A Banker and a Bigot

Sanusi Lamido Sunusi, Kano prince, Chief Executive Officer of First Bank plc and, by many accounts, firm favourite to become Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, is exposed as an ethnic irredentist and religious bigot

By Bamidele Johnson
In the last few weeks, the name of Sanusi Lamido Sunusi, a Kano prince and Chief Executive Officer of First Bank of Nigeria plc, has attracted considerable attention. Sanusi, who took over at First Bank in January, is widely thought to be President Umaru Yar’Adua’s choice as successor to Professor Charles Soludo as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

A bad banker he may not be, but his political views are deemed incendiary. While his appointment as First Bank’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer provoked no public dissent, the possibility of him becoming the next CBN Governor has got some people’s goat. Specifically, the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, a shard of the Yoruba socio-political organisation, is questioning Sanusi’s suitability for the CBN governorship. First, ARG considers Sanusi’s highly probable appointment as a violation of the Federal Character principle. It argues that Yar’Adua, as president, heads the Economic Management Team, which has Dr. Shamusideen Usman, Finance Minister; Dr. Mansur Mukhtar, National Planning Minister; and Professor Tanimu Yakubu, Chief Economic Adviser, as some of its members. Yar’Adua and Yakubu hail from Katsina State, while Usman and Mukhtar hail from Kano.
To now pick the CBN governor from Kano means that the Economic Team would sit and take decisions for the whole country with perspectives from only two states. This is not healthy for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, made up of different peoples, who have views on how to tackle the economic problems of the country. Only last week, the Northern Union came out to say that the cause of poverty in the North was Soludo’s decision against proliferation of Bureau de Change operators. A narrow team from Kano and Katsina may take it that once Bureau de Change operators are allowed a free rein, poverty is tackled all over the country, the ARG submitted. But more woundingly for Sanusi, the ARG exhumed some political views he had expressed in the past. In a piece published in ThisDay of 27 September 1998, Sanusi wrote: A tribal party, which failed to meet minimum requirements for registration, but was registered all the same to avoid violence that was bound to follow, given the area boy mentality of South West politicians. It was an allusion to the registration of the now inert Alliance for Democracy, founded by the Afenifere, for the 1999 elections.Considered equally noxious is another view expressed by Sanusi in 1999. Writing after that year’s infamous Oro-induced riots in Shagamu, Ogun State, Sanusi wrote that the Yoruba led a cult into the Hausa area of Shagamu, murdered a Hausa woman and nothing happened Yoruba leaders like Segun Osoba reminded Nigerians of the need to respect the culture of host communities. It would have continued were it not for the people of Kano, who showed they could create their own Oro who could only be appeased by the shedding of innocent Yoruba blood. In his conclusion, Sanusi added that We cannot move forward if the leadership of one of the largest ethnic groups continues to operate not as statesmen, but like common area boys.
The statements were considered a reflection of Sanusi’s hatred of the Yoruba. The ARG is also keen to remind the public that Sanusi is an Igbo hater as evidenced by another writing. This nation must realise that Igbos have more than paid for their foolishness. They have been defeated in a war, rendered paupers by monetary policy fiat, their properties declared abandoned and confiscated, kept out of strategic public appointments and deprived of public services. The rest of the country forced them to remain in Nigeria and has continued to deny them equity. On the surface, this appears sympathetic to the Igbo, but Sanusi’s description of the Igbo as a foolish “for attempting to secede“and a conquered race did not win him friends on the east of the Niger. For his views, the ARG considers him a racist and bigot.
Sanusi, a grand son of the 11th Emir of Kano, Sir Muhammadu Sunusi, is the first Northerner to head First Bank in its over a century of existence. A 1981 Economics graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Sanusi started his banking career with the defunct Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers) in the mid 1980s. He rose to the position of Area Manager, Kano, from where he resigned to study for a degree in Islamic Law at the International University of Africa, Kharthoum in Sudan. On his return, he joined the United Bank for Africa, UBA, as Principal Manager II in the Risk Management Division. In 1998, he was promoted Principal Manager I and Assistant General Manager the same year. He was credited with the establishment of the Group Risk Department of the bank, which he headed. He later left to join First Bank as Executive Director, Risk Management.

By Bamidele Johnson