I want to thank the Akwa Ibom State Government and the organizers of this Lecture for the invitation to deliver Dr. Isong’s first memorial lecture. It is not often that we honour and celebrate the dead in this part of the world, especially many years after their death. I commend the organizers for the rare honour. It is quite ironical that ten years ago, I presented a paper during the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Economic Society here in Uyo entitled “Theoretical Frameworks of SAP in Africa: Some Better Ideas of our Dead Economists”. Today, I am here (again in Uyo) to try to sift some lessons from the ideas of our own dead economist, Dr. Clement Isong. I must confess that unlike the theoretical paper I wrote ten years ago, this lecture is very hastily written and hence incoherent. It was yesterday that I struggled to steal away some hours into my library in Enugu to try and scribble some notes. If I don’t make sense to you, I will excuse you if you choose to take a nap! Introduction
I am not sure I am qualified to deliver this lecture having not had any personal contact with Dr. Isong before his death. I have however read a lot about the life and works of Dr. Isong, and I can confirm that he was a great man: a first rate economist, a competent central banker and a consummate politician whose life was that of service3. His life and accomplishments remind me that famous statement by the British poet and philosopher (Longfellow) that: ”Life of great men all remind us that we can make our life sublime; and departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time…”. Clement Isong truly left immense footprint in the sand of time. As my predecessor, and second Nigerian to be Governor of the Central Bank, I see in Dr. Isong’s career very enduring legacies and messages for those of us in office today, and for the political-economic governance of Nigeria today.
That is why I have chosen to digress fundamentally from the assigned topic to dwell more on what I can hear from Dr. Isong, even from his grave. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Isong is dead, but his ideas and legacies remain alive. This is the purpose of ‘Memorial Lectures— to elaborate, extend, and perpetuate some of the fundamental ideas and good deeds of our fallen heroes.
Dr. Clement Isong toughed the lives of all Nigerians in very fundamental ways and it is arguable if any person from the present South- South geographical zone has toughed the lives of Nigerians more than Dr. Isong since 1960. Countries immortalize their past heroes in many ways, naming buildings, streets, schools, stadia, airports and other important places after them; writing books about them; and other commemorative adulations. Often the most outstanding of such commemoration is to inscribe the person’s photograph on a nation’s currency— as a permanent reminder to the citizens on a daily basis, that the person served, died, but still lives on in our everyday lives. I am glad and proud of to observe that everyday, millions of Nigerians are constantly reminded (as they use the N1000 banknote) that Dr. Clement Isong came, served and permanently change the course of our history. I am also happy that the Central Bank he governed for eight years now has a full branch in Calabar, a currency centre in Uyo and has now commenced the building of a branch in Uyo. We shall, at an appropriate time, come to do the groundbreaking ceremony of the new branch in Uyo. The Central Bank has indeed tried to pay special tribute to Dr. Isong with these gestures and also in honour and respect to the State and people that gave Nigeria Dr. Isong. As far as the Central Bank of Nigeria is concerned, Dr. Isong was our Governor, very much remains a part of the CBN family.