Writing on the Nigeria Village Square, Pius Adesanmi dismissed the hostile reactions that attended the nomination of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the position of Central Bank Governor because of his perceived Islamic fundamentalist thinking as recourse to comforting ethno-religious stereotypes and the unwillingness to move beyond them.
He thundered that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s Islamic thought belongs in the “illustrious cosmopolitan tradition and the sensibilities of Abdelrahman Munif, Naguib Mahfouz and Tariq Ali, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Michel Foucault, Umberto Eco, Isaiah Berlin, Antonio Gramsci, Jean-Paul Sartre, Raymond Aron, Bertrand Russell, and a host of others”, as if this alone qualified him to the governorship position.
As far as he is concerned, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is a thoroughgoing pan-Nigerian humanist and patriot who have had his occasional lapses into national stereotyping.
One would not begrudge Mr Adesanmi his fawning admiration for Mr Sanusi. Adesanmi’s biases and admiration towards “those of us in literature” is quite understandable. But to dismiss the critics of the appointment of Lamido because of his supposed ethno-religious stereotyping, as “committing a faux pas” should be deplored.
Since the election of Barack Obama as the US president, the widespread interest in the American democratic process has not abated, in fact it has just changed gear. The one good thing about this fascination with present day America is that the light is being shed on the American democratic process; a lot of thinking people now understand American democracy better and then ponder how the US experience could be transplanted to other countries like Nigeria that purports to follow the American example.
Thus, the aggressive manner in which the entire life, career and archived speeches of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominated candidate to the US Supreme Court is being scrutinised should make Nigerians examine our own process of appointing not only our officers of the bench but all others occupying positions of life and death importance to our general well-being.
It is high time that Nigerians take interest not only in the professional qualifications of those appointed to such a high and influential office as the Central Bank but also their personal, intellectual, mental, social, psychological and political qualifications. Their fears, prejudices, even the state of their marital life.
After all, in considering whom to appoint as the governor of the Central Bank, President Umaru Yar’Adua did not only look at professional or intellectual qualifications as the sole criteria; politics has a lot to do with it. If that were so, then the political sensibilities of all the stakeholders have to be taken into consideration.
The governor of the Central Bank, apart from managing our petro-dollars, advising the government on the making of the country’s financial policy and see that it is carried out, he also plays a vital role in the industrial, agricultural, financial and capital development of the whole country? Therefore whether born from experience, intellectual development or inherent cultural opinion, his gender and tribal origins, his biases or the lack of it, may and will make a difference.
Taking an example from the way the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his candidate to the US Supreme Court, the way her entire life and archived speeches are being scrutinised. Can we rightly say that a Lamido Sanusi could have passed Senate confirmation for the job in any developed country in view of his past depositions on religion?
In the United States, the Republicans, other Conservative groups and individuals are up in arms against Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s candidature. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called the Supreme Court nominee a “racist” for remarks she made in 2001, joining an emerging conservative line of attack and enflaming both sides of the battle as interest groups fundraise over her nomination. He said her remarks citing ethnic background as a reason for making better legal decisions should automatically disqualify her.
The widely cited comments Judge Sotomayor made at the University of California, Berkeley eight years ago are: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life…Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”
She went on to make broader points about diversity of experience as it relates to the law, but her comment has been fodder for critics of the impending nomination, and is likely to surface in the confirmation hearings that will take place in July.
Now compare the cited comments of Judge Sotomayor with Sanusi’s widely held view concerning the Yoruba for example. Sanusi wrote: “the Yoruba political leadership has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribal interests and reciprocating goodwill from other sections of the country by treating other groups with respect. Practically every crisis in Nigeria since independence has its roots in this attitude”. In other words, the Yoruba is the problem with Nigeria!
In an Institution that represents a large country that boasts of a disproportionate number of Yoruba, wouldn’t they be expected to be alarmed that a man that espouses such jaundiced view of the Yoruba would be at the helm of affairs of a national institution?
Let me be clear, inasmuch I supported the re-appointment of Charles Soludo as the Central Bank Governor, I have nothing against Lamido Sanusi. In fact I agree with Adesanmi’s summation thus: “After the considerable intellectual panache that Professor Charles Soludo brought to that office, it would be tragic to appoint a less gifted cerebral mind as his successor. If Soludo’s tenure is not renewed, Lamido Sanusi Lamido fits the bill. I welcome this possible appointment enthusiastically”.
Unlike Mr Adesanmi I don’t know much of Sanusi prior to the jostle for Soludo’s position. His first essay that I read was the Adulteress’s Diary, a world class article written by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, which exposed the hypocrisy of Northern oligarchies following the death sentence passed on a hapless Safiya Husseini. For this article, Sanusi was pilloried and threatened with death or physical harm by stooges of the decadent regressive feudal lords of the North.
To say that I was impressed by that article would be an understatement; in fact the article should allay the fears of those believing Sanusi to be a Taliban that may Islamize the Central Bank.
However, I do not begrudge those that aggressively campaigned against his nomination based on his prejudiced utterances.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s candidature spurred the dormant conservative groups to action. They claim she’s a jurist with an attitude and unfit for the Supreme Court, imploring senators to look past her heritage and instead examine her record. Judicial Confirmation Network posted a video going after Judge Sotomayor’s remark, insisting, “America deserves better.”
The White House provided reporters the chance to hear from legal colleagues familiar with Judge Sotomayor’s record, along with some of her law school classmates. They described her on a conference call as careful and cautious, saying she always pays strict attention to detail and offered literal readings of the law.
According to reports, Mr. Gibbs the whitehouse spokesman also said Judge Sotomayor has begun outreach efforts on Capitol Hill, talking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, along with Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and Mr. Sessions. And the judiciary panel released a 10-page questionnaire for Judge Sotomayor to complete in advance of her hearings.
This is the type of aggressive approach we should bring to bear on examining our public officers. Nigerians following this episode should be asking; how meticulous is our own procedure not only for the nomination of candidates to the Nigerian Supreme Court but for similarly high positions?
It should naturally matter to us as to the calibre of men and women we allow to assume the responsibility of deciding issues of life and death over 140 million Nigerians; Supreme Court Justices, Judges of the Court of Appeal, Senators, Representatives, President, governors and other political office holders and of course, Central Bank Governors. In addition to the need to observe the Federal character principle we should also be as meticulous in examining their personal life and attitudes.
It was after the incisive article By Segun Adeniyi, ex-raying and critiquing the lackadaisical approach to the appointment of the governors of our Central Bank that Obasanjo – who said Obasanjo do not read Newspapers – deemed it fit to appoint someone of “considerable intellectual panache that a Professor Charles Soludo would bring to that office”.
Over the years, some of the personnel that have been appointed to Nigeria‘s elevated position of Central Bank governorship left reputable legacies but many – the majority, had a disastrous tenure. Therefore, those that ex-rayed the appointment of Lamido based on his utterances and previous writings should not simply be dismissed as “committing a faux pas”.