Led by Nasir El Rufai, Lamido Sanusi’s throng of friends, admirers, and supporters don’t seem to like him very much. There are some bitter in-house truths they are obviously not telling him and it is starting to show in his extremely poor post-suspension public engagement strategy. This explains why they have allowed him to run riot with his lips this past week in precisely the one indefensible area of his service as Central Bank Governor. In Sanusi’s shoes, I would be praying and hoping that the Nigerian people would forget my reckless and irresponsible use of their money for intervention funds – alias Corporate Social Responsibility in Sanusiville.
Strangely, what we have had this past week is Sanusi doubling down on justifications, rationalizations, and arrogant chest-beating over the tragedy that passed for Corporate Social Responsibility during his stint as Central Bank Governor. I have said it publicly before and I am saying it again: what Sanusi did was Corporate Social Irresponsibility. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is talking crap when he defends his record with regard specifically to his irresponsible use of our money as intervention funds. He is being clever by half and it is infuriating. He should shut the heck up and stop insulting our intelligence. If nobody in his camp will tell him this bitter truth, I will.
Confession: I am a long-term admirer of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. I still am. I wrote glowingly in support of his nomination as Central Bank Governor when ignorant folks unworthy of polishing Sanusi’s shoes intellectually and being totally unaware of his encyclopedic mastery of Western philosophical traditions, discourses, and thought, tried to peg him in the lazy straightjacket of Islamism and Al-Qaeda because he had studied in Sudan – as if there was anything wrong with mastery of Islamic, jurisprudence, philosophy, and scholarship in the first place. But my admiration of Sanusi stops where my obligation to Nigeria begins. And part of that obligation is to ensure that he does not deploy his formidable intellect to befuddle our under-read and unsophisticated public sphere in this matter of intervention funds.
We do not need to rehash the mind-boggling sums of money he Father Christmased all over the country during a mad period of binge spending in which he met every call for caution with a no break no jam condescension. What needs to detain us here are the reasons he is now advancing for this sordid dent on an otherwise glittering stint as CBN Governor. My good friend, Professor Moses Ochonu, has offered a summary of Sanusi’s defense of his intervention binge spending that is worth quoting here. Says Ochonu:
“What’s the gist of this response? Sanusi basically admits to all the prolifgate spending–all the arbitrary donations and allocations of UNAPPROPRIATED national funds (almost two hundred billion naira) to institutions and projects picked by personal fiat and without tender or due process. His defense? Jonathan asked me to do it or approved it (the list of projects funded by SLS’s CBN includes massive renovations to an Aso Rock meeting room!). And the monies I doled out on my own were approved by the CBN board. Wow! Which is worse, the proof from Sanusi that he indeed reconfigured the CBN into a wasteful, patrimonial, unaccountable institution of largesse and parallel government, or the revelation that he colluded with GEJ in this brazen mismanagement of unappropriated national funds?”
To recap, Sanusi is telling Nigerians that he spent our money recklessly and irresponsibly on donations because: (1) President Jonathan made him do it; (2) he donated to good causes and institutional capacity building; (3) there are appropriate laws in the books legalizing Corporate Social Responsibility by the Central Bank of Nigeria; (4) he is not the first CBN Governor to indulge in binge spending in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility; (5) Central Bank Governors do it too in some other countries; (6) et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, these callow rationalizations would be amusing if they weren’t coming from a man of such enormous learning and erudition as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Coming from him, they are tragic. Readers of my previous submissions on him would recall that my fascination with SLS started with my discovery of the scope of his learning and erudition when I stumbled on his essays back in 1998 when I was a doctoral student in Canada. The power of that mind, the sheer brilliance of his analytical methods, and, above all, the commanding sweep of his references demand unalloyed respect, even if you disagree with him. Sanusi’s intellectual world is where you meet an admirable command of epistemology, ethics, logic, metaphysics, social and political philosophy – in short, a masterly deployment of Western traditions of thought which he blends with his breathtaking knowledge of Islamic philosophy and jurisprudence to provide an excellent theoretical framework for any subject under elucidation. Sanusi is a man of great learning. When you read him, you feel like you are reading Odia Ofeimun.
But I have also written that great learning and erudition come with responsibility and you cannot expect to be assessed on an equal footing with most of the under-read and under-educated caterwaulers who occupy public and political office in Nigeria. For instance, I may excuse, tolerate or even expect a certain degree of foolishness and unsophisticated, pedestrian reasoning and actions from a charlatan like, say, Nyesom Wike – an unread mind despite his degrees. However, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, whose mind has been humanized by the best intellectual traditions that the West and the East have to offer, and who has demonstrated evidence over the years that his grasp of these philosophical traditions is not superficial, cannot expect that we shall let him get away with pedestrian and shoddy reasoning.
When you are quoting Foucault, Hegel, Gramsci, Derrida, Bertrand Russel, Richard Rorty Jurgen Habermas and so many others in your essays, the minimum that one expects from you is to approach the function of the Central Bank Governor of a financially lawless, reckless, and profligate country like Nigeria with an ethical base and a personal philosophy which, combined, send a clear message of financial prudence, responsibility, and circumspection to the financially irresponsible system you have been asked to supervise. The body language, ethics, attitudes, and personal philosophy of the Central Bank Governor of a country determine to a great extent where such a country is headed in the domain of fiscal prudence and responsibility. You don’t attain such a position and begin to spend money irresponsibly like Godswill Akpabio and his corrupt and spendthrift ilk running most of the thirty-six states in Nigeria.
In other words, that there a laws and statutes in the books justifying Sanusi’s intervention funds nonsense does not in any way excuse his colossal exercise of poor judgment and his total banishment of common sense in that respect. In fact, accusing him of exercising poor judgement is to be kind to him. What happened here is a total collapse of judgement on the part of Sanusi. From Kano to Madalla via several Universities in the country, he went on a financial rampage, doing what the Yoruba call “shiki shiki ma mi owo de” (dance and sway where you will, Mr. Moneybag is here!) What symbolic message did he think he was sending to Aso Rock, Governors, Ministers, Senators, and other traditional spendthrifts in our system? When the Head of the Central Bank, whose conduct should send a clear message of fiscal restraint, prudence, responsibility, and wisdom storms through the country doing “shiki shiki ma mi owo de”, it’s like hurling stones in the direction of birds already poised for flight. All the reckless spenders in the system will take their cue from him.
Put simply, Sanusi did not lead by example in the specific area of fiscal prudence, restraint, and responsibility. It is infinitely annoying that a man of such enormous and fine learning insists that his recklessness was backed by law, ordered by the President, or that others did it before him and he can point to foreign examples of fiscal recklessness by Governors of the Central Banks of a few countries. He is insisting on this annoying line of reasoning because he knows the public he is dealing with: the Nigerian public. But those of us who are prepared not to let him get away with rationalizing reckless financial conduct must remind him that this is not about legalese; this is about common sense and good judgment and he failed on both counts.
This is why he must concentrate on areas where he passed and where a sizeable chunk of the Nigerian public can be one with him. His belated crusade on the missing $20 billion – warts, conflicting figures and all – is commendable. He should try to keep our focus on that subject. He should continue to hold the feet of the President and those of his former allies in the war against Occupy Nigeria, Diezani Allison Madueke and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, to the fire over that missing money. I hope he read Pastor Tunde Bakare’s essay, “Ai Tete Mole”. If he did, he’d understand that the missing money is where he has a point even if, as Pastor Bakare rightly observed, he ought to have resigned in principle to fight that battle.
But any student of Sanusi would have no trouble reaching the conclusion that the man mixes arrogance with the brightest kid in the classroom syndrome. This is an affliction common with first class minds and gifted intellects. You are so used to deploying what you believe is superior intellect and submissions that nobody else can be right. You are taken aback by the fact that anybody can even disagree with you. You are surprised that they cannot see or understand your “superior” logic. You keep harping on the same point no matter how wrong you are since it is impossible for anybody to confront you with superior arguments.
The brightest kid in the classroom syndrome is the greatest enemy of humility. And because our man is a hostage of this syndrome, I suspect that he will continue to defend his intervention funds fiasco in supreme contempt for contrary opinions on the matter. If he continues on that track as I suspect he will, those of us who believe that he still has a lot to offer Nigeria in the future must contribute our own intervention funds to seal his lips. The more he insists he was right to have spent our money so recklessly on his warped notion of Corporate Social Responsibility, the more damage he does to our ability to defend him.