Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rueben's soliloquy

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Rueben's soliloquy

By Reuben Abati

"The only option left for Soludo, the Central Bank Governor now is to resign and take his exit. It is the honourable thing to do."

"This is Nigeria, my friend. It is not that easy. And why should he resign, just because the Attorney General says he does not know the law? Soludo is not a lawyer. So, if he didn't interpret Section 19 of the CBN Act correctly, well, he is not a lawyer."

"You know this is precisely the problem with us in this country. We can rationalize anything. We are ever so capable of leaving the road and heading for the bush even when the road is so clear. What the Federal Government has done is to put Soludo in his place. Short of calling him names, they have just told him where the power lies in government. The CBN does not exist in a vacuum. And you don't treat the President of the country shabbily and still expect to remain in government. He should go now before they kick him out."

"To tell the truth, I think the man asked for what he got. He shot himself in the foot by announcing such a major national policy above the head of the President. It is not done."

"If I were President Yar'Adua, I would have fired him immediately for gross insubordination, effrontery and contempt."

"But that is what has been done. They are just waiting for him to take the cue."

"Did you see how the Attorney-General of the Federation was sounding on television? He was sounding as if he was the Supreme Court making final pronouncements on CBN authority."

"It is actually his job to state the position of the law."

"But he was doing it with such braggadocio. If you give that Aondokaa too much power, I swear he will over-use it."

"When a man is out of favour in the corridors of power, anything can happen to him. Even our friend, Segun Adeniyi referred to CBN autonomy on which the CBN Governor based his actions as so-called autonomy"

"You know what I think? I think they were all expressing the mind of the President. They must have attended meetings where Soludo was called all kinds of names. If the guy refuses to resign and stays on as CBN Governor, he should be prepared for real shabby treatment."

"His tenure actually ends in June 2008"

"You mean it? So why was he introducing a policy that would start in August 2008. Ha ha. He was scheming for an extension of his tenure? Come to think of it. But if that was the motivation for coming up with the new Naira policy, the thing has back-fired big time. He should just go because if he doesn't, they will turn him into yeye, they will do him shege."

"The CBN spokesman has said that the Federal Government's allegation is not true. That the CBN actually consulted the Presidency"

"Was the spokesman speaking for himself or for Soludo?"

"He is a spokesman. He can only speak for his boss."

"You mean Soludo is calling President Yar'Adua a liar? Oh, my God. What kind of government are these people running? The AGF was categorical in saying that nobody consulted the President, and that he did not give any approval for the removal of two zeros from the Naira, the shifting of decimals in the national currency and the conversion of N100, 000 to N1, 000 and all that. Then, the CBN spokesman stands up to say: that is a lie. I think that is something serious."

"No. They didn't call the President a liar. They just talked back, to set the records straight."

"That is even a worse offence."

"But you know the CBN can actually go to court to seek a proper interpretation of Section 19 of the CBN Act which the Attorney General of the Federation was quoting. If Soludo wishes, he can force the issue and insist on a judicial interpretation of CBN autonomy within the purview of the CBN Act of 2007."

"And what would that be in aid of? Heroism? Foolishness? Look, I like the man; I will not advise him to do anything foolish. I have not seen the CBN Act, but the Section 19 that was quoted by the Attorney General is explicit enough. It says you cannot change Nigeria's currency except with the approval of the President. And that approval must be in writing. If Soludo has such a letter, let him produce it."

"But still I don't think he should resign. He should just hang in there and wait till his tenure expires."

"The unfortunate thing is that the only thing people will now remember about him is this Naira policy blunder."

"May be not. After all, the Federal Government says the policy has only been suspended. They may still get round to it. It is a suspension not a cancellation."

"It is in fact neither a suspension nor a cancellation. I will use the word dismissal, outright rejection. You people like to force things. Look at it carefully. The Economic Management Team was just getting ready to consider the policy when this legal bombshell was dropped. And Soludo was not even included in the Economic Management Team."

"There are two persons from the CBN in that team"

"Where is the CBN Governor? That is the point. And the Minister of Finance who has been playing Mr Innocent in all of this dropped the word that the Economic Team had to be re-organised because some former members were not contributing ideas at meetings. Who could he be referring to? If nobody was contributing ideas, could it ever be Soludo or Ribadu who were both dropped from the reconstituted team?"

"Politics. Raw politics. We are focusing on politics, instead of the idea of revaluation and the need to fix the Naira to save Nigeria. I would have preferred a battle of ideas, not this ego conflict."

"Soludo asked for it. He got it. He was the one who threw a stone at the President and the Federal Government, This is a classic study in the failure of tact and diplomacy. There is nothing to examine again. Forget it. In any case, who wants to go about spending coins and small denominations. The thing is not even working in Ghana where they copied it from."

"So you really think Soludo should resign?"

"It is up to him. You know many Nigerians can survive under any weather. But I think this is about principles. A man should be able to stand up for something."

"But if he resigns now, he could be accused of arrogance, walking out on the President. Then, they can come up with all kinds of allegations. They could say he renovated some CBN buildings with too much money or collected too many estacodes. You know how bad people are. They will just look for a way to tarnish his image. But if he lies low and eats the humble pie, that may be a better survival strategy."

"It is his decision really. After all, we are just talking. If the man likes he can go and collect all the traditional rulers in the East and ask them to go and beg Yar'Adua on his behalf. He can kneel down before Yar'Adua and say 'I am sorry sir'. And all Ezes and Obis in council would tell Yar'Adua 'forgive him sir, he is your son'. That is one strategy. Classic Nigerian strategy of survival"

"We can advise him"

"When did that become our kettle of tea, really? And what was that thing you were saying about spending too much money on the renovation of buildings. Look if anybody spends public funds on unreasonable renovation, such a person should be sanctioned. And I have the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh in mind as I say this."

"You know the woman is in trouble."

"She approved over N628 million to renovate her house and that of the Deputy Speaker. Then she and her supporters have since turned around to say sorry oh, it is only N238 million"

"Another person defending the Speaker says it is N232 million only. There is so much mealy-mouthing going on, you are actually convinced that they are trying to cover up something. The initial report was that N232 million was spent on the Deputy Speaker's House, N238 million on the Speaker's House and then another N117 million was used to buy vehicles for their Royal Honourables"

"Whether it is N232 million oh or N238 million oh, my view is that the thing is outrageous and shameful. That money is enough to start a new town. To think that they have spent that much on the same buildings which were renovated only in 2003 stinks to high heavens"

"The Speaker's spokespersons say she is being hounded because some people who wanted juicy committee positions did not get them when the House set up its committees."

"I don't see how that explains the profligacy. And do you mean the Nigerian House of Representatives officially classifies some committees as juicy and some as unprofitable? What are they doing in that House of Representatives? Trading? Stealing? Over N200 million on the mere renovation of houses, for God's sake, what are they renovating? Did they pull down the buildings completely?"

"No. According to Eziuche Ubani, the money was spent on perimeter fencing, outside works and furnishings."

"Over N200 million to erect ordinary fence, plant flowers and buy chairs?"

"I hear everything was imported"


"And that the job was given to local contractors"

"If the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker know what is good for them, they will resign immediately."

"They don't intend to do so. They will probably arrange juicy positions for their aggrieved colleagues and that will be the end of the story."

"No, Then the public must continue to protest. The Nigerian Labour Congress has already called for a probe of this renovation scandal. That probe must be thorough. The public must be given a complete list of what was bought, who supplied the blocks and the flowers that they used and at what rate, how many bags of cement went into the renovation and where the furniture came from, the names of the contractors and so on. Look, I know someone who could have renovated those buildings with less than N10 million."

"Oh come on. Don't spoil this conversation. This is not the kind of project for which you engage Baba Mukaila the bricklayer or Kashi, the plumber. We are talking about the official residence of the leadership of the House of Representatives, please."

"And is that why they should empty the Central Bank? Would they spend that much if they were building their own homes? Let us be realistic. These guys are not interested in service. They just want to get rich at public expense."

"Please. Madam Speaker's mother has asked Nigerians to leave her daughter alone."

"Where did you get that from?"

"I read the story in the Punch".

"Really, and what did her father tell us to do? And her husband?"

"It was one of her uncles who also spoke. He said we should stop disturbing her, because she is in politics to help her community"

"Oh, poor woman! You know what I think? Patricia Etteh should have stayed back in Ikire after completing her secondary school education there and she would not have been exposed to this kind of embarrassment. She would have been at peace in Ikire roasting and selling Dodo Ikire, that specially prepared, tasty plantain chips for which that town is known."

"You are a mean guy"

"And a hairdressing salon beside her Dodo Ikire shop and we useless Nigerians would have left her alone except when our long throats take us to her doorstep."

"You think she will be impeached?"

"To start with, she and her Deputy must refund money to government. And the EFCC should be invited to take a look at the expenditures. Nonsense and ingredient."

"You know sometimes I pity President Yar'Adua. Soon it will be 100 days since he assumed office, but his government has been busy cancelling this, reversing that, generally trying to clean up the mess."

"And creating a little of its own. Don't forget to add that"


"The flip-flop over the powers of the EFCC, for example. And then the suspension of the import duty waivers list."

"The import duty waiver suspension is a good thing. It had become under the Obasanjo government, a veritable vehicle for corruption. That is the mess they want to clean up."

"I know. But my fear is that this may be a policy that is targeted at some persons. You can't make policies just to deal with some people. It is a risky thing to do"

"Which persons are you talking about? I would in fact ask for a probe, heads should roll in the Customs Department and whoever has cheated the country should be sanctioned."

"These things are not that straightforward, you know. Certain categories of imports should enjoy import waivers, in order to assist local producers. A blanket suspension could cause hardship in the industries and the cost would be passed on to the consumer. This is my point really."

"Go and tell them."

"Go and tell who? Don't they read newspapers?'

"Candidly, I wouldn't know if Yar'Adua reads Nigerian newspapers. He probably doesn't. He "

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