Tunde Fagbenle: Lessons to learn from Sanusi’s removal

by Tunde Fagbenle


Back home and to the issue, SLS had continually poked his fingers into the eye of the government he belongs to and dug his finger into the president’s mouth daring him to bite it if he could.

So, finally, the enfant terrible supremo of Nigeria’s financial system has been forcefully relieved of his office. President Goodluck Jonathan suspends (sacks, it is) the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS). That announcement came about midday on Thursday.

The online dictionary meanings of “enfant terrible” are: 1. An incorrigible child, as one whose behaviour is embarrassing. 2. An outrageously outspoken or bold person who says and does indiscreet or irresponsible things. 3. A person whose work, thought, or lifestyle is so unconventional or avant-garde as to appear revolutionary or shocking.

There can be no more apt summation of the person or character of SLS than the above definitions, one and all.

Right from the word go of his assumption of office almost five years ago (June 3, 2009), Sanusi had decided and shown that he was unconventional and unafraid to be so, to the chagrin of all (his employers included) who associate the office with taciturnity and decorum. How and why someone like him was picked upon literally out of the blue unto such a conservative and highly technocratic position is a mystery that even he, himself, claimed not to know, as he did not “lobby” for it. That much he told me in an interview a couple of years ago.

Nevertheless, it was clear, as the world soon came to know, that SLS, though not brandishing big academic credentials (PhD, etc) to impress, was yet a brilliant economist and a genius orator. He was a breath of fresh air: youngish, sartorially elegant, knowledgeable, supremely self-confident, unperturbed, and ready to speak truth to power – even foolhardily so!

I must pause here to render an admission: I am not an “impartial” commentator in this matter, I own up. I know SLS personally after he came to office as CBN governor; I have written a number of (critical?) articles on him in this column; I am (was?) an admirer of his; I persuaded him to let my company (ALFA Communications Ltd) collate, edit and publish his extensive body of intellectual works (written before he came to office) into a huge book that would include interviews with him, and so I have “pecuniary” interest in his fortune. I must add quickly too that I have not found that experience as financially, or even professionally, pleasing as I had expected. But that is a story for another day. SLS is a conflicting character.

As I was saying, SLS came to office charging like a knight in shinning armour. He certainly had preconceived mind of what to do to cleanse the rot in the financial system; a rot occasioned by perfidious banking CEOs whose corruption stank to high heavens. SLS was in a position to know; he was a Risk Managing expert at big banks like UBA and First Bank, and had just risen to be the MD of First Bank when his CBN appointment came.

But the corrupt banking czars SLS wanted to deal with to sanitise the system were monstrously rich, well connected and powerful. Dealing with them was a potentially dangerous affair. But danger means nothing to SLS. The words “danger” and “fear” are not in his dictionary. There are many times one gets the impression that he is a fool. But a likeable ‘fool’ for he, truly, is impassioned for the possibilities and greatness of Nigeria. And no one could be that and not feel hurt by what one sees around one. Nigeria is a big mess. Evil and corruption on a gargantuan scale is apace – everywhere!

And so, whilst SLS succeeded in bringing at least one bank czar(ess) to book – jailed and stripped of some of her mind-boggling ill-acquired assets – most others have either been on the run or utilised the shenanigans of a convoluted judiciary or protection of power –  spiritual and/or temporal – to evade justice! Indeed, there is the story, hinted at by SLS himself at some point, of one of the country’s most popular and powerful Pentecostal leaders who has made securing the freedom of one of the accused bank czars, from whom he and his church had benefited immensely, the power point of his denominational prayers, prayers that he has reportedly repeatedly also taken to President Jonathan in person – to give “a ‘soft landing’ for my son in Jesus”!

Truth be told, the voluble ‘rascal’ at the helm of the Central Bank had it coming. He, not only had stepped on too many powerful toes, he had continued, especially lately, to throw poisonous darts at everyone and everything in his sight, not sparing his employer, the president. Several efforts to quieten him through “compromise” or subterfuge had failed. The Kano prince from a highly influential and educated family background doesn’t care a hoot about wealth or material aggrandisement. And, according to him, neither has he interest in any political office, including even that of president of the country, beyond the royal throne of his forefathers in Kano. He was on a mission!

Many people believe SLS could carry on the way he has done only because he is from the pampered section of the country – the Hausa/Fulani oligarchic North. More importantly, that his ascendancy to the pinnacle of Nigeria’s financial world in so short a time and with such scant credential was only possible because of same belonging. And I am inclined to believe that too. It is highly improbable that anyone from other parts of the country could so rise to become CBN governor without storm, the way SLS did.

But that’s a different story. The truth is that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is worth his weight in gold. He is a formidable intellectual and economist who the global financial community has acknowledged and given imperishable accolades. He has left many a gathering of his peers astounded and arisen in standing ovation. I bear witness.

Back home and to the issue, SLS had continually poked his fingers into the eye of the government he belongs to and dug his finger into the president’s mouth daring him to bite it if he could. Such dare is reckless and foolhardy if there is no strong “agenda” or powers behind it beyond some romantic notion of social Puritanism, especially from someone who is anything but ascetic in character and lifestyle either.

Nevertheless, it is absolutely silly, ill-advised, and poor timing to take the bait SLS had thrown at the president “urging” to be sacked when his time up was only a couple of months away anyway! It is, in my opinion, one recklessness for another, throwing the country into possible economic chaos on the altar of contending personal egos. And not all the accusations of impropriety, etc, now being levelled against SLS add up: why now just when he is about to go, and when he is loudest in blowing the whistle on the dizzying corruption in government.

SLS says he is going to court to prove something: that the president may have the power to employ him, he has no power to sack (or suspend) him. And that he, SLS, would be doing it more for the sake of posterity and precedent. Maybe so. But, as MKO Abiola found out to his chagrin and demise, you don’t fight the government merely on the assumption that the world will join you in the fight. In other climes, perhaps so, but not in this godforsaken place. And that’s saying it the way it is!


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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