By Jim Pressman, Abuja
Each time a raging controversy pops out of the Sanusi Lamido Sanusi-led Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), I remember a book on him I read recently and what I made of it. Let me share this revisit with you, especially should you have missed the earlier outings:
In 257 pages, Ray Echebiri, arguably Nigeria’s leading Business n’ Economy watcher (financial journalist) today – he says, ‘for me, journalism is little more than a narrative of unfolding history in real time’ – examines microscopically the controversial Banking re-reforms of the tempestuous and highly-cerebral Marxist-Prince of the Kano Emirate, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who vehemently rejects the tag of Islamic fundamentalism, in a manner no other Financial Reporter has done, to-date.
I was recently privileged to have a layman’s reading of a copy of this landmark tome, which I obtained par courtesy of Mr. Simeon Ogoegbulem, Abuja Bureau Chief of BusinessWorld newspaper, and I invite all those interested in the sector, but who are yet to read it, to grab a copy, today!
In the meantime, here is my layman’s understanding of what Echebiri has done: as an interesting opener to the “chronicles the banking reforms embarked upon by the Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi – led CBN.” The author writes, in a dramaturgical manner: “My governing methodology was to lay recent history bare in its haunting nudity in the belief that perchance a revealing pattern could be discerned and the truth distilled in the pondering hour of dénouement.”
The volume, which is currently on sale in Nigerian bookstores as well as on no less than three e-bookshops (online), has been described as being “more of a service to Nigeria and the world than whatever else,” has recently become even more topical and in a way prophetic in the face global events in business and economy, especially with the cases of Greece, France and with England in recession, only slightly boosted by the successful hosting of the just-concluded 2012 Olympics… and of course with the new move to take us to a gender –sensitive and women friendly N5,000=00 bill plus, a six coins, six paper-notes régime in 2013.
Echebiri’s thriller-like prose and its lucidity keep even laymen such as this reporter reading on and on till the last page, despite the newness and complexity/technicalities of the subject matter. Weaving cinematic in methodology, as he writes himself, Echebiri’s aim “is not condition the mind of the reader, nor to leave him more conflated; but to haul him before a wide screen of motion pictures logically stringed and capable of appealing to good judgment.”
The reporter had a good laugh therefore, at the end of reading, turning back to the preface again (p.ix) to the author’s claim that his brilliantly niggling work is: “simply and an innocent [?] piece of reportage, chastised by self-censoring concern for objectivity. More than anything else, it is it is a chronicling of events (which) took their rise before the emergence of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the CBN governor up to the recent ramified spin-offs the banking reforms he embarked on [have] had to face us with.”
Incidentally, Sanusi was in the news again (soon after the book was released), controversially, and perhaps for the wrong reason (the CBN donation to Kano bomb blast victims from the FG till). But that is just coincidental, as the focus here is different…
The first of the 7chapters of the book, aptly entitled ThePrelude, retraces the surprise entrance of an ‘outsider’ into the traditional crop of Nigerian Central Bank bosses. A hilarious anecdote at page17 recalls how Nigerian author an academic wrote in his controversial Just Before Dawn how ‘an outsider,’ a top Nigerian newspaper man, probably penned down for a different appointment, got the CBN governorship position assigned to him in error. When this was later pointed out to the head of government he retorted that a “General does not take back his words!”
The second chapter aptly tagged ‘End of an Era,’describes the exit of Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, who had claimed that [p.58] “the major outcome of the steps taken by the CBN to check the impact of the global financial/economic crisis on the Nigerian banking system was that no bank failed and none went of clearing [and that] this was also an indication that the CBN responses were yielding the desired results, and would have, ultimately, stabilized the banking system.” The chapter also recalls the naira redenomination debacle, akin to the present raging Sanusi N5, 000 note controversies.
In a thriller-like manner Echebirireplays the drama of the suspense before, the propaganda by those who wanted Soludo out, and the contenders and pretenders (late President Yar’Adua’s closest confidant Dr. Yakubu Tanimu, first-family member by marriage Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi state, former Deputy Governor of CBN, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, very visible ex-Works Minister Dr. Sanusi Dagash and ‘outsider’ maverick, Marxist and Islamic scholar-banker Sanusi Lamido Sanusi) to the soon to be vacant position at Marble House, including the gender and equal-opportunity angle to the contest represented by Mrs. Wahir Mshelia, first Nigerian female deputy governor of CBN, never mind her short-lived, though eventful tenure under President Obasanjo…
‘Enter Sanusi Lamido Sanusi,’ as the author captions Chapter Three of the book, with a look at the new-style CBN governor, a methodology presaged largely in his famous interview with the Financial Times of London’s West Africa Correspondent, Matthew Green in London – trust discerning watcher Echebiri – reproduced on pages 74 – 93. This chapter also deals with the shock waves of both the Soludo reforms (‘The Black Friday’)and the strike at the Bank Executives as well as the EFCC offensive under Farida Waziri, you must read, in retrospect.
A brief but significant Chapter Four examines some of the dissent to and assent with the Soludo reforms from within and outside, including ‘a strong IMF endorsement.’
In Chapter 5, entitled ‘The New Order’ discusses among other issues the Sanusi-driven “CBN intervention in the banking industry,” which some argue does not merit being described as ‘banking reforms,’ even with the second round of removal of some Managing Directors and Executive Directors October 2, 2009 – a fact Sanusi himself, according to the author, told the several stakeholders he engaged, telling them what he was doing was not banking reforms.”
Again, on this score it is the Sanusi Lamido Sanusi Convocation Lecture (Bayero University, Kano March 26, 2010) to the rescue, as Sanusi elaborates (excerpts reproduced on pages 130 –147): “The blueprint for reforming the Nigerian financial system in the next decade is built around four pillars.
Pillar1. Enhancing the quality of banks
Pillar 2. Establishing financial stability
Pillar 3. Enhancing healthy financialsector evolution
Pillar 4. Ensuring the financial sector contributes to the real economy
Before going on to explain the four items, Sanusi stated that “in many areas, the CBN to take the lead in implementing reforms” whereas in others, “CBN needs to play a key advocacy role.”
In Chapter 6, opens with a recall of the profound statement made by the CBN governor with his banking reforms, to wit, the “banking practice wouldn’t be business as usual anymore – rich management must be taken more seriously, good corporate governance must be the watchword in every bank, and bankers must be the rules.”
Echebiri is of the view that the reforms hit the sector “like a whirlwind, in fact, a tsunami of sorts,”although as he also notes, “ardent proponents of the reforms maintained … that if Sanusi had notintervened the way he did and at the time he did, the Nigerian banking industry would have witnessed a systemic distress it would not have been able to survive.” And of course as thy further point out, the main losers would have been the “the teeming bank depositors whose money would have been trapped in the belly of the banks (which) would have kissed the dust.”
The chapter examines the more visible and palpable impacts of the Sanusi reforms leaving out though not completely, the “more or less hypothetical speculations of what could have happened if the CBN had not intervened the way it did – all these up to the return from exile of Erastus Akingbola of Intercontinental Bank, the knocks on the reforms by General Gusau and Sultan Dasuki, etc… the latter treated in the final chapter called The Beat Goes on.
Echebiri is a great documentation man and relentless researcher. You need to see the volume of data added to the book at the end in about 40 pages with court records of charges and all, abbreviations explained , etc, etc…
I can only recommend that you grab your copy today, if you did not grab one when it was hot off the plates of Rayfields Communications Limited in 2011. The issues raised in there are still raging and have again come to the fore, what with the Sanusi proposal of N5, 000 notes in 2013.