Wednesday, March 11, 2020 6:00 pm
By Adebayo Lamikanra
A few years ago when a young and clearly impatient young man was installed as the chief of the Central Bank or more appropriately, the Emir of the Central Bank, I wrote an opinion piece which was published in the Guardian. I have, in my time published a few hundred such pieces in the Guardian but for reasons unknown to me, apart from Wake me up in the year 2000, this article, A dangerous man at the Central Bank remains arguably the most widely acclaimed of all my articles. One young man from Onitsha was so entranced by it that he wrote me a letter to acquaint me with the fact that on the strength of that opinion piece, he had decided to study English at Ife for the simple reason that I plied my trade as lecturer in that institution and the fact that I was not remotely connected to his proposed course of study was not a deterrent but an encouragement.
My reward for writing what he described as a brilliant essay was that I was to make sure that he was admitted into that course. I tried all I could to satisfy my young admirer but was unfortunately not successful as competition for admission into the Department of English was very fierce and he fell a few marks short of the required score. Fortunately however, I was able to secure his admission into the Department of Modern Languages from where he emerged with a degree in German four years later. It can therefore be said that the dangerous man at the Central Bank had been unconsciously successful in securing a place at OAU for the young man from Onistsha and at least partly satisfy his ambition.
Quite unsurprisingly, the dangerous man did not last too long at the Central Bank as he was quite unceremoniously ‘suspended’ from the job before the end of his first term in office. That he was shown the way out of the Central Bank was to be expected as the young warrior strode into the hallowed corridors of the Central Bank armed with an intimidating cat o’nine tails with which he proceeded to chase the traders out of the temple, not caring whose back was lacerated in the process. Such reformers are regarded with jaundiced eyes by the powers that be at whose behest the traders existed and from whose activities they derived a great deal of profit.
For many of those who sponsored the appointment of our man in the Central Bank, his proclivity for courting danger would have been a great surprise and ultimately an acute embarrassment because he was by birth, upbringing and impeccable training, a fully paid-up member of the highest echelons of the ruling class in both the traditional and modern sense he being ahead of the queue for the throne and turban of the Emir of Kano. The lofty world inhabited by the Emir of Kano is entirely alien to me and would have existed miles beyond the limits of my imagination but for a chance encounter in 1998. That year, Nigerians pharmacists converged in Kano for their annual conference and for once being a pharmacist, I was present having traveled overnight from Ife to be present. I was preparing to join my colleagues in the conference hall when what can only be described as a commotion broke out on the premises of the conference venue. First, there were loud blasts which could only ave come out of the muzzles of well primed guns followed by louder supplements of sounds produced by the famous kakaki in the mouth of men possessed by some powerful spirits. Looking out of a convenient window I saw a carpet of grown men, some of them spread eagled on the floor in their own way of paying obeisance to the Emir of Kano who had arrived ot grace the occasion for which pharmacists had gathered in his domain. This stench of feudal subjection which the sights and sounds of this sight evoked was pervasive and too strong for my republican stomach and I stayed in my room in order not to be co-opted into those rites of the celebration of gross, if not criminal inequality.
At the time the dangerous man was wielding his whip at the Central Bank and appeared to be on the side of the plebs in words and in deeds, he was also harbouring the dream of succeeding to his feudal inheritance conferred on him by the circumstance of his birth. In other words, apart waging war on the traders, he was committing the unpardonable crime of the betrayal of his patrician class. Somewhere n the recesses of his razor sharp mind, he was no doubt struggling with the sharper contradiction of his dual heritage. And, if he wasn’t, he should have been.
The dangerous man at the CBN was in the course of time translated into the Emir’s Palace in the truly ancient city of Kano, the entrepôt for the caravans carrying the highly priced red skins of the famous Kano goats across the Sahara desert to Morocco in Medieval times. Even as Emir, he has continued to make people oriented speeches in the mode of a modern bureaucrat which indeed he once was but I doubt that he has any appreciable audience because of the encumbrances of his numerous privileges which are far beyond the scope of any common man. He is a polygamist who has nevertheless turned his brass guns on polygamy. He has access to fabulous wealth but the vast majority of his subjects who make direct and indirect contributions to his magnificence do not have two pennies to rub together. Their plight has been known, at least on one famous occasion to cause him to shed tears in public but their endemic poverty has not and many never be erased by a river of royal tears. He has chosen to wage war on beggars that infest his domain and have made a name for Kano in that a street in faraway Lagos which has become a colony for beggars is called Kano Street! Does he even know the enormity of his task in this direction? He has been known to oppose the pernicious Federal character device and such an opposition is very well in order but can he swear that he or at least others close to him have not enjoyed the fruit of this device?
The Emir has a razor sharp mind, honed to near perfection in both Western and Arabic traditions but the vast majority of his subjects do not even know their way to school and piss out their childhood on the streets, their mind vacant of any form of knowledge but hat which will give them a full belly from time to time. He knows the value of education but his occupancy of the ancient palace in Kano has reduced him to the level f a talker, a talker with great moral authority but without a shred of executive power. It is clear that he occupies the wrong mansion in the city of Kano and his purposes would be better served were he the governor of Kano State.
The age of monarchs, like that of the mighty dinosaurs is now long over and princes are beginning to go out looking for work in the manner of Prince Harry, distant heir to the throne of England who not only hitched his horses to a chariot under the control of a dusky commoner but has all but renounced his prince-ship. It is not or at least it should not be inconceivable that the mir who harbours a surprisingly liberal heart in his royal body will come over, body and soul to the side of the poor souls who kow-tow on the road side as his royal chariot drives past in a cloud of dust.
The governor’s mansion beckons. At least it should.