Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has spoken out against the prevalence of anti-Igbo sentiments in Nigeria, referring to the issue as ‘Igbophobia’. He made this statement during an event in Anambra held to celebrate Chukwuma Soludo’s first year in office as the governor of the state, which took place on Saturday.
During the event, Obasanjo reminisced about his time working alongside Soludo as his economic adviser when he was president. The former president expressed his delight with Soludo’s impressive performance and recalled how he subsequently appointed him to the position of governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, where he excelled in his duties.
Despite Soludo’s achievements, Obasanjo recounted a conversation he had with someone who criticized his decision to appoint both Soludo and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an Igbo, as finance minister at the time. The individual suggested that the appointments were a mistake due to the appointees’ ethnicity.
“On one occasion, soon after I appointed him, 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 Central Bank, then you have clearly completed the task of ruining the economy of Nigeria,” Obasanjo said.
“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.
“I have personally experienced that and nothing wins friendship like you being friendly.”
He said the appointment of Soludo and Iweala was probably the best of the appointments he made when he was president.
“Chukwuma was a good economist and he turned out to be a good CBN governor because CBN is not like a commercial bank but a bank for development,” Obasanjo said.
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