Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday recalled that his Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and current Director General of the World Trade Organization, WTO, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as minister of finance were his best appointees at the time.
Obasanjo spoke during the celebration of Soludo's one year in office as governor at Awka, the state capital on Saturday. The event was attended by important personalities including Obasanjo and former governors including Peter Obi, whose entry into the hall electrified the event.
The former Nigerian leader also condemned the “persistent” discrimination against people of southeastern extraction, which he describes as Igbophobia.
During Obasanjo’s administration which spanned 1999 to 2007, Soludo served as the CBN governor, while Okonjo-Iweala was the Minister of Finance.
According to the 85- year old former President, Soludo, who worked closely with him as an economic adviser, “never misadvised me,” and the economist’s performance impressed him so much so that he was asked to lead the apex bank.
He further noted that, Soludo was the second Nigerian CBN governor who was not a commercial banker of some sort.
However, soon after appointing the academic, the ex-president said, he found himself in an encounter with a dissenting voice.
His words, “Somebody came to me and said, ‘Wow! You have ruined the economy of Nigeria.’
“I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘An Igbo woman, Minister of Finance; an Igbo man, Governor of the Central Bank? Then you have clearly completed the task of ruining the economy of Nigeria.
“I don’t know why he said that, except for what I can call Igbophobia, and I don’t take that lightly. It remains, it persists.
“But when you have that type of thing that was said to me and the type of thing that you know is going on, as I have just called it, what do we do with it?
“I believe we have to go back to the scripture, which says we must conquer evil with good.
“And whoever you are, wherever people are afraid of you, you must make yourself friendly to those who are afraid of you and earn their friendship by being good to them, and that is what we have to do.”
He further noted that from his personal experience, nothing wins friendship like one being friendly, adding that, the appointments of Okonjo-Iweala and Soludo were “probably the best of the appointments that I made when I was president.”