Central Bank as victim of its governor – Part 2
Reportedly a card carrying member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Emefiele’s supporters, including an association of farmers indebted to the CBN, had raised the N100 million required to obtain the relevant expression of interest forms. He waited for them to get that done only to say he would prefer to fund his presidential aspiration from his own resources. To that extent he sounded respectable: anyone too impecunious to pay for his nomination form, even though the fee is morally outrageous, should have no business seeking the high office of president.
Emefiele’s dabble into politics attracted wide and loud public condemnation because, by the specific ‘objects’ of the CBN as spelt out in Section 2 of its enabling law, the institution is supposed to be a perennial institution with a mandate to serve the highest national interest, irrespective of political party in power. Both the institution and its head must be apolitical. Former Deputy-Governor of the CBN, Kingsley Moghalu considered it ‘a violation of ethics, morals, and the law’; Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), cited the Public Service Rules, the CBN Act, and the 1999 Constitution to express ‘the oddity inherent in (Emefiele’s) brash exercise of presumed right to associate’ and warned that ‘‘this act, if unchecked, timeously, portends great danger to the fragile economy.’’ He asked the CBN governor to either abandon his aspiration or resign from his job to pursue it. Former Finance Minister, Chief Olu Falae, spoke of the CBN dabbling in retail banking as ‘financial heresy.’
In response to the strident condemnation of his ambition that, as many said, violated his professional role within the economic sector, as the ethics of his position as a regulator and compromised his organisation’s role as custodian of sensitive national assets, Emefiele confirmed more or less, his interest by filing through his lawyers, a four-page suit seeking immediate judicial approval for his ambition ‘‘to seek election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and participate as a candidate in the upcoming 2003 presidential election.’’ The court denied him the hasty request pending the appearance of INEC and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
On May 12, the ‘aspirant’ visited President Buhari and came out with the somewhat cocky message to news hungry reporters that ‘‘there is no news but there will be news.’’ But he added his wish for plenty of heart attack for whosoever wanted him out of his post. ‘I’m having fun at the scenario. Let them have heart attack. It’s good to have attack…’ he reportedly boasted. Following his visit to Aso Rock, he has withdrawn his suit and is sitting pretty at his post.
There are lessons to draw from the CBN governor’s foray into politics. First, it speaks volumes about the quality of his association that ‘Friends of Emefiele’ did not think anything improper with his vying political office while on his sensitive seat. Second, Emefiele began by appearing to have been one pressed into service, not his will, but the will of his ‘friends’, supporters and debtors. By going as far as seeking judicial intervention, he turned out to be one who was involved in the pursuit. The subterfuge does not stand him in good stead at all; it is a dent on his trustworthiness. And this is intolerable for a man in such high and sensitive position.
Emefiele’s record as governor of the CBN is not at all impressive enough to even qualify him for higher office. The 61 year old banker was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan on June 4, 2014. The exchange rate was N162.45 to the U.S. dollar. By the end of December of 2014, the naira had moved down to about N183. By the end of his first five-year tenure in 2019, the average exchange rate for the year was about N360 to the dollar. In the month of May 2022 when the governor aspired to be president of Nigeria, the naira to dollar under his watch had fallen to N415.8 officially and between N570 and N603 in the parallel market. The early June 2022 figures are even worse.
The inflation rate averaged 8 per cent in 2014; now it has doubled to nearly 17 per cent under the management of Emefiele.
With such dismal performance, Emefiele has failed to, as enjoined in Section 2(d) of the CBN Act, ‘promote a sound financial system in Nigeria…’ Who then would entrust this governor with greater responsibility if not only self-seeking persons and groups.
But most of all, Emefiele’s inappropriately pursued aspiration has, as explained above, dragged the CBN into disgrace. His continued stay at the helm of the CBN is unconscionable on his part and on the part of his appointer. It is also a reputational burden on the CBN.
By virtue of glaring breaches of the relevant sections of extant laws of the land, as well as unethical conduct, Emefiele should honourably resign or be dishonourably removed from office by the President.