Sanusi: A Long Misunderstood Patriot

Governor of the Central of Nigeria, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is almost unarguably the most admired Nigerian at the moment.  In a series of reactions published by The Punch newspaper in its Saturday, 04/12/2010 and Sunday, 05/12/2010 editions, all the contributors endorsed Sanusi’s action of condemning the outrageous expenditure incurred on the National Assembly and his decision to stand by his statement.

 In a poverty-stricken nation whose already charged citizens have been looking for a way to vent their frustration against their leaders, the CBN governor’s revelation(which has always been known and should not be news, anyway) provided the necessary impetus.

Deploying its machinery of bully and intimidation, the Senate Committees on Finance-related matters, led by Iyiola Omisore(who was recently bruised by the recent Appeal court judgment sacking Olagunsoye Oyinlola, whom he had been working to succeed) , got more than they bargained for when they summoned the lanky CBN governor. This is the same Senate we have had a political appointment nominee fainting while facing, the Senate that has intimidated public officers into incoherence in the past, the same Senate that has made otherwise fine technocrats look silly in the past. But this was not Lamido Sanusi. The man came out not only unscathed, he also made the Senators look stupid.

But for the seriousness of this matter, I would have titled it Sanusi 3, National Assembly 0. This is the third time Sanusi is making mince-meat of the men that occupy that hallowed chamber called National Assembly. The first was during his screening, where contrary to the belief before his appearance that the Senators will grill him hard, he proved too handful for the Senators. The second was when he was asked to come and defend his N400 billion bailout funds for rescued banks. Angered that he did not get approval from the National Assembly, Sanusi was summoned to come and defend his action, with a threat that he should return the money to the treasury.  Again, Sanusi sent the honourables to the cleaners, schooling them on CBN’s power to print money in pursuance of its liquidity control function.  Sanusi left the chamber smiling again.

Given the fire and brimstones spat by the legislative this third summon, watchers had expected to see Sanusi claim that he was misquoted. But again, CBN governor not only stood stoutly by his comment, he bluntly refused to apologize, not even with the threat of resignation.  This was vintage Sanusi, the man I wrote had the gut to resign if not given free-hands to do his job under his power in my article titled ‘The Lamido Sanusi I didn’t know’, published in some national dailies in July 2009.

When sometime around May 2009, I spent my whole weekend reading over thirty articles written by the Kano prince, which I dug out from the internet, my conclusion about him was that this man cannot be cowed or brow-beaten.  Not even with past experience of people that, contrary to what they preached in their writings, turned out to disappoint when given the chance to act, made me think twice about the man’s capability.  For a banker to have the gut to take on his state governor, respected senior journalists, political and religious leaders on various issues, is no mean feat. I came across Sanusi’s past battles from 1998-2005 and I knew this man cannot be used by anybody to achieve any agenda. This was why I stopped at nothing to defend him when the widespread accusation about his ‘northern/Islamic agenda’ raged. In a country where high-wired ethnic and religion politics is a reality, I did not dispute the fact that the North may have an agenda, but Lamido Sanusi, was definitely not the man that can be used to hatchet such plan, I argued at the time. 
Reading Sanusi’s write-ups, I knew this man’s only constituency is the masses. Somehow, the man has been vindicated with events that threw up later, including his latest call – and defence of same – that the expenditure on National Assembly should be cut if we must achieve progress in this country. 

Professor Adebayo Lamikanra, the cerebral intellectual from the Obafemi Awolowo University, in his article, “A ‘dangerous’ man in the Central Bank”, published in the Guardian newspaper in November 2009, attributed Sanusi’s frankness, especially the ease with which he floors the men at Nigeria’s hallowed chamber anytime he is called upon to defend an action, to his penchant for reading.  Quoting from one of the works of Shakespeare, the professor of Pharmacy likened Sanusi to Cassius, the man Shakespeare wrote killed Julius Ceaser. ‘Cassius’, Ceaser said, ‘ has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much: Such men are dangerous’. Elsewhere, he (Ceaser )said, Cassius reads too much.

Professor Pius Adesanmi, a Canada-based public affairs commentator and columnist with NEXT newspaper and Sahara Reporters, in his own essay titled ‘Letter of Gratitude to Senator Iyiola Omisore’ also attributed Sanusi’s now familiar easy thrashing of the grandstanding lawmakers to his intellectual level, which is too much for our distinguished legislative to match. “.. of all the people that the Senate could find to grill a mind like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, it had to be you, Senator Iyiola Omisore! Sanusi combines the best in Arabic scholarship with Western political discourse and philosophy. If you study his essayistic career before he became a public figure, you will see that he quotes everybody from Antonio Gramsci to Michel Foucault via Plato, Ovid, Richard Rorty, and Paul de Man. I won’t put it beyond the man to be reading Greek and Latin texts in the original. A man of such impeccable intellectual depth was going to be grilled by a National Assembly populated almost exclusively by school certificate forgers, Oluwole customers, University dropouts, active and retired political assassins, and puny election riggers. And this inquisition by intellectual midgets was going to be led by you sir. We laughed so hard”, Adesanmi wrote, rather comically.

The two Profs couldn’t have said it better. Sanusi’s intellectual depth, aided particularly by his wide reading, has proved to be his greatest asset. I laugh (like Obasanjo and Atiku) anytime I hear people dismiss the man as another gworo-chewing, illiterate Fulani man that is not qualified to head the apex bank. If our Ivy league Universities degree-holding technocrats have had the balls to do half of what the Sudan-Sharia man has done(tell truth to power, take action irrespective of whose interest will be affected, refuse to succumb to pressure etc), our country would have been better for it.

Imagine having a Lamido Sanusi – someone bold enough to take action and refuse to be submerged in resultant political currents – in key agencies and bodies like EFCC, INEC, SEC. Imagine having a Lamido Sanusi – someone that has the interest of the masses at heart – as President, Vice President, Senate President,  Governors etc. Imagine we have the Lamido Sanusi spirit – telling truth to power – in our political activists. Imagine we have a Lamido Sanusi – someone that finally walks his past talk – in our writers and critics that eventually find themselves in position to act. Imagine every public office holder having the zeal of Sanusi. The likes of Gani Fawehinmi may not have been able to get to power, but Sanusi has set the pace in walking the talk about changing this country. For this country to move forward, we need more Sanusis. Who is ready?

Suraj Oyewale,
Victoria Island, Lagos

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