On April 25,2005, My boss then, Chief Ufot Ekaette, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, summoned me to his office and asked me to announce the appointment of Professor Charles Soludo as the new Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria.
I then asked him whether he had the curriculum vitae of Professor Soludo so as to firm up my press release.
“Eric, go to the villa and ask Oby, I think she has something to do with the appointment,” he directed. The Oby he was referring to at that time was Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, who was special assistant on budget monitoring and price intelligence to President Olusegun Obasanjo but reporting directly to Mr. Steve Orosanye, who was then Permanent Secretary to the State House.
The thought that came to me after leaving the office of Ekaette was how easy it was then to become the Governor of CBN without having led a big organisation.
To me the Governor of the CBN is a very powerful office as he, among others, determines our present and future. A man who has the power to devalue our currency, determine the interest rates equally has the power to devalue our lives and I thought the appointment for that office deserved very serious attention and screening.
On getting back to my office, I met my egbon, Dr. Akin Ogunlewe, who was the Chairman of EKO Bank at that time and Ambassador Isaac Agboola Aluko Olokun (1944-2011) a very close friend. I told both of them that Soludo would be succeeding Chief Sanusi as the Governor of Central Bank. Both of them were shocked. Dr. Ogunlewe told me that Professor Soludo was not known in the banking world and that the appointment would shock those in the industry. At the time of the appointment, Charles Soludo was the Economic Adviser to President Obasanjo and the Chief Executive of National Planning Commission.
Although an outstanding economist, Soludo never rose to head any bank before the appointment. The way Central Bank Governors are appointed in Nigeria is a little bit interesting. But after reading the Chronicle by Mr. Dada-Stephen on how Central Bank Governors are appointed in Nigeria, I concluded that something was wrong and should be corrected by the present President.
The First indigenous Governor, Alhaji Aminu Mai-Borno (1919-1970) taught English at Yola Middle School from 1942-1946. After he graduated from Bristol University where he studied Economics in 1957, he returned to Nigeria and served with the Northern Nigeria Public Service as an Administrative Officer where he held various positions before his secondment to the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1959 as an Assistant Secretary. At the CBN, Mai Borno went on to become the Deputy Secretary and Secretary before his appointment as Deputy Governor in 1962. He became the first indigenous Governor of the Bank in 1963 to succeed Roy Pentelow Fenton, a British who served from July 24, 1958- July 24, 1963.
Dr. Clement Nyong Isong (1920-2000), an Annang man from the present Akwa Ibom, succeeded Mai- Borno. He had his Ph.D. from Harvard University in the United States of America. He was an Economics teacher at the University of Ibadan and worked as an adviser at the International Monetary Fund before being appointed as the Governor of CBN on August 15, 1967 and retired on September 22, 1975. The same Isong was elected Governor of Cross River State in 1979 and served his full term for four years before losing election in 1983. I was present at his burial in June 2000 in Akwa Ibom.
Alhaji Adamu Ciroma succeeded Clement Isong and served from September 24, 1975 to June 28, 1977. He was born on the 20th of November, 1934 at Potiskum, Yobe State. He completed his primary education in 1949 at the Borno Middle School in Maiduguri from where he proceeded to Barewa College in Zaria for his secondary education in 1950. After obtaining his A Levels in 1957, he proceeded to the University of Ibadan where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History.
Chief Olatunde Olabode Vincent (1925-2012) succeeded Adamu Ciroma and served from June 28, 1977 to June 28, 1982. Before the appointment, he was a vice-president at the Africa Development Bank, Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire between 1966 and 1973.
He too was succeeded by Alhaji Abdulkadir Ahmed who served from June 29, 1982- September 30, 1993. Having served for 11 years, Abdulkadir was the longest- serving Governor of the Central Bank. Abdulkadir Ahmed was born on the 31st October, 1940 in Jama’are, Bauchi State. He had his early education in Jama’are and Bauchi before proceeding to Barewa College, Zaria in 1955. He graduated from South West London College in 1972 after a stint at the University of Ife in 1961. He joined the service of the New Nigerian Development Company (NNDC), in January, 1960 and worked in various capacities within the group’s many subsidiaries and associate companies. He later served his state, Bauchi, as the first Commissioner of Finance from March 1976 to June 1977 after which he was appointed a Deputy Governor with the Central Bank of Nigeria. He was appointed the Governor of the Bank on 27th June, 1982 and retired on 30th September, 1993.
Dr. Paul Agbayi Ogwuma from Abayi in Imo State succeeded Abdulkadir on October 1, 1993 to May 29, 1999. Ogwuma, who is now having problems with his eyes, was a retired Managing Director of Union Bank. He was succeeded by Chief Oladele Sanusi on May 29, 1999.
Alhaji Lamido Sanusi, the present Governor took over on June 3, 2009 and all things being equal, he should proceed on terminal leave in March. So far, only three bank Chief executives have become Governor of Central Bank. They are Oladele Sanusi from Ogbagi Akoko in Ondo State, who was Managing Director of First Bank; Dr. Ogwuma, who is former Managing Director of Union Bank and Alhaji Lamido Sanusi Lamido, who is a former Managing Director of First Bank.
A lot has been said on Sanusi and he himself has said a lot. I do not want to comment on how voluble, glib and garrulous he has been. Of all the Governors of Central Bank, he has been the most controversial. And now that his tenure is almost over, we should ask ourselves, what the qualifications to be Governor of Central Bank are.
The prerogatives lie with the President and only the President knows who should be the next Governor. Because of sensitivity in relevant circle, I think the President should seek for somebody of quality and the appointment should be based strictly on merit without emphasis on of geopolitical origin. We need a candidate with experience in both commercial and central banking and also a deep knowledge of Economics. The office requires a cool-headed banker and economist who will not turn the office to a television studio and who will have the confidence of operators in the economic and financial sectors globally. This year is definitely a campaign year and a lot will depend on who occupies that office.
The economy requires a bold proactive measure directed by a competent person, unlike the way the political class has been mismanaging the country.
The future Governor of Central should be someone who grew up in the banking system and who understands what it takes and who can withstand the political pressure in a highly volatile political climate. 2014 will require a new market and with it a new kind of portfolio management in which the Central Bank Governor will play a vital role.
Certainly, the market will crave for leadership and the Governor of Central Bank should and must deliver it.
Good luck to anyone so appointed.
By Eric Teniola