THE feverish disputation over the suspension of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, by President Goodluck Jonathan, dramatises a major problem of Nigerian politics.
Nigerian political parties lack ideological and philosophical anchors. Without ideological and philosophical differences between the parties, Nigerian politicians skirt profound political discourse. They bicker over petty political questions and politicise every issue, no matter how trivial. The suspension of Sanusi is an example of a national concern politicised to a nauseating extreme.
To the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Sanusi is an anti-corruption crusader who has been exposing and challenging the corrupt activities of the Jonathan administration. And as such, his suspension from office by the President was to punish him for his recent allegation that $20 billion oil money is missing, and also to make it impossible for him to testify in the probe of the missing money. On the other hand, the Presidency insists that he was suspended because of his financial recklessness, fiscal misconducts, waste and fraud.
Again, the opposition contends that his suspension is unlawful because it violates the Central Bank of Nigeria Act of 2007. The Act stipulates that both the President’s appointment and dismissal of the Governor of the Central Bank require the approval by two-thirds majority in the Senate. To the Presidency, the suspension is not tantamount to removal from office. He was suspended so as to facilitate an investigation into the allegations against him, after which he can still be reinstated as the Governor of the Central Bank.
However, despite the contending views on the suspension of the CBN Governor, it is important to note that as far back as June 7, 2013, the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRC, recommended to President Jonathan to dismiss Sanusi and investigate the operations of the Central Bank because he has reduced it to “a cesspool of corruption and unbridled waste”. In addition to incompetence, accounting sloppiness and tardiness in submitting financial reports, the FRC accused the Sanusi’s Central Bank of tax evasion by its staff, billions of naira spent on “spurious items” and additional billions of naira paid to an unregistered airline company.
Therefore, before the need to remove Sanusi, the whistleblower, arose there was already an indisputable need to remove Sanusi for alleged corruption and irresponsible behaviour. So, despite the President’s other considerations in dismissing him, he deserved to be relieved of his duties at the Central Bank. The CBN Act is silent on the authority of the President to suspend a CBN Governor. In section 11(1)(d), the Act states that the Governor can be removed when he or she is disqualified or suspended from practising his or her profession in Nigeria. However, whether the President bent the rules or exploited a lacuna in the CBN Act to suspend a reckless and irresponsible CBN Governor, it is all still fine and I applaud it. This is because as (according to Barry Goldwaters) “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice”, extremism in upholding the responsibilities and the obligations of the office of the President is no vice.
The distinguishing features of the Goodluck Jonathan administration include ineptitude and corruption. Therefore, many Nigerians believe the rumor mills that the Presidency sequestrated the missing $20 billion to be used to finance the President’s re-election campaign. They are also inclined to believe that the suspension of the CBN Governor was purely for political expediency: to remove a whistle blower and impede the probe into the missing billions of dollars. But then it was Sanusi that, by his moral and ethical lapses, armed the Presidency, and thus, made it possible for the President to suspend him and dissemble his real motives.
Undoubtedly, Nigerians need whistle blowers. With the gutlessness and cowardice that are the hallmarks of our beloved country, it is most refreshing to see the plucky few that have exhibited some guts and courage in exposing and confronting the power class for their corruption and abuse of power. Nigerians should applaud and admire Sanusi for his boldness and intrepidity. But he should have demonstrated some decency in his professional conduct at the Central Bank before demanding same from the other agencies of the government. It is hypocrisy for a man basking in “a cesspool of corruption and unbridled waste” to lecture other government agencies on accountability and incorruptibility. As the trite but very instructive saying goes: “What you do not have you cannot give”. And to paraphrase Philip Massinger: He that would direct others should first direct himself.
Nigerians need moral and social crusaders that can denounce official corruption, grasping avarice, arrogance of power and the other excesses of the evil oligarchy that presides over this country. However, it is imperative that these crusaders uphold elevated moral and ethical standards in their own conducts, especially public conducts, before demanding them from others. Already, Nigerians are sick and tired of the hypocrisy of the Nigerian power elite. They posture as democrats, but cling to dictatorial and undemocratic methods. They desire to be esteemed as democratically elected leaders but rig elections. They pretend to be sentinels of the public good, but then steal, share and salt away billions of dollars budgeted for the public good.
Despite his posturing as an anti-corruption crusader, Sanusi is not, in anyway, different from the other hypocrites that suffuse the precincts of the Nigerian power elite. Essentially, he is just one of them.
*Mr. TOCHUKWU EZUKANMA, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos