Godwin Emefiele: Throwing caution to the wind

df cbn governor emefiele x
df cbn governor emefiele x

“Many men have been capable of doing a wise thing, more a cunning thing, but very few a generous thing.” 

—Alexander Pope

By Cosmas Omegoh

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Until lately, there was a certain veil of glory on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele. But he seems to have shed that veil himself – following his ill-fated presidential bid – but replacing it with a garb of controversy.   

Now, so much about the CBN helmsman seems to be coming out in the open. Everything looks like the year 2022 and the month of May conspired against him, each revealing and redefining his ways.  

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Since the beginning of 2022, Emefiele’s rumoured presidential ambition has been in the front burner, sending shock waves across the land. It began to generate more interest when his campaign posters started flooding cities across the country. That had not happened before. Every CBN governor is supposed to be apolitical, so says the CBN Act. But Emefiele or his unseen agents wanted the narrative brutally changed.

Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, among many critics, called his move “a joke taken too far.” Many others have been left wondering where Emefiele’s effrontery was coming from.    

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But give it to Emefiele. He is eminently qualified to run for president. He has the requisite knowledge and intellectual bent.  

But those who are in position to know insisted that the CBN Act restrained its sitting governor from being a card-carrying member of any political party. Therefore, for Emefiele to aspire for an elective office is well out of the mark and that was why his decision to forge ahead generated so much furore.

Analysts are united in affirming that as a government appointee, Emefiele can only be seen and not be heard. They cited the conduct of governors of the bank before him during the military and even the current civilian era as examples. Only their signatures were seen on the country’s currency notes. They were busy strengthening the Naira and the economy. Politics was not their forth.  

But sometime in March, Emefiele issued a denial of his presidential bid in a tweet using the hashtag #NoDistractionsPlease, assuring that he was focused on fighting inflation and helping President Buhari to “finish strong.”

However, those who went to town with Emefiele’s assurance were sent the wrong way, as soon, indications began to appear forcefully that the CBN boss had his eyes on the top job. But that did not resonate well with many who listened to him. How would a man wishing to throw his hat into the ring to liberate Nigeria from the current comatose state be that undecided, they reasoned.

When it emerged that some rice farmers and friends teamed up to table N100 million to buy the APC expression of interest and nomination form for Emefiele, a cloud of doubt descended.

In all of this, Emefiele continued to live in denial. Even in a tweet he released on his verified Twitter handle, @GodwinIEmefiele, he declared among other things: “I have not come to that decision.”

He, however, thanked the groups for their generosity, saying that he would buy the form by himself if ever he would run for president. 

Waxing religious, he maintained that the presidency “is a serious decision that requires God’s divine intervention. In the next few days, the Almighty will so direct.”

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But while everyone had gone to sleep, Emefiele played the smart Nigerian politician, even though no one knew him to be one. On May 10, 2022, he confirmed his bid for the presidency when he brought an ex-parte motion before a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking a concession to remain in office 30 days to the election. His plea which was turned down by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, sent many reacting.

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Not only that, Emefiele had approached a Delta State High Court sitting in Kwale and also praying it to discharge an order restraining the board of CBN from initiating a process to remove him from office.

Many who follow his trajectory did not cease to wonder what the Delta-born banker was truly up to.  

Meanwhile, his now-clear partisan persuasion forced INEC to review its long-standing pack of keeping sensitive materials with the CBN. Since the apex bank’s boss is now involved, its materials are no longer safe in it vaults, the commission reasoned.   

Just when Nigerians were struggling to make sense out of the unfolding high drama, Emefiele while on a visit to the Presidential Villa to clarify President Buhari’s circular ordering all government appointees seeking elective office to resign, Emefiele showed Nigerians a bit more of himself. Asked to allay the people’s anxiety over his presidential bid, he released a bombshell: “Let them have a heart attack. “It is good to have a heart attack. I am having a lot of fun.”

Instantly, this seeming demeanour of arrogance drew the ire of the people. Now, they are calling for his skin, their voices rising highly. They are waiting to see if that will happen.  

But while many biker over Emefiele and his hullabaloo, Forbes New York rose to honour him with the Forbes Best of Africa Lifetime Achievement Award. It said the honour was in respect of his remarkable performance and pace-setting achievements at the CBN.

Indeed, Emefiele has been an astute commercial banker. Prior to becoming governor of CBN in 2014, he sustained the profitability culture and upward drive of the Zenith Bank Plc as its chief executive officer.

But many will argue that Emefiele’s shining success story stops at that point. His presidential bid which seems to have crashed to earth, had exposed him as a man of a certain hew – everything pointing to why the economy and the Naira are both on a cliffhanger.  

Not long after Emefiele was appointed governor of the CBN in 2014, the economy began to wobble. The Naira under his watch continued to sputter down the road. From N187 it exchanged with the US dollar in 2015, it had unrestrainedly suffered unspeakable harm, it’s free fall precipitous, and calamitous.

Today, grossly unsure of itself, the Naira exchange regime never stays steady for two straight days. It keeps changing, and drifting like a ship that lost its rudder, hovering around N600 per US dollar threshold under Emefiele’s command.

Heading into his eight year at the top of the CBN’s pecking order, Emefiele’s brightest achievement could be with the Anchor Borrowers scheme which saw the CBN supporting rice growers most in Kebbi State with tons of cash.

Acolytes of the programme insisted that it caused a rice revolution in the country. And only recently, a rice pyramid said to be a fallout of the programme was mounted in Abuja. The show ended in criticism as many who saw through it maintained it was all government magic.

Emefiele a seasoned banker and lecturer,  was born on August 4, 1961 in Lagos. He hails from Agbor in Ika South LGA, Delta State

He attended Ansar Udeen Primary School and Maryland Comprehensive Secondary both in Lagos, before proceeding to University of Nigerian,  Nsukka, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Banking and Finance, in 1984, and a Masters degree in Finance, in 1986.

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