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A 'dangerous' man in the Central Bank-by Adebayo Lamikanra


Many times I am grateful that I went to school when education was taken far more seriously in this country than now and furthermore had the fortune of attending a school where all-round scholarship was taken to be so important that all students

were introduced to Shakespeare right from the beginning of their secondary school career. Since I left school many years ago, I have had constant need to dip into the works of Shakespeare because there is no other author in whom any writer would find help, material and even succour than this man who died nearly four centuries ago.

For all this introduction however, this piece is only remotely connected to the immortal bard as it has been provoked by the very modern affliction of a Central Bank, specifically the one that is reputed to oversee the operation of banks in Nigeria

I have never met the incumbent governor of the Central Bank in the flesh but having seen him on television, I have a pretty good idea of what he is in the flesh. My immediate impression of him was that he is a spare man, one who does not carry an extra ounce of flesh on his frame and one who would have been described in the same way as Julius Caesar is reported by Shakespeare to have described his would-be assassin, Cassius. Casting a jaundiced eye on Cassius, he informed his great admirer, the loquacious Mark Antony that 'Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much: Such men are dangerous.' Subsequent events proved just how dangerous Cassius was but he could not have been dangerous only because he was lean although the great General went on to qualify who Cassius was by telling Anthony that Cassius read too much, loved no plays, heard no music and seldom smiled. In other words, the man was given to a great deal of passion, at least in his mind which was closed to persuasion and relaxation.

Given this description, the only points of convergence with the Governor of the Central Bank may be the sparseness of their frame and penchant for reading as it is clear that Malam Sanusi is a voracious reader of books. Knowing nothing about how often he permits the indulgence of a smile to play on his face, his love for music and other forms of entertainment, I cannot know how close his resemblance with the fictional Casssius is but on one point where there can be no doubt that there is a convergence with Cassius is that he is a dangerous and passionate man.

There is a Nigerian way of doing things and anyone who tries to do anything outside the Nigerian framework is regarded as being dangerous and it is in this context that Sanusi must be regarded as dangerous. The first point that has to be made about the Nigerian method is that truth must never be allowed to intrude into our public space. Under no circumstances must a spade be called a spade and although any unbiased observer must recognise that this is the nation's Achilles heel, the Nigerian system must prevail even though this is in spite of the egregious failure of both that system and the Nigerian state which it regulates. We feel that Nigeria is unique in many ways even though all the characteristics that are supposed to make us unique are found in equal measure in many other countries which today are making giant strides in building a modern and successful state.

We are multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic and yet, China and India which are even more so on each account than we are, are making genuine efforts to build modern state structures and are reporting significant progress on many fronts in the same way that we are falling down again and again. The Nigerian system is strongly built on the big man concept in which there are so many sacred cows that it is a wonder that our Judiciary can be regarded as functional. Many of those who watched Sanusi's Senate confirmation hearing should have seen immediately that the man is a danger to the Nigerian system but I doubt that many were able to read the warning signs with any degree of accuracy. The man was not only supremely confident, articulate and knowledgeable but also showed that he operated on an intellectual level that was far superior to that of his interrogators.

It was clear that the man was a thinker and had read far many more books than perhaps he should have read and was therefore very dangerous but those points could not be taken into account by the Senators who were indeed dared not to confirm him but were cowed into not taking up this dare. The man promptly repaid them by tearing up the rule books of the Nigerian system and goring hitherto sacred cows by sacking the 'all powerful' CEOs of five of Nigeria's biggest Banks and unmasking some of Nigeria's biggest masquerades who had been exploiting the established big man network by taking bank loans which they were not even expected to pay back.

Not unexpectedly, the 'system' struck back and accused the Cassius in the Central Bank of all sorts of crimes against (big) humanity. The sacking of those sacred cows, it was alleged, was putting the Nigerian economy into great danger of collapse as if what can be regarded as the Nigerian economy did not collapse ages ago. What now passes for the Nigerian economy is the ritual of sharing money among the rich and powerful and has little or nothing to do with the man in the street. Whilst it is true that banks have a role to play in the circulation of what passes for money in this country, were they to collapse, life for most of us would hardly change; we would still be poor, many of us desperately so. The managers of Nigeria, not just the banks have been criminally negligent over the years and they have never been called to account. Now that a few of them have been censored, their apologists are denying us the opportunity of sound sleep.

According to them, the Central Bank governor is a Muslim and in the myopic interpretation of such matters, the action of the governor in relieving the five Christian CEOs of their jobs can only be put in proper perspective if it is taken to be a whirlwind jihad. The man is from the North and so he must be carrying out a 'Northern agenda' designed to right the perceived wrongs of bank consolidation, put in place by a Christian and in which Northern Muslims came out badly. It is only in Nigeria that such spurious insights are spewed on the pages of newspapers, some of which it has to be said are little better than rag sheets but which nevertheless are relied upon by many for the formation of their opinions, half baked as these opinions turn out to be in the end.

Many of those who took the Central Bank governor to task did not even attempt to deny that the banks in question had been raped by their respective CEOs but what they were concerned about was that all the actors in this sordid drama had been 'disgraced'. Many expressed the concern that the banking system had, by the actions of the CBN governor, the so-called banking system had been put under threat, conveniently forgetting that under the old regime, the total and ruinous collapse of banking system as we know it was dangerously close to being inevitable. Yes, some egos have been battered by what has happened but what are a few egos compared with what must be seen as a massive attack on the Nigerian system and one which may even be seen in years to come as revolutionary.

In spite of current setbacks the 'Nigerian system' is still as solid as it ever was and is likely to remain so for a long time to come but even the directors of that system as well as their lackeys and attack dogs must know that the storms which blow away everything in their path usually begin as a cloud which proverbially are no bigger than a man's hand and if ever there was such a cloud, it is one that started in the Central Bank. Nigeria is in a parlous state and quite a few people some of them those that have been long-term rulers of the nation are talking about a revolution as the only way out of the mess in which the nation is mired. There are many unlikely revolutionaries out there and one of them is a scion of one of the truly ancient and powerful ruling houses anywhere in the country. Ironically, it is only in Nigeria that such a contradiction can exist in comfort.

By the way, the 'revolution' engineered by Cassius failed in its intent and the successors of the murdered Julius Caesar were crowned emperors. The solid, some say stolid Roman Republic became an empire which ruled supreme over the ancient world. In the end however, the great empire was brought down by the seeds sowed by the corruption of the rule of the very many by the very few. Cassius was right in the end!

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