Friday, June 06, 2008

Chuku Chuku

When Umoru took office in the aftermath of the PDP's brazen vote capturing, it soon became clear to both keen-eyed observers and the blind alike, that he would have little or no time for one of Baba's golden boys: CBN Governor Soludo.

Perhaps aware of the impending ill-wind about to blow through his office, Soludo hastened to inform the media and general public at large, that he would no longer be addressed by the name with which he took office - Charles, but would now be addressed by a new moniker: Chukwuma. As I said at the time, I had no idea he even had Chukwuma for a name at all. Indeed, on our Naira notes, he wrote his name in full as Charles Soludo. Granted, there was an initial there, but I always assumed it was a "B", and only the whole name change did I realise that it was, in fact, a "C".

But, to my mind, the reason for the sudden shift from Charles to Chuks was as plain as, well the corruption in Obasanjo's government. He had changed his name because to his "professorial" mind, there was no better shield to hide behind than the well documented history between the Igbos and their Hausa-Fulani brothers. As "Charles" he could be booted out of office without so much as a by-your-leave, and not too many voices would be raised in protest, even if he was of Igbo origin. However, the sudden removal of "Chukwuma" as CBN Governor would definitely trigger howls of protest from the Eastern part of Nigeria. There would be rapid claims of "marginalisation" and "tribalism" and so on. There would be full-page advertorials in national dailies bemoaning the sack of the "highest-ranking" Igbo son in the government. In short, there would be plenty wahala and katakata, and Umoru, unlike Baba, has little inclination towards either.

Never mind that the newly-minted Chuks had never identified himself with his Ohaneze "brothers" throughout Baba's tenure, what would matter would be the perception of the public that Umoru couldn't wait to toss the Igbo man out on his ear, and some would say it smacked of the pogroms which had led to the civil war. So, if Umoru wanted him out, he would have to do it in a way that left no room for any howls of protest. Cue the probes.

Currently, Chuks has at least 3 seperate on-going probes of various aspects of his tenure as the Guvnor. Some involve the Capital Market, some involve the AFC, and some involve the Banking sector, wherein Chuks has recorded his most trumpeted achievements. Now, Chuks spends his time running between the Senate, the House of Reps, and the ICPC, trying desperately to defend himself, and keep his job.

He called for the probe of unethical practices in the banking sector to be conducted in camera, claiming that "wild" statements emanating from the hearing could lead to a run on the affected banks. He stated that a bank could collapse in a day, and so, the public should not be allowed to hear just how the banks were treating their hard earned money, or they might just give in to the temptation to remove it. This suggestion is laughable in the extreme. If I discover that the bank I thought was solid was nothing of the sort, and was indeed wobbling on the verge of collapse, I have every right to pull my money out, and move it to a safer haven, my pillow, perhaps. It has long been suspected by the general public that all is not as rosy as it seems with some of the so-called "mega banks" in Nigeria, and I believe Chuks made the plea to the Committee with certain banks in mind.

Now, it is part of Chuks job as Guvnor to make sure that the banks operate within strict ethical and fiscal guidelines, and treat depositors funds with utmost respect. It has since been established that Chuks has no interest in this part of his job, and prefers to align himself with the very institutions he ought to be policing. Take the board of the AFC, for example. Chuks is the Chairman, and the CEOs of several Nigerian banks are the Directors. Hand in glove doesn't even begin to describe that relationship. And it leads one to ask if the dog is wagging its tail, or the other way round.

His close relationship with these persons cannot but lead to questions about his independence, and indeed, loyalty to his office. The revelations from the Capital Market probe in which he sought to lay blame for the over-subscription for shares at the feet of the subscribers and not the banks was instructive in this regard. Here was a CBN Governor being asked how he abdicated his oversight functions so glaringly, and instead of offering any explanation, no matter how far-fetched, he chose to threaten the people who had been wronged with prosecution. Now, I am not suggesting the government should become heavy handed in the issue of regulation of banks, but the Enron fiasco showed that too much liberalisation is a very dangerous animal indeed. Investors literally lost their shirts because the banks were in cahoots with Enron, and surely a stronger and rigorously enforced regulatory framework could have prevented that from occuring. There are those who say regulation stifles growth and development, but I say that works in the same manner that armed robbers will complain that the police stifle their operations (of course, in Naija, most people would say that our police actually enhance crime, but imagine if there were none at all).

Chuks has been good for Nigeria in some ways, no doubt, and there will be those who say you must take the good with the bad, but when you occupy such a sensitive position, the first things on your mind should be integrity and honour at all times. You shouldn't turn into the Maurice Iwu of banking. And sadly, this is what Chuks has done. No doubt a close relationship with the banks is required, given their importance in economic development, but the CBN is supposed to play the role of a kind but firm parent to these precocious kids, and not act as the booze-purchasing frat brother.

I've said before that Chuks should have gone quietly after the redenomination fiasco, and kept his dignity. He refused to do so, perhaps completely ensnared by the addictive elixir of the power he enjoyed under Baba. Power which enabled him to ride roughshod over his Deputy Governors and render them just about irrelevant. And power which enabled his to be the most important economic voice in the nation. The power went to his head like the powerful narcotic it is, and he refused to see the writing on the wall.

Sadly, I don't think he's going to have the option of a quiet exit anymore. He's made too many enemies who now control his fate. And his comfy seat of power must now be feeling a mite prickly.


M. Sheriff said...

bros, no vex o. i just saw ur offline and quickly browsed thru. for now, no comment.

trae_z said...

"He stated that a bank could collapse in a day...This suggestion is laughable in the extreme."

it's the other way around, your statement/part of this article is laughable in the extreme. public commentary is a good thing, but there are some things that laymen should desist from passing judgement on.

by the way do you know Seun, dark petite barrister turned banker, she said she served with you?

The Law said...

Trae_z, are you saying that just because I/the Panel members am/are a layman/laymen we all don't deserve to know just what the hell is going on? I work hard for my money, unGodly hours plus Saturdays (and some Sundays) and I don't even work in a bank! Surely I need to know that my money is safe and not endangered by some shady dealing bank CEOs and their golf buddy CBN Governor.

It is true that a bank can collapse in a day. What I said was laughable was that Chuks didn't want us to know what was going on just because of that. That whole "we shouldn't say what's going on because of a, b, c..." mentality is what's laughable. For certain, they're not going to tell us everything anyways, but we should know who the worst are. And then be allowed to vote with our feet.

Yes, I know Seun. We served at NNPC together. I didn't know she had put the wig and gown in storage though...

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