Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s recent suspension as CBN Governor has produced reactions both for and against his removal. Those in favour argue that Sanusi did not behave like Central Bank Governors in other climes – quiet and unassuming. Sanusi, they argue had the wrong temperament. They argue that he was too much of an activist in a role that required a different temperament.
Those who support Sanusi argue on the other hand that Sanusi had no choice given the alleged level of corruption in the system. Sanusi, no doubt, arrived on the public service stage with great aplomb. What with the trial and conviction of bank MDs, closure of banks and recapitalisation of others.
It was clear from day one, that Sanusi would step on many powerful toes, and no doubt, he did. This endeared him to some and no doubt created many powerful enemies in a country of small institutions and big men. By the time he was done, the Nigerian banking sector was a very different place from what it had been.
Then Sanusi for another season took flak over his alleged Islamisation of non-interest banking. This raged for a season and like many things in Nigeria, soon faded from the front burner of the media. The most recent headline grabbing issue has been the allegations of missing funds in the care of NNPC.
First it was $49.8billion; then, $10.8b and finally, $20b. NNPC argued that Sanusi’s computation was wrong because he didn’t make provision for NNPC’s operations and subsidy on kerosene. The last word on the matter was the promise made by the CME, Mrs. Okonjo- Iweala that a forensic audit would be undertaken.
Whilst that is awaited, Nigerians are still trying to digest the economic implications of what happened to $20b of our commonwealth, if as Sanusi alleges, the money is missing or to put it crudely, stolen!
In the middle of this saga comes Sanusi’s suspension for infractions related to the management of the CBN. Of course, there is a debate raging as to whether he was given adequate time to respond before the suspension and of course, as to whether the president has the power under the constitution and the CBN Act to suspend him. From a strict legal analysis, it is doubtful the president has the power to suspend.
However, he has done so and the rest is history. Some argue that the president could not have brought the matter to the Senate because it was unclear he would get the requisite votes to remove Sanusi from office. In addition, the argument is also made that Sanusi was really acting out a script for APC – what with friends like Bukola Saraki and his alleged plan to run for office on the platform of the APC. This is the nature of public service in Nigeria. Allegation and counter allegation.
In the middle of all these allegations, it is easy to forget that there are weighty issues of governance and the management of our commonwealth at stake. Where Nigerians by and large not so poor, it would be excusable, that the debate over whether $20b is missing or not has turned so personal and now revolves around Sanusi, his style etc.
Perhaps, due to our long years of servitude under the military rule, we find it near impossible to distinguish the message from the messenger. Ribadu, the acclaimed anti-corruption crusader headed a government committee investigating fuel subsidy claims, came up with a damning report and after that, silence on the part of government.
The impression that the average Nigerian reads into all this, is that this government pays lip service to the battle against corruption. To the average onlooker, Sanusi’s suspension looks like a preemptive move to remove a powerful critic before more damaging revelations are made. Otherwise, if the report of his wrongdoing was compiled as far back as last year, why wait until now to suspend him?
Sanusi’s suspension does grave harm to the international reputation of our country. It signals at the very least, a lackadaisical approach to fighting corruption and a desire to maintaining the status quo at all costs. It will come to haunt this government in the weeks and months leading up to the 2015 elections.
The big debate going forward will center on the anti corruption credentials of this government in light of the president’s promise to Nigerians that he would deal with this scourge. In the age of social media, the internet and the raging Boko Haram insurgency in the North, this suspension is bound to cast the president as having lost touch with the masses who pinned so much hope on this presidency. It is difficult to understand the timing of the suspension in view of the ongoing investigation over whether $20b was stolen or not.
While the dust settles on the raging controversy over Sanusi’s suspension, some salient issues need to be put in proper perspective. These are the risks associated with leadership. Two years ago, I attended an executive education leadership course at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard. The theme was “Leading with courage”.
The aim of the course was surviving the risks associated with exercising leadership. Professor Marty Linsky, who led the course and co-wrote a book “Leadership on the line” wrote that when anyone chooses to lead, he faces a number of challenges. Some of these challenges included the risk of losing your job and in some cases, like the late Prime Minister Rabin of Israel, losing your life.
The essence of the course was how to survive the challenges of exercising leadership. In other words, when you exercise leadership that is truly transformative, at the very least, you will face resistance from those who desire to maintain the status quo. At worst, you create enemies who are prepared in some cases to kill you.
Nigeria needs courageous people who will exercise leadership at all level. However, this kind of leadership requires courage. Courage to stand for what is right. Beyond the allegations and counter allegations over missing funds and infractions at CBN, it is clear that there are fundamental issues about the management of our commonwealth that have been brought to the front burner.
Sanusi, no doubt, like everyone of us is certainly not perfect. He may even be too talkative for his own good. He may turn out to be no different from the legion of officials who have shown corrupt tendencies whilst in office. Nevertheless, he stands out today as a courageous man, in a country desperately seeking heroes.
We have few home grown heroes in Nigeria, partly because no one wants to rock the boat and partly because we so easily get enmeshed in the tit-for-tat that arises when issues of corruption, abuse of office etc arise.
On a final note, therefore, whether for or against Sanusi, or whether for or against his suspension, the salient lesson is that exercising leadership requires courage. Also, that exercising leadership carries grave risks of being sacked, being vilified, being misunderstood, suffering persecution, imprisonment, loss of status etc.
But it also carries with the satisfaction of doing right. Sooner than later, the tipping point will come, when the unstoppable march towards compassionate and people centered-governance will be the mainstay of Nigeria. Until then, every Nigerian must reflect on the price of exercising leadership because truly, Nigeria is desperate for heroes.