When Godwin Emefiele assumed office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in June 2014, I knew before he rolled out his priority areas that his tenure as governor would be crisis-filled.
I was sure that the prolonged underground game of wits to, first unseat his immediate predecessor, Lamido Sanusi, and then shop for a ‘controllable’ governor could only give birth to a negatively micro-managed apex bank.
Shortly before his name was announced, when insiders were sure that he had been favoured out of the pack of possible candidates being speculated across informed quarters, I did some quick checks among his close colleagues in the banking sector and found one comment constant – Emefiele, though brilliant in his own rights, is not the right candidate to manage the Nigerian central bank at this critical time.
Though I did not think that there were particularly super contenders (many of the circulated names were already compromised at the time), I was almost sure that Emefiele could not deliver that growth-oriented, autonomous CBN that the country badly needed.
The former Zenith Bank boss was appointed in the thick of the Sanusi- Jonathan face-off, which saw to the exit of the current Emir of Kano from his esteemed office at the apex bank. Put aside the twilight revelations by the Financial Reporting Council about some gross misappropriations under Sanusi as governor, the crux of the matter was the latter’s daring confrontation with the Jonathan government over the controversial missing $20 billion oil money. For that administration, and to many of its apologists, it was unthinkable that an appointed government official would take his employers through the kind of global ridicule that the revelation caused. Till date, no one has been able to say that he was wrong even though some wizards in the Jonathan cabinet cleverly dug a deep pit, which eventually thinned out the massive support for Sanusi’s previously celebrated patriotic cause.
After seeing the end of a very bad enemy at a very crucial period, therefore, it was natural for the ruling government to avoid being beaten twice. It was expected that the previous administration would look thrice before leaping into a CBN era that would play a prominent role, at least in its last-minute struggle to undertake money-gulping projects that would ensure a PDP return.
This said, even if the smartest Nigerian had been favoured at this time, he would probably still have seen his appointment as some kind of rare favour, which must be compensated. Why then are Nigerians crying foul now that the $2.1billion armsgate mud has splashed right in the face of the CBN governor? Why are economic watchers surprised that the Nigerian economy seems worst hit by the effects of the greatest slide in global oil prices in more than a decade? Why do we think macroeconomic or exchange rate maladies seem to be defying all agelong treatments? Just why have people refused to see that power may need to change hands at the CBN if we must survive these challenging times?
In all fairness to Emefiele, he was called to serve at a time anyone, who preferred his name to gold would say ‘no’. But his ‘boxed’ finance background did not also help matters. The apex bank governor, who holds a B.Sc and MBA in Finance from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was, until his apppointment, the Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc. In all his 26 years’ sojourn in the banking sector, and having been part of the Zenith Bank’s management team since inception, he had only been involved in strict banking matters. He would, therefore, have needed quality time to study the vagaries of the macroeconomic scenes of a problematic country like Nigeria before taking this important assignment.
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