By Ibraheem Abdullateef
Ahead of the 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria, the race for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has never been so terribly chaotic and funny. Pegged at an outrageous N100 million naira, no less than 25 aspirants have obtained the nomination and expression of interest forms as of Friday 6, May 2022 to contest in the primaries later in the month. As Nigerians, including the media and the CSOs, were still debating the moral rectitude and leadership capacity of the long list of contenders, the news hit the airwaves on Thursday that the Central Bank Governor of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele has also obtained the form by proxy.
There is no word fit to describe this action, not even anomaly. CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele is taking Nigerians and Nigeria for a ride with his presidential bid. By the extant Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007, the Bank is an independent, apolitical body and whoever is the Governor is not allowed to be partisan. The series of political-related activities, consultative meetings, and branding in his name would vitiate the law and ethics of professionalism, and it makes a mockery of the public image of the nation’s apex financial and monetary authority in the international community.
As if to forestall quackery, the section 8 (1) which is on Appointment, Qualification, and Remuneration of Governor and Deputy Governor of the CBN says both of them “shall be persons of recognised financial experience and shall be appointed by the president subject to confirmation by the Senate on such terms and conditions as may be set out in their respective letters of appointment.”
While corroborating it, the next section in the Act, Section 9, on full devotion to the service of the bank, says “Governor and Deputy Governors shall devote the whole of their time to the service of the Bank and while holding office shall not engage 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 Board and which do not conflict with or detract from their full-time duties.”
Yet, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, has continued to pursue a presidential bid under the APC. What started a few months back recently reached a crescendo when pictures of about 50 well-branded campaign vehicles hit social media. It also followed the hosting of banners, including rallies across the nation. Despite denying the ambition in April, the eventual purchase of the nomination and expression of interest forms less than two weeks to party primaries show that Emefiele is partisan and has been involved in activities, not in tandem with his office. This impunity is unprecedented. It is not unexpected the outrage of Nigerians, condemning what is perceived as immoral and unethical behaviour.
As a Nigerian, the 1999 constitution allows Godwin Emefiele the right to pursue any political ambition. But to pursue a presidential bid without resigning, may erode the confidence of investors, international partners, business magnates, and other stakeholders in the financial sectors in the Bank, thereby affecting the economy. Many Nigerians have begun to wonder if the weakening Naira values, including the introduction of policies like E-Naira and banning cryptocurrencies, were not informed by decisions influenced by partisan interests. Regardless of the intentions, the moment Emefiele submits his nomination and expressions of interest form, he must not spend a minute longer as the CBN Governor, unless it becomes a sad precedent to other officeholders, further bastarding the national institutions.
While spelling out conditions for disqualification and cessation of appointment, section 11 (2) (f) of the CBN act empowers the president to remove the governor. The CBN governor may also be relieved of his appointment if he is “guilty of a serious misconduct about his duty under this Act.” By being openly partisan, it is enough ground for the Board or the National Assembly to summon and question the professionalism and ethics of Godwin Emefiele, in relation to this stewardship.
The only way Emefiele stays in office is to dissociate himself from this development. If truly he has an ambition and would rather face it squarely, he should vacate the office immediately (provided that he has given at least three months’ notice in writing to the president of his intention to do so). It is not the time to keep mute and be evasive. It is rather a moment to prove a test of character and integrity. President Muhammadu Buhari must address the issue and take positive action to salvage the sanctity of the nation’s foremost financial and economic authority now.
Ibraheem Abdullateef is a Nigerian youth leader and freelance journalist. He tweets at @_ibraheemlateef.