Desperate president, haughty prince – Olatunji Dare

He had it coming.” “It serves him right.” “About time.” “De man too do, sef”

The subject of these sentiments and many more of like vintage, expressed again and again across media platforms, is of course Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was sent packing from the gubernatorial suite at the Central Bank of Nigeria last week by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Sanusi had planned to leave that powerful office on his own terms. In the manner of royals used to determining when they come and when they go and how long they stay, he had served notice that he would not seek an extension of the statutory term of five years. He might well have thought that, by that singular stroke, he had at once positioned himself to assert the autonomy that goes with the position and insured himself against the abject groveling and the shabby compromises that public officials often have to make to hold on to their jobs.

He did not grovel. But he carried on in the manner of someone who could not be touched, said his numerous critics. He was all too ready to express an opinion on every subject under the sun and even beyond. He talked far more than he listened. It was as if he was conducting a crusade against the Establishment of which he was a part.

He turned a purely technocratic job into a political forum and invested it with power and authority that went far beyond what its creators envisaged. He reveled in controversy. He dispensed public funds as if he was stricken with the Mansa Musa syndrome. Sometimes, it was as if he saw the CBN and its sprawling bureaucracy as an extension of the Kano emirate court.

All in all, his numerous admirers countered, he has been a breath of fresh air in the mouldy corridors of high finance. He called attention to issues the authorities would rather conceal, such as the extortionate salaries and allowances legislators appropriated unto themselves under the table, and the opacity of the reporting system on oil export earnings. He spent public money judiciously, for beneficent ends.

Above all, his numerous admirers said, he had rescued the banking sector from the grip of a powerful mafia that had since the time of military president Ibrahim Babangida turned the industry into an organised racket.

Sanusi had three months left on his term. To Abuja which had been chafing under his strictures, three months seemed like an eternity. If he could not be removed, surely he could be neutralised and kept so busy fighting for his name and honour that asking inconvenient questions would be the last thing of his mind?

So, they got the Department of Dirty Tricks to work up to the most intrusive and titillating detail an alleged dalliance between Sanusi and a female executive at CBN they said he had employed without following the rules. From intercepted text messages the twain were alleged to have exchanged, you could almost hear the moan of ecstasy and the joy of conquest.

The Department of Dirty Tricks blanketed the media with these salacious reports, hoping that the public would rise in indignation, declare any public official involved in such conduct guilty of “moral turpitude” and unfit to hold high public office.

There were indeed those who reacted in exactly that manner. Some even went one better, demanding that Sanusi be hauled before the nearest Sharia court, tried summarily and sentenced to public flogging or lapidation.

But by and large, the stories gained no traction in the media or in public discourse

So, the authorities fell back on the bureaucratic expedients of audits and queries. That didn’t work either. With his accustomed hauteur, Sanusi disputed the competence and authority of the sources of the queries that did reach him and refused to respond. Nor would he resign as President Jonathan requested.

He says he heard of but was never served with the documents released after his ouster charging him with reckless and incompetent management of public funds and hinting darkly at big-time sleaze.

That is hardly surprising. Abuja had had more than enough. It was time to unsheathe the sword of presidential power; time for the formerly shoeless boy from the creeks to teach the haughty prince from Kano who has never lacked for anything a lesson in realpolitik he seems to have forgotten: Power will always find a way.

Didn’t Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna Sokoto, and premier of Northern Nigeria depose and banish to Azare, in what was then Bauchi Province, the now former CBN governor’s iconoclastic uncle, Muhammadu Sanusi, who served as Emir of Kano between 1954 and 1963? Did the heavens fall?

So who or what can stand in the way of a President vested with the powers of a leviathan in his resolve to dismiss an official he can no longer work with? The Constitution only says the official cannot be dismissed without the consent and approval of the Senate. It does not say that you require any such approval to suspend him.

So, go at him, and do so with petulant vindictiveness. Humiliate him on the world stage; suspend him from office while he is conducting business in Niamey, in Niger Republic, on the nation’s behalf.

Such shabbiness harks back to what military president Babangida did to Prince Tony Momoh.

For weeks, rumours of a cabinet shuffle had been swirling, and Momoh, the regime’s Minister of Information, was one of those being mentioned as likely casualties. So, before setting out at the head of a delegation to represent Nigeria at ceremonies marking the end of slavery in the Caribbean nation of Guyana, Momoh had gone to Babangida to ask whether he should proceed, in view of rumours that he was going to be dropped in the impending cabinet shuffle.

“You believe that?” Babangida remonstrated. “Common, Tony. How can we drop our resident philosopher from the Federal Executive Council?’’

Whereupon he wished Momoh a pleasant trip.

Momoh’s plane was streaking across the Atlantic when Dodan Barracks announced that he had been dropped from the Federal Executive Council. By the time the plane touched down, he had been stripped of all authority to transact any business on behalf of the Federal Government.

Sanusi’s media acolytes and retainers unwittingly contributed to his present grief when they dared Dr Jonathan to dismiss him and face dire consequences. Their taunts did little to restrain Dr Jonathan and may well have emboldened him.

For now, Sanusi is gone. But the issues he raised will not go away until they are addressed forthrightly. Of these, none is more urgent than an answer to the insistent question: What happened to $20 billion in oil receipts?

Credit: The Nation

The views expressed above are solely that of the writer and not of or its associates.

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