I have noticed the massive advertising campaigns in major Nigerian newspapers in the last several weeks designed to draft CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele into the 2023 presidential race. The campaigns come with various messages aimed to convince Nigerians that Emefiele is the best man to lead the country after Muhammadu Buhari. Each day, a different message is planted in newspapers, purportedly sponsored by different groups, but in reality, they are paid for by one person. So far, over N100 million has been spent on these massive promotions. In today’s newspapers (Thursday, March 3), for example, the message carries a big banner headline: ”Why we want Emefiele”, with the kicker: ”Remember, a development banker was brought into grow Italy”. It ends with a request: ”Please join us to ask Emefiele to run for President”. It’s signed by MEFFY 2023. The campaign promise is that the CBN Governor will provide peace, security and prosperity.
I find these campaigns quite disturbing, dubious and sinister. Who are behind them and what is the unstated message in these promotions? In the first instance, dragging the CBN governor into partisan politics has the potential for eroding the stability, neutrality and confidence of our financial system which is a major responsibility of the CBN. Second, the Governor’s political activities and the massive newspaper campaigns are already causing some disquiet in the Board of the apex bank and many a management staff is perplexed by this unusual turn of events. Partisan politics is antithesis to the harmonious working conditions in an organization. Third, which political party does Emefiele belong to? Or is he planning to run as independent candidate? Who are the generous, wealthy and loving sponsors pushing the governor? What are their unstated intentions?
I have made discrete inquiries within government and the banking industry on those behind these campaigns. My findings are startling. Some people believe that the Governor is supported by some dubious politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats who had benefitted from the arbitrage that exists in the foreign exchange markets. Although the leading members of this group – Ismaila Isa Funtua and Late Abba Kyari – have since passed away, the criminal enterprise they left behind is still thriving.
The group is hoping that their fortunes would improve significantly if the governor becomes the President. One of them is actually being pencilled down as the new CBN Governor if Emefiele is elected President. The fact that our CBN governor is, even, remotely associated with these people is a sad commentary on him. Why does it not occur to the governor that in Nigerian mythology, birds of the same plumage flock together?
Some officials in government have a slightly different opinion about the Emefiele-must-run campaign.
They believe that the Governor is either the sponsor of the campaigns, or he’s encouraging them for self promotion. ”Perhaps Mr Emefiele wants to present himself as the new beautiful political bride adored nationally following the recent celebrations of our success in rice production”, a source in the Presidency volunteered. There is no way that a farmers’ group, as the Emefiele advertisements suggest, or indeed any other association would spend millions to drive the political campaign of anybody, my source argues. It sounds logical.
From my experience in politics and political communication, support groups in the country are usually founded and solely funded by the candidates to the extent that any advertisement purportedly signed by such groups are in reality written and paid for by the candidates. In most cases, such groups do not even exist. They are imaginary creations of the candidates; a make-believe designed to portray popularity and acceptability.
Is this what we are dealing with here? In Emefiele’s case, the facebook address given in the adverts, facebook.com/farmers4nigeria, is meant to give the impression that the Nigerian farmers who had benefitted from the various CBN intervention programmes are behind the campaigns. Nonsense! Which Nigerian farmer would borrow money from the banks and turn around to spend his hard earned income on the CBN governor’s political campaigns? The fact that the campaigns are running even after the President had signed the Electoral Bill into law and INEC released its timetable, shows the dubiousness of the sponsors. Practically, there is no way Emefiele would be running for office. With the primaries only two months away (4th April – 3rd June) and the CBN Act 2007 demanding that he gives a three-month resignation notice, Emefiele is already out of time. The sponsors must be so wealthy that they do not know what to do with money.
Personally, I have nothing against the CBN Governor. In March 2019, I wrote an article in The Guardian titled ”Who’s the next CBN Governor?” in which I recommended him for reappointment based on his first-term performance. I wrote another article in January titled ”The economics and politics of rice pyramids” in which I commended the CBN for the various intervention programmes, especially the Anchor Borrowers Programme, that had facilitated huge growth in rice production. I am therefore terribly unhappy to see the governor being associated with partisan political activities and political campaigns being sponsored by people with sinister motives. The fact that he has not disavowed and stopped these campaigns is quite telling.
Before his appointment in 2014, Emefiele was the chief executive of Zenith Bank for five years, a position he attained rising through the ranks. As CBN Governor, he’s seen two presidential elections and fought many battles in the corridors of power. With only two years left of his 10-year tenure, Mr Emefiele should be advised to focus more on his job and leave politics out. He has enough time for that when he’s done at the CBN.
Past CBN chief executives have gone on to pursue successful political and public service careers after office. Dr Clement Isong, a Harvard trained economist, was elected governor of old Cross River State in 1979, just four years after he retired as CBN governor. Adamu Ciroma was appointed Finance Minister in 1999, and before then he had faced off with Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the 1979 NPN presidential primaries. Prof Charles Soludo has just been elected Anambra State governor after one or two attempts. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was a first class emir after leaving office in 2014. Prof Kingsley Moghalu, who served as Deputy Governor under Sanusi, is running for president again, after his first attempt in 2019. Another former Deputy Governor, the late Dr. Mailafia Obadiah, was also a presidential candidate in the 2019 elections. Dr. Sarah Alade who also served as deputy governor and acting governor for a brief moment, is Special Adviser to the Minister of Finance. I am confident that the incumbent governor will cut his path when he finishes his assignment in 2024. For now, he should concentrate on his job and stay away from dubious characters.