By Rotimi Fasan
SANUSI Lamido Sanusi, governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, revels in controversy- or so it appears. From one controversial step to another Sanusi luxuriates in his loudmouth image. But if sometimes Sanusi seems mad, in manner of speaking, there is no doubt method to his madness.
The last time Sanusi ruffled national feathers before his latest act which I’ll come to shortly- the last time he got many Nigerians sniffing for his blood was when, a few weeks back, he stubbornly stuck to his decision to introduce 5,000 Naira bill into the economy.
It would take the personal intervention of the President who had apparently bought into the Sanusi 5,000 Naira move before he backed down. Not only was Sanusi stubborn in his insistence, he was both arrogant and appeared totally unmoved by the feelings of the vast majority of Nigerians.
It is this streak of arrogance that very often colours people’s perception of the CBN governor. It makes it difficult, it seems, for them to weigh his actions dispassionately. But there’s nobody to blame for this but Sanusi himself.
He must stop acting like an oracle whose words are incontrovertible. Otherwise, the baby of some of his thoughtful remarks would be thrown out with the bath water of his arrogant disposition.
Sanusi’s arrogant public image is the reason many Nigerians were blinded to his proposition that government needs to cut down its workforce by half for the economy to be healthy.
What Sanusi has so disagreeably proposed is the same thing that many have said before him and have continued to say since his comment, that cost of governance is irrationally high. But without qualifying his statement Sanusi has simply called for the retrenchment of half of the country’s public servants.
The other side of his proposition that elected public officers gulp too much of the national revenue, or to put it differently, account for too much of our recurrent expenditure was almost ignored as both organised labour and the so-called elected representatives of the people were united in their condemnation of the CBN governor.
But the truth must be out! If indeed the public service including the elected leeches and their cronies who rigged their way into power spend 70 Kobo of every one Naira the government earns, then there is urgent need to reconsider how we spend our earnings.
We cannot and shouldn’t wait until we fall off our own ‘fiscal cliff’ likeGreecebefore we start making adjustment. For one, it must be recognised that perhaps half of the estimated national workforce exist only on paper.
All over the country, there is incontrovertible evidence that all sorts of corrupt acts which border on criminality abound. Non-existent persons populate public staff rolls as they do our voters’ registers. In other words, the ghost of ghost workers (forgive the pun) has not been finally laid to rest.
It is understandable for workers to rise with one voice against Sanusi’s pronouncement. Don’t we all know that the unemployment rate in Nigeria is at the best of time scandalous? Nigerian youths are long suffering and must rank among the most abused of their demographics in the world.
They are educated, far better in many cases (again don’t mind the unemployable ones whose cases tend to get human resource experts groaning about the poor state of our education system) than their parents. But after the grinding ordeal of surviving their days in school, they graduate into joblessness at the end of it all.
They are left to depend as adults on the same parents who had worked off their backsides to see them through school. Sanusi himself recognised this point during a lecture he recently delivered at the University of Calabar.
He could therefore not be calling for the mass sack of people in suck stark terms. But as I was saying, there is no way any right thinking person can believe thatNigeriahas such huge number of its population in the work force as the national wage bill suggests. The point therefore is that our workforce is grossly bloated.
There are too many dead, retired and non-existent people drawing pay from the national purse.
They are the reason the wage bill is incredibly high. And that is one reason we would continue to rank high on the global corruption perception index in spite of our protestations as is happening with the latest Transparency International index.
The other reason for our huge wage bill is the fact of corruption in high places, among the legislature and executive, so-called elected representatives of the people.
From Aso Villa to the National Assembly, the state governments down to the local governments, not forgetting government departments, agencies and parastatals- the Nigerian economy bleeds from multiple injuries. How it continues to survive is testimony to how God hasn’t forsaken us to ourselves.
We know how many billions go to titillate presidential palates even when we hear stories of fish pepper soup and cassava bread.
We know our presidential fleet of aircraft in a country that has no national carrier dwarfs that of the UK and South Africa combined.
We know of governors who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on aircraft while flood sacks villages and towns populated by people they purportedly serve- we also know of planes bought apparently at public expense, flown and crashed by governors whose people are ravaged by diseases and children are out of school.
We know all of this and more. Just last week, Adams Oshiomole, governor ofEdoState, itemised some of the ways public officers including himself deplete the national purse. He spoke of directors and different cadre officers of the public service who overflow first class cabins of foreign airlines.
Nigerians are aware of the array of staff, often composed of family members and cronies, of people who are themselves aides of public officers. You hear of an adviser of a local council chair who has his own personal assistants and advisers- all drawing on the public purse.
With all of these excesses who can still deny that our public service is bloated and needs to be relived of its unhealthy burden? How can we carry such huge financial burden and not find ourselves in a situation that will forever impoverish unborn generation of Nigerians? Sanusi didn’t say anything new except that people got themselves worked up over nothing- perhaps his own arrogant submission and failure to qualify his statement.
But for this, his comment was spot-on and the House of Representatives disgraces itself by its hurried summons of the aspiring emir.