In ten days time Nigerians will be going to the polls to vote for their next president. The votes were postponed because of massive security threats from the terror group Boko Haram. Aljazeera’s Christen Amanpur hosted the former governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank who blew the whistle on Corruption in the oil industry and he was forced out.
Lamido Sanusi is now the Emir of Kano a state in the north of the country facing the Boko Haram. He is also Nigeria’s second most senior Muslim figure.
Emir Sanusi welcome to the program and thanks for joining me from Paris.
Let me start by asking you a very important question about your northern region, blighted and under assault by Boko Haram. How much of a bad thing is it that they have now allied themselves with ISIS?
The idea about Boko Haram and ISIS is frightening, partly because these are groups that represent lunatic fringes in Islam and who are very ruthless. We have had more than six years of Boko Haram with about 15,000 people dead. The prospects of their getting financial support and military logistics support from a group as ISIS basically frightens all of us. However there is progress made in Nigeria now in getting territory back from Boko Haram and in a sense it reflects a weakness and the fact that they have been pushed back and the ISIS has been pushed back in Tikrit may actually account for some of those declarations.
Would you take hope in this development; who is pushing Boko Haram back in the north there?
At the moment it is largely international armies from Chad, from Niger, from Cameroun in the North East and the Nigerian army and we hear that there are mercenaries from South Africa. Unfortunately we are paying the price for passivity in the last six years. This is something that should have happened many years ago. But in the last six weeks there have been progress and we must encourage the state to protect lives and properties.
You yourself have had your own life threatened because of the way you spoke out against Boko Haram. How safe are you, can you succeed in your campaign to isolate them and to bring progress to your region?
First of all, if I had a way of knowing for example that if Boko Haram took my life they would stop killing people in Nigeria I would give up my life, I have nothing to live for, I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve. I think the most important thing is for every Muslim leader to speak up and for the Muslims to let the world know that this is not Islam, for the society not to accept them and the society not to give them accommodation; for the state to protect the people to the best of its ability and for genuine grievances to be addressed. We have a very unequal society vertically and horizontally, there is a lot of poverty and there is a lot of unemployment. There are conditions that have been created that make it possible for youth to be radicalized. All of these have to be addressed at the same time. But silence and fear would not be a solution and it would not stop them from targeting leaders.
I would like to play for you a little bit of an interview that I did that is quiet close to your heart and that is corruption. I interviewed one of the opposition candidates that is Buhari who is running against President Goodluck Jonathan and this is what he said about the state of affairs in your country.
‘Insert of Buhari’s comment: There are serious citizens of this country that said, unless Nigeria kills corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.’
So from your perception Emir, will corruption kill Nigeria or is Nigeria going to kill corruption?
I think for a long time the Nigerian state has been captive to vested interests and the state has been a site for destruction of rights. I think the Nigerian political elites must recognize the fact that if this does not change the country cannot survive indefinitely. We cannot continue like this, there has to be investment in capital, there has to be investment in infrastructure, there has to be investment in power, in healthcare in education. The state cannot just exist to make some few people rich. Corruption is an old story in Nigeria the perception has always been bad. I don’t think it helped matters by being in denial. I have spoken a lot about this in the past; I don’t want to say too much because we are too close to the elections and I don’t want to be accused of getting into politics. But General Buhari is right we need to do something about corruption if the country is to survive.
Well you are pretty quiet uniquely positioned to speak about it after all you were ousted from your position as governor of the Central Bank because of the exposé on mismanagement of the National Petroleum Corporation apparently misappropriating according to you $20 billion in public funds. You know, these are not peanuts; this is whole scale thievery that obviously affects the development of your country and your people. Is there any hope that this will change after an election?
My position in the Central Bank is always that there is this gap after reconciliation between what the NNPC exported and what it deposits in the federation account. I have raised a number of issues that I think have not been discussed and addressed efficiently. One of them is billions of Dollars being paid in Kerosene subsidies without appropriation by the national assembly and against the presidential order and we don’t know who authorized these payments and nobody has owned up to say he made the authorization and it was a mistake. I think those issues need to be addressed and until we address them and begin to close all the loopholes in government revenue, we are going to continue to create opportunity for extraction of rents and for the destruction of the economy. It could be 20 billion at the end of the day after reconciliation they could have counted 10 or 12 but what I do know is these issues reflect unconstitutional and illegal withholding of revenue from the federation account. The county is paying the price today as the oil price has crashed, the currency has been devalued and the stock market has collapsed and government revenues are in very bad shape. Whoever wins, this government or the opposition would have to deal with these issues as the petroleum sector is a major train on the resources of the country and this has to be looked at.
Do you think there is assent that either this government, or another government that cares about the north will do something to empower their lives so that it doesn’t become the recruiting tool for Boko Haram going forward?
I think what we need is to have federal, state and local government focus on the welfare of the people, focus in growing an economy that will create jobs and understand that there is a very strong connection between economic deprivation and political violence. Many of these things are not just crazy brain ideas, they are borne out of political calculations to change economic conditions and create opportunities for some people and are also borne out of the huge inequalities that we see between the rich and the poor and the multiple of regions of the county. I think whoever is in the Federal Government must realize that if these reasons are not addressed, he is going to find it very very difficult to govern.
Amanpour: Huge challenges ahead Emir of Kano Sanusi, Thank you very much for joining me.
Emir Sanusi: Thank you very much Chretien