The year came with the usual ritual of being heralded with pomp; pageantry for some and a chance for renewed hopes and aspirations in different directions, for some others.
Individuals, situations – planned and unplanned, have shaped, both positively and negatively, and indeed on an indifferent, even indescribable way; all now forming part of history recorded thus far.
Of two or more good things and/or individuals where a choice has to be made as of compulsion, one must be picked but certainly not because the other is bad but the situation imposed by the scale of preference.
It is on this note that I have resolved to, and indeed have chosen MALLAM SANUSI LAMIDO SANUSI, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as my MAN OF THE YEAR 2013.
Sanusi came into the limelight, initially, upon his appointment as the Managing Director of the First Bank Group, after a banking career that saw him to a top senior management position in the United Bank for Africa. His appointment by the late President Umaru Yar’adua as the Central Bank Governor catapulted him to the zenith of his career in banking.
The man hit the ground running and never looked back right from the ring of the bell. He set out to achieve his objective of reforming the Nigerian Banking System in a rather radical way. He became a non-conformist activist in Reserve Banking and went for far-reaching decisions that took the industry unawares. He went straight to work with his special auditing of the banks; an exercise that revealed shocking details of fraud in high places by those whom the society had taken to be saints in the industry. The report of the savagery with which the financial services industry was being dealt with, was beyond comprehension and thus prompted the CBN under him to revoke the operating licenses of the banks with very bad balance sheets and the eventual prosecution of the indicted parties; a conviction of which had been achieved while others are still on-going.
SLS did not stop there; he proceeded unto the idea of cleaning the system by the introduction of the term limit for bank CEOs to a maximum of 10years; a policy which saw the sudden exit of some super-bankers, which created the way for fresh ideas and creative management against the hitherto entrenched system which led to all kinds of sharp practices by power absolutism that held sway in the big banks holding over 70% of depositors’ funds, with the attendant inherent systemic risks.
It was Sanusi Lamido that introduced the big ticket agricultural sector intervention which was in tandem with the government policy of re-invigorating the sector to provide the needed employment generation efforts in addition to the tertiary education sector support for infrastructural development in some of the Universities in the geo-political zones. His economic management skills and policies, particularly, the monetary policies, were quite commendable. His activism, expectedly, brought him into collision with the establishment people in the legislative and executive arms of government who abhors being dared. He stood his ground in those ‘wars’ with facts unrepudiated. He dared where the angels trembled.
Quite irrespective of his many achievements, he made his mistakes. He, sometimes, talked too much where he ought to be minimal, or not at all; and perhaps in expression of his right to his opinion as of constitutional allowance while forgetting discretion as the flavour of valour. It would, however, appear that he was spurred on more by his discontent with the continuing rot in the Nigerian system of administering almost every aspect of national life without anybody from anywhere summing up the courage to challenge a seemingly irredeemable entity.
The trial of the former bank executives indicted in the failed banks especially proved problematic as his comments, sometimes, tended towards a personal vendetta situation than just as the Head of a reformist regulatory organization. He didn’t realize where to draw the line between officialdom and personal feelings while holding an official position, even if the right to personal opinion is guaranteed by law. It was yet another case of indiscretion that exposed him as a suspect in a hidden agenda to punish a particular section of the country as against his own part. I, however, do not agree with this school of thought.
Some of his economic management policies were also criticized very harshly as promoting a contradictory regime of allowing government funds in banks only for the same government to turn round and be borrowing the same money at higher interest rates; a net loss position to the Nigerian people, which was an exception to economists.
The rejection of his proposition for a higher denomination currency bill in N5000 note was also bad for him as it attracted wide spread criticisms that led to the Presidency ordering a stoppage of the proposal. The brouhaha generated by the allegation of the “unrepatriated and/or unreconciled” Oil Export Proceeds by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC in a letter to the President, which became public knowledge, and his subsequent admission of a mix-up, also caused him quite some significant damage, as one who acted in a haste without taking into account the implication of any information flowing into the public domain in his official position as Governor.
In all of these, my choice of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is largely premised on the fact that he had a mission of a reformer. He was ready for the consequences in commendation and condemnation, in a manner that seemed to suggest that he hinged his ideas of letting posterity be the final arbiter. For a reformer, ‘the end’ is where his eyes are fixated. Even when the quality of ‘the means’ is also very important; the thought of an overwhelming consideration of that may, at the end of the day, not allow much to be achieved; the net overall picture being most sought after.
It is on this note that I am saluting the courage; the audacity of Sanusi Lamido to attempt and indeed make a change in a system noted for prebendalism. As the CBN governor begins the preparation for his exit from the apex bank, history will remember him for possessing and exhibiting an uncommon zeal to contribute positively to the development of his fatherland for which the same history will forgive him for whatever decisions he may have honestly/dutifully taken that went wrong but not for taking none.
While wishing this great son of Nigeria who, inspite of his blue blood, readily identifies with the plight of the ordinary Nigerian by consistently pointing at the greed of the rich; I’ll always remember with nostalgia, that our dear country still have some highly patriotic individuals ready to go the extra mile to promote civilized conduct in the polity. Sanusi Lamido is not only outstanding in this case but STANDING OUT.
This is, therefore, to wish my dearest brother; country man; astute administrator and great man of courage, all the best of whatever remains of his tenure and in his future endeavours. You stole my heart away most pleasantly …but you can keep it!!!
Kemi Adeloye is a business practitioner and public affairs analyst. He writes in from Lagos
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