Will Sanusi Keep Talking?

by Okey Egboluche

Hate him or love him, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has guts. Look at him straight in the face, his sunken eyes stare back at you through his
spectacles, with such an expression, “Don’t dare me, because you are not going to get away easily,” or “you think I am unsure? Look, I am
more than sure and I will give you the facts.” Tall and lanky like an ectomorph, he appears to think too much.

He does not shy away from the media; neither does he hold back from opening up on issues. He calls a spade, a spade and not an Indian hoe.
He describes himself as an unconventional Central Bank Governor, “Yes, I don’t have any apologies for being regarded as a non-conventional
central banker, but I have what I can call banking common sense to know what the population wants the banking system to do,” he said, in
an interview with African Development Bank Group. Obviously, the Central Bank Governor of Nigeria is unafraid to wade into uncharted
courses of Nigerian socioeconomics
He loves to talk but he rarely rattles Nigerians with too much financial diction like his predecessor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo. He
confronts issues in a way the layman would better understand. He seems to lack diplomacy and his policies have been criticised by many.
Several times, he has been accused of over speaking but it has not stopped the Kings College old boy from saying his mind.

Today, he is largely hailed as a hero, after calling the bluff of the National Assembly after he was summoned to defend (most appropriately
put, ‘deny’) his comments during a lecture that 25% percent of the over head costs of the annual budget was spent on the National
Assembly at the 8th Convocation ceremony of the Igbinedion University held on November 27, 2010 in Okada, Edo State. The firebrand Sanusi
was not intimidated.

The Finance Minister, Olusegun Aganga acted like a gentleman by trying to create a soft landing, “I think what is causing the confusion is
the fact that we have 25 percent of recurrent expenditure and 25 percent of overhead. So the Chairman (of Joint Senate Committees on
Appropriation, Finance, Banking and Millennium Development Goals {MDGs}) is right if he talks about N3.2 trillion as recurrent
expenditure and CBN governor is referring to overhead.”

“If you look at the denominators, they are two different figures completely. If you look at those numbers based on the information the
CBN governor has, normally, when we have recurrent and overhead together,” Aganga said. He also denied ever advocating for cuts in the
over head costs in running the National Assembly.

However, Sanusi stood his ground, attributing his comments to the figures he obtained from the Budget Office. In a replay of Fela’s song
‘I no be gentleman at all, I be African man original,’ spotting his legendary bow tie, Sanusi refused to be the intimated or act like the
‘Nigerian gentleman’ before the committee. Hear him: “My name is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. I was not born central bank governor and I will
not be central governor forever. I have a right to comment on issues as a citizen of this country…By nature, I don‘t apologise when I‘m not
convinced that I‘m wrong.”

His boldness made many Nigerians reason in line that if our gentlemanliness is the reason why we have remained silent in the face
of massive corruption by our leaders then let us throw our gentility to the winds. His outburst on the large amount of money consumed by
the National Assembly came at a time that Nigerians were already disenchanted by the excesses of the lawmakers who have been dubbed

Over a year ago, he stirred up controversy after his sack of five (later, three more) bank chiefs and pumped funds into the ailing
banks. His move dubbed, ‘the Sanusi tsunami’ shook the nation and it was largely seen as an actualization of a ‘northern agenda’ by many.
He stood his ground and never minced words in expressing his desire to see that these bank chiefs are tried and eventually prosecuted. “We
had to move in to send a strong signal that such recklessness on the part of bank executives will no longer be tolerated,” he said.

What worsened his case and alluded to the stance of his critics was an earlier publication, Vanguard newspaper of March 28th, 2009 that a
group of people are hell bent on discrediting five banks and take over these banks. As if acting on a script, five bank helmsmen were axed.
However there was a little twist, as three more bank chiefs suffered the same fate.

Soon after wards, a group known as the Renaissance Group, flooded the dailies with paid adverts stating reasons why Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
should not be trusted. He was summoned by the National Assembly to explain why he should inject funds in the banking system without their
approval. But this Fulani economist, Arabic scholar, social affairs analyst and essayist stood his grounds and ended up lecturing the
honourable men on CBN’s power to print money in pursuance of its liquidity control function.

The rippling effect of his action was massive job cuts by banks leading to job losses by hundreds of bank employees who are mainly
young Nigerians at a period that the nation’s unemployment rate was alarming. The much hailed consolidation exercise of Nigerian banks by
his predecessor appeared to have been rubbished and there was a gre at loss of confidence by foreign investors. Many customers went to
withdraw their monies from these banks despite assurances from CBN that their funds are safe. It was because, the lessons learnt during
the distressed banks crisis of the nineties was a bitter one and nobody wanted to fall a victim again.

In October this year, he was awarded the accolade of Central Bank Governor of the Year, Sub-Saharan Africa, by the Global Business
magazine, Emerging Markets in recognition of his radical intervention in Nigeria’s financial sector to prevent a bigger collapse at the
height of last year’s crisis. During the awards, which took place in Washington DC alongside IMF/World Bank 2010 meetings, Sanusi, was
described as one of the most energetic and tenacious figures in Nigerian business.

The risk management expert and former Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director of First Bank Nigeria was praised for his
courageous efforts in first of all rescuing the Nigerian financial sector and then reshaping it through an uncompromising focus on
governance, which generated widespread acclaim as well as controversy.

However, with the proliferation of many awards and awarding institutions, many Nigerians were not moved by his global recognition.
Neither were the dailies awash with congratulatory messages from bank chiefs and other Nigerians as it was done in the ‘boom’ era. Maybe,
Sanusi is not the type that likes his trumpets to be blown by praise singers. But like many others in a similar position as the Governor of
the banker of banks, he loves to blow it himself. At least the world should see that he is making progress.

A recent report shows that the Nigerian economy is amongst the top ten growing economies for the year 2010; but what matters to the
common Nigerian is basically the affordability of goods and services, availability of jobs and his ability to eat three square meals a day.
To many Nigerians, there is nothing yet to celebrate. For a country as rich as Nigeria, it calls for the Government to reconsider its

Before the House of Representatives joint committees on appropriation, finance, banking/currency and drugs/narcotics and financial crimes,
Sanusi still maintained his stance. He said, “More and more of our money is being spent on overheads, unles

s we widen our revenue base,
we will continue to use our money to service debt. As a country, we cannot continue to spend our money on recurrent expenditure,
especially when we are borrowing.’’

He recounted how the President summoned him after his comment that Nigeria was pursuing a wrong economic agenda and told the President
that he made the statement, saying, “no matter what we do to our banking, if we do not fix the power sector, Nigeria’s economic
problems will still persist.” The President said, “yes, I agree with you.”

A google search of the words, ‘recurrent expenditure,’ ‘over head costs,’ ‘service wide votes’ showed articles and reports on the Lamido
Sanusi and the National Assembly feud, indicating the kind of attention the issue has attracted in the media, world over.

This would certainly not going to be the last of the controversies that the loquacious CBN chief would generate except he chooses to
start talking less. Something he is not known for. But if his talking would be for the common good of Nigerians, then let him keep talking.

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