Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has condemned the “persistent” aversion to people of southeastern extraction, which he describes as Igbophobia.
Speaking at an event in Anambra State to commemorate Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s one year in office, Obasanjo recalled his work with the professor of economics as well as the current Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
In Obasanjo’s administration which spanned 1999 to 2007, Soludo served as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while Okonjo-Iweala was the Minister of Finance.
The former president stated that 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.
According to the 85-year-old statesman, 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.
“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,” Obasanjo said.
The former president noted from his personal experience, nothing wins friendship like one being friendly.
He added that the appointments of Okonjo-Iweala and Soludo were “probably the best of the appointments that I made when I was president”.