Sanusi Lamido: Profiles in Morality and Politics By Adeolu Ademoyo

Adeolu Ademoyo

You can imagine my shock and surprise to see Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of our Central Bank, in Madalla recently.  In case we have forgotten, Madalla was the site of the horrendous terror carnage initiated by Boko Haram last Christmas.  So was Mr. Sanusi in town to talk with financial institutions in Niger state to gauge the impact of Central Bank’s regulatory policies? What then was the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank (the equivalent of America’s Federal Reserve Bank, and England’s Bank of England) looking for in the middle of the Madalla rubble?

Before, his visit to the Madalla rubble, Mr. Sanusi had invited attention to himself by donating N500million to University of Benin and N100 million to the Kano State government to help alleviate the rubble and ruins left behind by the Boko Haram Horror.

Many people have criticized Mr. Sanusi for these missions. Typical of the Nigerian media critics, however, most of his critics and defenders miss the point by focusing narrowly on the person rather than the law and its process thus losing the holistic value of the debate.

Regarding the Kano donations, most of his critics attack Mr. Sanusi’s donation wrongly investing their concern on ethnicity, forgetting or oblivious of the fundamental fact that Mr. Sanusi has lately developed a public profile defined through a consistently generous appetite with public money. This then would be a better way to understand his huge generosity to University of Benin, before the Kano donation, in the first place.

Mr. Sanusi’s troop of apologists in fact correctly point to the selective amnesia of those who are picking and choosing from his register of generosity. His defenders argue: why forget Benin while pointing to Kano? This is correct. And this is what happens when you see the person and not the law and its process.

Brazenly too, Mr. Sanusi’s defenders are not using a law and process principle to defend him. They collapse abysmally into their opponents’ mode by relying on the person principle, knowing full well that if they rely on law and process, the total ramification of Mr. Sanusi’s unprofessional and unethical official conduct of will become so blatantly apparent.  

In fact the argument of pro-Sanusi elements is so laughable and ridiculous that we can restate it quickly here. They say Mr. Sanusi is right in his Kano giving because of his Benin giving and previous giving. In truth however, nothing can be more ridiculous, unsound, illogical and sadder than this because our gentle man Governor has indeed crossed serious legal and ethical lines by dipping his fingers into the public till in Benin, Kano and now Madalla.

Simply put, the conflict of principles here are so distinct and clear, that when individuals act in public roles, they cannot substitute their persons and egos without falling out of bounds.  In this particular case therefore, for reasons best known to him, Mr. Sanusi has acted in a way that helps us see that how risky it is to trust his public and official judgments. In a collision of public and private will, Mr. Sanusi is drawn strongly to the private and the personal. This is the logic for the inauguration of dictatorships.

In the whole buzz and din of the Sanusi-Giving debate one voice demands some response; that of Mr. Sam ?l?fin, board member of Central Bank.  He offered perhaps the closest attempt at a coherent and rational defense of Mr. Sanusi, relying on the language of “corporate and social responsibility [CSR] and mandate” of the Central Bank and the presumed procedurally and administratively support of the CBN board that Mr. Sanusi’s obtains in his day to day running of the Central Bank. 

Using the Olofin paradigm, the implication is that Mr. Sanusi’s  windfalls to Benin and Kano fall into the day to day running of Nigeria’s Central Bank and that the board of the Central Bank supports the policy of gifts and giving by the Central Bank as part of its regulatory role of the economy. It is a glorious day in the world of new central banking when unrestrained monetary gifts suddenly fit into the responsibilities of monetary policies that help define the regulatory role of a Central Bank. Certainly it is not for nothing that civilized economies insulate their central banks from politics in the need to ensure a dispassionate mandate at regulating economies.

Therefore, it is sad that Mr. Sam ?l?fin is giving the impression that under the superintendence of Mr. Sanusi monetary gifts are part of the definition of monetary policies of the Nigerian Central Bank.  To be sure, corporate social services are the new but welcome terrain in extending the abstract objectives of organisations to the imperatives of community nobility in the development process, but even CSR cannot abuse the core ethical foundations of the organisation regarding process and outcomes.

The question is therefore well asked to demand of Mr. Sam ?l?fin and other board members what role ethics play in their conduct at financial regulation? And further, to ask in what measure ethics plays in the board of Nigeria’s Central Bank against the backdrop of Mr. Sanusi’s implementation of “the corporate social responsibility and mandate of the apex bank.”  I propose that Mr. Sam ?l?fin’s defense of Mr. Sanusi Lamido have carried the ethics of professional fawning to an absurd end, and invariably this is bound to have serious consequences for both economics and the management of our financial assets.

Thus, while it is true that Mr. Sanusi’s critics reveal a “historical” amnesia in forgetting Mr. Sanusi’s chronic generosity with public funds such that they wrongly focus on the person, his defenders including,  Mr. Sam ?l?fin, do him great disservice, by not pointing at the contradictory core of his ethical position. Corporate social responsibility, in whatever guise, remains only an institutional policy designed to help an organisation meet the terms of its corporate citizenship. Following from that, it is safe to say there is no decent law, and due process provision, known to the practice of central banking, that allow its sitting Governor to simply print money and hand them over at will. For, we must ask where the money is coming from, and how it is allocated.

To cap it all, Mr. Sanusi is not entirely humourless in his cynicism. In heading to Mandalla, Mr. Sanusi tried to fulfill the federal character in his wrongheaded generosity. From Edo state through Kano to Niger States: three geo-political zones in vainglorious giving! Mr. Sanusi is however best served in his responsibilities to please stop printing money and giving them out and to stop turning monetary gifts to monetary policies. It is bad economics, and bad management style that is not good for law, and neither is it good for ethics, something we now need badly in the country.

*Adeolu Ademoyo,, writes from the Africana Studies Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.



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