Nigeria: President’s shamelesss u-turn for tribal politics?

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Nigerian President Mr. Umaru Yar’Adua has been accused of succumbing to pressure from formidable Northern Nigerian groups and power brokers, and playing the ethnic card by replacing the widely praised Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr. Charles Soludo with a man from Northern Nigeria.

Mr. Soludo who is lauded as a passionate economist, whose reforms pushed Nigeria’s banking sector forward by decades, is from Eastern Nigeria and the the Northern groups felt that the polices he implemented did not favor the mostly illiterate Northern Nigerians.

Soludo is a member of the British Department for International Development’s International Advisory Group. He has been a visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Oxford, amongst other Universities, and he has also worked as a consultant for a number of international organizations, including The World Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the United Nations Development Program. But he has now been replaced by Northerner Mr. Sanusi Lamido Aminu Sanusi, who earned his Bachellors and Masters degree in Economics in Zaria, Nigeria before proceeding to the International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan, where he read Sharia and Islamic Studies.

Alhaji Ali Abacha, National Chairman of the Northern Patriotic Front (NPF) acknowledged that Mr. Soludo exhibited competence in the discharge of his duties, but the NPF’s grievance was based on the belief by a cross section of northerners that most of his financial policies, especially relating to foreign exchange, were not favorable to the north. “Soludo introduced some policies that were too harsh for the North. So, when his tenure expired, we said there was no need for extension, that they should get somebody from the North who is competent. And because most of our people are not educated as they are basically farmers, we wanted somebody who would give priority attention to agriculture.” Alhaji Abacha went on to say that: The pressure was indeed, mounted on President Umaru Yar’Adua by formidable northern groups and power brokers in ensuring that Soludo was not given a second term of office.

Most of Northern Nigerians are illiterate and are involved in Agriculture and Bureau d’échange business. But Soludo’s financial policies which sought after the greater good of Nigerian economy did not favor the Northern farmers and money exchangers, and so he (Soludo) despite his widely applauded reforms in the banking sector, has been replaced by a Northerner. “If you take the foreign exchange which has a large number of northerners involved in the business, Soludo introduced a lot of stringent conditions and most of our people in the trade are not educated. They faced tough times during his (Soludo) five year tenure. The policies are only good for advanced countries, not in Nigeria where education is still low and poverty still high, especially in the North,” Abacha added.

Observers have also accused the Nigerian president (Who is from Northern Nigeria) of playing the ethnic card with other appointment of core members of his economic team all coming from Northern Nigeria such as the the Minister of Finance, Presidential Economic Adviser, and Minister for National Planning. President Yar’Adua had promised change, from the usual murky politics that had crippled Nigeria since time immemorial, when he assumed office.

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