As he marked his 60th birthday anniversary with a well attended colloquium in Kaduna on Saturday, former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has said that Nigeria has a problem as the country has not made any economic progress in the last 40 years.0
The former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor said the 50 per cent progress that was recorded in 35 years on the Nigeria’s GDP per capital has been reversed between 2014 and 2019.
He also noted that the poor economic sate of Nigeria is responsible for 70 per cent of the challenges facing the country today, from banditry to kidnapping, farmer/herder clashes and even the agitations for restructuring.
Emir Sanusi, who said he had been called many names and even paid a price for speaking up on the state of the nation, said he cannot afford to be a conformist in a society that is so abnormal, as doing so means that things will not change.
He said: “As His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto said recently, this country has a problem. We cannot ignore the fact that things are not working. When you are in a society that is so abnormal, you cannot afford to be a conformist, because if you all conform, things will not change.
“Many years ago, when I was screaming about the billions being spent on fuel subsidy, I remember there was an attempt to attack my house in Kano. Then, I was in the CBN. Where are we today? We are face to face with the reality; that fuel subsidy is unsustainable.
“Now when the decision is taken, it will be more painful than if they had removed it five or 10 years ago.
“I only speak to the best of my understanding what I see about the country, and I have paid the price. But Nigerians are the ones paying the real price. It is the price you see in increased poverty; it is the price you see in insecurity, in high rate of inflation, in loss of value of our currency, in the numbers around malnutrition, unemployment, out of school children, maternal mortality and infant mortality.
“Calling me controversial or calling me an enemy or critic will not make those facts go away. So, anywhere we go, we must face these facts.
“Am I happy about it on my 60th birthday? No. Because 60 years ago when I was born, the United States government advisory was telling investors that Nigeria has a better economic future than Japan. Today, where are we and where is Japan?
“It is not about one or two governments; it is about decades of a people throwing away opportunities, and every time we are given a chance to make a change, we go back to the same old things.
“And you know when I have a platform like these, I have to talk. I have tried not to say much not because there is nothing to say or because I am afraid of speaking. The reason I have not spoken much in the last two years is because I don’t even have to say anything anymore, because all the things we were warning about have come.
“In 1980, Nigeria’s GDP per capital on purchasing power parity basis was $2,180. In 2014, it appreciated by 50 per cent to $3,099. According to the World Bank, where were we in 2019? $2,229. At this rate in the next two years in terms of purchasing power parity, the average income of a Nigerian would have gone back to what it was in 1980 under Shehu Shagari.
“That means in 40 years, no progress. We made zero progress; 40 years wasted.
“Between 2014 and 2019, on the basis of this index of the purchasing power of the average income of an average Nigerian, we had wiped out all the progress made in 35 years. We have a responsibility as a people to rise and improve the lives of the people of this country.
“It is no longer about government, political parties, traditional rulers, emirs. The days are gone of saying one class of people, whether they are emirs or civil servants, cannot talk. When there is fire, everyone has to go with a bucket of water.”
While stressing the need for Nigerians to understand how the nation’s economy works, the 14th Emir of Kano said, “Seventy per cent of our challenges in this country from insecurity to herder/farmer clashes all have their roots in economy. Even this shout about restructuring is about economics; it is about resources. We need to grow this economy and make it work for the poor people.”
He also blamed the security challenges of banditry and kidnapping on the ‘wrong social system’ adopted by the people of the North, where he said people have larger family than they can cater for. He noted that children left uneducated, untrained have become problems to the region, engaging in drugs, stealing and kidnapping.
According to him, “Since I am wearing two caps as an economist and an Islamic scholar, I need to say that at the level of the North and Muslims, we need to look hard at ourselves and question the choices we have made.
“As Emir of Kano, we got scholars to sit for three years. We drafted a Muslim Code of Personal Status that began to address some of these issues. That law was ready in 2019, but it has not been passed.
“I also sent it to the Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, the Governor of Plateau State and said in case any of the governors need it, give it to them. I have not heard anything. But we keep talking about poverty in the North. We keep talking about Almajirai. These Almajirai did not produce themselves.
“If you cannot maintain one wife and you marry three and if you cannot maintain three children and you have 17, if you leave those children on the street without education, without training, you are going to have young men that would be problem to our society.
“The youths that you see on drugs, those in stealing and kidnapping are all products of that social system. And we need to ask ourselves, is this what Islam said we should have? Are these the children that Islam said we should have?”
Speaking about his days as CBN governor and the reforms he undertook, Sanusi said he brought down many corrupt banks CEOs, some of who eventually went to jail.
If there is anything that I have to share with the younger generation especially that I now consider myself getting old is that the fears that we have are grossly unfounded. As Kingsley said, when we started the banking reforms, on the eve of the banking reforms, every day, on the front pages of newspapers, the banks CEOs were at the Villa. They were the friends of the President, they were oligarchs, they were untouchables.
“I remember when we started going after the bankers, someone called me and said, ‘You know you are a young man, you don’t know what you are doing. You will not succeed. What have we done today? So far, three or four of the wealthiest and powerful bank CEOs in this country have gone to jail and nothing happened.
“You can fight any system. You don’t need a large number. People can have temporary powers to use but the truth will always prevail. So, when I was suspended as CBN Govermor, I made a famous statement that you can suspend a man, but you cannot suspend the truth. And this is the truth that has come out.
“I told my family during a dinner to mark my birthday that, maybe one of the reasons that I am able to face any challenge is that I know that, no matter what happens, there would be friends who are standing waiting for me: Nasir El-Rufai, Bukola Saraki, Albert Wigwe, Aig Imoukhede, Aliko Dangote, all of them. So, it is a blessing to have people who are with you in good times and bad times, who are with you for who you are.
“Usually when people gather like this, it is for either someone who is in office or someone who is dead. You leave office, especially when you are seen as a trouble maker, people don’t gather to honour you. So, it is what I remain grateful to Allah for.
“So, what I will say briefly in all these 60 years is that my dream in life has always being to remain the same person to live by the values I set for myself, stand by those values and be ready to face the consequences,” he said.
Many speakers at the event held at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua Hall, Murtala Square, Kaduna extol the virtues of the former CBN Governor and 14th Emir of Kano, describing him as icon of reforms.
Both Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, described Sanusi as a gift to Nigeria considering his contributions to human development.
Governor Tambuwal said Emir Sanusi has been a very outspoken and distinguished Nigerian who practised activism where activism is not tolerated.
In his own view, the keynote address Speaker and former CBN Deputy Governor, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, described Sanusi as a man full of ideas, who changed the Nigerian financial system for good and in touch with the global practices.
Other dignitaries in attendance included the Emir of Zazzau, Ambassador Ahmed Nuhu Bammali who chaired the occasion; Emir of Ringim, Alh. (Dr). Sayyadi Abubakar Mahmoud Usman; Kaduna State Deputy Governor, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe and former Kwara State House of Assembly Speaker, Dr. Ali Ahmad who represented former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, among others.