CBN Governor and PR Approach

Sanusi Lamido of CBN

There is fear, tension and anxiety in the land not necessary on the action of the new governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi but on his pronouncements and reactions on the reconsolidation of the banking system.

The Governor’s action in sacking former chief executive officers of the five Nigerian banks that were allegedly engaged in unethical practices has been hailed by Nigerians who are either victims or have been suspicious of activities in that sector especially on their incredible, most times manipulated annual financial reports and the misuse of their female officers who are forced to indecently dress, so as to entice customers to their banks. Many businesses have collapsed due to the failure of the banks to provide facilities for growing enterprises and the real sectors of the economy.

Some people may attach ethnic sentiments to the cleansing exercise being conducted by Sanusi Lamido in the banking sector, I only wish they know ass an intellectual that has written and spoken without fear on various contemporary issues including politics, religion, governance, cultural diversity, economy among others. His writings as a public commentator are public knowledge, especially where he castigated and blamed Northern elites for the North’s backwardness due to their arrogance, selfishness and nonchalant attitudes to the plight of their people. Probably if not for his present position, Sanusi’s opinion would have been sought on the Boko Haram Crisis in Maiduguri Borno State.

Sanusi could not be accused of incompetence because so far nobody doubts his professional integrity and incorruptibility, not even the maverick billionaire, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim who attests to Sanusi’s credibility but yet attacks the CBN for listing him amongst the bad debtors.

The fear I have for Sanusi is that he is behaving typical of his close friends: Nasiru El-rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Chairman of the economic and financial crimes Commission (EFCC) respectively who do not give a hoot in their public pronouncement and comments once they are fully convinced, when positive actions should speak louder than mere utterances.

Let us critically examine this issue; should a top public officer of his status be entitled to expressing his personal opinions and convictions publicly? Shouldn’t there be limit to the comments and observation make by top public office holders? Must top public office holders respond to every comments, observations and views expressed by the public? How often must such officer appear or relate directly with the public in order to pass information?

This piece tries to examine the Governor of CBN’s approach in the context of public relations whose principle is to sincerely and truthfully communicate towards establishing mutual and beneficial relationship amongst the stakeholders as well as create public awareness on issues that border on the organisation and the public.

During his maiden media briefing with the Press, the governor told his audience that he would only appear occasionally, probably after the monthly meeting of Monetary Policy Committee to brief them on new developments on economic and monetary issues, while his lieutenants that include the deputy governors and directors would address the public on their respective schedules. But the situations since then indicate that he does most of the talking.

I must admit that the new Governor of CBN is very sincere in his disposition so far in an attempt to revive and restore the image of Nigerian banks. But the reality is that he is too ethical, hasty and blunt in his approach which requires caution in utterances, vigilance in association and full alertness to unfolding events that may guide his actions.

Most of his media friends and even those who manage his public affairs may find it difficult to admit that the governor need to relax on the frequency of his direct interaction with the public. There is nothing wrong with occasional public appearances if only to make pronouncement on new development. The responsibility to reinforce position and clear the airs on misinformation and misconception are handled by other reliable and knowledgeable managers, most especially officially designated spokespersons who are the professionals in processing public perception and reputation management. The spokespersons take charge in monitoring and processing the impacts as well as take full responsibility for feedbacks and rejoinders.

In Public relations one does not need to play to the gallery in confronting problems with half-baked truth or blatant lies like in propaganda or brainwashing in the name rebranding, some restraint are essential to gauge the public moods after a major bombshell.

Every boss, to some extent is an embodiment of the organisation as a social personality over whom media attention may revolve, it is imperative that delegation of responsibility and public appearances for media attention is controlled to avoid unnecessary distractions.

He should allow the new chief executives of the banks and other relevant regulatory institutions to give endorsement to the new monetary directions as they continue to monitor the trends of event in the financial systems. He should also count on his network of friends among the publishers, civil society groups and academia because only mischief makers and ethnic jingoist would read negative meanings to the actions taken so far.

He is knowledgeable no doubt, but should be courteous and diplomatic in his relationship with other stakeholders, because some media reports portray him like a combatant ready for confrontations instead of an umpire that should create enabling environment. He should not be seen as a competitor but rather the regulator towards stabilisation of the polity for economic development.

He may not know but fifth columnists exist, watching every move and can strike and stab. Sanusi therefore need to be knowledgeable on survivalist’s instincts’ and mechanisms in his new organisation and the larger society. He should therefore have his ears to the ground and ensure that he monitors the media for feedbacks which may possible require his attention. He should be receptive to good ideas and constructive criticisms to enable him take rational decisions in protecting his image and that of his organisation and Nigeria as a country.

I may not conclude this without restating that all chief executive officers, including the new Governor of CBN must imbibe the characteristics of public relations person. They should possess the best of character within and outside the working environment. They can be eloquent with prowess of oratory, they need to have control over temperament in the face of tension and provocation. Every human being has his strength and weakness. Nobody is born a perfectionist and, therefore, one needs to have regular self-appraisal to meet public expectations.

I cherish top public officers who absorb shocks and insults and carry on unperturbed still doing what they intend to do, which is one of the great qualities of General Olusegun Obasanjo during his reign as civilian president. That natural shock-absorber, though rare amongst officers, if positively deployed, is a gift necessary in confronting and surmounting difficulties and should be cultivated and built upon by our bosses.

This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Economic Confidential September, New Nigerian September 7, Leadership September 8, Thisday September 12, Nigerian Tribune September 13, The Guardian September 14, 2009


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Yushau Shuaib

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