by Suraj Oyewale
How high did he rank on personal integrity and morality? Well, I learnt not to put my money on anybody on this subject. Maybe, I’m a bit disappointed here.
That I am a big fan of the erstwhile Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is very well-known to people that read me, from my Social Media comments to formal articles in national dailies. In the almost five years between June 2009 when I wrote my first article on the Kano Prince, entitled, “The Lamido Sanusi I Didn’t Know”, which was published in THISDAY and a couple of other newspapers, to February 2014 when I wrote the last before this, entitled, “That Tax Evasion Allegation Against Sanusi” (Sahara Reporters etc), I had written more than 20 articles on the man I gleefully list as one of my mentors.
My admiration and support for the man was a product of days of intensive research on him, which led me to reading more than 30 articles of his and rejoinders to his many controversial writings sometime in May 2009. I spent one Friday evening in May 2009 digging the internet to satisfy my curiosity about this man that had just been confirmed as the next boss of the nation’s apex bank. I came across his many write-ups between 1998 and 2005, when as he told me later, he stopped dabbling into controversial topics as one for the conditions First Bank Plc gave him when he was poached from UBA and made Executive Director at the nation’s premier Bank.
I opened a folder on my computer system to save the over 30 articles I came across in my research, and spent the next weekend doing nothing but reading the articles. They were thrillers of writings. I was dazed. I was surprised I never came across the man’s articles in newspapers before despite my being a newspaper person right from my primary school days, although my mind flashed back to reading one long, strongly-worded essay at the backpage on THISDAY newspaper sometime in 2005, which author I faintly recollect was one Lamido Sanusi.
I was impressed with Sanusi’s ability to combine his day job as a banker with interventions in fields that had nothing to do with banking. His mastery of fields like sociology, politics, philosophy, religion, culture, history, which were evident in his articles, was bewitching, just as his writing style made those articles unputdownable. Of course, I was worried only a very few of his articles bordered on economics and banking – his primary field. Yet, his intelligence was unmistakable.
I came across his battles with many personalities, including the now late Kano Islamic preacher, Sheikh Adam Jafar, an affront that almost got him a persona non grata status in Kano at the time (2004); his engagements with columnists and public analysts like Mohammed Haruna, Ike Okonta, Simon Kolawole, Reuben Abati, Okey Ndibe, Kabiru Yusuf, Chu Okongwu, Edwin Madunagu, G.G Darah, Peter Ekeh, to mention but a few. All these were between 1998 and 2005. I read all the articles.
After consuming the loads of writings and counter-writing, I came to one conclusion: this man is intelligent and fearless. From what I read, he also did not appear to me as ethnocentric or bigoted, given the fact he gave it hard to even the leaders of his region and religion. For every “Igbo, Yoruba and History”, there is a “Northern Leaders and the Myth of Marginalization”; for every “Afenifere: Syllabus of Error”, there is an “In Defence of Father Martins Kukah”, all written by Sanusi. All these were enough for me to form opinion on the man, and I did my first piece on him, “The Lamido Sanusi I Didn’t Know” (THISDAY, June 27, 2009).
I held that the man was misunderstood, and most of the criticisms were driven by primordial sentiments, and I vowed to deploy my pen to educate the people about him, given my research-driven knowledge of him. I achieved that to a large extent, although it came with a cost, including being labeled Sanusi’s attack dog and paid agent. I was so vociferous in his defense that people actually thought I was his PR agent.
With many articles on him written making the opinion pages of virtually all the major newspapers in Nigeria, it was only natural that he noticed me, even though that was never the intention. We eventually got talking in 2011, two years after I had been independently trying to correct the sentiment-driven falsehood being peddled against him.
Of course, not being his commissioned PR agent and maintaining my independence, it was easy for me to express my views on areas I think he got wrong, either to him in private or on the pages of newspapers as I do for his positives. I considered it sycophantic to tell him or say about him only what he wanted to hear. Areas like his statement on tying the bankers to the gallows and shooting them was a low. There are many other unguarded comments I took exception to. A number of inconsistencies in his policies and actions, like the ATM siting policy and the reversals, and the different figures on the missing NNPC money, were not impressive enough. The donation to Kano post-bombing was also ill-advised in my opinion. I also agree with many Nigerians that his methodology needed more refinement.
Now, the man I read about in 2009 and swore to defend against the mischief of those that are ignorant about him, has spent his years in office, and there are more grounds to reassess him other than retrospective articles I used as basis in 2009. Friends have continued to ask me whether I still held the opinions I held of Sanusi in 2009 after my research. This article is primarily intended to answer that.
Is Sanusi as brilliant as I portrayed him in my June 2009 article? Yes, I still hold that SLS is a brilliant man. In addition to being a great writer, he is even a better talker as I came to know.
Is he as courageous as I wrote? Well, many Nigerians will agree that this is his biggest strength. But there is a lesson I want SLS to learn here. President Jonathan and the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) did not show him the amended report of the FRC investigations until the day they sacked him, this looks like posterity. Much as I agree that the bankers he sacked were so powerful that they can upturn the justice process if given the chance, I believe Sanusi should have given them chance to at least respond to the the findings of the CBN/NDIC audit team before removing them, if not for anything, for fair hearing sake no matter how overwhelming the evidence is.
Did he pursue any agenda? Till today, this allegation is still crap to me. I seriously doubt Sanusi pursued any hidden agenda other than what he considered best in the interest of Nigeria. His articles I read all pointed to his passion for Nigeria. None of his actions as CBN boss made me to doubt this. Like any other person, he is proud of his Fulani and Muslim heritage, but I don’t think he denied other people their entitlement because of contrary affiliation. I have not seen anything to drop this view.
How competent was Sanusi? I think he was competent enough for the job of apex bank leadership, and he also showed this by choosing equally brilliant men like Kingsley Moghalu and Mustapha Chike-Obi, as his right hand men. There were errors no doubt, but I have no regret that I vouched for his competence in 2009.
How high did he rank on personal integrity and morality? Well, I learnt not to put my money on anybody on this subject. Maybe, I’m a bit disappointed here. It was easy for me to believe the Maryam Yaro story because the source, Premium Times, was trustworthy and these guys have a record of top notch investigative journalism just as they are not known for cheap publicity. My personal investigations on this scandal also did not reveal anything to the contrary. If it was personal, I would not have minded much, but allowing such to encroach his official duty is a deep low for a man like SLS. A former editor of a top national daily even jokingly told me in a private chat, “I hope he is not mentoring you in that aspect too”, to which we both LOL’ed.
Was Sanusi political? The man has always been an activist. He was part of those behind the famous Radio Kudirat anti-Abacha guerilla communication medium, in the mid-90s. But he is not a partisan person. Ahead of 2003 elections, he had nice words for Buhari [Buharism: Economic Theory and Political Economy (SLS, July 2002)], but he felt Buhari was too old to be considered for President now, and that the structures that made him achieve what he did as military ruler were not available under civil rule. That was some eleven years ago. I don’t think Sanusi will support such candidacy today. Ribadu and el-Rufai have also been his friend for long. In fact, I came across an article he wrote on el-Rufai in 2005 or so, so it will be unfair to expect him to break ties with these people when he is not a political appointee of the PDP government.
Were there politics to his eventual removal? Yes, but Sanusi made it easy. It was very glaring that Jonathan and his ill-advisers were becoming uncomfortable with Sanusi’s actions, and the FRC report was a readily available tool to hang on to.
Overall, I still hold that Sanusi was a brilliant, courageous, and largely honest public servant, who tried his best for Nigeria, the few failings notwithstanding.
Suraj Oyewale, a chartered accountant, blogger and public analyst, is the Founder of JarusHub Career & Management Portal. He can be reached via [email protected] and he tweents from @mcjarus
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.