The Central Bank has statutory mandates as apex monetary institution in Nigeria to regulate the financial sector while the Office of Head of Service of the Federation determines processes of appointments, postings and promotions in the federal public service. Therefore, the helmsmen of these two institutions are indeed very powerful. They may not have cabinet ranking but they are very influential as they are among the few public office holders apart from ministers that attend the Federal Executive Council meeting.
Federal appointments, especially to very sensitive offices are based on criteria that include conservative idea of federal character principle, seniority and age in addition to the basic yardsticks of qualifications, working experiences and professional recognitions.
One interesting thing about those personalities was that they were in the private sectors for years before venturing into the public service.
Steve Oronsaye, a Catholic who was born on November 16, 1950 only joined the federal service in December 1995 when he was appointed Director Special Duties in the Federal Ministry of Finance after several years as a partner in the accounting firm of KPMG Nigeria, which was reputed at the time to be the largest accounting practice firm in Nigeria and one of the top eight in the world. He actually qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1978 at the age of 28. It was in 1999 after the emergence of democratic era he was appointed Principal Private Secretary to President Olusegun Obasanjo, a position equivalent to Federal Permanent Secretary.
On the other hand, Sanusi Lamido an economist who was born in 1961 started off his working career as an academic at his alumni, ABU, Zaria before moving to the banking sector, first with Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers) to UBA and later First Bank of Nigeria where in January 2009 was made the first Northerner to be CEO in the bank’s more-than-a-century history. A grandson of the 11th Fulani Emir of Kano, Lamido was not only born a Muslim but also a believer by conviction who strangely went for further studies, not at Harvard or Oxford or any of the highly rated international universities but to a University in Sudan. And to THE bewilderment of his admirers in the financial sector he opted to study, strangely too Shari’ah and Islamic Studies. Yet, before his present appointment, being a respected intellectual, he had been invited by some of the best academic institutions in the world to be a visiting lecturer and guest speaker on contemporary global issues: economic, politics, governance, religions amongst others.
No one would therefore doubt the competence of those two senior officers for their new enviable positions against parochial consideration of states of origin, political leaning, ethnicity and religion.
Apart from carrying out assigned fiscal duties and reconciled the nations foreign reserve accounts, Orosanye as Director Special Duties in the Finance Ministry was also writing incisive and well-researched speeches for some of the ministers especially Chief Anthony Ani and Alhaji Abu Gidado. While he spearheaded a Committee for the re-introduction of ASYCUDA in the Nigeria Customs Service, he also participated in the bilateral reconciliation of Paris Club debts and in the establishment of the BMPIU (now BPP). An introvert to the core who would rather remain unseen and unheard, he was actively involved in various policies formulations and programme executions during the Obasanjo’s administration. He was one of those instrumental to the establishment of the Debt Management Office (DMO), where his close friend and colleague in Finance Ministry, Akin Arikawe was appointed pioneer Director General. As Principal Private Secretary to President Obasanjo he was the next most powerful officer in the Presidential Villa after the then Chief of Staff, Gen. Mohammed Abdullahi.
Sanusi Lamido is an outspoken personality whose past public comments while still in a commercial bank cost his bank to lose huge deposit from Kano state government during the tenure of Governor Musa Kwankwaso. Sanusi who had criticised his governor on policy issue in the state was asked to apologise, but he bluntly refused and preferred to resign based on principle and conviction. His bank believed in him and stood by him. He doesn’t hide his feeling just as his bluntness on issues not only put him on dagger drawn with the establishment especially Northern leaders who play politics with the lives of their masses. In fact he did not spare religious leaders too, because of his verse scholarship; he often engaged them in the hottest debate, especially on true Islamic perspective that a popular cleric, late Sheik Adam Jafar of Kano questioned Sanusi’s faith and identity.
Sanusi is an economist to the core and risk manager in all sense of it; he believes one must deservedly earn what he gets with no room for profligacy. He is reputed to have put in place effective mechanism for credit risk management in all the banks he had worked against corrupt practices. As general manager at UBA, Sanusi was said to have anchored the transformation of the credit and risk management division into an enterprising risk management sector, and spearheaded UBA’s Basal 2 focus by establishing the framework, policies, processes and systems necessary for compliance with the guidelines of the new capital accord. The same principle he applied at the First Bank where he championed remarkable developments in enterprise, risk and management control mechanisms.
One may not read the minds of Stephen Orosanye, yet he always succeeds in having his ways. Contrary to the notion that chartered accountants are tight-fisted, while in Federal Ministry of Finance as Director Special Duties Orosanye was regarded as Father Xmas due to his excessive generosity to staffs during seasonal periods to celebrate festivities. In fact, junior staffs did walk to his office for assistance in paying school fees, marriage and naming ceremonies which were not accommodated in archaic civil service rules and financial regulations.
While Sanusi can be controversial and very decisive on issues like a combatant, he cracks jokes at social events but which convey messages. During an annual Business Editors Seminar organised by Central Bank in 1998 which was held in Enugu, Sanusi who was the Guest Speaker dressed in clownish manner when he put on resources-control cap (associated with Niger-Deltans) on well-tailored suite with his traditional butterflies neckties. He told his audience that he could have been a northern militant being a member of Fulani whose cattle in the Northern Nigeria are potential revenue earner that can produce enough dairy, meat and skin for domestic consumption and for export to generate foreign currencies had it been the Federal government invested extensively in agricultural sector like it has continued to do in the oil sector.
There is high expectation from the public on these two officers as everyone looks forward to positive changes they would bring forth for the benefit of the country.
The new CBN governor must realise by now that he is no more a player but a regulator of monetary sector which by effect has impact in the economy. As a risk manager he should ensure that the banking sector remains vibrant and active in supporting the economy especially the productive sector. Since he is frugal by his disposition which not be acceptable to most CEOs of banks who live ostentatious livelihood, he should ensure they protect depositors’ funds. He should also avoid sentiments and bias against any of the banks considering the fact that he was once a player in the competitive environment.
The civil servants expect more from the new Head of Service especially in the area of wages. We must not continue to pretend that the civil servants are immune to corrupt practices when their meagre remuneration can hardly pay for rents not to talk of other necessities. The only motivation and consolation that can effectively check corruption in the public service is by fixing realistic salaries that can adequately cater for their the basic needs and afford them the comfort of living above poverty.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Economic Confidential July, Daily Trust July 7, New Nigerian July 8, National Life July 11, Thisday July 12, Daily Independent July 12, Leadership July 13, Daily Sun July 21, 2009