Even before he was confirmed as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, sent out a warning that he was going to be a CBN Governor with a difference. The senators evaluating him for the job sought to know his opinion on President Umaru Yar’adua’s seven-point agenda. He replied that the seven points were too unwieldy and that the President should have limited himself to only two points.
That was an unusual thing for a candidate for an important office such as the CBN governorship to do in Nigeria. He was expected to play along with the seven-point programme of the man who nominated him or manufacture words and grammar to evade a forthright answer. Not Lamido Sanusi. Once he was confirmed as CBN governor, Sanusi did not hesitate to take on the Senate, the legislative organ that gave him the pass. He said the lawmakers in Nigeria were getting more than their normal share of our national cake. His position did not amuse the senators who summoned and then subjected him to a long session of questioning. At the end of it, they demanded an apology. Sanusi refused to oblige them with one.
By now, the Nigerian people had begun to see the CBN governor as a ‘Daniel come to judgement’. Then the debate on whether or not the government should pay subsidy on petroleum products came up. Nigerians who saw the CBN governor as a man of the people were stunned at his performance at the town hall meeting in Lagos that discussed the issue. This time, he turned full scale against the people, taking the pro-establishment position that subsidy must go!
Finally, it was his stepping on the slippery ground of oil politics that derailed his tenure as CBN governor. Last year, he wrote a confidential letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, alleging that a hefty $49 billion was unaccounted for at the NNPC, the oil conglomerate of Nigeria that has made global headlines as a haven of sleaze. There was no immediate public reaction from the President until former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a fiery public letter, cited Sanusi’s confidential letter to buttress his point that Jonathan was leading a scandal besotted cabal.
Then the president opened up. He called on the relevant bodies of government to look into the allegation. After a thorough examination of the books, the amount (unaccounted for) was pruned down to $10 billion. The president called on Sanusi to tender his resignation but Sanusi replied with a big NO. He then responded with yet another salvo: the NNPC had salted $20 billion in yet another illegal and bogus subsidy scheme.
Before the allegations could be investigated, the President sent him on suspension. We believe the President was ill advised in suspending Sanusi at the time he did. Rightly or wrongly, he has given national and international audiences the impression that he is desperate to cover up sleaze. It has been said that Sanusi’s suspension is corruption fighting back. Very true. For Nigeria, nothing could be more catastrophic.