The blunt speaking reformer who shocked the banker

by | June 3, 2013 3:46 pm



 Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is controversial. He wears his master-of-ceremonies bow tie religiously and, no matter the occasion his looks is always nondescript.

When he presents the bi-monthly decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), his eyes stays fixed on the text and his voice takes the master-of-ceremony tinge, sharp, clear and precise tone.

He has been in the middle of crisis after crisis since he was appointed the apex bank’s governor on 3 June 2009, exactly 4 years today, and yet, for most part, he has riled the very big society guns you would imagine are his employers, and yet, the most part, he gets their hidden support for his policies and his fireballs, often directly aimed at triggering scrutiny, be it on the fiscal irresponsibility of government, the rascality of banks chief executives or the irrational behaviuor of the capital market, the controversial “Islamic Banking” institution and his outspoken stance on the removal of fuel subsidy as well as his strident criticism of the government on infrastructure dearth.

Sanusi, the 51-year-old economics graduate, is so vocal, in fact, “that close aids would almost dissuade him from accepting speaking engagements-often his best stage for truth-telling,” according to a very close associate of the career banker. His controversial remarks often precede him. So it is so easy to forget that the Fulani nobleman has quietly transformed everything about the nation’s financial system.

That was highlighted during last week’s 2013 Democracy Day. The event ended up being more of the financial system stability talk, which has seen inflation rate race down from 12.4 percent to 9.1 percent, which has driven a healthy foreign reserve at $48.8 billion and unprecedented $8.8 billion in foreign direct investment and of course, a very stable and sane banking system.

Reports have suggested that the multiple banking award winner and reformer has implicitly hinted on his exit as the Central governor at the expiration of his tenure in June 2014. He has remained vague about this.

But close sources to BusinessDay did hint on a few things that suggest that this otherwise ‘fearless’ man may be thinking more of his legacy, how history will judge his overseeing the changes in the Central Bank itself and in the financial system overall. In fact, his less frequent public appearances underline some unaccustomed personal introspection from the eloquent speaker/banker.

Sanusi, whose appointment coincided with global and local financial uncertainty assumed office also in the midst of one of the worst banking confidence crisis, liquidity and solvency disaster era.

We have heard people compare his performance against his predecessors since then, all with startling examples of how his predecessors got it wrong and how Sanusi ended up cleaning their mess. One banking analyst stopped short of calling him a magician. But, there are clear lines of actions that underline the points from where he draws his inspiration while working to make the Central Bank more transparent as an institution and eliminate the apex bank’s previous reliance on ‘personality’ to communicate.

The Central Bank Sanusi is overseeing today has rid itself of the personality cult. It is no longer a Central Bank whose governor cohorts with rogue bank CEOs and junkets with them on some questionable road shows overseas. It is a less autocratic empire and more of a democratic institution. Sanusi has made the MPC a must wait-for around the globe because of the reassurances it brings with the policy decisions of its members. The opinion of the Bank is now more open so that anyone can see that all monetary and fiscal plans are not just handed down from the ‘oga-at-the-top’, but instead, the result of a process well thought through.

Sanusi, as the activist, still advocates a sane banking behavior, downplaying the too big to fail syndrome, working with the banks to enthrone efficiency, international financial reporting standards, pushing for increased lending to SMEs, initiated successful bond-buying programmes and put in place mechanisms to better monitor the markets. The outcome of the Banks monetary policy strategy has helped to strengthen the financial system environment resulting in exchange rate stability. Banks today are routinely examined.

As for his legacy, that is still a work in progress. But he knows how large his communities of critics are but clearly his legacy lies in the Nigerian financial system