Governor of the Bank of Nigeria Speaks to ALA students

by Oluwatobi “Tobi” Runsewe

At African Leadership Academy, we students know that something important has come up when an impromptu meeting is called. On Wednesday 2nd of March, a sign was posted in the billboard announcing that Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria was to address the entire student body that evening. Mr Sanusi was on his way to receive his award for the Best Central Bank Governor in the World and had decided to spend the evening with us.

Drawing from his experience as the Central Bank Governor and an Economist, Mr Sanusi talked about the political, social and economical dynamics of his world-acclaimed fight against corruption in the Nigerian commercial banking system. In 2009, despite the global economic recession, the Nigerian Stock Exchange was one of the most profitable trading platforms in the world.  However, upon detailed review of the financial system, which he ordered months after his appointment as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, he noticed that some banks had fraudulently declared assets and had inflated their value on the stock exchange.

Also, some powerful and influential individuals had borrowed huge sums of money from banks without paying back. After noticing this loophole in the system, Mr Sanusi explained to us that he had two options. One option was to look the other way and hope that things would get better, given the very important personalities in Nigeria’s echelons of power that were involved.  He could have decided to turn a blind eye to the corporate corruption that was ridding many civilians of their hard earned money. The other option was to bring the defaulters to book.

The easy choice for him would have been to look the other way and avoid “jeopardizing” the system and risking his life (during this period, his threat profile was higher than that of the President of Nigeria). However, he chose to take the more difficult path of making the corrupt banks and individuals face the consequences of their actions.

After his talk, he went on to take questions from students who asked a barrage of questions. In the Q&A session, he amazed students with his breadth of knowledge in fields such as Literature, Politics and Economics.  When asked by one of the students if he ever feared for his life, he responded by quoting William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar by saying “cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once…seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” When asked about his views on African development, he talked about David Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage and how it adversely affected Africa’s economic development. To solve this problem, he proposed that African countries concentrate on improving the supply and value-added chain of their exports.

As a Nigerian who knows how frustrating the judicial and political system can be for leaders who have integrity, through the talk, I was amazed by Mr Sanusi’s courage, depth of character and integrity. That night, Mr Sanusi proved to all students that to be a transformational leader, one doesn’t need a perfect system. Instead, the test of true leadership is thriving despite the imperfection of the systems that are present in many African countries today.

Mr Sanusi’s talk also came just at the right time for all second year students because we had just finished a module in Leadership about Ethics and Values of Leadership and he was a perfect example to the theory we had covered in class.

The opportunity to hear Mr Sanusi speak was an honour for the students of the African Leadership Academy and we left the auditorium that night inspired by him.