Soludo, Sanusi and all those tales

This has been the most politicized appointment of a CBN Governor in recent memory. All manner of stories were flying around about Soludo and Sanusi. Some said Lamido Sanusi was a fundamentalist on matters of religion.

Having resolved to work half-day as a result of ill-health on Monday, I left home with a promise to my boss at home (and you know who that is) with a promise that I would return early to come an continue the rest the doctor recommended.

However, on getting to the office, the journalist in me took over and I decided to stay back and monitor news developments. When she called at about 8:00pm, I was beating about the bush for excuse. I rambled over all the newsbreaks of the day; she was not impressed. I then released what I thought would be the clincher: I am waiting for word on Prof. Soludo – to know if he would stay or go.

That eventually got her, but what she said was instructive: “abeg if they wan sack the man make dem sack. The noise don too much”. Let us have another thing to talk about. Like everyone else, she too was tired of hearing the same story over and over again. Soludo just cannot be the only thing to talk about for so long.

Of course that we have kept the issue on the front burner for so long sure means there is something someone somewhere is not getting right.

That was why I decided to do this piece to ventilate some of the things I have heard over the issue, but which I have failed – or refused – to publish, lest one is accused of taking sides once again.

I suppose that by the time anybody would be reading this, the president would have unveiled the new Governor of the Central Bank. There are no prizes for guessing who the choice is.

So, I am not writing this piece to try to save Soludo’s job, a meaning some people tried to read into my last piece on the south-easterners whose appointments had come under serious threat. I am doing this piece basically to put the records straight, knowing that a lot of misinformation – and outright mischief – has been fed the public since the desperation to kick out Soludo came face to face with the equally determined desperation to keep him on the job.

I have not been around too much, but I must confess that this has been the most politicized appointment of a CBN Governor in recent memory. All manner of stories were flying around. Some said Lamido Sanusi was a fundamentalist on matters of religion – the only reason for that being that he did not only study Arabic, but went ahead to take a degree in Shariah and Islamic Studies in Sudan. And suddenly, knowledge that should have naturally counted as an added advantage (considering that there are such empirically sound concepts as Islamic Banking etc) was set to haunt Kano-born Sanusi.

To counter this, the pro-Sanusi camp came up with the story that the Soludo, who, until this game-of-death quest for the CBN top job began, was everything we’d ever prayed for in a CBN governor, was steeped in corruption. Asked to substantiate, they went into the beer-parlour talk of ‘do you know who owns bank XYZ? Do you know how some people were favoured to buy out banks? Nothing really concrete! And when they ran out of ideas, they said: ‘just wait until the new man comes in an begins to ‘expose’.’ In other words, they were already setting a probe-Soludo agenda for whoever was to take over as CBN Governor.

Nobody was talking about all the awards – local and international – that the embattled CBN governor had garnered in the last six years. Gone with the wind were all the international recognitions, including his appointment into the UN committee to fashion out solution for the global meltdown. No longer of any significance was our once collective consensus that none of our local banks would have withstood the meltdown if the crunch had met them at their pre-Soludo state of health (or ill-health).

But in all these, what hurts me the most is the way our elite play us against each other with religion and ethnicity each time they desire to score a political point.

In fact, many of the issues that come up every time there is pitching to do for any major job in this country make me wonder if we have not, all this while, been wasting our time pretending to one Nigeria. Just because there was a CBN job to be taken, persons whom you have always known to be dependable professionals and national icons would suddenly begin to be seen and judged from the prisms of their tribe and religion.

Of course, those who push this agenda usually cover it up with the cloak of Federal Character, when indeed their goals are far less noble. Suddenly, the same Sanusi we all applauded as the new face of banking when he was picked to succeed Jacob Ajekigbe as First Bank MD ceased to be who we always knew him to be. Suddenly, we remembered he was from Kano. Suddenly we became more interested in what role Sanusi played in the catastrophic foreign debt misadventure of the old UBA than the revolution he initiated at First Bank that made him a popular choice for MD.

But unlike many, those of us who worship at the St. Bottles Parish are immune to religion and ethnicity opium that has kept the rest of the country drowsy, and their vision blurred. We see clean clear. And that is why we know that there is more to what has happened in the last few months than just the desire to ensure the CBN gets the best. We know all of this has nothing to do with the desire to give Nigeria the best, even if we eventually got it by default.

However, considering that what I am about to say were picked up from the beer parlour, I have to put a disclaimer: I am not taking responsibility for anything I say henceforth.

Here we go! As we move from one era to another, there are certain facts we need to get straight. And one of them is: Left to President Yar’Adua, Soludo would have been nominated for re-appointment. In fact, those of us at St.. Bottles actually learnt that the president, on his own volition, had promised to re-appoint Soludo. That was before the hawks moved in.

Similarly, our prayer warrior (who, by the way, has the clearest of minds – because he drinks only palmwine) even saw a vision where he was told that Soludo did not do anything in the days after that alleged promise to make the president change his mind. The reality, however, is that between the two extremes of a Soludo not minding a re-appointment (a legitimate aspiration, if you asked me – especially as he’d be the only CBN Gov in recent times who would not get it) and a president not unwilling to give it, there are hawks.

In fact, the pastor of our parish even likened the hawks to those demonic spirits that operate in the space between God and man who sometimes block our prayers from reaching God and similarly, intercept our divine favours as they flow down from above. Yes, such divine favours as democracy dividends; the hawks intercept and divert everything. The same hawks who have continued to determine the direction of this country. The same hawks that would encapsulate their selfish interests in such attractive nationalistic colours that you’d think they were genuinely patriotic and altruistic.

In the case of Soludo, for instance, one of our groups Malaikas who went into a trance emphatically told us that some people who are still holding unto depositor’s funds after their banks collapsed were behind his (Soludo’s) travails.

The malaika, while still communicating with the spirits (spirits like brandy, whiskey and all the other mixtures, revealed that when these bank owners managed to get government’s nod to return, their obligations to the depositors (obligations carried over from the old regime), which Soludo insisted they must meet, made it impossible for them to commence operations. The stubborn CBN boss insisted that they could not only take the assets of the failed banks and turn a blind eye to the liabilities, especially, when the said new promoters were the same people who ran the banks aground in the first place.

So, for them, getting out Soludo was a major key to re-opening their banks’ doors. It was a plot that perfectly suited the big-time business men and women who may also have been given unsecured loans by the grounded banks and who have no intention of seeing the owners of the returning banks revisiting the old books. So, it was a formidable army that lined up against poor Soludo.

But the gang also knew Yar’Adua was too smart to kick out a man as key to his operations as Soludo just to satisfy a few political and business friends, so the encased the agenda in a ‘position-of-the-North’ capsule, sold it to a handful of northern elite who bought. Of course they bought because they did not know the whole truth, but they bought in all the same and took it upon themselves to pressure Yar’Adua into changing his stance on Soludo.

And what was the story? They said Soludo pursued a Biafran agenda in his bank consolidation drive. That he carefully edged northerners out of the banks and handed same over to his Biafran brothers. Now, I have not taken a census of the banks to see how many are ‘Biafran-owned’, but I know it is true that not too many Northerners are key players in any of the banks – except one.

I have also not gone through the archives to fish out the memo from Soludo directing northerners not to buy into the banks as they went about – cap in hand – begging people for deposits or pleading with Nigerians to buy their shares. Of course, all that one is turenci. The fact remains that the north is out of the banks and they lost out in the cause of consolidation. If then there is anybody to blame, it must have to be Soludo who came with this whiz-kid idea of strengthening Nigerian banks and making them play in the international market. And so, Soludo is guilty as charged. The story stuck.

The next line of action now was to recruit people who would talk to the powers. And there were plenty. The messaged itself was laced with sublime appeal to reason, begging, blackmail, threat and just anything else. It was so repeatedly drummed into the ears of those in power that even the most listening of ears would get wearied and fed up. I don’t know if that was what eventually happened.

However, the church’s resident palm-reader (don’t be alarmed. In my church, we accept everybody. You come as you are, as the holy book says. After all, even Jesus said he came only for the sinners, so the only people we don’t admit in our parish are the saints) looked into his crystal ball as the mass was about to dismiss and assured us that those hoping that Sanusi would give them cover have just stuck their fingers into cow dung. Remember he is supposed to be an Islamic fundamentalist? And Soludo has made sure all the files have duplicates at EFCC and ICPC.

Well, I don’t believe anything the palmist says, so if you believe, you’re on your own.

With Steve Nwosu ( )