The Central Bank Governor and his declaration of allegiance
I attended an event recently in Lagos and Chief Joseph Oladele Sanusi (84) from Ogbagi in Akoko North West Local Government of Ondo state, entered quietly, unannounced. The Master of Ceremony (MC) at the event did not even recognize him. I had to tell a friend of mine who sat next to me that, that is the eighth governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
My friend then asked me “was he governor under the military” and I replied negatively, but that he was the Central Bank governor between 1999 and 2004 under President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR.
By the way Ogbagi is home to other prominent people including Chief Jibola Aribisala SAN, Dr. Olu Ibukun, retired UN Diplomat, Professor Soji Adesugba, current Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment and others too numerous to mention.
Chief Joseph Sanusi attended the United School, Ogbagi-Irun from 1944-1950, Jubilee Central School, Ikare, 1951(his classmates then were the late Owa Ale of Ikare, Sir S.K. Adedoyin (1924-2021), the late Akoko leader, Chief Felix Idowu Ayegbusi (1935-2018) and the present Olukare of Ikare, Oba Saliu Akadiri Momoh (89).
He later proceeded to St. John’s College, Owo, 1953-1954, St Peter’s College, Kaduna, 1957-1958, South West London College, England, 1961-1966;he joined the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1966 as an account manager, later assistant Chief Internal Auditor, deputy Chief of Banking Operations, departmental director, executive director, Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN, later Chairman, First Bank of Nigeria, appointed deputy governor, CBN, 1988; associate, Corporation of Chartered Accountants and fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants.
When President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR became the President on May 29 1999, he appointed Chief Sanusi as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. President Obasanjo made the appointment over his Egba born close friend, Chief Oluwole Alani Adeosun (1938-2012), former Managing Director of NAL Merchant Bank, also Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria, who also served as the Minister of Transport in the Interim Transitional Government headed by Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan GCFR (9 May 1936 – 11 January 2022).
The Central Bank of Nigeria is the apex monetary authority of Nigeria established by the CBN Act of 1958 and commenced operations on 1 July 1959.
The major regulatory objectives of the bank as stated in the CBN Act are to: maintain the external reserves of the country, promote monetary stability and a sound financial environment, and act as a banker of last resort and financial adviser to the federal government.
The central bank’s role as lender of last resort and adviser to the federal government has sometimes pushed it into murky regulatory waters. After the end of British imperial rule the desire of the government to become proactive in the development of the economy became visible, especially after the end of the Nigerian civil war, the bank followed the government’s desire and took a determined effort to supplement any show shortfalls, credit allocations to the real sector.
The bank became involved in lending directly to consumers, contravening its original intention to work through commercial banks in activities involving consumer lending.
During the tenure of Chief Sanusi as Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, he embraced collaboration with his deputy governors—Mr Oluwole S. Oduyemi, Alhaji Mahey R. Rasheed, Mrs Wahir Msheila, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman and Mr. Ernest C. Ebi. He never acted like an alpha and omega.
He quickly introduced foreign exchange controls in an effort to reduce the drain on foreign reserves which had fallen from over $7 billion to under $4 billion in the last two years, during the tenure of the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha GCFR (20 September 1943 – 8 June 1998) and General Abdusalam Abubakar (80) GCFR and to defend the naira. Oil revenues, the primary source of foreign exchange, had dropped below the level needed to cover basic requirements
The business community was hostile to the efforts to prop up the currency, believing that devaluation coupled with exchange market reform was necessary.
On Saturday, May 29, 2004, Chief Sanusi’s tenure as the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria was to end. His term was qualified for a renewal. Few weeks before that date, he had an audience with President Obasanjo in THE VILLA during which he told the President emphatically that he would not serve another term.
He elaborated to the President that he would want to spend more time with his wife, Adunke Sanusi alias MAMA TOYIN, who is from Imesi Ile in Obokun Local Government Area of Osun State. Chief Sanusi tendered his resignation to President Obasanjo, who said he was shocked by Chief Sanusi’s decision. He later instructed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, to write a letter of appreciation on behalf of the Federal Government to Chief Sanusi for his long and rewarding service to the nation.
On Monday, May 31, 2004, my boss, Chief Ufot Ekaette (1939-2019) CFR, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, handed to me, for distribution, a press release on the new appointment of Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo as the new Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was a two paragraph press statement.
I had to convince Chief Ekaette to let us delay the announcement until we could get fully, the biography of Professor Soludo. He obliged and directed me to contact Dr Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili (59), who was then head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit in the Presidency and who introduced Professor Soludo to President Obasanjo for the appointment. An hour later, Professor Soludo entered my office with his Curriculum Vitae (CV), which I added to the press release and I congratulated him. That was the last time he ever visited the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Chief Joseph Sanusi’s tenure as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria was indeed low profile.
Those who succeeded him, Professor Soludo (29 May 2004-29 May 2009), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (June 4, 2009-June 2, 2014) and Mr Godwin Emefiele (June 3, 2014 to date) took a different route.
Past Governors of the bank—Roy Pentelow Fenton, 24 July 1958 to 24 July, 1963, Alhaji Aliyu Mai-Bornu, 25 July 1963 to 22 June 1967, Dr. Clement Nyong Isong, 15 August 1972 to 24 September, 1975, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, 24 September 1975 to 28 June 1977, Mr. O. Ola Vincent, 28 June 1977 to 28 June 1982, Alhaji Abdulkadir Ahmed, 28 June 1982 to 30 September 1993 and Dr. Paul Agbai Ogwuma, 1 October 1993 to 29 May 1999, all avoided notoriety while in office.
To be continued tomorrow
Teniola, a former Director at the Presidency wrote from Lagos.