Sanusi Lamido Sanusi: Garlands for the Distinguished Administrator @ 60


He is one of the few Nigerians, who can easily be referred to as all rounders. He is a classic example of diligence, painstaking ability, multi-tasking and focus. No one will be wrong to refer to him as a guru, especially in financial and traditional matters. He is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, better known during his hay days as an emir, as Muhammadu Sanusi II.

Born on July 31, 1961, in Kano, to a ruling class Fulani family of the Sullubawa clan, the eloquent former Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi, is a member of the Dabo dynasty who incidentally, was the emir of the ancient city-state of Kano. He was practically born into the royal family as the grandson of Muhammadu Sanusi I, who was the 11th Fulani Emir of Kano from 1953 to 1963, when he was deposed by his cousin Sir Ahmadu Bello.

The young Sanusi grew up in the royal court of his grand-uncle Ado Bayero, who reigned for over five decades. His father, Aminu Sanusi, was a prince and diplomat who served as the Ambassador to Belgium, China and Canada, and later permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was also the Chiroma of Kano and son of Muhammadu Sanusi I.

He began his early education in the religious way, and learnt Qur’an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad. Later, he attended St. Annes Primary School, a Catholic boarding school in Kaduna, before proceeding to King’s College, Lagos where he spent the period between 1973 and 1977.

He was admitted into the  Ahmadu Bello University, where he studied Economics and obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1981. After graduating, he spent a year undergoing his National Youth Service as a teacher in a girls boarding school in Yola, after which he returned to the university for his master’s degree in Economics in 1983. As a result of his exceptional brilliance, he was retained by the faculty on completion, and promptly lectured there for the next two years.

Sanusi began his banking career afterwards in 1985 when he was hired by Icon Limited (a subsidiary of Barings Bank and Morgan Guaranty Trust) as a merchant banker. He put in his best, and grew to become the head of financial services and manager of the office in Kano. With enough exposure, and ready to conquer new grounds, he left the bank in 1991, and as a lover of education and adventure, he moved and headed for Khartoum, Sudan, where he studied Islamic Studies at the International University of Africa. The experience gave him fluency in Arabic and in-depth knowledge of the Qur’an, law and philosophy. He was also privileged to broaden his academic horizon by reading the works of prominent Western thinkers and Islamic authorities and was also exposed to the four Sunni madhhabs of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali.

When he returned to Nigeria in 1997, he joined the credit and risk management division of the United Bank for Africa, from where he rose through the ranks to become the general manager. With much impact and tangible contribution, he appointed a board member and executive director in charge of risk management at one of Africa’s largest financial institutions, First Bank of Nigeria, in 2005.

In January 2009, he made history by becoming the chief executive officer, invariably becoming the first northern Nigerian to head the bank. He spent only five months on the seat before his acumen catapulted him to the highest echelon of banking in Nigeria, and so on June 1, 2009, he was nominated as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and confirmed two days later by the Nigerian Senate on June 3, 2009. He came in at a time the world was facing global financial crisis. All eyes were on him to turn around the financial fortunes of the country.

Sanusi began his tenure by initiating several extensive and fearless banking reforms, which have come to be known overtime as the “Sanusi Tsunami”. The reforms were built around four pillars: enhancing the quality of banks, establishing financial stability, enabling healthy financial sector evolution and ensuring the financial sector contributes to the real economy. He developed the cashless policy whereby financial transactions are not conducted with money in the form of physical banknotes or coins, but rather through the transfer of digital information (usually an electronic representation of money) between the transacting parties; he also introduced and supported the establishment of Islamic banking in Nigeria, a move which was criticized by the Christian Association of Nigeria.

Many termed him as Mr Controversial as his reforms became another kind of ‘operation sweep’ bulldozing both human and material structures deemed inimical to the growth of Nigeria’s banking system. Many institutions and prominent individuals felt his touch. Some financial institutions became extinct while many others found solace in the embrace of other banks.

He did not spare the National Assembly, as they clashed over its budgetary spending of 25% of all government revenue. He also rejected the International Monetary Fund insistence for a currency devaluation, advising the government on the removal of the fuel subsidy, which he argued engendered a culture of high level corruption and economic inefficiency. This, probably was the harbinger of the Occupy Nigeria movement, which called for his resignation.

Earlier in December 2013, he had exposed NNPC’s history of financial irregularities and as an agency that oversees the corrupt petroleum industry in Nigeria through a leaked letter to President Goodluck Jonathan. His outspoken stance earned him a suspension in February 2014.

Much his reforms were drawing criticisms, a great number of industry buffs understood his good intentions. On of them is The Banker magazine, which recognised him as the 2010 Central Bank Governor of the Year. He will go down in history as one administrator, who pacified the overtly corrupt banking industry. He was also recognised at the 2013 World Economic Forum, where he delivered a speech.

In 2014, he succeeded his grand-uncle, Ado Bayero to the throne, as the fifty-seventh monarch of the ancient-city Kano, and spent most of his reign advocating for cultural reform in Northern Nigeria, until he was dethroned on March 9, 2020 by the government of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, and sent to exile to Nasarawa State. His removal, many have argued, was not unconnected to his outspoken nature and criticisms of powers that be after many persecutions that came in various guises. In his usual magnanimity, he accepted his dethronement as a divine act and urged his supporters to remain calm and avoid bloodshed. He removed to challenge his dethronement, and moved on.

He received two appointments Governor Nasir El-Rufai in Kaduna State as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency and Chancellor of the Kaduna State University. Today, he is a prominent traditional and religious figure as the leader of the Tijaniyyah Sufi order in Nigeria, the second largest Sufi order after the Qadiriyya Sufi order, appointed in May 2020

Among many other of his humanitarian and intellectual honours are:

  • Independent Non-Executive Director, MTN Group
  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Advocate
  • Chairman of Babban Gona, a private agricultural initiative helping rural farmers
  • Chairman of Black Rhino, a Sub-Saharan Africa infrastructure fund of The Blackstone Group
  • Chairman of the Advisory Board of 1 Million Teachers, a non-governmental education organization

In six years as the Emir, Sanusi showed forth the stuff that made him a distinguished administrator, overseeing the drafting of a new Muslim family law, construction of a 40,000 books library and vernacular modernization of the 15th century palace took place, and international promotion of Durbar festival among many other developmental strides.

Sanusi is currently undergoing a one-year academic fellowship at the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre, and is looking forward to authoring a book on his as tenure as central bank governor during the global financial crisis and two other books on a collection of his articles from 1999 to 2005; and on Muslim law and cultural practices in Northern Nigeria. He has also ruled out the possibility of entry into politics.

A strong advocate of egalitarian society, Sanusi insists on family planning to solve almajiranci, and canvasses end to child marriage, while upholding women empowerment and use of mosques for education.

Sanusi is a dotting father and an adorable husband, whose wives include Sadiya, Rakiya and Maryam. Some of his children are Ashraf, Fulani Siddika and Shahida

An Islamic intellectual, academic, political economist, banker and traditional ruler, Sanusi has seen it all. 

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