By Chioma Gabriel
A still tongue makes a wise head ––Anonymous
It was over two years ago that I had the closest encounter with Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. He is a man whose dress sense is always very striking. A man with a gift of the garb. He had visited Vanguard to attend our editorial conference and was drilled in a no-holds barred long encounter. He sat through the interactive session with Vanguard Editors and answered all questions, even questions that appeared rather personal. At a stage , he complained that the ‘seat’ was too hot and unbuttoned his suit half-way through the encounter.
He spoke so well and eloquently and left an impression of a jolly good fellow.
Since then, one had closely monitored Sanusi’s progress as an eloquent CBN Governor. His utterances received national attention and occasionally became very controversial. At a stage, it became obvious he would one day talk himself into trouble.
There are people like Sanusi all the time and so this idiosyncrasy is not peculiar. There are always people who talk , who seem to think that what they have to say is as fascinating to everyone else as it is to them, and who don’t seem to understand that listening is an important part of communicating and connecting to others. There are always people who talk before they think; who don’t chew their words before they spill them.
Some people who talk a lot are not able to engage in interactive rhythm, not because they do not care, but because they cannot tolerate the emotions that might emerge as they listen to another person.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, no doubt is an ambitious man who talked himself out of favour with the government of the day and was sometimes perceived by his opponents to speak irrationally.
He is perceived to be inclined towards elevating his own self-interest above all else. But when rationality and self-interest come into head-to-head conflict, morality loses out.
And from all indications, Sanusi has seemingly talked himself out of relevance with his ogas at the top and they were not still prepared to keep listening to his pontifications. They offered his ‘head’ on a golden plata.
Men who occupy positions of Central Bank Governors the world-over are not be big talkers. They are doers. A man of Sanusi’s stature elsewhere commands rapt attention when he speaks.
Central Bank Governors are like gods and their pronouncements are deep and weighty and those who have occupied these positions in the past commanded such great respects. They were like gods!
As a young girl, that was my perception of men like Ola Vincent, Dr Paul Ogwuma, Addulkadir Ahmed, Joseph Sanusi whenever I saw currency notes with their signatures etched on them.
But with CBN governors like Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, everything changed. These were two CBN governors who became highly political and talkative. In the case of Sanusi, he appeared to be the weapon of the new opposition. So, he overtalked and appeared lacking in decorum.
Perhaps, in future, in the appointment of CBN governors, the candidates should be people who understand that silence is golden and if they must talk, it shouldn’t be from the two sides of the mouth.
But come to think of it, no man should gag a man for speaking his mind especially in a democratic government. The Nigerian government is not one that wants to hear knocks or condemnations. It is fixed in its way of doing things. But Sanusi as a man serving this government could not hold his ‘big mouth’. He would not stop blowing the whistle of corruption in the system and his employers were not comfortable with that. The manner he carried on became a threat to the government of the day and hence ,they terminated his course.
The sins of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
For one thing, he was consistently inconsistent, speaking from the two sides of the mouth! He would say one thing today and another tomorrow and the next day, would try to re-establish his earlier position.
What really put Sanusi into trouble is the missing oil money. He had alleged that $49.8 billion oil money is missing from the account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and in the process, was most inconsistent in his application of figures.
First, he wrote a letter to the President that the sum of $49.8 billion was missing from the public till. At reconciliation, he climbed down to $12 billion “unaccounted for”. It was at this point that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, accepted that the actual amount unaccounted for was “only $10.8 billion”. Now, the amount is pegged at $20billion.
What first drew the ire of his critics was the fact that he did not cross-check his figures before spilling them to the public .
He transversed through the President to the National Assembly and to the Petroleum industry telling them his painful truth where it hurts and injures and usually, such people are avoided because the truth which sets people free is the one they prefer not to hear.
To allege that $20 billion (over N3 trillion and it’s different figures at different times), being part of the proceeds from the sale of crude oil for the period January 2012-July 2013, is missing is a big deal . And such an allegation should be substantiated. Sanusi never had the opportunity to prove his allegations.
We all know that truth is very hurtful and in the case of Sanusi, he had to bear the consequences of his action. The powers that be used all manner of smear tactics and mudslinging to intimidate him. He was called disparaging names and invectives were poured on him. At a stage, he was described as ignorant because “CBN is a banking outfit and NNPC is a petroleum outfit and based on that, Sanusi lacks the understanding of the technicalities of the oil industry.”.
But does Sanusi require technicalities to know that money received is not remitted to the appropriate quarters?
And to prove that Sanusi is a small ‘fly’ to the powers that be, the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday suspended him.
I can vouch that Jonathan would not know sleep for a long time over this matter and Sanusi would use everything at his disposal to fight back. Already, there is a public outcry and criticism against Jonathan for a cowardly act.
Sanusi, according to the presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati was suspended for “various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct.” He was instantly replaced by his deputy, Sarah Alade, as acting governor and Zenith Bank Plc Chief Executive Officer, Godwin Emefiele was nominated to succeed Sanusi when his term ends in June.
Cest la vie.
Sanusi was accused of leaking the letter he wrote to President Jonathan on the un-remitted $49.8 billion oil revenue to the Federation Account. The letter was allegedly leaked to former President Olusegun Obasanjo by the CBN governor. But Sanusi pleaded not guilty.
But in a recent twist, the presidency accused him of awarding questionable N163billion contracts and donations in 2013 without due process. Sanusi has however, dismissed these allegations as acts of witch-hunting. This is the newest development on the issue.
The initial attempt to force him to resign failed. And Sanusi had the effrontery and audacity to insist he could only be removed by two-thirds of the Senate as required by law. He even bragged that the letter was available in the presidential villa, available in the finance ministry and available in the Central Bank and wondered how he (Sanusi) could have leaked the letter, which was so widely available, to a former two-term president of Nigeria who has his people all over the place.
The CBN governor even mustered the temerity to express surprise to the president that he was the one being asked to resign instead of the president to ask those responsible for the non-remittance of the funds to resign. Imagine the impetus! His act of patriotism back-fired! How dare he have a shouting match with the President?
Eh bien! ça alors!
And so, Jonathan used the plan ‘B’. He suspended him. But should Sanusi be muscled out of office for doing his patriotic duty to his country by drawing attention to the unaccounted funds? What dangers could he have posed to the powers that be?
Il me surprend
President Jonathan’s action has heightened the concern of prominent Nigerians over the implication of the misunderstanding between the Presidency and Sanusi.
Before the President did the needful, many influential Nigerians have been uncomfortable with the lingering crisis and the cost of such a dispute between President Goodluck Jonathan and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and tried to intervene.
At a stage, they almost reconciled but the crisis relapsed.
Mallam Lamido Sanusi was appointed CBN governor in 2009 in the midst of a debt crisis. He took over from Prof Chukwuma Soludo and cleaned up the banking industry from near collapse, kept interest rates at a record in the face of calls from businesses for lower borrowing costs, and brought inflation down below 10 percent. His suspension, experts believe may undermine the independence of the bank.
Sanusi vows to fight
But the embattled CBN governor would not just be muscled out of office. He has vowed to give it all it takes to stamp his footprints on the sand of time. For a man known to express himself, he immediately granted a video interview after news of his suspension broke. In an interview with CNBC Africa, the CBN Governor spoke on the issue of his suspension, saying it was long overdue.
“ I am surprised it took them so long.”
On a legal question of whether the president has the authority to suspend the Governor, he opined it will be helpful to establish the principles by court.
“ Even if I challenge it, I will not go back to the job. Even if I challenge it successfully, I will not go back to it. I think it will be in the interest of the institution for the courts to establish once and for all if the president has the powers to do this. If it is not challenged, the next Central Bank Governor cannot be independent with fear of being suspended by a politician. I do plan to have the courts confirm if indeed that authority exists and I will challenge it.” The presidency has asked him to carry on .
So, Sanusi goes to court.
“It has never been my desire to hold on to a job. However, I believe if the CBN governor cannot be removed from office, then he cannot be suspended. He can be queried, but the exercise of the arbitrary decision to remove him must be challenged,” he said.
Tout est bien !