SLS: King of the North
Some are born great; some achieve greatness, while some have greatness thrust upon them. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s rise in the world of banking and now ascension to the throne of Kano smacks of an eventuality that rode on a precisely focused ambition and an irrepressible stroke of fate. HRH Emir Sanusi II never hid his wish to succeed his late Uncle Alhaji Ado Bayero, instead he pushed his claim to the throne so high into public consciousness such that in and far away from the Kano Emirate, the largest percentage of the public knew the ultimate position the erstwhile CBN governor had his eyes set on.
He had cut a very charismatic figure from his days as a top banking executive in some of Nigeria’s biggest commercial banks through his reign as the head of Nigeria’s Apex Bank when many accused him of continually displaying a condescending aristocratic mien. As some will like to believe; his outspokenness and arrogance ranks alongside stuff of legends. There is no doubt that his intellect and readiness to take on tough challenges won him several admirers and recognition both locally and internationally. The global financial intelligence magazine, The Banker, published by the Financial Times, conferred on Sanusi two awards, the global award for Central Bank Governor of the Year, as well as for Central Bank Governor of the Year for Africa in 2010. The TIME magazine also listed Sanusi in its TIMES 100 list of most influential people of 2011.
When appointed in 2009 as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by the late President Y’aradua, Sanusi’s task was to navigate Nigeria’s financial landscape away from the impact of The Global Financial Crisis which had started 2 years before his appointment and was considered by many economists the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression of the 1930’s.
His moves aimed at saving 24 banks on the brink of collapse and stamping out corruption in the sector was radical. Powerful individuals and vested interests had become bastions of corruption and only one with an unshaken conviction could hazard challenging the “powers that be”. It was in these circumstances that Sanusi’s appointment proved to be a blessing to the country and a master stroke by the then president. Sanusi was agnostically indifferent to the influence and power of those who held sway in the society but were holding the financial sector down to the point of strangulation and many thought he was clearly imbued by his social class standing by virtue of being a prominent Kano Prince. He made public, the extent of corruption in the banking sector and got convictions for rich and powerful individuals who were found guilty by competent courts in the land of subverting the interest of genuine stakeholders in the sector through outrageously corrupt practices and reckless management.
A number of chief executive officers were dismissed and had charges pressed against them, with a key element of the reform of the banking sector being the limit of the tenure of bank CEOs to a maximum of 10 years: stipulating that they will have to leave office at the end of their term regardless of their record. This singular move was considered by many as testament to Sanusi’s legacy and long term vision of building further control mechanism into the management of financial institutions and a culture of good corporate governance.
Sanusi sanitised the banking industry and had these reforms not been initiated, Nigeria would have entered into another round of banking distress even after the rest of the world would have recovered from the impact of the global financial crisis. The implementation of stricter disclosure policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria has also led to a culture of greater transparency in the sector. Asked about his reforms, Sanusi explained that they were built around four pillars: enhancing the quality of banks, establishing financial stability, enabling healthy financial-sector evolution and ensuring that the financial sector contributes to the real (non-financial) economy.
All through his campaign for sanity in the financial sector, Sanusi maintained excellent capacity to communicate in clear terms the goals of his reforms and many times gave his opinion on key economic policies and governance in general, favouring point-blank expressions to pass messages consistent with his controversial personality. His advocacy for the removal of fuel subsidies saying they were wasteful and an avenue for corruption however did not go down well with a large section of the public and civil society organizations who considered his submission that the masses do not really benefit from the subsidy regime as simplistic, while some went further to cite his privileged background as a specific reason for his unapologetic parochialism. His cashless policy was at inception equally greeted with scepticism and prickly opinions.
Sanusi despite being a hugely popular public official, continually courts controversies contrived on unsavoury utterances and a garrulous disposition. Before news broke of an alleged scandalous affair with a married staffer of CBN who Sanusi had aided to get her position within the Bank with details investigated and published by PREMIUM TIMES, his time in office had already been associated with a number of upheavals. There were reports of an alleged repeated violation of the statutory code of conduct for public office holders such as hiring his girlfriends and mistresses without complying with public service rules. Sanusi allegedly had enthroned nepotism at the bank and was seen by insiders as being morally bankrupt. Investigations by the newspaper revealed that Mr. Lamido hired one of his mistresses, Mrs. Yaro, without complying with the CBN recruitment policy. According to PREMIUM TIMES thoroughly detailed report, Mrs. Yaro, was hired in July 2012 without adherence to known standards and principles.
Interestingly, there were signs from the inception that Sanusi’s personality and character would be quite volatile. At his screening by the Senate for Office of governor of CBN, he tore into his boss’ (President Y’aradua) 7 point agenda, submitting essentially that it was ambiguous and unrealistic. His declaration on assumption of Office that he will not be seeking another term as governor of CBN was interpreted by many as another statement by a man who has a habitual liking for showmanship.
His reforms and the reverberation of the major shake-up of a configuration of a southern dominated banking sector management and industrialists was bogged down by accusations of being ethnocentric and targeted. He was reported on record to have bragged about sending bank executives to jail after receiving the report of an examination the financial health of banks in commercial operation.
Federal lawmakers were not spared of Sanusi’s fiery sticks when he took a position against their remuneration which he considered as frittering away scarce resources at the expense infrastructural development. The embarrassment to the lawmakers was compounded when Sanusi stood his ground during questioning by House of Representative members over his comment touching on what the lawmakers consider their sense of responsibility and public perception of them.
Not a few Nigerians felt the head of the Apex bank’s championing of Islamic banking principles as insulting to their sensibilities but in his usual act of defiance, ignoring the people’s strong desire to maintain secularity which is not only enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution but is importantly fundamental to the country’s long road to the social integration of its multi ethnic national components, Sanusi went ahead with steps geared towards the introduction of the grossly divisive system of banking.
In consistently speaking out against the administration in which he is a serving member, things got to a head for the former CBN governor when a letter he had written to the president reporting missing $49.8 billion in oil revenue was allegedly leaked by Sanusi himself. He further trimmed down the initial figure to $20 billion but the Presidency opined that the damage to its public perception had been done and was intentional. True to his garrulous character, Sanusi made public a telephone conversation with the President in the immediate aftermath of his disclosure of missing NNPC funds in which he alleged the President had asked him to proceed on a terminal leave and how he had rebuffed the presidential instruction.
In a sweeping and unprecedented act, the President suspended Sanusi relying on a report by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria which accused the former CBN governor of gross abuse of office and reckless spending on Corporate Social Responsibility of unappropriated funds. Many stood in defence of embattled Sanusi in what a lot of his admirers saw as a witch hunt orchestrated by the Presidency. Sanusi was a marked man. Harried and harassed by the country’s elite security forces under instruction from above. He was taken into custody for four hours after returning to the country from Niger where he had gone on an official trip and had learnt of his suspension, and his passport was in a swift action seized on arrival.
Of course, the loquacious Sanusi threatened and took legal action but his efforts did not yield much other than motions restraining security outfits from further harassing him. Just when it seemed that the irrepressible and erudite Prince may have in fact fallen from grace, by a fortuitous twist of fate, Sanusi’s uncle- Alhaji Ado Bayero passed on and the process of selecting a new Emir with all its intrigue not only threw Sanusi up as one of the contenders but ensured that he fulfilled a life ambition after been crowned the Emir of Kano coinciding with the period during which his term in office as Governor of CBN would have expired if not interrupted.
His emergence as the new Emir brought enormous attention like Sanusi would have it. While his intelligence is never in doubt, his new status seems to be rubbing off fast on him as the Emir seems to have made peace with the President in a move that hitherto would have appeared as being out of character. With his influence and goodwill expected to transcend his domain stretching throughout the north of Nigeria and beyond. Many tributes have been paid to a man many Nigerians believe to be a super technocrat, and the people of Kano are hoping will help bring about positive changes to their lives.
All hail SLS, King of the North!