No doubt, President Muhammadu Buhari bears, like a badge, an indecipherable flame of affection for the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele. Honestly, his love for Emefiele resonates, even as you read, as a melody of faith whose mutuality and passionate intensity appear to make it untarnished and priceless.
Of course, this can, however, be attributed to Emefiele’s undisguised passion for Nigeria and Nigerians.
There is no gainsaying that the Delta State-born banker has lived a remarkable and eventful life. Despite rising from humble beginnings to assume leadership of the nation’s apex banking institution, he has remained humble and uncompromising of his values. He has maintained a culture of unflinching uprightness and unwavering commitment to the collective good and has remained a staunch patriot and advocate of the common man. This, among others, guarantees his place in the pantheon of Nigeria’s finest citizens.
But, rumour is that alchemy of quiet malice by which mischief-makers concoct a subtle poison from ordinary trifles. No wonder why the CBN governor is perplexed that his name is now being thrown up as a possible candidate in the 2023 presidential election.
For the past few days, there had been a groundswell of speculations that some of Nigeria’s most powerful and wealthiest businessmen and governors within the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are pushing for the candidacy of a neutral south-south person, preferably, a technocrat in the 2023 Presidential election. This powerful coalition reportedly met in Abuja and Lagos days apart to decide on a president who understands the ease of doing business, the plight of the private sector, and the undercurrents of international business in the 21st Century.
The CBN governor was unanimously pinpointed as the ideal man. One of the reasons reportedly being adduced for his choice is that he is eminently qualified for the top job especially as agitations for a candidate of South-south extraction continue to gather traction.
Though a Delta Igbo, Emefiele speaks Yoruba fluently. Before his banking career, he was a lecturer in Finance and Insurance in two Nigerian Universities. He holds degrees in Banking and Finance from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and is also an alumnus of Stanford University, Harvard, and Wharton Graduate Schools of Business where he took courses in Negotiation, Service Excellence, Critical Thinking, Leading Change, and Strategy. Before joining the CBN, he spent over 26 years in commercial banking culminating in his tenure as Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank PLC, one of Nigeria’s largest banks.
He is also regarded as a child of destiny because he did not lobby for his elevation as Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank. Neither did he lobby the PDP government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, which appointed him CBN governor in 2014. Interestingly, despite being a PDP appointee, he was retained by the new APC government of President Buhari. To underscore how much confidence the president reposes in him, he reappointed Emefiele for a second term of five years as CBN governor in May 2019.
Sources close to the president said he appreciates Emefiele for helping Nigeria to experience stable monetary policies, even as it did not witness any crude oil windfall, which is the backbone of the economy. Conversely, the oil price volatility impacted not only the country’s revenue base, but the inflow of foreign exchange (forex), stoking currency depreciation, system arbitrage, and consequent policy measures, leading to calls for the devaluation of the naira.
The CBN governor’s ability to hold on to his belief in the economy and not allow the ship to sink on his watch may have also earned him the second term. Also, through his monetary policies and even interventions in fiscal issues over the past seven years, Emefiele has insisted that the country still holds a high return on investment with huge opportunities given its over the 200-million-people market.
Emefiele oversaw Nigeria’s widely acclaimed response to plummeting oil prices, spiraling inflation, significant exchange rate pressures, sharp fall in forex inflows, delisting of Nigeria from the JP Morgan Bond Index, normalisation of U.S. monetary policy, geopolitical tensions amongst global superpowers, and overall uncertainty after the change of administration in 2015.
Indeed, the stability he brought into the system has been attributed to his innovative Investors and Exporters Window worth $25 billion, which liberalised official transactions of forex, as well as the directive to banks to sell forex to customers over the counter for basic travel allowance (BTA) and medical and education bills.
Beyond forex stability, which saw massive accretion in Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves from about $23 billion in October 2016 to nearly $48 billion in June 2018, Emefiele’spolicies also significantly helped Nigeria achieve a fast recovery from recession, which was caused by sharp and sustained oil price declines from 2015 through 2017.
In the area of fiscal interventions, the CBN governor sustained large-scale financing of agriculture through the innovative Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which has disbursed hundreds of billions of naira in small loans to hundreds of thousands of peasant farmers, thereby creating millions of jobs across the country. As evidence of the new discipline through tight monetary policies, his tenure has witnessed unprecedented profits in the banking industry, with GT Bank and Zenith Bank leading the way with record performances.
With all these, Emefiele succeeded in facilitating major improvement in Nigeria’s ranking on the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators through the creation of the collateral registry and credit reference bureaus.
This record of achievements is why the coalition believes that Emefiele is eminently qualified to succeed President Buhari and steer the ship of state aright.
However, sources close to the CBN governor say emphatically that he is not interested in the top job. Rather, he is content seeing through his term and enthroning a Central Bank that is professional, apolitical, and people-focused.
Governor Emefiele, according to sources very close to him, has neither privately or publicly expressed interest or desire to contest for any election. Going by the highlighted fact, a powerful source maintained that, “If the records must be set straight, the Governor that I know is one straightforward individual who does not shy away from taking responsibility for his intentions or actions.
“Consequently, if he is interested in contesting, by now, he would have appropriately put the issue in the public domain without having to cut corners.”
Emefiele, he stressed, by virtue of his antecedents and pedigree is eminently qualified to run in 2023
“Nevertheless, a popular adage says that you cannot shave a man’s hair in his absence. Therefore, if and when he decides to throw his hat into the ring, the good people of Nigerians will be adequately put in the picture.