Monday, 23 March 2020 05:22

Sanusi: A white-washed sepulchre? - Bolanle Bolawole

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The title above reminded me of a piece I wrote sometime in August 2005 on that year’s students’ unrest at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye and the “White Paper” by Governor Gbenga Daniel on the findings of the commission of inquiry his government had set up into the crisis: Students against the Ago-Iwoye traditional institution. Placing the findings side-by-side the White Paper, I had described the latter as “white-washed sepulchre”

Published hereunder is “An open letter to Graca Machel” on her solidarity message to ex-Emir Sanusi by Mr Babafemi Badejo, academician and diplomat.

Graca Machel: Remember her? Widow of assassinated Mozambican President Samora Machel; she later married South Africa’s first Black president of independent South Africa, Mr Nelson Mandela aka Madiba. Read on:

It is with due respect that I decided to write to you today. We met at a number of fora over time but none as close as in April 1995 when I visited South Africa with the plan to meet with Madiba and Desmond Tutu, seeking their respective voices over the incarceration of Mr Olusegun Obasanjo by Mr Sani Abacha on that trumped-up coup. I did not succeed in meeting Madiba. Tutu told me over the phone that he was going to meet Abacha in Nigeria only on MKO Abiola and would not add Obasanjo. With the assistance of Bantu Holomisa, you agreed to meet me at the airport before your check-in to Mozambique. I remember your being very concerned on my brief and you promised to push Madiba and South Africans not to let go on Olusegun Obasanjo as soon as you return to South Africa. I remain grateful to you for that audience...

I read your emotion-laden letter to deposed Emir Sanusi within 24 hours of his dethronement. His removal from office you portrayed as resulting from his "courageous efforts to speak truth to power", etc. This sort of statement got me thinking that your aides were doing you disservice by not doing detailed research on Nigeria's Constitution and the person of the deposed Emir. I was wondering also if the deposed Emir had hoodwinked you at the UN Secretary-General's body of Members of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocates. Or whether you just felt you must stand by an Advisor to the International Board of Advisors of the Graça Machel Trust irrespective of where that person stands on values.

Since colonial times, traditional authorities had known they are to wear their regalia, enjoy the pomp and pageantry as they pretend to be in charge of affairs... Deposed Emir Sanusi knew very well what he was getting into but needed to use the throne to escape from one of his flippant oratories against then President Goodluck Jonathan that earned him suspension as Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria. He did not get his facts right and started adjusting figures. 

I can never hold brief for Governor Abdulahi Ganduje, not with his video that went viral. I read the detailed attempt of Abdulsalami Abubakar's Committee that tried to reconcile Sanusi and the Governor, who saw Sanusi as being involved in partisan politics in Kano. The deposed Emir was advised to operate within the norms of tradition on political affairs and the Governor to take another look at some of the complaints of Sanusi that included the status of the new Emirates that Kano was broken into and the Governor to desist from trying to remove him from office. They both agreed. But Sanusi thereafter went to Kano and made the salutary speech that I would endorse any day even if he has done very little himself to address poverty in Kano. The speech was very political as it was to praise Governor Nasir el-Rufai who a number of kingmakers are suggesting is a Presidential material. Maybe you now understand why el-Rufai is dishing out posts to the deposed Emir! So much political chicanery and shenanigans!  

Mama Graça, politics is a major part of the problem and not some truth being told to power. Courage is a small part of the bigger picture!

Your good self, like the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, only know about people who shout loudest. You never pay attention to their lives to see if they practice what they preach. If you asked questions on the lip-service that Sanusi pays to SDGs as opposed to actions, you would not be writing about his "being a bold inspiration for leaders to hold themselves to account". Has he been holding himself to account?

The deposed Emir, while he was Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, had embarked on an apparent effort, as he claimed, to pursue all bad debtors. He started and got Banks to publish some names. How do I know if what was published were all there were as bad debts? I cannot tell! How do I know what happened to a trickle of the debts that were repaid? The system was opaque to the un-initiated like me! He was reported to have played a major role in the setting up of AMCON that reportedly acquired toxic debts. The jury is out on this institution that has allowed official brigandage to continue in the banking system as people steal depositors’ money through lending with and without collateral and favoured people (especially part of the Kings College mafia) and powerful ethnicities escape untouched or are normally left with so much after corrupt-sharing. And the inequalities and inequities in Nigeria are heightened contrary to the expectations of the SDGs. 

Sanusi, wielding the powers of the Governor of CBN, went on to take over a few Banks deemed or declared insolvent (whether they were or not!) and sold them to new buyers under new names. Intercontinental Bank Plc fell within this period. The processes of transfer of the Intercontinental Bank remain shrouded in secrecy. What about the ownership of the succeeding institutions and debts write-offs that accompanied these moves that impoverished the country and the people? Has the deposed Emir rendered account? In saner countries, he would be brought into the public arena to render accounts as you would certainly expect.

Mama Graça, what can I tell you about Sanusi's profligacy in dolling out Nigeria's patrimony as it pleased him? He called it corporate social responsibility but the late Pius Adesanmi called it Corporate Social Irresponsibility. Why do we have a budget if the head of our national bank can act outside that framework and dole money out by fiat but claiming he had a board and the President did not object? More so, when a calculus of the distribution did not measure to the so-called Federal Character enshrined in our Constitution!

These efforts were well before the to-be Royal Majesty became a Whistleblower on the shenanigans he claimed to be seeing at NNPC. He was confusing over how much money was being stolen...However, there was agreement that billions in US dollars were missing. PDP government in power at that time, rather than pay the CBN top man the returns for being a Whistleblower, made sure Sanusi was suspended from office and, so, the enfant terrible eventually lost CBN treasure trove to (new CBN governor Godwin) Emefiele but inherited the huge savings late Emir Ado Bayero had put aside for the rainy day at Kano Emirate Council. Please get a summary of point-by-point account of Jaafar Jaafar on how that money was spent.

Sanusi would not disclose what he inherited from his predecessor and how he spent it; more so when he claimed it was his own personal money he used in refurbishing the palace. He claimed his named friend asked what to do for him. He chose Rolls Royce that Jaafar Jaafar supplied details on purchases about as well as airfare of retinue of aides to show grandeur around the world. I witnessed one myself in Khartoum. He relegated the then President of Sudan to a small VIP ... I was surprised when he removed part of the regalia and ate like every other human being inside a confined space that I was lucky to have a seat at - thanks to the UN!

Even if the fleet of Rolls Royces were from friends, I am sure you must be wondering why he did not ask those friends to endow institutions to get Almajiris off the streets of Kano. After all, Sanusi appeared he was interested in education for the poor through repeated advocacy. Or better still, you would remember the child he claimed died in the palace as the mother was waiting in line to receive less than $5 from him the potentate to buy medicines. Would it not have been progressive if whatever the late Emir Ado Bayero left was used for supplementary medical institutions in the name of the emirate? Why should a woman have to wait in line to receive less that $5 from the Emir himself?

A man’s private marital affairs should be of interest to a champion of education for the girl-child. To start with, as Sanusi pontificates about the ills of polygamy, have you bothered to ask him how many wives he has? And, along that line, how many children in a situation in which you are expressing concern over the population of Africa in 2030/2050? Is this, then, a great role model as you seem to be implying in your letter?

More importantly, for somebody you seem proud of as speaking truth to power, have you asked for details about Sa’adatu Barkindo-Musdafa, daughter of the Lamido of Adamawa, Muhammadu Barkindo-Musdafa, with whom he started a relationship that resulted in marriage on the basis of what they call child-bribe? Or did you lap up the claim that he would not have carnal knowledge of her till she could take it? Maybe he won't! But why do it at all: Because he can afford it or because he is a big man in Nigeria?

The little that is expected of you and senior brother Anthonio Guterres is to ask questions about the example this gives on girl-child that you both are laudably speaking up about. Yes, she was 18 and he 54 but was this princely transaction in the interest of that teenager? Could she have said no? Please do not except Amina to tell it as it is to both yourself and Antonio. She knows that she has to return to Nigeria from schooling abroad and will not bite any finger that fed her.

You and I are agreed Sanusi should not have been dethroned without due process. More importantly, he should not have been held in the so-called banishment, which is anachronistic. But are you not wondering as I am as to why he is not ready to fight to be reinstated? Could it be because the people of Kano have seen through him as they readily welcomed his successor? Or is it because he now wants to be President of Nigeria as some are saying in spite of his saying politics is not for him? I know deceit is part of the game in politics. You keep what you are after close to your chest until there is the opportunity to strike when your adversaries least expect.  

As a Nigerian, Sanusi is free to run for office. I am of course worried about Nigeria in his hands given how he managed CBN and Kano Emirate Council. The latter got broken up under him as he followed the footsteps of his grandfather into deposition. We cannot afford to have Nigeria handled the same way Sanusi handled Kano traditional affairs.

Mama, did you know that some Nigerians are calling for Sanusi’s head over a claim I am yet to research into in detail? If he continues to be flippant in his ‘do as I say but not as I do’, I will not be surprised if he is dragged formally before the courts. You would have thought that a courageous individual as you described Sanusi would not use the courts to stop investigations. In fact, you should encourage him to open up and prove to the world that he has nothing to hide. He says he did not inherit (at the Kano Emirate Council) the kind of money being stated. Fine, records are available at the Banks to transparently answer that! A hero as you are portraying him should boldly step forward to clear his name. People like you can offer to observe to ensure that he is well treated under acceptable precepts of the rule of law.

My letter, in response to yours, is much longer. I apologize! I hope you will spend some time to read and ponder whether you still want to be remembered for having said what you said about Sanusi. Please take the pains to know more about issues you want to dabble into before entering into the fray.

Need I say more!

LAST WORD: As I agonized here weeks ago, when will the report of the accreditation teams to the Obafemi Awolowo University release their findings? Is something as trite as accreditation also rocket science to the Nigerian authorities? Isn’t there going to be a limit to our incompetence and cluelessness – or is it impunity and playing God?