Emefiele: Why not?

Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

By Abdulkadir Kabiru

On Monday, February 14, Daily Trust’s e-paper cover read: “2023: Moves to Draft in Emefiele Thicken.” The newspaper claimed that efforts were being made by the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) big wigs, “including some officials in the presidency”, to throw Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele into the 2023 presidential race.

As the headline of the story suggests, the connection between the CBN governor’s name and 2023 was not exclusively made by the newspaper in that publication. In the past few weeks, Emefiele’s name has popped up in the hot race for 2023. The addition of Emefiele to the long list of perpetual, definite, would-be and wannabe candidates for the 2023 presidential election has stimulated heated debates on both sides of the aisle; among those who the suggestion of a potential Emefiele presidency excites and those who question the audacity of the CBN governor to even dream of 2023.

Emefiele has not given any hint – officially or otherwise – about running for the highest office in the land. He is, in fact and expectedly so, not known to be a card-carrying member of any political party. The apex bank’s spokesperson, Osita Nwasinobi, has dismissed the report and urged politicians not to distract his principal. Therefore, the energy his antagonists have already dedicated to and expended on killing the idea of him running for office before the plan itself is hatched is both premature and misplaced.

Daily Trust quoted one of such adversaries as a senator who told the newspaper that, “They are doing this because of their interest and it will not fly because you cannot exonerate him from the poor management of the country’s economy. Don’t be deceived,” Trust quoted the lawmaker to have said.

However, two altars where Emefiele’s head cannot be sacrificed on a platter are qualification and competence.

As a Nigerian, the CBN governor has the inalienable right to seek political office and in terms of competence, his record is there for all to see.

More importantly, have the merchants of “it will not fly” asked themselves why President Muhammadu Buhari kept faith in Emefiele in the first place? Buhari’s team realised that Nigeria’s recession was as a result of three serious and simultaneous global economic shocks which began around the third quarter of 2014: the drastic and sudden drop in the price of crude, which contributes the largest share of the nation’s foreign exchange reserve; tensions along critical trading routes, such as the USA versus Russia, Saudi Arabia versus Iran, etc; and the normalisation of monetary policy by the United States’ Federal Reserve.

Since there was no superhero or magic wand anywhere to just blow the economic realities of 2015 away, Buhari opted for someone who would be bold enough to take far-reaching decisions, with his thinking cap far outside the box.

Emefiele as CBN governor has been brave, creative and unorthodox in steadying the Nigerian economy. Emefiele understood early that Nigeria, like many developing countries, didn’t have the luxury of certain macroeconomic fundamentals and conditions for the CBN to be strictly fixated on price stability. Instead, he created a bespoke sustainability and growth path untraditional yet effective. From the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which has boosted local production of agricultural products, created jobs and saved Nigeria much needed foreign exchange, to policies on financial inclusion, payment systems and interventions in critical sectors, to cutting excessive importation as a foreign exchange policy measure, Emefiele has risen above and traversed the competence and qualification debates.

For decades, Emefiele is the first CBN governor to get two terms and one of the very few to serve two different administrations which were voted into office under different political platforms. He has been in the eye of the storm for so much time and has demonstrated preparedness, knowledge and ability to think outside the box. None of the current perpetual, definite, would-be and wannabe aspirants can flaunt their scars from many persistent battles to keep the country afloat the way Emefiele can!

But for the current CBN governor’s courageous interventions, naysayers wouldn’t have been discussing what 2023 portends; they would have been bearing the economic consequences of what would have been, with Venezuela as a case in point.

So, if Emefiele decides to throw his hat in the 2023 presidential ring, why not?

Kabir wrote in from Kaduna.