Lamido Sanusi, larger-than-life
Mohammed Dahiru Aminu
For many Nigerians, the emergence, in June 2009, of Lamido Sanusi as governor of Nigeria's central bank, was, no doubt, a piece of good fortune that happened to modern Nigeria. His exceptional dedication to national service, his indefatigable perseverance, and uncommon drive for excellence, his daring fearlessness towards superiors, and most of all, his continuously outstanding natural intelligence is some of the prominent virtues of his personality.
With an underlying philosophy of speaking truth to power at all times, Sanusi's well-proven approach to life earned him outstanding veneration both locally and internationally. Coming with a history of confronting repression in all circumstances, Sanusi—although having confessed that power by its nature when offended can destroy an individual—would refuse a softer line in championing for the truth. What's more, Sanusi, harbours a yearning urge that until people are able to speak truth to the powers that be, a society cannot change for the better. As governor of Nigeria's apex bank, Sanusi's impeccable feats could perhaps surpass governors that preceded him. More than ever, he could arguably pass for the smartest public officer in Nigeria's history.
The era of Sanusi as central banker could well be over after having been forcefully ousted by the potent vengeance of the government of the day which saw him as a whistleblower who sought after unravelling of wanton sleaze within Nigeria's central government, nonetheless, his ousting, if there is anything to learn from it, is that the days of transparency, probity, and accountability is long over in Nigeria. It reveals the nature of the leading actors within Nigeria's own borders. It equally emboldens, and all the more validates the conjecture that when a man fights corruption it wouldn't be long before the same corruption would come back fighting him. For Sanusi, it's now the turn of corruption to fight back. As posterity reckons with Sanusi's disposition throughout his active years of national service, the next governor after Sanusi would surely be stepping in a big man's shoes. His successor would need to be an exceptionally prudent student of power to get up to Sanusi's speed and/or to even outpace him.
Against all the odds however, Sanusi's unmatched record of achievements as central bank governor are quite worthy of note. When he came into the central bank, Sanusi inherited a banking system so lapse that five of Nigeria's commercial banks were on the verge of going under. In order to rescue these financial institutions, Sanusi intervened by injecting public money to help bolster the banks, and then dismissed all five chief executive officers of the affected banks. The bank chiefs were thereafter charged of multiple offences including but not limited to fraud and counterfeit lending to either companies that never existed or to companies they had personal interests in. More so, there were also charges of conspiring with stockbrokers in order to boost share prices so as to feign that all was normal.
Dubbed as the 'Sanusi tsunami', his extensive reform in the nation's financial sector was hailed as a giant stride in cleansing a system where proofs of mismanagement of funds by the bank's key players were already obvious. Sanusi justified the whirlwinds of his 'tsunami' by noting that to sanitise such institutions; he had no choice but to attack the powerfully myriad but interrelated interests exploiting Nigeria's financial system. For Sanusi, these interests are vested interests. Overall, Sanusi's reforms, as described by him, come to grips with enhancing the quality of Nigeria's banks; establishing financial stability; enabling the continuous evolution of a healthy financial sector; and ensuring contribution to the real economy.
Advocating for the diversification of the Nigerian economy so that the dependence on oil could be brought to bare minimum, Sanusi thought that with the present mires over threats to the nation's earnings from oil, and along with threats to global food security, there is an insistent need to shift more attention to agriculture. Because of this, Sanusi brought in the Purdue-trained Dr Akinwumi Adesina, who was then the Vice President for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, who helped to run agricultural development workshops that targets at the need for a holistic restructuring of the agricultural sector. He pushed for large scale transformation in agriculture in order to attain increased economic growth as well as to reduce rural poverty. Having seen in Dr Adesina a strong motivation and organisation in achieving set goals, Sanusi recommended Dr Adesina to Nigeria's president as minister. In conjunction with other agencies of government, Sanusi championed the birth of a policy aimed at transforming agricultural production within Nigeria. This policy evolved into what is now known as Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL); a novel mechanism aimed at de-risking lending to the agricultural sector. Its goals include a commitment to achieving food security, increased job creation, and poverty reduction.
But Sanusi's infamous moments as governor came in the wee hours of the fuel subsidy removal regime of January 2012. In the heat of a people's revolution, Sanusi sided with the president, ministers of finance, and that of petroleum resources in the dogged campaign to remove subsidy on petroleum products. In his arguments, Sanusi cited a penetratingly high-pitched corruption that spawns by allowing subsidies to stay. He particularly observed the demerits of subsidising consumption instead of production, which, to him, leads to smaller economic growth. From an economic purview, to continue to subsidise consumption, Sanusi noted, would mean that government would be compelled to borrow more money to finance subsidies, which, by implication means taxing future generations of Nigerians so that present generations can be encouraged to consume more. From another ambit, Sanusi noted that individuals of treacherous actions exploit the subsidy regimen by purchasing subsidised petroleum products in Nigeria to resell at higher prices in neighbouring countries. Sanusi's unwavering belief in the promotion for the removal of subsidy on petroleum products speaks again of his well known devotion to what he believes in. He comes with a pedigree that shows that his positions on the economy and governance are highly principled, and he could equally side with the government if he believes it is the right thing to do; giving him an all the more unfaltering image and a strong evidence of not having a permanent default setting to allow him to oppose the government for political reasons. Equally criticised were Sanusi's cash offerings given as donations to educational institutions, and to victims of both natural and human disasters within Nigeria, as well as some munificent handouts to unnamed political parties, which in all conscience, Sanusi backed all contributions as being proper before the eyes the law; and commensurate with the apex bank's corporate social responsibility.
Sanusi's unlawful exit as governor of the central bank of Nigeria, just a few months to the official expiration of his tenure, takes with him, a myriad of accolades hewed in good conscience. He was recognised as the central bank governor of the year in 2010, both for the world and for Africa, by the 'The Banker', a publication of the Financial Times. The TIME magazine also listed Sanusi in its 100 list of most influential people in the world in 2011. In Sanusi are a fearless Nigerian; a banker unafraid; and a personality larger-than-life.
Mohammed Dahiru Aminu wrote from Yola, Nigeria. He can be reached at [email protected]