By Adisa Adeleye
I must confess that I have never had that rare opportunity of meeting Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in person or read anything about that enigmatic personality until he was appointed the Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria.
I have always interested myself in who heads the First Bank, my bank since 1966 and in which I have a [not significant] number of shares. Mallam (Prince) Lamido Sanusi has moved quickly to become the respected Governor of the Central Bank, a post which to me, he merits.
The Central Bank Governor in a statement which appeared political to me, appealed to the Federal Government to compress the Seven Point Agenda of President Yarâ€˜Adua into a manageable size with infrastructural developments as a priority.
Those who misunderstood his simple statement, especially party apologists, went for his head. I understood him and respected him for stating the obvious, that no significant economic development could take place without massive infrastructural investments, especially in a country where everything seems to have broken down completely.
Perhaps in my childish naivety, the prime duty of the Governor would include broadening the basis of credit system to accommodate private incentives in such investments, reserved only for the governments, After all, there is nothing wrong against private investments in houses, roads, river and land transportation, education and health services, under conducive economic environment.
Perhaps the unexpected reaction in government circles to Malam Sanusiâ€˜s justified assault on the seven_point program might have shaken the Central Bank a bit to the extent of abandoning the path of constructive examination of the socio_economic arena. After all, the position of the Governor of Central Bank is viewed as a political appointment, which enjoins the occupier to obey the simple rule of not embarrassing the government of the day.
The Mallam Sanusiâ€˜s observation that the government deregulation scheme might have inflationary implications (though explained as being quoted out of context) is economically sound.
Perhaps (but understandably) the action of the Central Bank which has brought Mallam Lamido Sanusi into public favour and made him the toast of the media, was the sack of some private banksâ€˜ Chief Executives, Directors, and key Management staff. It was considered, and still being considered, as an assault on basic capitalism in a country which has not yet understood the concept of a mixed_economy.
Though the Banking reform and its method is still under litigation, I must restrict myself to subsequent developments arising from the fall of the mighty and the understanding of our economic society.
Nigerians are now aware (from the publications in the newspapers) that many of our billionaires are chronic and shameless debtors, that much of the credit being denied small businesses is being splashed on organizations, which are either spurious or have little or no direct economic impact on the country; that shareholdersâ€˜ funds have been mismanaged and appropriated by those whose responsibility is to offer protection.
Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has been hailed by many but also criticized by a few, howbeit, respected and influential. We may not bother much about the Halleluya chorus boys, since Nigerians cherish assault on what appears as invincible citadel of wealth, power and influence. The fall of the mighty is always a celebrated event any time in the country.
However, it is to the criticisms of others, including our respected Dr Faseun, the founder of OPC (Oduduwa Peoples Congress, (an organization which would appear odious to Mallam Sanusi). Dr Faseun thinks Mallam has a hidden hatred for the Yoruba and would not see anything good in Yoruba connection. He referred to the forgotten address in 1999 by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, then an Assistant General Manager with First Bank in Lagos
In his paper on â€˜ISSUES ON RESTRUCTURING CORPORATE NIGERIAâ€˜ presented at â€˜The National Conference On The 1999 CONSTITUTIONâ€˜ organized by The NETWORK FOR JUSTICE AND THE VISION TRUST FOUDATIONâ€˜ at The Arewa House, Kaduna from 11th â€“ 12th September 1999, Mallam Sanusi glibly referred to â€˜The Yoruba elite and area_boy politicsâ€˜, and of Balarabe Musaâ€˜s assertion that â€˜Northern Bourgeoisie and Yoruba Bourgeoisie were Nigeriaâ€˜s principal problem.
Of the two, he said the Yoruba Bourgeosie are even greater problem because of their tribalism and selfishnessâ€˜ (Habba! Mallam). Mallam Sanusi added his own observation that, â€˜The Northern Bourgeoisie and the Yoruba Bourgeoisie have conspired to keep the Ibo out of the scheme of thingsâ€˜. Was the speech meant to please the Ibo who are known to be sturdy, enterprising and capable in their own rights?
The Ibo problem to me, is the inability to reconcile economic dominance with political ascendancy in the reality of the Nigerian situation.
It will be unfair to judge Mallam Sanusi by quoting him out of context without referring to his severe strictures on his own ethnic castle. There is no doubt that, to me, he is a revolutionary from the north who has no time for ethnic or tribal sentiments, even if at times he would slip into tribal jingoism.
For example, he noted, â€˜to further show that they were in charge, they led a cult into the Hausa area of Shagamu, murdered an Hausa woman and nothing happened. In the violence that followed, they killed several Hausa residents, with Yoruba leaders like Segun Osoba, reminding Nigerians of the need to respect the culture of their host communities.
This would have continued were it not for the people of Kano who showed that they could also create their own Oro who would only be appeased through the shedding of innocent Yoruba bloodâ€˜. That was an unfortunate comment to confirm the sayings that cultivated Kano rioters (or killers) do not mistake the identity of their victims at any time they want or asked to strike.
My view is that Mallam Sanusi is a Nigerian who is entitled to have his own opinion on other Nigerians as he sees them, even if such opinion shows comical misunderstanding of the tradition and respect for sensibilities of the host communities . I donâ€˜t believe in ethnicity of the Northern Elite, Yoruba Elite or Ibo Elite in finding solutions to the countryâ€˜s problems.
I refer to Mallam Sanusiâ€˜s declaration that â€˜ I am Fulani; I am Muslim. But I am able to relate to every Nigerian as a fellow Nigerian and respect his ethnicity and his faith. That was the Mallam in 1999.
In 2009, the Central Bank Governor was accused of having a â€˜Northern Agenda or Hidden Agendaâ€˜. Mallam Sanusi in his chat with the Vanguard stated clearly that â€˜the issue of ethnicity for me is something very alien and I do not like defending myself against such thingsâ€˜. Good talk! On sale of the distressed banks, he said he did not go to London and China to â€˜look for foreigners to buy the troubled banksâ€˜
However, some statements attributed to the Central Bank Governor would need further clarification to avoid misunderstanding by shareholders. He said, â€˜We are merely being charitable when we talk about shareholders. Look, you have lost your moneyâ€˜ I am a shareholder being frightened by a well educated grandson of an Emir and son of a Diplomat.
Is he telling the truth and nothing but the truth?