By Etim Etim
In early March, I wrote an article titled ‘’Who is bankrolling Emefiele’s political campaigns?’’ In the piece I questioned the source of funding for the massive newspaper advertisements that were promoting the presidential campaign of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele. I estimated that the adverts had already gulped over N100 million and I reasoned that funding could not have been provided by rice farmers, as the advert insinuated.
I had thought that the alarm I sounded on the implications of Emefile’s political pursuit was enough to sensitise the government to act and restrain him. A few days after the article came out, online news platforms published pictures of his campaign vehicles, emblazoned with the Governor’s photograph with the caption, ‘’Emefiele for President’’.
In all this, the Governor remained largely taciturn, apart from the early days when he volunteered in a brief statement that the campaigns were funded by people he knew nothing about, and that he was not interested in the race. In my assessment, he sounded rather vacuous and hollow, but Nigerians still gave him the benefit of the doubt. Unknown to many, he was not truthful.
But the revelation over the weekend that Emefiele has spent N100 million to buy the nomination and expression of interest forms of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Presidency has alarmed many and showed clearly that the Governor has been lying through his teeth. Nigerians are no longer fooled by his cunning and stealthy moves.
Immediately the news of the purchase of the form broke, prominent and ordinary Nigerians reacted with shock. ‘’This act, if unchecked, portends great danger to the fragile economy of the country’’, said Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State in a Friday afternoon statement. He continued: ‘’The combined effect of the Public Service Rules, CBN Act and the 1999 Constitution exposes not only the oddity inherent in this brash exercise…it also confirms the illegality of the act should he proceed to submit the forms while occupying the seat as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.’’ Eminent law professor, Akin Oyebode said that Emefiele is destroying his credibility by venturing into partisan politics ‘’because the Governor of the Central Bank should be nonpartisan’’.
Ordinary Nigerians are equally horrified, with many even joking that one day the Inspector General of Police will seek a party’s nomination for the top political job. Trust Nigerians for knack for self-deprecating jokes when all else has failed. The myriads of comments in the social media highlight how appalled and dismayed ordinary folks have been by Emefiele’s action.
The CBN Governor is responsible for the various monetary policies that guide the operation of our financial system. His main job is to regulate the banking industry and ensure its soundness and stability. The awesome powers of the Governor as enshrined in the CBN Act together with the various provisions of the law were designed to provide the Bank with the requisite independence and insulate it from political interferences. It was this independence that empowered Prof. Charles Soludo to drive massive reforms of the industry between 2004 and 2006 which led to a consolidation of over 100 small banks to 25 well capitalised institutions. It was also with the same authority that Soludo’s successor at the Bank, Lamido Sanusi Lamido instituted special examinations of all the banks in 2009. The results of these stress tests led to the identification of eight unhealthy banks which were eventually sold, while others were infused with new capital. The nation was spared massive failures.
It is unfortunate that Emefiele has chosen to use his powers to pursue an ignoble political interest that is capable of destroying the financial industry and eroding citizens’ trust in our banking system. Because the CBN Governor is responsible for the soundness of our banking system, he must be seen to be objective, apolitical, non-partisan and above board in personal and official conduct. If the Governor wants to run for political office, he should resign from his position and declare his intentions publicly. To sit in his office and manipulate the system in such a dishonest manner is the most unethical behavior a Central banker has displayed in the history of our country. Emefiele must leave the bank.
To consider the ethical dilemma the CBN Governor has thrown up, let us consider a few scenarios. Since Emefiele is now an APC chieftain who wants to be President, can he be fair to a bank that is managed or owned by members or supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party? What’s the guarantee that the Governor would not come up with fraudulent schemes to favour APC members or fund the party? What if Emefiele’s political opponent is seeking a banking licence; or is a banker who is seeking the CBN’s approval for one thing or the other? Would Emefiele’s CBN consider these requests in a fair and just manner? Would he not be blinded by political considerations? What if the National Chairman of APC or any other prominent party leader, for example, asks the CBN Governor for a favour that could hurt the system, can Emefiele say no?
I am mortified that President Muhammadu Buhari has condoned Emefiele’s skullduggery for so long. The deceit, lies and cunningness inherent in his actions are below the standards expected of a senior banker. I understand that the Governor is backed by high-profile persons who are close to the corridors of power in the Villa, and they are misleading the Central Banker into believing that Buhari will eventually support his candidacy. In fact, I am told that he is being hoodwinked into believing that he is the dark horse of the presidential race who would be the consensus candidate of the APC on 30th May. In return, the Governor has provided huge financial patronage to the cabal, in addition to extending other foreign exchange-based favours to them. This cabal has made billions in profits from the arbitrage between the parallel and official foreign exchange markets. Now, they are milking the Governor dry.
I have been a banker myself and I worked closely with some chief executives in the industry. I know how circumspect, cautious and risk averse they could be. A banker is trained to ask questions, consider all sides and mitigate the risks. I have also been in politics for 10 years now, during which I have seen how desperation can drive politicians into acting in a silly manner. But I did not ever believe that a CBN Governor could be so fooled, deceived and scammed by a bunch of old, wrinkled semi-illiterate men.
This is beyond pale. I believe that Emefiele is pushed by greed, avarice and covetousness. The manner he’s gone about his campaign shows that he has no genuine intentions for the nation. He has desecrated the exalted office he occupies. The President should suspend him from office right away to save the nation from further ridicule.