|Charles Seludo Photo:Courtesy
Soludo as governor
Soludo was fortunate to manage the Central Bank (CBN) during a time of wealth, as the price of oil was high and oil profits were put into financial arrangements like the Excess Crude Fund (created by a military dictator) and the nation's Sovereign Wealth Fund. Additionally, he successfully heralded the improvement and empowerment of Nigeria's financial sector, resulting in 16 Nigerian banks ranking in the world's top 1000. Furthermore, he has repeatedly proclaimed the aspiration of transforming the nation's commercial capital, Lagos, into a global financial city. However, not every decision he made was considered a success. His announcement of the re-denomination of the Naira in 2007 was quickly shot down by Yar'Adua, who explained that the plan had not been approved by his office.
Despite any problems Soludo had, he arguably was good for Nigeria's financial sector which grew under his care. That is why his potential replacement, assuming that he is indeed replaced, must be closely scrutinized. The new Governor of the CBN must be someone with proven experience in dealing with national economic matters, particularly in tough times. Furthermore, that person must be one who gives the market confidence and will not discourage local and foreign investors from investing their money in the country. Considering the current instability in Nigeria’s economy, and the fact that the Naira has fallen by at least 20% against the US Dollar in recent months, Nigerians will need someone capable of creating and implementing innovative schemes to prevent the complete breakdown of Nigeria's financial markets and system.
Is Yar'Adua's Son-In-Law Up For The Job?
Nigeria has been declared one of, if not the, safest economy in the world by the likes of Merril Lynch and the Africa Rainbow Consulting, which announced Nigeria as the best African country for investment. Despite the tightening of the foreign exchange rate policy, and the drop in foreign reserves, investors, like George Soros, still keep their eyes on the country as a potential investment location. As such, the CBN governor position is a plum position to have.
Given this reality, it is curious that the Leadership paper reported that the President's newest son-in-law, Isa Yuguda, the governor of Bauchi State, could likely head the CBN. It is unclear what his qualifications would be for such a job, except for his governorship over a state currently experiencing religious violence which he, Yuguda, summed up as being the work of his "political detractors".
The possibility of such an appointment is dangerous for Nigeria and its people. Nigeria is a struggling democracy trying to shed its reputation for extreme corruption. Having the Presiden't son-in-law at the CBN will leave little confidence that the coffers will not be emptied the way they have routinely been emptied in the past. That attitude will not necessarily be because Yuguda or Yar'Adua are known for corruption and stealing from the people, but rather, it will be due to the nation's history of having corrupt leaders steal from the very people they were to serve. After all, Nigeria is still recovering millions of the estimated $2 - 5 billion stolen and hidden all over the world by its last military dictator, Sani Abacha.
Nigeria is a country that has made it through tough times before and will undoubtedly make it through tough times in the future. Nevertheless, every Nigerian has a vested interest in ensuring that control of the Central Bank is passed on to credible hands. Nigeria cannot afford to have anyone but the best person, man or woman, in that position and there must be no room for corruption. Whoever takes on that job, when Soludo leaves, will need to be ready to keep the nation's financial sector afloat in these difficult economic times, while creating confidence in the economy for foreigner investors and most importantly, for the Nigerian people.
By Solomon Sydelle