Vanguard (Lagos)

1 March 2014

Nigeria: Sanusi

opinion

The media outlets have been full of the news... on the television, in the radio and newspaper. The CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has been suspended.

The man who had confessed to a delight in revelling in controversy and had set waves of it in motion, sometimes without any justifiable cause, had finally attained the apogee of a turbulent career.

Reactions are still swirling around the announcement by the Federal Government that the head of Nigeria's apex bank had been separated from his responsibilities, howbeit, temporarily. But the immediate take on the announcement is that the intention was that it should be permanent.

Many people reached for their copy of the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria which did not grant the President the authority to exercise the power of terminating the appointment of the Central Bank Governor, except with the consent of two-thirds of the Senate membership.

It was, in fact, still fresh on the mind of many people that Sanusi had resisted an earlier directive from the President for him to resign, relying on the protection of the Constitution over the position of the CBN Governor. The initial position of most commentators, and seemingly the general public, was that the order of his suspension was unconstitutional and illegal.

However, the position of the Federal Government, as expatiated by no less an official than the President himself, was that Sanusi could continue to hold office duly while he was being investigated. Apparently, an investigation generated by an audit report by the Financial Council, was being conducted by the Board of the CBN.

Being the Chairman of that board, it would be in keeping with normal practice for him to vacate the position, which apparently is in tandem with his office as the CBN Governor, for the duration of the investigation. It was therefore not a matter of constitutionality but of conventionality that Sanusi should step aside for the nonce. (Do I hear a rousing applause or a taunting snigger? Well, whatever... .)

One is left to believe, or even take seriously, the allegation of "recklessness" with which the CBN Governor has been charged. That was a prime word in the list of indictments slapped on him, after which he is supposed to be "investigated." After he had been virtually found guilty? The next step, one would presume, should be arraignment providing the opportunity for a properly conducted defence, but that is probably what the CBN Board probe would provide.

One might also find the President's earlier attempt to force him to resign somewhat intriguing as the prelude (or part of the prelude) to his suspension. The general impression disseminated by the attempt to make him resign was that it was connected with his efforts to stem the tide of corruption which was attaining the dimensions of a flood in the Ministry of Petroleum Products, especially within the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

That was the take of most of his earlier defenders and supporters who saw his "whistle-blowing" as a direct prelude to his present predicament, because that aspect of his alleged misdemeanour was not made as public as it should have been.

Sanusi would definitely not have had so many sympathizers had they been informed of the misdeeds summarized by the Financial " Reporting Council of Nigeria which were brought officially to the notice of President Jonathan as far back as June last year.

It was not until after the sensational suspension that the indictments of mind-boggling wrong-doings were brought to light. By then, the issue had picked up a baggage of emotional content that has had the effect of weighing down on the quality of objective appraisal, even on the part of the most fair-minded pundits. One is inclined to ask why such a lethal accusation was kept in the limbo for so long. Was it as a secret weapon to trip up a future move by the CBN Governor?

That question is given a place within a fair consideration vis-a-vis the contention, that the accusation of missing funds raised against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation by Sanusi was a strategy strangely devised beforehand, to becloud the allegations of humongous misdemeanour that would later be visited upon him.

Even from a distance, those allegations seem unreal, though credible, all the same For instance, an amount of nearly four billion naira staff loan was accounted to have been written off without any approval; another amount of more than thirty-eight billion naira was said to have been paid to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting, whose total turn-over for the year was far, far below that amount; then how did the liabilities for promotional activities become more than double in a year's period -- promotional activities of an apex bank? There are still other allegations, any one of which would be devastating enough if proven to be true.

But so would be Sanusi's indictment of the NNPC which centre on misappropriation of funds-- and they are also huge funds. What is further damnable is the supposition, or probability, that it may be no more than the tip of an iceberg in an ocean of institutionalized sleaze. Unfortunately the CBN Governor himself removed from the acceptability of his accusations by the unsteady presentation of his figures, but the fact of sordid conduct in the affairs of the disposal of public funds by the NNPC remains credible.

The perception that has been established in the public estimate is that of a government-owned organization in which very little was strictly kosher. The image of the minister in charge has been openly discredited in the National Assembly even before now. The probe raised by Sanusi's indictments is sure not to suffer because of his suspension -- okay, sack.

However, the image created by his presentation of himself before the public eye will not come to his aid now. His statements, probably intended to be incisive, were sometimes downright offensive, or abusive even. Imagine his reference to the stock market functions in terms of kalokalo - slot machine - operations.

He threw himself into issues that might personally excite him as an individual, but he could not divest his emotions in such situations from his position as the head of a national banking institution. He probably never honestly knew the difference between what the stance of his position and that of his person should be in public affairs.

Nothing reflected that fact less than his sartorial preferences which he inflicted with an air of habitual nonchalance on his immediate environment and beyond. He voluntarily refused to conform to the traditionally accepted notion of what a banker should be, a man one could trust, and hardly transmitted the comfort that should be felt in such a presence.

His tenure brought a breath of fresh air into the banking business in Nigeria. If even on that account alone, he can hold up his head high as someone who at one time sat on the tip of the apex bank.

Aisha

Aisha Falode is a woman of great courage. She has never made easy choices but finds her path in life through challenges that would daunt many a weaker soul. Her choice of profession in sports journalism, especially in the idiom of television broadcasting in which she has excelled, has been a declaration of her forthrightness in self-expression, and an unsurpassed ability in the discharge of her duties.

She will need all those sterling qualities now. The loss of a son is severe. The hurt goes too deep to be touched by human sympathy.

But that is all we are programmed to give, if we care. And we care. Several other colleagues who have been exposed to her genuine, charming ways and friendly disposition have preceded this expression of my affection which they own, and the sympathy we all share at the untimely departure of Toba from our midst at this time. I must here add my own condolences.

We pray that God, who gives and takes in his eternal wisdom and mercy, may console you, Aisha, as only He can.

Time out.

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