Soludo’s Untaken Challenge

CHARLES Soludo, former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, has been accused of attention-seeking. Another accusation is that he mixed facts with fiction to the annoyance of today’s governments. He has been named a poor manager, whose skills resulted in huge bank liabilities – N5.67 trillion, according to government.

It is expected that his treatise on the economy, though he recapped issues he had written about four years back would generate these reactions. Those involved are unwilling to address the issues.

None of the reactions, unfortunately, addressed the issues he raised, in manners that would give Nigerians more insight about the glowing future that features on the campaign trail. The rosy picture Soludo painted of the economy by the time the Obasanjo administration departed is not entirely true.

Obasanjo left phantom projects that pulled the nation in debt. Soludo brought up the issue of abandoned projects. The best examples of Obasanjo’s legacies in that sphere are the National Independent Power Projects which did not improve electricity supply as they were uncompleted.

The shallowness and deceit around the projects were evident when some, though uncompleted, were commissioned. The most outstanding in this regard was Papalanto, which was commissioned, without a gas supply plan. Contract for the gas pipeline was never awarded.

Soludo should be the first to admit that governments inherit assets and liabilities. His picture seems to show the assets mostly. Liabilities were ignored and could be many, including the low level of transparency, which he also emphasised.

However, he made indisputable points about the emptiness of the campaigns. We had drawn attention to the vacuity of the campaigns particularly that the 2015 campaigns were being run without any serious considerations for the peculiar challenges Nigeria faces, now that the price of oil is sliding beyond the expectations of our economic managers.

The triple evils – compromise, corruption, incompetence – were signposted in Soludo’s article as more causes for concern, even if oil prices were to hit new upward records. He believes that those promising a better Nigeria should at this stage produce the figures (the bases) for their campaigns.

On the surface, it would appear Soludo’s challenge is for those in government. We think it is also for those who want to replace them. Soludo used the nation’s economy, 34 years ago, to illustrate the possible repeat of the dire challenges we faced then.

Unlike in 1981, unemployment was lower; standard of living was higher and cost of governments lower.

Candidates in the elections should pay attention to our improved future and how we would attain it, not just wish it. Soludo thinks attention to details is low – it is a quality the candidates share.

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