Sanusi’s Suspension and the Limits of Hasty Judgment, By Adeolu Ademoyo

Adeolu Ademoyo

With the “suspension” from office of Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, the question of the lack of reason and law   had again been centered in Nigerian public governance. Like the case of the former Court of Appeal President Justice Ayọ Salami, President Jonathan again displayed his preference for illegality and unreason.

But President Jonathan is not the problem. The problem is the argument Mr. Jonathan’s defenders and aides advance to back this clear assault on the country’s collective sense of reason. It is such defenders that embolden unreason, illegality and impunity in the affairs of the country.  One of these is Mr. Mike Ozekhome.

As a Nigerian and as lawyer I submit that Mr. Ozekhome and others in this mode of reasoning who subscribe to this clear unreason and illegality   have right to their views. However, it is that same right that invites and justifies a rational interrogation in the public domain of their clear hasty judgment and rationalization of Mr. Sanusi’s “suspension”.

For example, Mike Ozekhome reportedly argued that President Jonathan’s “suspension” of Mr. Sanusi is legal. He backed this up thus:  “Constitutionally and legally, what President Jonathan did was correct. He does not require the consent of the National Assembly to do so (sic)…Anyone who is an employee has to know that he is answerable to his employer. You cannot bite the finger that feeds you (sic)…The Nigerian Constitution and the CBN Act give the President the authority to suspend or remove the Governor of the CBN,”

Mike Ozekhome and others in this frame of thinking gave other non-legal, emotive and purely subjective reasons for their claim. I will endeavor to quote Ozekhome who gave succinctness to this unreason or bread and butter “finger, food and feed” public service “ethics”.

Ozekhome submitted that: “You cannot bite the finger that feeds you… Mr. Sanusi had deviated from his primary duty of leading the apex bank to the path of monetary stability. A governor of a Central Bank in any part of the world should be seen and not heard… In Nigeria, what we have is a CBN governor that has been fighting the government of his country.”

Therefore, what follows?  On this moral code even where your feeder is committing an unreason and illegality, but since your feeder feeds you, you must abide by your feeder’s illegality and unreason. So the justification for the “correctness” of a feeder’s illegality against the one he is feeding is food, just food and feeding bottle and feeding finger.

Ozekhome is a known lawyer. While making known his personal views on legal matters the least one expects from a lawyer who is speaking on a constitutional issue of grave importance to a country with a potential for leadership in Africa and the world is to cite the section of the constitution that supports both his “constitutional” arguments and his personal, emotive and subjective arguments.  Sadly, Mr. Mike Ozekhome did not do this.

I invite Nigerians who are still committed to the rational and lawful path to check the CBN Act (See “Sanusi’s Suspension as CBN Governor: What the law States” Premiumtimes February 20, 2014), which provides the legal and rational basis for the tenure of a CBN governor. This section is pertinent. Under Section 11 of CBN Act:

“A person shall not remain a Governor, Deputy Governor or Director of the Bank if he is  a,b,c,d,e and

…. (f) Is removed by the President:

Provided that the removal of the Governor shall be supported by two thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed.”

The operating word is “remove”. The Nigerian people, state and presidency can live with whatever impunity and unreason they allow. But these are grave times. Therefore, for the records and future of our children who will read this, we must proceed with the rational interpretation from an independent, non-Nigerian but universal source. That source is a common English language use. And the external criterion is the English language dictionary.

This is the account of “remove” from an ordinary English language standpoint: (1) take (something) away or off from the position occupied, (2) take off (3) eliminate or get rid of (4) dismiss from a job or office  (5) detach, unfasten; pull out, take out, disconnect (6) take out, produce, bring out, get out, pull out, withdraw (7) take away, carry away, move, transport; confiscate; cart off (8) discharge, dislodge, displace, expel, oust, depose; fire, sack, kick out, boot out (9) withdraw, abolish, eliminate, get rid of, do away with, (10) delete, erase, rub out, cross out, strike out, obliterate (11)  pull out, eradicate (12)  cut off, chop off, lop off, hack off.

So the question is: Is President Jonathan removing Mr. Sanusi from office? If so he shares the power of removal with the country’s national assembly according to the law and ordinary meaning of “remove”. But he has not shared that constitutional power. Perhaps, this is why he used the word “suspend” rather than “remove”. So he has “suspended” Mr. Sanusi as CBN Governor, he has not “removed” him.  But how could you have  “suspended” or not have “removed” and you are submitting the name of a new CBN Governor to the parliament as Mr. Jonathan has done?

You cannot have a “suspended” CBN Governor and a substantive CBN Governor except your “suspension” is fully loaded and coded as “remove”! The two cannot co-exist at the same time in rational context and civilized climes. Their being made to co-exist is against common sense. But they can co-exist in Nigeria for Nigerian governments and Presidents are not known for rational and civilized values that are taken for granted as norms in civilized societies.

The same dictionary the basis of a common rational understanding gives the following as account of “to suspend”  (1) temporarily prevent from continuing or being in force or effect (2) officially prohibit (someone) from holding their usual post or carrying out their usual role for particular length of time (3) defer or delay.

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From an ordinary non-political and therefore non-Nigerian but universal meaning of “to suspend” the CBN Act does not support Mr. Goodluck Jonathan’s action in “suspending” Mr. Sanusi as the CBN Governor. Hence, Mr. Jonathan and his defenders have to search for new grounds upon which to base the “suspension”.

Of course Mr. Jonathan as the typical Nigerian president as   all Nigerian presidents often do can and do act outside the law and reason. This is where Ozekhome’s “you do not bite the fingers that feed you” become pertinent.  Outside the failure to cite any legal provision that justifies Mr. Jonathan’s act, the “you do not bite the fingers that feed you’ “ethics” becomes the basis for Mr. Jonathan’s action.

It is morally shocking though that a country will base the “suspension” of its Central Bank Governor on the “you do not bite the finger that feeds you” “ethics” of you did not play ball with the president, therefore you have to go.

So the following questions are relevant. Did Mr. Jonathan withhold “disciplinary” action against Mr. Sanusi before now because he, Mr. Sanusi did not bite the finger that fed him and actually fed the finger that fed him? Is Mr. Jonathan deploying “disciplinary” measures now because Mr. Sanusi has now bit the finger that fed him and stopped feeding the finger that fed him?

The situations of other ministers who served and are still serving under Mr. Jonathan are relevant. Was Mr. Jonathan reluctant in initially asking Mrs. Stella Oduah to leave because Stella Oduah did not bite the finger that fed her and was actually allegedly feeding the finger that fed her ?

Also, Nigerians know that Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke the petroleum minister is deeply involved in allegation of corruption in the oil industry and NNPC under her watch. For this reason a Ribadu Task Force on the Oil Industry was once set up.  The report was duly submitted to President Jonathan but who quietly threw the Ribadu report away. So, is Mr. Jonathan shielding Diezani Alison-Madueke because she has not bit the finger that feeds her and because she is actually allegedly feeding back the finger   that feeds her .

Since the break of the news of the fraud and clear theft in NNPC by the Nigerian state and non-state persons under the active watch and connivance of Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke as Petroleum minister, one has been baffled and sad to see otherwise respected personal friends who are fairly experienced lawyers in Nigeria and known perhaps in the past for their respect for and defense of law and human rights but who now today speak   from both sides of the aisles and perhaps mouths.

So, Mr. Ozekhome’s collapse to extreme emotivism and subjectivism in his reference of ‘“You cannot bite the finger that feeds you… In Nigeria, what we have is a CBN governor that has been fighting the government of his country” as a defense of his rationalization of Sanusi’s “suspension” reminds one of the “come and chop” Nigerian politics which was branded by PDP in more contemporary times.

Mr. Ozekhome’s “finger, food and feed” metaphor reminds one of the reference of the late PDP politician –Mr. Sunday Afọlabi- to the radical posture of Mr. Bọla Ige who though belonged to a different party but agreed to serve under the then head of state-Mr. Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ.

Coming from a more liberal progressive political tradition, the late Bọla Ige took a radical opposition to the conservative and corrupt PDP policies. Alarmed at and uncomfortable with such radical posture of Bọla Ige to a government of his own party-PDP-Mr. Sunday Afọlabi said “Bọla Ige “was invited to come and eat” therefore his radical stance on PDP government policies was unacceptable.

The defenders of Mr. Jonathan in the case of the “suspension” of Mr. Sanusi need to know that the “you were invited to come and eat” and  “finger, food and feed” metaphor as the un-ethical basis of public service is the major setback for the delivery of quality governance in Nigeria and in Africa.  To make such claim as part of the ground for the “suspension” of a CBN Governor shows a continuation of the sad and grim days of bad governance and moral failure of service delivery in Nigeria.

Adeolu Ademoyo is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


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