Embattled CBN chief says he is ready for any backlash
The suspended Central Bank of Nigeria, Governor, Sanusi Lamido, said he ignored President Goodluck Jonathan’s directive to him to resign because the president’s reason for the directive was baseless.
He said Mr. Jonathan asked him to quit for allegedly sending copies of the letter he wrote to the president to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi.
He, however, said he was ready to take the backlash of any action the president was going to take against him.
Mr. Sanusi spoke to Metropole magazine, a Nigerian publication, few days before he was suspended from office. The interview would be published in the next edition of the magazine.
The CBN Governor was suspended from office on Thursday while on official assignment to Niamey, Niger Republic.
Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, who announced the suspension, said the tenure of the CBN chief had been characterized by various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct inconsistent with the administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by core values of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial discipline.
Mr. Abati also said the president had directed Mr. Sanusi to hand over to the most senior Deputy Governor of the bank, Sarah Alade, who would act as governor until the conclusion of the ongoing investigations into the alleged breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the bank.
It is, however, believed that Mr. Sanusi’s suspension was not unconnected with his recent revelation on the performance of the economy, notably the alleged failure of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to remit $20 billion to the Federation Account.
He had written the president accusing the NNPC of diverting more than 76 per cent of revenues, amounting to about $49.8 billion realized from crude oil sales between January 2012 and July 2103. He requested him to investigate the matter.
Mr. Sanusi, in the interview with Metropole Magazine, denied giving the letter to Messrs. Obasanjo and Amaechi, two known critics of the Jonathan administration.
“He asked me to resign and I did indicate that I did not see a basis for it because the allegation was that I had handed a letter that I wrote to him to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Governor Rotimi Amaechi, and I did not,” he said.
Stating that he did not know what the president would do following his refusal to quit the job, Mr. Sanusi said he was ready for the backlash of whatever action would take against him.
He said he suspected there would be newspapers articles on him and false allegations against him as well as attempt to hand him over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for prosecution.
He said, “Now, would there be a backlash? The answer is yes. The backlash has started and it’s not even here yet. I will see the backlash when I leave office. So long as you are in office there is protection.
“You will see everything from newspaper articles to false allegations to attempts at having you in the hands of EFCC, more like ‘we must also do to him what he did to us. ’It is to be expected. But it is precisely the fear of political backlash that has stopped action in this country.
“It (backlash) will come and we will take life as it goes. For me, it’s never really a big deal. First of all, there is nothing in life that is very important to me. So I do not have any fear of loss. I have never lacked anything but that doesn’t mean I am obsessed with anything.
“If anybody wants to put me in prison I have always said just tell me what prison to go to and I would drive myself there, and pay my own transport fare there and I can maintain myself there in the period that you have set out for me. And I will come out. It’s just a location.”
Mr. Sanusi, however, explained he did not have any personal problem with Mr. Jonathan, but that there were people in the corridors of power who were causing difficulties.
He recounted that in his revelation of the non-remittance of funds to the Federation Account he had never mentioned the president’s name.
“This is not about the president because sometimes when I sit with the president I don’t think he really has a personal problem with me. But you know it is power we are talking about and there are people around power who continue to say things and continue to cause difficulties,” he said.
“In all of these things I have never mentioned the president even in the current controversy concerning the NNPC. I wrote him a letter asking him to investigate and in the letter I was very clear that I did not think he was aware of what was happening. So if anybody takes that as an attack on the president, that’s them and it’s not me.”
The embattled CBN chief debunked the claims that he was too visible, vocal and controversial unlike his predecessors and counterparts in other climes.
According to him, two of his predecessors, Chukwuma Soludo and Adamu Ciroma, were not quiet when they occupied the number one seat of the bank.
He also stated that Tito Mboweni, who was the governor of the South African Reserve Bank for many years, was not only an ANC activist and former labour minister, but was very colourful and vocal.
“He (Mboweni) had open disagreements with his Finance Minister Trevor Manuel over the management of the central bank. People are different and people need to accept that individuals have different traits,” he said.
“Some are quiet, some are introverts, some are extroverts, some like confrontation and some don’t like it, some are outspoken and others are not. What is important is: has the institution delivered on its mandate?”
Mr. Sanusi explained that there was an underlining philosophy to his approach to life, “which is that I believe we should speak truth to power. Power by its nature when offended can destroy an individual. For that reason, a few people speak. But no society changes until people are able to speak truth to power.”
He noted that before he was appointed CBN Governor, people were complaining about the Nigerian system, the way the nation spent money on recurrent expenditure, lack of adequate healthcare and how much it spent on fuel subsidy.
“The best way not to be controversial is to come and be part of that system and just be quiet, see and hear and say nothing and leave,” he added.
“I am not controversial. I am just, for me, being myself, expressing the same views about the system that I expressed outside it. Am I perfect? No. Do I have faults? Yes. But do I think that for every day I am in public office I have the responsibility to use my position as a platform to help and improve the system? Yes I do. In that process do I annoy some people? Yes.”
On his future, Mr. Sanusi, who denied going into politics or returning to his home state, Kano, said his immediate plan was to go to France to strengthen his French skills and subsequently go into farming so as to make money and create jobs for Nigerians.
He said, “I have a visiting professorship from the University of Bordeaux; I also have an offer to study Mandarin, which I will probably take. When I come back, I am thinking of either doing some farming which will help me make money while creating jobs for people. I will also like to have a think tank that deals with public policy in Africa.”