is office insulates him from partisan politics. He was not known to be a politician let alone a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But on Friday Godwin Emefiele found his name trending from the ongoing sale of presidential nomination forms by the ruling party. Several newspapers reported that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had picked the N100 million form.
The reports seemed to confirm months of speculations that Mr Emefiele would throw his hat in the ring as the APC prepares for the nomination of its flag bearer for the 2023 presidential election.
In February, PREMIUM TIMES joined its voice through an editorial in calling on Mr Emefiele to speak up on the speculations or resign from his office to face his presidential ambition, if he had one. Mr Emefiele had ignored the calls, kept his lips sealed and continued to hide in plain sight on the critical issue.
Thus when the news broke that a coalition of Rice Farmers Association, Emefiele Support Group and Friends of Godwin had contributed the hefty fee and picked the form for Mr Emefiele, there were instant recriminations from different quarters. But the reactions were of anger rather than surprise.
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Itse Sagay, said he was shocked by Mr Emefiele’s decision to join the presidential race but argued that he was not breaching any law by doing so. However, many of the other commentators were more concerned by other implications than the issue of legality pointed out by the constitutional lawyer.
“Resign or be sacked”
etting the tone, Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who is a member of the APC and Chairman of the multi-party Southern Governors Forum, warned that Mr Emefiele’s action, “if unchecked timeously, portends great danger to the fragile economy of the country” and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack him from his position at the CBN.
“It is incontrovertible that Mr Emefiele enjoys a constitutionally protected right to belong to any group or association and participate fully, just as any Nigerian. It is, however, difficult to imagine that a person who occupies the exalted and sensitive office of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria will be this brazen in actualising his ambition.
“There is no gain asserting the obvious. The combined effect of the Public Service Rules, CBN Act and the 1999 Constitution, as amended, exposes not only the oddity inherent in this brash exercise of presumed right to associate. It also confirms the illegality of the act should he proceed to submit the forms while occupying the seat as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“He cannot combine partisan politics with the very delicate assignment of his office. Should he refuse to quit, it becomes incumbent on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to remove him forthwith. This is a joke taken too far.”
A human rights lawyer, Festus Ogun, agreed with Mr Akeredolu. Speaking with Punch newspaper, Mr Ogun said the treasury of Nigeria is no longer safe in the hands of Mr Emefiele.
“CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, has picked the APC N100m presidential nomination and expression of interest form. Clearly, this is illegal, morally reprehensible and weakens whatever is left of our institutions.
“Mr Godwin Emefelie must immediately resign his position as CBN Governor to save our country from this unthinkable absurdity. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must immediately commence thorough investigation into Emefiele’s period in office.”
The lawyer called on President Muhammadu Buhari to “invoke his statutory powers under Section 11(2) of the CBN Act to sack Emefiele.”
Speaking in the same vein, also with The Punch newspaper, the spokesperson of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Debo Ologunagba, said the CBN Act clearly states that the governor and deputy governors of the bank must be fully dedicated to their jobs.
“The CBN governor is governed by the CBN Act. Section 9 is unambiguously clear about what the CBN governor and deputies should do and it says they shall devote the whole of their time to the service of the bank and they will not engage in any other vocation.
“Now, his action is completely in contravention of that Act and that amounts to gross misconduct and that qualifies him to be removed from office in line with Section 11 of the Act. This is completely irresponsible and at variance with our laws,” Mr Ologunagba said.
An alarmed Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Seyi Sowemimo, also warned that the CBN governor cannot afford the distraction of a presidential bid.
“I have been seeing posters and been hearing that he is interested, but I saw it as a joke because when you are managing the economy, I don’t think you have the time for this sort of distraction. With the way the economy is now, they should be fully engaging his attention and it even requires more than the time he can spare. But if he wants to do it, he should resign.
“For many of those people who want to contest, they should resign because the time and the effort that they will require to do these things will definitely impact adversely on their abilities to discharge the functions of the offices they are occupying.
“Of all offices, the one that will really require the occupants to stay away from politics is that of the CBN governor and more so because the way the economy now requires somebody who will devote 100 per cent of his time; so, what does he want to be doing campaigning all over the country and leaving the office to the deputy governor or what?”
Waiting for “God’s Divine Intervention” – Emefiele
“I am humbled by the growing interest of those asking that I run for the Office of President in the 2023 general elections: I have not come to that decision. I note and salute the sacrifices of those farmers and patriots going as far as raising personal funds and offering me Presidential Nomination Forms: I thank them most profusely.
“However, should I answer their calls and decide to seek presidential nomination, I will use my own hard-earned savings from over 35 years of banking leadership to buy my own Nomination Forms, without proxies in an open and transparent manner in full compliance with the laws and Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“And should I not run for elected office, I will continue to serve and sacrifice for the good people of Nigeria under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is a serious decision that requires God’s Divine intervention: in the next few days The Almighty will so direct,” he wrote on his verified Twitter handle.
Technocrat fishing in murky water
University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the University of Port Harcourt. He also had a short stint working for Vodafone before gaining over 18 years of banking experience, culminating in his appointment as the chief executive officer and group managing director of Zenith Bank Plc.r Emefiele, 60, became the CBN Governor on June 4, 2014, upon his appointment by then President Goodluck Jonathan. He was reappointed to a second term by President Buhari in 2019. Before moving to the Central Bank, Mr Emefiele had lectured finance and insurance at the
Although he has yet to confirm that he wants to run for president, many vehicles branded for his campaign have been seen in Abuja and other cities. A prominent media proprietor from his home state of Delta has for months been coordinating a media campaign to polish his image and boost his profile for the race.
At the National Convention of the APC in Abuja on March 26, Mr Emefiele’s campaign posters jostled for attention with those of other presidential aspirants at the Eagle Square and in the Central Business District of the city where the CBN is located.
Mr Emefiele has never participated in partisan politics, at least not to public knowledge – not in the PDP whose government first appointed him to his current position or in the APC. His home state has been run by the PDP since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999, while the APC has only one of the six governors in his South-South zone – Ben Ayade of Cross River State who is a defector from the PDP.
If Mr Emefiele enters the APC presidential nomination race, he would be one of the aspirants to be closely monitored as a potential “preferred candidate” of Mr Buhari. These aspirants, especially late entrants into the race and, as in Mr Emefiele’s case, into the party know they stand little chance of nomination unless as the consensus candidate on the dictate of the president or of the faceless “cabal” in his office.
South-west APC feels the heat
here is an unprecedented number of presidential aspirants in the APC – over 30 have declared and about 25 had picked the nomination forms as of Friday. But not many observers expected seven of the aspirants to be from the South-west, after the national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, announced his ambition back in January.
However, since then, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Ekiti Governor Kayode Fayemi, former Ogun governor Ibikunle Amosun; Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Ajayi Boroffice; pastor of the Citadel Global Community Church, Tunde Bakare, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, have joined the fray.
Political tension had risen in the region following the declaration of Mr Osinbajo in April, with supporters of Mr Tinubu branding him a traitor and betrayer. Mr Osinbajo was Mr Tinubu’s commissioner in Lagos throughout his eight years of governorship and the APC national leader was pivotal to Mr Osinbajo’s nomination as running mate to Mr Buhari in 2015. Mr Tinubu had wanted the nomination for himself until Mr Buhari was persuaded that a Muslim-Muslim ticket would not fly.
The relationship between the two has since deteriorated, as suspicion of Mr Osinbajo’s presidential ambition unnerved his former boss. Mr Tinubu’s supporters saw Mr Osinbajo’s declaration as drawing the battle line and there were fears that the conflict could lead the region back to the dark years of “Wild Wild West” of the First Republic when a dispute between the former Premier of the then Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, and his successor, Samuel Akintola, dragged the region under the pall of terror.
To avert that history being reenacted, leaders of the APC in the region, on Friday, met in Lagos with the presidential hopefuls.
At the meeting, which was held behind closed doors at the Lagos House, Marina, the leaders cautioned the aspirants to measure their utterances and discourage their supporters from name-calling and personal attacks.
The meeting was convened by the former interim National Chairman of the APC, Bisi Akande, and a former governor of Ogun State, Segun Osoba.
In attendance were four aspirants: Mr Osinbajo, Mr Tinubu, Mr Fayemi and Mr Amosun.
Also at the meeting were the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo; and governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun and Gboyega Oyetola of Osun states.
Others include the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; the APC National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore; a former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel; a former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Moses Adeyemo; and a former National Vice Chairman of the APC, South-west Zone, Pius Akinyelure.
However, three aspirants, Mr Bakare, Mr Bankole and Mr Boroffice did not attend the meeting.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Mr Akande said: “We the APC are united and we will ensure that the presidency comes to our region, the South-west. We had a fruitful discussion at the meeting today (Friday).
“We had a fruitful discussion. We also resolved that everybody should maintain absolute decorum because we are united.”
Supporters of the main aspirants would be disappointed that the meeting did not ponder a consensus candidate to brighten the chances of the region at the primary. However, the two other southern regions also have multiple aspirants with the South-east having nine and the South-south seven.
The three northern regions, which were assumed to have conceded the presidency to the southern regions, now have six aspirants gunning for the APC ticket. There have been speculations that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, may also pick the party’s presidential nomination forms.
Zoning, what zoning?
outh-east politicians are exasperated over the interest of aspirants from the two other southern zones in the presidential tickets of the APC and PDP, saying it is a betrayal of the principle behind the rotation of political offices among the regions.
The Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia, Orji Kalu, in April spoke passionately on the issue.
“I am even shocked with the number of aspirants coming from the South-west and the South-south. It is embarrassing that these aspirants (APC and PDP) have no single respect and concern for the South-east. I had thought they would think about the South-east; I thought they would support us,” Mr Kalu said in a statement in April in which he hinted that he might withdraw from the presidential race.
“The two regions that are yet to produce a President are South-east and North-east. If this means anything to Nigerians, the APC and PDP should be fair enough to prioritize these regions. If power should come to the South and not the South-east or North and not the North-east, the essence for which the six geopolitical zones were created is long dead,” he said.
On Friday, Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi, who has procured the APC presidential nomination form, echoed the same feelings. He said it would be against the spirit of justice, fair play and equity for aspirants from other southern regions to contest against those from the South-East.
Speaking on Channels Television, Mr Umahi said, “When we as southern people are asking our brothers and sisters in the North for fairness, equity and justice for this thing (power) to rotate, it is expected that on the basis of that equity and justice, when it comes to the South, the three regions should leave it for the region (South-east) that has not produced the President. Otherwise, what is the basis for insisting that power should rotate to the South?”
The two major parties are yet to decide on zoning. But it is increasingly looking like they will throw their primaries open to aspirants from all the zones, despite both having northerners as national chairman. The two parties have sold their forms to all comers and it is difficult to see them prevailing on some to step aside because of zoning. Of the 25 aspirants to have paid for the APC forms, five are from the North, the same number as in the PDP where 17 aspirants obtained the presidential nomination forms.
The argument of the South-east is based on the fact that it is the only southern zone yet to produce the president in the Fourth Republic – President Olusegun Obasanjo who served two full terms is from the South West while Goodluck Jonathan who served five years is from the South-south.
But politicians from the two regions have argued that even when those two presidents were nominated, they faced competition from the other regions in 1999, 2003 and 2011.
ith the suspicion that some power brokers are determined to foist a ‘consensus candidate’ on the APC, every detail is being carefully scrutinised in official documents and communications of the ruling party.
An addendum in the presidential nomination form of the party, titled, ‘Letter of Voluntary Withdrawal,’ led some members under the APC Rebirth Group to caution the party against “arm-twisting” aspirants into stepping down as it did in the March 26 national convention.
On Friday, the group’s president, Aliyu Audu, in a statement urged the party chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, to review the content of the forms, saying provisions for withdrawal infringe on aspirants’ freedom.
“The Form 18, which seeks for aspirants’ voluntary withdrawal amounts to tacit coercion and violation of the freedom of aspirants to freely decide on their own. At what point, for instance, would the party activate the signed form of withdrawal by aspirants?
“Anticipated withdrawal from an election that has not yet been conducted, such as the one being solicited via Form 18, would not give aspirants the needed confidence in the process, and the party would do well not to give the impression that it is working to suppress the rights of members to a fair and transparent contest.
“While the party, through its secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, did say the signing of Form 18 was optional, the fact that such caveat was not indicated on the form makes such a claim highly suspect.”
The group argued that once aspirants append their signature to the declaration page of the form, they had inadvertently validated all the information or commitments on any part of the form.
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