Isime Esene profiles Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II: The blue-blooded maverick (Y!/ Person of the Year nominee)

Wearing multiple hats and playing diverse roles may be difficult to many, but not for the Emir of Kano.

Coming from a family of rulers, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (as he then was) has always been in and around royalty. Being the grandson of the 11th Emir of Kano and son of Muhammad Lamido Sanusi, a career diplomat and technocrat who served as the Nigerian Ambassador to countries in Europe, Asia, and North America surely gives you a rounded exposure not open to commoners.

For many, being in the corridors of power and among the Nigerian elite is enough, but not for Sanusi – the award-winning central banker wanted more. The painfully thin blue blood became the MD/CEO of First Bank 24 years after joining the banking industry as a young professional. Leading a bank that was regarded by many as old and lacking in innovation, Sanusi initiated and established systems and processes that changed the way many now perceive the Bank. Less than a year into his tenure he was nominated as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with his appointment confirmed by the Senate on June 3, 2009.

Of course some attributed Sanusi’s rapid rise in First Bank and his nomination as CBN governor to the unusual benevolence of one of his mentors, Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab, but it is hard, impossible actually, for even his worst critics to deny the ingenuity, talent, and brilliance that is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Born at a location in close proximity to the palace of the Emir, Sanusi had one ambition that would not just leave – to rule over his people. Upholding tradition, standing for justice, amplifying the voice of his people, and satisfying his thirst for the knowledge of the Almighty Allah are values that define him.

The 55-year-old has stuck to these precepts even at the risk of his job, throne… and his life.

As a Central Bank Governor in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Sanusi blew the whistle on corruption in the state-run oil agency, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) running into billions of dollars – an act which was perceived as disloyal by the administration. Sanusi knew quite well the cost of making such secrets public especially when he is seen as part of the ruling establishment. But he is different, his loyalty remains with the people no matter what cap he wears. And if, for anything, anyone deigns to believe he acted because of his disdain for a president not from his part of the country, his remarks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to effect sound policies to take the economy out of recession should effectively shut that down.

He spoke in December about the FG’s plan to borrow money from external lenders, effectively saying that it lacked depth of thought. “If we cannot raise $2 billon in two years and you want to borrow $30 billion in two years to the end of the life of the administration. The government should rather pay more attention to investment and support the private sectors to grow the economy.

“The economy that has five exchange rates can’t borrow $30 billion. They can’t lend you the $30 billion when you have five foreign exchange rates and with the current bombing of oil pipelines by the Niger Delta militants. So, on which foreign exchange rate can you get the loan?”

This is quintessential Sanusi – a bona fide member of the Nigerian elite who has no qualms speaking straight to power at any time.

A man of exquisite taste and unrestrained brilliance, Sanusi has brought sustained dignity to the Kano Emirate which he leads. He is the rallying point for his people and the Kakaki that amplifies the voices of many when others choose the safety and comfort of silence and self-serving compromise. He is taking the road less travelled and has allowed truth alone to be his lighthouse. For speaking out in the face of oppression, intimidation and more, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, the 14th Emir of the Kano deserves to be the YNaija Person of the Year 2016.

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