBN governor, Soludo had already proved himself as an economic guru and therefore not a ‘nobody’, or can be said to be one tucked away in obscurity. He had made a name for himself by designing the famous economic recovery blueprint for the Obasanjo Presidency – NEEDS. He had already arrived at the centre stage and was in the thick of things to a significant extent.
For emphasis, the search party recommended Soludo, not Andy Uba. One may not be sure of what Andy Uba says he studied and where, but certainly he is not qualified to recommend a CBN governor to a President like Obasanjo. Putting in a word, yes, but that is not a recommendation in this sense.
The point is: if the search party did not recommend Soludo, he wouldn’t have become CBN governor despite Andy’s interest, however disposed to Soludo he might have been. Andy Uba’s role – if indeed he played it – is therefore very secondary and Soludo not reckoning with it cannot be a lie or lack of gratitude.
Everything is not politics. One also hears that Soludo is arrogant. I know Soludo to be impatient with people who have time to waste, which all serious-minded persons, not only Soludo, do not have. That is not being arrogant.
For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a member of the Soludo campaign, so this explanation is for the common good. Let the spin doctors find something more plausible and stop dwelling on irrelevancies and inconsequentialities, which can only cause distractions.
Dr Law Mefor