Mohammed Haruna, Sanusi and the FRC Report
By Sufuyan Ojeifo
On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, at the office, I was minding my business, trying to avoid another Sanusi argument when a column by Mohammed Haruna on the back page of DAILY TRUST caught my eye. I later saw it in that day's edition of THE NATION. The title, “GEJ versus Sanusi the whistleblower,” made me roll my eyes and exclaim silently to the heavens: how long before we move on to the next thing? (Caveat: To me, Sanusi is no whistleblower, but more on that later.)
Despite my exasperation, I settled down to read Haruna's piece. You see, I often read Mohammed Haruna. This might sound strange considering that I rarely agree with him. But, it has to be said, the man writes well and with more restraint and clarity than most.
I expected the column to support Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. After all, class suicide is not a particularly appealing or rewarding endeavour. And Haruna is no fan of President Goodluck Jonathan.
By and large, Haruna did the expected, deploying his considerable skill as a writer in shaping a message that was mostly consistent with the narrative Sanusi wants the country to swallow: “I am a whistleblower who has incurred the president's wrath for blowing my whistle.” But then came the unexpected twist: Haruna dished some dirt on Sanusi that inadvertently revealed the hollowness of the whistleblower narrative.
Before I am accused of quoting Haruna out of context, I shall reproduce below five paragraphs from his column, presented here as published, with no breaks in between.
According to Haruna: “The trouble with Sanusi, however, was that he did not measure up to what he had led the public to expect of him as someone who had consistently spoken truth to power before he became CBN governor, and which he continued to do even after.
“The report of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) which the president has relied upon to suspend the governor has listed his many alleged transgressions including the award of no-bid contracts in billions of Naira, the spending of billions on his own and his management's creature comforts, overpaying legal and public relations consultants and donating hundreds of millions of Naira to victims of natural and man-made disasters without board approval, etc.
“His defence has been that he has the president's approval for some of the expenditures he'd incurred and that with things like donations he was not the first governor to do so. He also says he has constantly reduced operating management costs since he became governor.
“The governor's self-defence may well be tenable. But this is beside the point, which is that as a long standing social critic he should've known better than to give those in authority sufficient ammunition to impugn his integrity and credibility. And this is exactly what the FRC report has done, even if only a fraction of its charges are true. The specific nature of the FRC report means it cannot be easily dismissed with the wave of a hand.
“That he built a one billion Naira car park at his official residence, as is common knowledge, and the fact that he was always accompanied by a huge and expensive retinue of bank staff, friends and hangers-on alike, to receive awards and honours abroad and here at home, were enough to suggest he did not act with the degree of prudence and integrity his crusade for good governance and transparency demanded of him.”
To be honest, I was most surprised by the last bit of information contained in the excerpt from Haruna's column. A colleague whom I read the portion to, asked me: What sort of car park did Sanusi build with one billion naira? Was it one that could park cars automatically? Indeed, what sort of car park can justify such waste?
Of course, I could not answer, as I have not seen the car park, relying entirely on Mohammed Haruna's column for that information. And Haruna—whose credentials are far too lengthy to list here beyond the fact that he is a long-time journalist of good repute and spokesman to General Abdulsalami Abubakar when the latter served as Head of State—is not given to frivolities.
I also found myself agreeing with a private nod to Haruna's assertion that, “The specific nature of the FRC report means it cannot be easily dismissed with the wave of a hand.” Which brings me to the third part of this piece: What are we to make of the FRC report and the many allegations it raises against Sanusi? Are the issues raised in that report “cooked up” by Sanusi's enemies as the naive ones among us want the rest of us to believe? Or is the report a true reflection of how Sanusi ran the finances of the CBN?
With charges ranging from award of no-bid contracts in billions, through billions of naira spent on spurious subheads such as “Lunch for policemen,” to more billions purportedly paid to an airline that has had no significant operations for over two years, and many other allegations, the FRC report, as Haruna says, “cannot be easily dismissed with the wave of a hand.”
Lastly, why is Sanusi not a whistleblower in my opinion? Imagine your account officer at your bank calls to say that N49,800 has been withdrawn suspiciously from your account, I bet you will rush to the bank immediately to get to the bottom of the matter. Imagine that on getting to the bank, an argument ensues between your account officer and a co-worker and, in the course of the argument, your account officer admits that she made a mistake, that only N12, 000 was withdrawn. While you will still demand that your money be found and returned, if, on getting back home, the same account officer now calls to say it is actually N20,000 that was withdrawn, would you not ask your bank to change such an account officer? Why then should we expect less from the man who was supposed to be our central banker, simply because he calls himself a whistleblower?
Mr Ojeifo, journalist and publisher, sent this piece from Abuja.
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