Godwin Emefiele is Man of The Year 2017
My man of the year is Godwin Emefiele, fondly and affectionately called ‘Meffy’ by his ever-growing list of admirers, offline and online. What a year, what a man. At the beginning of the year, his enemies gathered in the North and the South ready to devour him. Today, every single one of them has been delivered into his hand and he has crushed them to fine powder and sawdust. Some misguided and unfortunate elements even took out paid advertorials in newspapers early in the year asking him to resign. They wasted their money.
How did he do it? No one can accuse the CBN governor of being a macroeconomics mastermind, but he knows ‘the thing’. In place of a coherent economic policy, when it came to power, the APC had nothing but a vast, dark black void. All we remember from 2015 is that the President bet everything on the exchange rate – he wanted the naira to be strong and stable like Theresa May. But an economy is much more than the exchange rate to the dollar. Sensing this opportunity to fill a vacuum, the CBN governor thus stepped into the breach and filled that void. This is the secret of his legendary performance in 2017 – like it was famously said of Kissinger one time, he managed to give different people what they wanted and left each one feeling like they had ‘won’.
After much fighting and disagreement, the CBN discovered that you can have a market and the heavens will not fall. By creating a space for all the people who really needed to have a willing buyer, willing seller arrangement, the CBN governor made a big problem disappear from view. The investors and portfolio people who need to be able to bring in dollars and take it out without too much headache now have a private room in the Nigerian economy where they can do their thing. That market has settled down and the President has been given what he wants – a stable exchange rate that does not swing too wildly. Just to make sure the banks don’t play any funny dollar speculation games, the governor resurrected a deadly weapon, last seen in the days of Abacha, known as Stabilisation Securities or STABs for short.
When he felt the banks have ‘too much’ naira, he simply debits them and gives them treasury bills in exchange. That is, you must buy that market whether you like it or not. Those who did not like it were at liberty to hand in their banking licence and try their luck in Cotonou. Haters will say this is a strange way to run an economy and it is some kind of ‘wuruwuru’ to the answer, but what do they know? The important point is that the Oga at the top wants to ‘see’ a stable currency – how you arrive at it is not that important. So, the governor has satisfied the political constituency by giving it what it wants.
The other group of people who needed to be pacified with a dummy in their mouth is the Nigerian upper middle class. The governor astutely observed that these guys are essentially babies and just want to be able to travel out of Nigeria from time to time, order nice things from abroad and post all of them (the goods and the trips) on Instagram. Whether or not the actual economy catches fire and burns to the ground is secondary – of paramount importance is that they possess the necessary dollars to ‘pepper them’. Ordinarily, you’d ignore such people or shout at them to grow up, but it is impossible to do so in this case because they are fully armed to the teeth with Twitter and Facebook. If you ignore them, they will abuse you on social media and ‘heat up the polity’ which no one really wants. So, the CBN governor found a way to give them what they want, and they have since kept quiet. Their problem has been solved.
As for the rest of the economy, they have been getting regular ‘injections’ of around $190m every week or so. Whether or not this is what they want or it’s enough for them is irrelevant – the key thing is that they know what they are going to get, no more no less. It is left to them to plan their lives accordingly around that reality. Finally, hardly a day goes by now without newspapers reporting Nigeria’s reserves going up. So far it has increased by more than 40% this year since investors have been given a room to bring in their money, easing the pressure on the reserves.
The governor is rightly proceeding on a victory lap to shame his enemies over this. Scandals which would have toppled a governor in any other country have only served to confound his haters. Paradise Papers? He simply came out and said, ‘it was Jim’ and the nation acquiesced as if under a spell. How about when some people wrote bad things about him in the foreign media claiming he was printing money to fund the government? Again, like the legendary tales about ‘area fathers’ who would put ‘something’ in their mouth before addressing an angry crowd, he just said it was lent against TSA and his adversaries could not gainsay him.
The 10,000 who rose against him from his left have been converted into a decimal place. The 100,000 who massed against his governorship from his right have been scattered as far as Cameroun. A few days ago, one organisation declared him to be the greatest and most legendary CBN governor of the decade. His admirers on social media took offence at this – surely, he is not just the greatest CBN governor seen in Nigeria since Lord Lugard joined the country together 103 years ago, but the greatest in the world, period.
For all these and many more, Godwin Emefiele is my man of the year. He will surely do more in 2018. I don’t have a hat but if I did have one, I’d doff it exuberantly for him. I wish you all, dear readers, a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2018 to come.
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