It has never been in question that as a citizen of Nigeria, it is well within the rights of Mr Godwin Ifeanyichukwu Emefiele to have picked the nomination and expression of interest forms, commencing a process that might see him contest for the office of president under the auspices of the All Progressives Congress (APC) early 2023.
However what is in serious contention is whether as the current governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Emefiele can embark on a partisan journey without relinquishing his position. Many questions have been asked in this regard, and topping the list is: When did he become a card-carrying member of the ruling party? Worried by the implications of the answers to this question, this newspaper had in an earlier editorial asked Mr Emefiele to resign as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in order to pursue his ambition for the presidency.
Clearly, Mr Emefiele did not see much merit in our insistence that in a democracy, certain regulatory responsibilities require non-partisan functionaries if they are to work according to the laws establishing such regulatory institutions and in the public interest. In the case of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), this requirement is a major imperative. This is not just because the central bank’s enabling statute seeks to insulate it from politics including by staggering the terms of deputy governors. But even more because in order for any central bank to properly carry out its price stability remit, it needs, more than any other requirement, to anchor the market’s expectations around its preferred targets. And it is doubtful the extent to which an obviously partisan central bank can properly anchor the market’s expectations.
It would seem, though, that sometime in February last year, Mr Emefiele sought for and became a member of the ruling APC. Is this why he has put up Potemkin-like rice pyramids in support of his party’s increasingly difficult to justify claims on the extent to which it has driven productivity in the nation’s agriculture space? Is this why he then proceeded to lend the central bank’s balance sheet to his political party (to the tune of about N18 trillion as at year end 2021), even when such spending is implicated in the runaway inflation that the economy is having to deal with?
It is not just that the central bank’s enabling statutes expressly forbid the extent to which Mr Emefiele has lent money to the federal government (limiting such fiscal deficit-support schemes to 5 per cent of the previous year’s actual revenue of the Federal Government). The big worry is that taken together, his conduct has denied the apex bank the reputation without which it may no longer credibly make monetary policy.
For this reason, the framers of the Act had included lavish provisions for the CBN’s independent conduct of monetary policy. While some will argue that the central bank’s near three-year struggle with rising prices is a direct consequence of it having ceded its capacity to anchor market expectations, there are those in Mr Emefiele’s corner who have continued to argue that to the extent that the Central Bank Act does not expressly forbid a central bank governor from partisan politics, Mr Godwin Emefiele is not in breach of the letter of the law. Especially when the Central Bank Act runs a list of reasons why the governor may be removed, including as a result of being found guilty of serious misconduct in relation to his duties under the Act.
PREMIUM TIMES holds the incumbent central bank governor’s ways and means advances to the Federal Government as sufficiently serious misconduct in relation to his duties under the Act. His barely-concealed schemes for holding on to the office of governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, while contesting for the office of president (ranging from the ludicrous expedient of consigning the decision as to whether he will contest to the divine intervention of God who will so direct him in the “next few days,” to the more nuanced one of testing the legality of his conduct in court) should similarly qualify as an egregious misconduct too.
While we look forward to the possibility of a court ruling on this, PREMIUM TIMES thinks it is doubtful that an Act that forbids the governor from “engaging in any full or part time employment or vocation whether remunerated or not except such personal or charitable causes as may be determined by” the apex bank’s board, could have contemplated an active politician in that office. Indeed, were the implications of Mr Emefiele’s conduct not so severe, it would have been that much risible. But increasingly, we confront the possibility not just of his contesting the election as a serving governor of the central bank, but of his going on to be elected president and then declaring that nothing in the statutes prevents him from holding both offices.
Clearly, Mr Godwin Emefiele does not agree with PREMIUM TIMES on this. However, much of his louche understanding of the full nature of his assignment is as much the consequence of the accommodative role of the business class and the character of our democracy. Only recently, “The 2022 Committee,” convened by the duo of Kashim Ibrahim Imam and Nduka Obaigbena brought together the nation’s captains of industry apparently to lend their imprimatur to Mr Emefiele’s diverse positions.
Against the backdrop of such support, it is understandable that Mr Emefiele refuses to take the path of honour. Ideally, whether he changes his mind or not, now that it is confirmed that he has been a card-carrying member of the APC since 2021, he should resign, whether he runs for office or not. But if Mr Emefiele were minded to conduct himself thus, he would not be minded to break rules and settled practices so readily.
This is why it is difficult to understand how the Buhari administration does not see how the Central Bank governor’s current conduct is an affront to the country and its laborious effort at becoming a normal place. In the interest of what remains of the country’s sanity, the APC federal government should commence the painful, but albeit necessary process of removing their party member, Mr Emefiele, from the office of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
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