By Ochereome Nnanna
MALAM Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the new Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is quite a dresser. You have seen him in snappy suits with flamboyant frills on his shirt and elegant bow ties. Last Saturday, August 15, 2009, he dressed to shock his guests, top media practitioners, whom he had invited to Eko Hotel Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, to explain what his shake-up in the banking sector was all about.
He was dressed in the traditional attire of the â€œRivers Manâ€– bush shirt complete with ornamental chains and a bowler hat to top it all off. The only thing that was missing was the cane.
Perhaps, he decided to wear this attire to signal the militant mood he is in. His guests humorously expressed their worries over their safety, if you know what I mean.
Since a couple of months ago when his appointment was announced, speculations have run riot as to the real mission behind his posting.
Many industry watchers have alleged that he was a sectional missionary out to reverse the consolidation of banks which his predecessor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, had designed and in a space of two years, brought four Nigerian banks into the elite club of the first 1000 biggest banks in the world.
The North was said to have performed poorly in the highly transparent consolidation exercise, and Sanusi was rumoured to have been sent to hijack the five biggest banks, sack their helmsmen and replace them with Northerners.
His controversial comments on geopolitical issues down the years did not help matters. The only thing that somewhat dented this unenviable image of a section catâ€™s paw was his very articulate performance when he was screened by the Senate in June 2009.
During that screening, he openly criticised President Umaru Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s ineffective Seven-Point Agenda, saying that in his opinion, they should be whittled down to three. In so doing, he sent the first signal of a man who has a mind of his own and was clear in his views about how the economic affairs of the country should be packaged.
If indeed Governor Sanusi has an ethnic or sectional agenda, it has not shown in this first major policy move in sacking the chief executives and management of Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic Bank, Afribank, Union Bank and Finbank and the reconstitution of their boards.
Last Sunday, he explained that if he had the kind of mission that sceptics are ascribing to him, he would simply look the other way and allow these and other banks which have been in serious distress for some time to collapse because few Northerners would be hurt.
Only very few highly connected individuals, some of whom are well-known political and business moguls from the South would walk away much richer with the savings and deposits of poor Nigerians, whose crime was that they responded to the call to put their money in the bank rather than bury them at home.
The landscape is filled with plush property owned by those who made their money through questionable means, including getting involved in activities that have led to the collapse of banks.
They send their children to the best schools outside Nigeria, while those who have become impoverished by the stock market crash and loss of deposits in failed banks are unable to pay their childrenâ€™s school fees even in our decrepit, strike-riddled local universities. These well-educated children of crooks will return to Nigeria and lord it over the children of those whose money was stolen through banking malpractice.
Sanusi, who spoke with passion, said his job is to defend bank customers. He dismissed those who made their money through this evil means as â€œdirty peopleâ€ and vowed to chase them until they vomit all they have swallowed and if the laws prescribe jail sentences they would have to face it. Right now, he has full presidential backing to clean up the financial system.
The House of Reps and the Senate have also given their blessings. It is now, carry go Hurricane Sanusi.
It is a pity that the former CBN Soludo, allowed the financial system to go to the dogs after the successful consolidation.
He became carried away with this success and somehow became mired in the rot of the system. He became too protective of banks and over and again, emphasised that Nigeria cannot afford the crisis that would hit the financial system if the problems in banks were â€œover-exposedâ€.
Soludo either refused or failed to recognise the hollowness developing in the vaults of these banks and even claimed that the worldwide economic meltdown would not affect our banking system!
Sanusi is toeing an opposite path. His core line of financial expertise is risk management. He believes that if something is wrong in the system, it should be exposed and dealt with because covering it up will lead to a disaster greater than the temporary run that the culprit banks are experiencing. Evidently, Soludo was a great consolidator but a poor regulator. Perhaps, it was just as well that he was asked to move along when his tenure expired.
Lamido Sanusi should also look inwards and fish out those CBN examiners who did not raise the necessary queries when these banks started toying with the savings of the banking public. Hurricane Sanusi must sweep clean. At the end of it, let all the jokers and fraudsters masquerading as bankers and bank owners be put where they belong. Let the python be made to regurgitate all it swallowed.