In Nigeria when the story of prominent men and women are told, one such man deserving a mention would be Chief Philip Asiodu who just marking his 70 years sojourn on earth. Chief Asiodu’s friends and relations will gather to celebrate a rewarding life with him.
At the age of 70 years, Chief Asiodu who became a Permanent Secretary under 40 years of age should be tiring afterall Samuel Butler once wrote that “life is one process of getting tired.”
Chief Asiodu does not usually figure among the major political personalities in the land even though he ran as a presidential aspirant under the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999 where he along with others were defeated by the incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo. But he occupies a unique position in the history of the nation’s public service.
Chief Asiodu left the nation’s civil service with the unofficial tag of super Permanent Secretary, a reputation largely associated with immense stature he acquired in government and the influence he wielded in public service.
He belonged to the class of very few Nigerian public servants who successfully imbibed the discipline and character that the British colonial masters tried to bequeath to Nigerians. He was among the very few early civil servants who possessed the sensitive insight to fashion out the right public service for Nigeria.
His was not the power of rhetoric or of intellect alone, a lot of which he displayed when he spoke with Daily Champion last week, nor was it the power of a magnetic personality which he undoubtedly is.
Chief Asiodu’s passion for the old order especially in the public service showed when he spoke about the state of the nation.
Looking back at the state of a nation which he devoted all his youthful life to construct he expressed “extreme sorrow that we are still where we are.”
In trying to bemoan over a failed foundation, Chief Asiodu said that “it is great shame and great regret” that the Asian Tigers we started the construction with are up there and we are still no where.
Chief Asiodu appear to lump the totality of the nation’s woes to dearth of the necessary political leadership. Not in a hurry to forget the unceremonious way he and his colleagues were booted out of the public service by the military, Chief Asiodu was quick to blame the growing rate of corruption in the country on the collapse of civil service which to him started with the late Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed’s regime.
He recalled with passion, the systematic operation in the civil service which blocks any tendency for corruption and said that the indiscipline in the public service today is worrisome to the extent that the same government can buy one kind of product at different prices and nothing is seen as wrong in it.
But like Cervantes wrote that “hope is why many are still alive,” Chief Asiodu at 70 years is not in a hurry to give up hope on Nigeria.
“I still will not be despondent,” he declared but prayed that Nigerian leaders should try to create the enabling environment for investment and put self far behind in taking public service decisions.
Chief Asiodu who served as President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Chief Economic Adviser for about two years would not want to critically analyse this government except to say that this country is governable contrary to impression people try to create.
He blamed the not too solid democratic foundation in the country on the hurried nature of the transition from the military to civilian democracy. According to him, ten months was too short to have been able to establish a solid political party.
If our democracy must endure, he advised, a means must be created to re-invent the “so called political parties” for a proper foundation for our polity.
Chief Asiodu who has been severally criticized for not making his wealth of experience available to his ethnic Igbo who have been in dire need of direction, has his reasons.
He said that by up bringing and training, the foreign service to which he was introduced at an early age did not help that aspiration. According to him, the early life focussed him to see things not from local or parochial inclination. This very vital reason perhaps was given impetus when he married a non-Igbo Chief Mrs Eugenia Olajumoke (nee Pereira).
But he identifies with Ndigbo in their plight of trying to pull off the tag of marginalisation. However, he feels that this might be hard to achieve unless and until Ndigbo change their tactics in politics.
“They must learn to apply more diplomacy in their approach to politics,” he advised. He said that even though he is ready and willing to contribute his quota on the development of the race, the leaders have not found him a necessary figure to consult.
Chief Asiodu dreams of an Igbo leadership that will carry out extensive consultations on the way forward for the ethnic group as he expressed his readiness to contribute to such idea if called upon.
Chief Asiodu has respect and high regard for some Nigerians living and dead but preferred for certain reasons to mention only the dead.
He has high regard for the first President of Nigeria late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe for his inspirational leadership. He also recalls the astuteness of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the wide but realistic dream of the late Premier of the North Sir Ahmadu Bello.
Chief Asiodu appreciates very highly the contributes of late Mbonu Ojike, Bode Thomas and Adegoke Adelabu
Chief Asiodu was born February 26, 1934 in Asaba, present capital of Delta State, married and has seven children, three sons and four daughters.
He is a product of the famous King’s College and Queen’s College, Oxford where he read Philosophy, Politics, Economics and French language
His career began from joining the Nigerian foreign service in 1957 through to Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in 1975 when he retired.
He was adviser to President Shehu Shagari on Economic Matters in 1983, a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1988 to ’89.
He became the Secretary (Minister) for Petroleum and Mineral Resources, 1992 to 1993 under the short-lived Interim National Government.
Chief Asiodu returned to the national limelight in 1999 when he ran as a presidential aspirant in the PDP. He was to become President Obasanjo’s Chief Economic Adviser from 1999 to 2001. He is currently a member of the honorary Presidential Advisory Council on Investment. An active private sector person since he left public service, Chief Asiodu is a director of several companies in manufacturing, oil and banking sectors. He is a life honorary vice president of the Lagos Chamber Commerce and Industries and was president of Nigerian-German Business Council.