Renaissance Professionals: A Post Mortem

By I do not envy the campaign team of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. One of the hardest things to do is to sell a person or an  white, and some people’s job is to call it black and make people believe it, you will agree with me that such a job, for all its millions, is not an enviable oneidea widely seen as evil, even if wrongly. When everybody sees something as. But a group paid to do similar job were almost able to pull through.

 

Renaissance professionals! Does the name ring bell? That is the self-styled, combative group paid to see white and call it black for us. Until the recent disappearance of the group, they remained the most vocal defenders of the sacked chief executive officers of the five, later eight, banks in Nigeria in August 2009, rationalizing the ridiculous and justifying the unjustifiable.

But for the group now, this is definitely not the best of times. Or who else will consider this a good time, when, against all the millions spent in digging out ‘facts’ and propagandizing same, it became glaring that you had been defending the indefensible? Going into hiding, like our friends did since Mrs Cecilia Ibru, one of the deposed Bank chiefs they have been defending, owned up to the allegations against her, is therefore the only option left.

No one conversant with the whole failing banks episode needed Mallam Lamido Sanusi’s statement months ago that he knew those behind the group and their budget for the ‘project’, to know the source of the Renaissance professionals’ firepower. Their claim that three people from three different tribes(hey, akika!) just came together by chance, discussed Sanusi’s sacking of bank chiefs and agreed to form a group to expose Sanusi’s agenda, was as laughable as it came. With claims like this, who needs an Ali Baba or Basketmouth.

Renaissance professionals spent no less than N200 million to prosecute their anti-Sanusi media war, and it paid off to a great extent, as a time came when many of the analysts that had earlier given the CBN governor’s reforms a nod suddenly made a detour, joining the critics. With his supportive boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, also battling for his life, the CBN governor had a tempestuous time. Word on the street, then, was that the CBN governor would be cut to size by the then acting President Goodluck Jonathan. Minister of state for Finance Remi Babalola’s and Security adviser Aliyu Gusau’s statements at the time, which appeared not nice to the CBN governor’s sanitization programme, were all one needed to believe the word from the rumours mill.

With the recent conviction of Mrs Ibru on the plea bargain that she would forfeit assets worth 191 billion Naira, conspiracy theorists, led by Renaissance professionals, seem to have been dealt a fatal punch.

It is very disturbing that in this part of the world, every attempt, even if genuine, to put things in order, is first viewed through sectional prism. Rather than render a holistic assessment of issue, parochial consideration takes precedence and the whole debate is reduced to ethnic and religious bashing.  Even more worrying is the fact that supposed intellectuals and highly rated analysts are not left out in this shameful approach to issues. This played out during the ‘Hurricane Sanusi’ debate, when, rather than look at the effects of the reforms on various economic variables like unemployment, inflation, GDP, foreign exchange, investors confidence etc, many otherwise respected economic analysts compete with charlatans and beer parlour commentators in conspiracy theorizing, and words like ‘Kamikaze’, ‘bull/elephant in a China shop’, ‘Sharia’, ‘Northern/Islamic agenda’, suddenly replaced terms like multiplier effect, short term price, long run etc in our economic lexicon. Nigeria I hail thee.

One can easily agree that the CBN governor needed restraint in his remarks, especially with that unguarded statement that the sacked banking lords were good for the gallows, but to doubt the necessity of his actions, even after their offences have been laid bare, is to endorse corruption in high places.

With Sanusi’s intervention, apart from the over 100 billion Naira recovered from the debtors, 191 billion Naira is to be coughed out by Mrs Ibru alone. And much more is expected to be recovered in the days ahead. If 191 billion Naira had grown wings from the books of a bank, I wonder how strong such a bank would have been to still be in good health. No one needs further proof from the apex bank boss that the bank, like other rescued banks in similar situation, was a moving corpse.  Herein lies the locus of our arguments that the CBN intervention was timely, and whatever could have been the short term price, it is a decisive action worth taking.

While they lasted, Renaissance professionals, almost on daily basis and in many print media, regaled the public with different ‘revelations’ on the CBN governor’s ‘hidden agenda’, quoting every Joe that made a negative statement about the reforms as competent authority.

But like the spin doctors that they are, the last may not have been heard from Renaissance professionals. They may have only beaten a retreat to come back with more tales. Our professionals may have been busy thinking ‘outside the box’ to concoct more propaganda. At least, we have not heard of accusation that the Judges that passed the unanimous judgment on Cecilia Ibru were bribed. We have not heard that Ibru admitted guilty under duress. We have yet to hear that the 191 billion Naira worth of assets were genuine fortune of the sacked ‘amazon’ of Nigeria’s banking system and not money channeled into private coffers from depositors’ funds.

Criticism is, prima facie, not a bad thing. At least we had a genuine critic in somebody like Gani Fawehinmi who never gave the successive thieving governments a space and, from time to time, exposed their ill-deeds, even if he cannot do more than shouting to the top of the roof and instituting court cases to save, not himself, but the generality of hapless Nigerians. But when a group of people take as forte crying wolf where there is none and distracting somebody that appears to break the status quo, one wonders what kind of country ours is.

I have no doubts in my mind that Lamido Sanusi, and indeed any holder of public office whose decision can make or mar the nation’s economy or polity, needs to be put at check to prevent totalitarian tendency. But like Sanusi himself said at his Kano University convocation presentation early this year, this should be done by informed minds, not some sponsored charlatans that parade themselves as professionals.  But in a nation where university faculties have abandoned robust economic debates and analyses for other things, we can pardon the vulnerable, uninformed watchers of events who rely on analyses from the likes of Renaissance professionals to form opinion.

Renaissance professionals, while they bestrode this space, really gave a good account of themselves as a fighter, a master propagandist, and showed that with money, you can distort facts or embellish peccadilloes and make millions of people believe you. But with the result of Cecilia Ibru’s case, one can only pity them that despite the efforts and millions, they have finally taken their place in the bin of history. Our Victor Shodipo-led friends indeed deserve our pity.

Suraj Oyewale
Dideolu Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos

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