The 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II recently told a moving story of how a mother watched her sick child die while waiting to ask the Emir for financial assistance, because she could not afford to buy prescribed drugs of N3000.00, which, in context, was less than $10. Since “he who feels it knows it”, the ‘Aristocratic banker’ was overwhelmed, and the croaky, breaking voice of the eminently affable Emir, betrayed his emotions!
Well, Emir Sanusi’s address to the United Nation’s meeting on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been appropriately documented for posterity. However, Nigerians ought to salute his courage for identifying with the downtrodden and appreciating the dilemma and the economic-unfreedom of the poor in the society! Furthermore, that the Emir could muster enough courage to apologize to Nigerians for any ‘unintended consequences’ of the classical, free market policies he pushed during his tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reveals the enormous social capital ascribed to his social status, the purity of nobility, and his sincere love for humanity.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the educated, onetime CBN Governor, ruled Nigeria’s economic firmament, believing in the classical, neo-liberal macro-economic philosophy, only to discover later – after the deed has been done – that those theories were designed to keep us perpetually in the valley of socio-economic backwardness. However, Sanusi has blazed the trail by being blunt in expressing his regrets, and firmly calling for a paradigmatic shift in our applied economic theories, and an overhaul of our Public Administration. This is indeed the dawn of a new era in public leadership. It has not always been like this. At least, that is what a synoptic view of past leadership in the country reveals.
Yakubu Gowon ruled Nigeria, not as a College Graduate; but later went abroad to bag a Doctorate degree in Political Science. He came back to the country, well read, but did not see the need to reminisce about his past blunders. Murtala Muhammed’s regime was short-lived. But Olusegun Obasanjo’s first and second stints at the highest office in the land portrayed him as an ‘all-wise’ leader. As such, he has neither admitted, nor apologised for his misrule or the mistakes of his regimes. Though Shehu Shagari was a “reluctant president”, the economic ruination of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) government under his watch was never accounted for by the Grade II Teacher-President. Muhammadu Buhari’s regime attempted critical reforms in a highly corrupt, polarised, and sceptical society but the excesses of the regime were never atoned for. Ibrahim Babangida’s 9-year rule was characterised by widespread conscientization towards deceit and corruption in governance. Unfortunately, Babangida never apologised for squandering our collective patrimony. Sani Abacha never had a clue about civilian public administration but he clung to power, until … power left him. He did not live to regret or apologise for his misdeeds. From Abdulsalami Abubakar, to Umaru Yar’Adua; to Goodluck Jonathan; to Buhari’s second coming, the stories have disturbingly remained the same.
That said, it must not be lost on Nigerians that Sanusi’s argument is how we must seek the prosperity of the average Nigerian for peace that is contingent on the prosperity of the citizenry to reign in the land. It is instructive to note that Sanusi is now an Emir, a royal father. So, he has his domain to worry about! As an Emir, he also has multiple roles to play! He is a respected Islamic scholar and a religious priest whose pronouncements are weighty in religion. In the political spheres, he is the father for everybody in Kano and its environs, no matter one’s political affiliations. He is a banker, nobleman and public analyst. He is a father and a husband. He is an uncle to some people; and a cousin to others. So, the man has a lot on his plate; and uneasy lies the head that wears the crown!
Like Karl Marx, Sanusi has spoken about how deep our challenges are. He has also prophesied what is likely to happen to us if certain things are not done. He has challenged the elites of this country who are currently standing aloof or pretending not to see the obvious fact that the country has for some time been haemorrhaging. He has also drawn their attention to the fact that their being rich is also defined by the existence of the country; and that, if the country is no longer there, the definition of who they are will have to be reconfigured.
Basically, the truth about democracy is that, no matter the politics of the government in power, the people must come first. Again, this is where the current actors on the political scene must learn to be faithful to their calling. It is a shame that, every year, the first thing they fight for is their personal budget or those things that will accrue to them. If they are not careful, it will get to a stage where there will be no budget to fight for. This is not a prediction of doom. The truth is: if those who are privileged now don’t begin to attend to the needs of the society, it will get to a stage whereby the dignity and the honour, which their positions attract, will disappear. For example, a senator is supposed to be somebody who is revered in the society. But, by the time poverty makes the people to look at him with suspicion – as somebody who has flashy cars, owns monstrous buildings and runs a life that is flashy, then, the society is in for a big trouble. So, it’s time the political class keyed into Sanusi’s optimism by locating the algorithms that Nigeria needs with a view to understanding the mechanics of governance in a way that will take Sanusi’s worries seriously before things get worse.
Finally, Sanusi has a word for the recalcitrant leaders: “They call you ‘Rankadede’ now. In a couple of years, they will throw stones at you.” The question is: are we going to wait till people start stoning people, which, of course, can be likened to a point of no return? Well, Sierra Leone (1991) and Ivory Coast (2000) have eloquently spoken to the options before us!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*abiodun KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria