Five days after the expiration of the five-year tenure of Chukwuma Soludo, Professor of Economics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and consultant to the World Bank, as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), President Umar Musa Yar'Adua finally sent the name of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, group managing director, First Bank of Nigeria Plc after much dilly-dallying.
Sanusi, who shares the same name as Soludo's predecessor, Joseph Oladele Sanusi, who incidentally was also a former chief executive of First Bank, was one of the four names mentioned as those in contention for the race, as well as Jubrin Isa, executive director, Afribank Nigeria; Dr. Tanimu Yakubu, the President's chief economic adviser, (who at a point was said to be the CBN Governor-in-waiting, after all, it was from that position Soludo himself was appointed in 2004); Accountant-General of the Federation, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo and African Development Bank Vice President, Dr. Bisi Ogunjobi.
The President on Monday nominated Sanusi for the position to the Senate for confirmation and approval. This is, however, despite the fact that the appointment of the Kano prince to the position would breach the principle of Federal Character as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. The argument is that Sanusi is from Kano State, just like Finance Minister, Dr. Mansur Muhtar and National Planning Minister and former CBN Deputy Governor, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman, among other key positions.
The President is believed to have come under intense pressure from Northern elements, particularly the emirs and the oligarchy to appoint one of their ilk to the position, which was last occupied by someone from that part 15 years ago. According to the argument, the late Abdulkadir Ahmed, who remains the longest occupant of the position, held sway for 11 years and three months, during which he worked with the governments of Shehu Shagari, and military regimes of Generals Mohammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and with the short-lived interim government of Ernest Shonekan.
In all, records on the CBN website (www.cenbank.org) show that there have been nine governors of the CBN, beginning with Roy Pentelow Fenton (between July 24, 1958 and July 24, 1963), who was succeeded by the late Aliyu Mai-Bornu (July 25, 1963 to June 22, 1967); the late Dr. Clement Nyong Isong (between August 15,1972 and September 24, 1975); and Adamu Ciroma (September 24,1975 to June 28, 1977). Mr. Ola Vincent was CBN Governor from June 28, 1977 to June 28, 1982; followed by the late Alhaji Ahmed (June 28, 1982 to September 30, 1993), who was succeeded by Dr. Paul Ogwuma who resumed office on October 1, 1993, retiring after almost six years at the advent of the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration on May 29, 1999. Ogwuma was replaced by Joseph Oladele Sanusi, former official of the CBN and managing director/chief executive officer of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, who was in office for a single term of five years until May 29, 2004, when the incumbent Soludo was named chief executive of the apex bank, also for a single term.
Historically, from the above timetable, there has been a vacuum in the office of the CBN Governor before now. The difference between this and the previous one, which lasted for five years, one month and 23 days from June 22, 1967, when Mai-Bornu left office and August 15, 1972, when the late Isong came on board, was that most of the period was the Nigerian civil war. The war ended in 1970, meaning that the then Gen Yakubu Gowon junta left the position vacant for yet another two years. There are no records of what transpired within the period, except that the economic condition at that time were not as complex as what the world is experiencing today.
Many believe that in spite of the known shortcomings of Soludo, he should have been allowed to help weather the current storm, which is an offshoot of the global economic turmoil. The problem, which began in 2007 with the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States, has, according the Dr. Ayodele Teriba, chief executive, Economic Associates, led to a credit crunch in Nigeria, like several other developing economies.
Soludo was expected as at Monday to hand over to Ernest Ebi, deputy governor in charge of Corporate Services at the apex bank and the most senior, who is, however, expected to retire from office on June 4, after completing his second term of five years each, having been appointed in 1999 by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Since Ebi may, therefore, have no time to even open the report presented to him, as he would have had to hand over, Mr. Babatunde Lemo, former group managing director of Wema Bank and now deputy governor(in charge of Financial Sector Surveillance) is expected to act until the Senate names a new helmsman. Lemo in January secured a second term of five years and may have to hold forth along with other deputy governors and members of the CBN management like Dr. Sarah Alade (in charge of Economic Policy), appointed on March 26, 2007; and Suleiman Barau (Operations), who was appointed December 13, 2007. Mrs Alade was formerly director, Banking Operations, before her appointment to the position, and one of the few women to have successfully crossed to the directorate level and the first woman to attain the position of a deputy governor at the CBN.
A source at the CBN told Daily Independent on Monday that media insinuations in recent days were wrong, noting that there is really no issue concerning the vacuum, since the most senior deputy can act in the full capacity of the office in the absence of a substantive occupant. He also disagreed with media reports that the bank would run on autopilot until the Senate confirms the President's nominee.
Until the President's appointee is confirmed by the upper legislative arm, the acting governor would continue to work with other members of the board representing various economic institutions. They include Stephen Osagiede Oronsaye, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, appointed on July 31, 2008; and Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, Accountant General of the Federation was appointed on May 25, 2007, whose name also incidentally was thrown up as one of the candidates being considered for the job by President Yar'Adua. Other members who were appointed on November 23, 2005, are Dahiru Muhammad; Prof. Samuel Olofin; Joshua O. Omuya; Prof. Akpan Ekpo; Mrs. Juliet A. Madubueze, who is the immediate past President, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria; while Umaru Bello Girei serves as Secretary to the board.