Let me state at the outset that I hope Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the current governor of the central bank of Nigeria does not run for President of Nigeria in 2015. Let me say in the same breath that I think he is superbly qualified, in my opinion, for the job. The reason for the above seeming contradiction is simple. If Sanusi runs, he will not win. Full stop. But I think the gentleman already knows that, good for him.
Sanusi himself had written about Buhari’s ambition in 1999:
‘I do not think Nigerians today are ready for Buhari. Everywhere you turn you see thieves who have amassed wealth in the last four years, be they legislators, Local Government chairmen and councillors, or governors and ministers. But these are the heroes in their societies. They are the religious leaders and ethnic champions and Nigerians, especially northerners, will castigate and discredit anyone who challenges them. Unless we start by educating our people and changing their value system, people like Buhari will remain the victims of their own love for Nigeria.’
Now, I will say something much similar about Sanusi, but with certain variations. By far the most endearing quality that I think Sanusi possesses is his grasp of the extent of the rot that has permeated every sector of the Nigerian state. And I think that that understanding is integral to the moulding of a philosophy that is capable of steering Nigeria in the right direction. And it is this understanding that I think is lacking absolutely in the Jonathan- led administration.
How else do you explain a policy of spending billions on procuring mobile phones for farmers? How do you explain the misguided attempt to rename Unilag? How do you explain the spending of billions on centenary celebrations? How? Just how?
The answer to all these questions is simple. You have a government far, far removed from the ground, a government blissfully shielded from the utter suffering of the Nigerian populace. But this is not an anti- Jonathan piece, far from it; this is a ‘moving Naija forward piece’.
I return to Sanusi. I recently saw an interview of Sanusi’s on YouTube- BBC Hard talk- where he said about reforms in the banking sector, that upon assuming office, he had to make a choice between watching the decay continue and patching things up and confronting the problems head-on. Our friend chose the latter, you bet. And made a truck load of powerful enemies in the process.
My point is that to reform an extraordinarily decrepit state like Nigeria, you need to take extraordinary reformative steps, you need to be radically opposed to the status quo. This brings me to the question of why Sanusi courts controversy. I cannot honestly make the pretention of holding brief for Sanusi, he is superbly capable of defending himself, but if I may take a leap of imagination, coupled with a constructive analysis of his intentions as apparent from his actions and works, I think I can reach meaningful conclusions regarding his motives.
I think what Sanusi likes to do is to wake us all up from our slumber, and to point pointedly at the absurdities that we have lived with for so long that we have adopted them as family.
Recently, Sanusi rocked the boat again when he called for the retrenchment of 50% of the civil service. Labour’s response was predictable; it called for Sanusi’s head on a platter of silver. Many people, including students, a constituency to which I proudly belong, were quick to condemn Sanusi in very strident terms- ‘he is an anti masses fellow’ only few sought to know what his reasoning was.
On this issue of the retrenchment of 50% of the Civil service, I am not entirely in agreement with the C.B.N governor, but one must give credit to him, his argument is logical and pretty sound. Sanusi’s position was that a government cannot continue spending about 70% of its income on the payment of salaries, leaving only 30% to work on capital projects and expect to move forward. If a larger chunk of the money is spent on infrastructure like power and good roads, a boom will occur in the private sector and many more jobs would be created!
A friend of mine, in the course of friendly argument made the point that the problem is not that Nigerians are unwilling to sacrifice; it is that they do not believe that government will use any money it saves wisely and transparently. I am inclined to agree with my friend, but I do not think that most Nigerians hold that view.
And that brings me to the question of elections and democracy. Imagine a Sanusi-ish persona running for President and making the kinds of assertions that he has been making, imagine a presidential aspirant that says about the rot in the educational sector:
‘well, I think many of the teachers in our public primary and secondary schools are not up to the task of giving our children the education they deserve to compete in the global market, if I win, certain tests will be conducted, and those who fail will be given an opportunity to become government employed farmers; I think that will be giving them a soft landing enough’
Now just imagine that for one tiny second and tell me if you think that candidate would win. Really?!
My concern is that we are always talking about change happening but are seldom ready to make the painful sacrifices that ultimately lead to real change. And democracy is not the rule of the smart or patriotic people, it is not the rule of the courageous and non corrupt, it is the rule of the masses. Full stop.
Now, ask yourself this: are you willing and ready to make sacrifices for the good of the Nigerian state? If yes, applause. If no, then you, my friend, are a huge part of the Nigerian problem.
Abdul Rahman Abdul Raheem Akintoye is currently a final year student of the faculty of law, university of Ilorin. You may follow him on twitter @dbestsmiles
He is also the General Secretary of the Students’ union, University of Ilorin.
You may read his other articles at dbestsmiles0.wordpress.com