2023 Presidency: Much Ado About Godwin Emefiele 

By Jude Obuseh

The rumour mill has been raucously agog with an amalgam of assertions and insinuations that Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the incumbent Governor of Nigeria’s apex financial institution, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is close to joining – or has surreptitiously joined – the swelling rank of high-profile Nigerians vying to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari when he calls time on his tenure in 2023.

Mr. Emefiele’s purported interest in the Presidency has been fuelled by plethora of agitations spearheaded by groups of sundry hues urging him to join the race for Aso Rock. According to the highly vocal arrowheads of these campaigns, which have been prominent on both traditional and social media platforms, the CBN Governor’s sparkling credentials eminently qualifies him to succeed President Buhari. 

However, there is a dissenting school of thought that is of the view that the banking chief should concentrate on his principal job at the helm of the CBN, where he has amply distinguished himself,rather than meddle in the murky waters of Nigerian politics. For these skeptics, Mr. Emefiele wouldhave his hands badly burnt if he ventures into Nigeria’s extremely adversarial political amphitheater with all its crazy incongruities, superfluities and uncertainties. 

Interestingly, the CBN chief, on the occasions hewas quizzed on his alleged interest in the Presidential Tiara, was noncommittal, proceeding to pledge his unalloyed loyalty and unwavering commitment to serving the Muhamadu Buhari-led federal government, especially with its economic recovery and sustainability plan, to the best of his abilities.

Now, the question is why the hubbub about Mr. Emefiele’s purported interest in the country’s principal executive office? Why is this eliciting more interest than those of other prominent aspirants who have openly declared their intentions for 2023? If at any point in the future Mr. Emefiele decides to run for the Presidency, can he be deniedthis constitutional right? Come to think of it, who among all those eyeing the Presidency in 2023 has better credentials than him? Hasn’t he paid his full dues to his fatherland, to merit such a privilege?Simply put, who is afraid of a Godwin EmefielePresidential candidacy?

Godwin Emefiele’s hulking academic resume, alongside his sparkling antecedents in public service, speak volume of his unarguable eligibility to aspire to serve his country, in any capacity. Emefiele holds a B.Sc. degree in Finance (1984) and an MBA in Finance (1986), both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is also an alumnus of Executive Education at Stanford University, Harvard University (2004) and Wharton School of Business (2005), and was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). 

Early in his professional life, Emefiele lectured finance and insurance at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, and University of Port Harcourt, respectively. Before moving to the Central Bank, Emefiele gained over eighteen years of banking experience. He served as chief executive officer and Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc. Emefiele served as Deputy Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc. from 2001. He served as Executive Director in charge of corporate banking, treasury, financial control and strategic planning of Zenith Bank Plc and served on the management team from its inception. 

Emefiele served as Director at Zenith Bank Plc and Zenith Bank (Gambia) Limited. Emefiele serves as Director of ACCION Microfinance Bank Limited.

Emefiele has been Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2014. During his first term, he supervised an interventionist currency policy at the behest of the presidency, propping up the Nigerian Naira by pumping billions of dollars into the foreign exchange market. He also introduced a multiple exchange rate regime to try to mask pressure on the Naira and avoid a series of devaluations. 

Consequent to the seamless execution of his mandate, during his first tenure, the Nigerian Senate, in 2019, approved a second five-year term for Emefiele, the first time anyone will serve for a second term since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. Senator Bukola Saraki read President Buhari’s letter on Thursday, May 9, 2019. He was screened on Wednesday and his confirmation came on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

Under Emefiele’s stewardship as CBN Governor, the scope of central banking in Nigeria has expanded considerably, as the CBN has been able to leverage on the developmental component of its principal mandate as the proactive tool to prop upthe country’s economic growth. 

The Emefiele-led CBN has been at the forefront of Nigeria’s economic diversification drive, utilizing long – and medium- term strategies, through the adoption of initiatives meant to check joblessness, accelerate economic productivity, alleviate poverty, and boost food security. Through intervention schemes for rice, fish, sugar and wheat, four commodities which consume about N1.3 trillion annually in import, the apex bank has helped improve domestic supply, and ultimatelyreduced pressure on the country’s foreign reserves.

In the area of national security, Emefiele has helped mobilize the resources that have been utilized in the country’s war against terrorism, armed banditry and other forms of criminality in the country, by ensuring that resources voted tofight these security threats are seamlessly distributed.

The foregoing are just snippets of the CBN Governor’s mammoth achievements in public office, which sufficiently qualifies him to aspire to run for any political office in Nigeria, including the Presidency. He has all it takes to lead this countryto pastures new, if duty beckons.

In addition to his immense resume and colossalachievements in public service, Mr Emefiele is a full-fledged Nigerian citizen, with the freedom to assemble freely and associate with other people, as encapsulated in Chapter C23 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation) Act Laws of the Federal of Nigeria 2004 Section 40 provides, which reads, ‘Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other person, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests”.

Emefiele’s entitlements under the foregoingconstitutional provision, allows him to join any legally constituted and operated organization in Nigeria, including a political party, in the pursuit,protection and projection of his interests. So, if he, at any point, decides to run for the country’s principal executive office, it would be an aspiration within his legitimate rights.

Nigeria, at this stage of its checkered history, is in dire need of tested individuals, who have distinguished themselves in previous stations, to steer its moribund ship of state out of the tempestuous waters it currently wallows in. Nigerians need battle seasoned champions who can lead them out of the woods of poverty, corruption, economic dependency and despondency, insecurity, unemployment and other visceral challenges they currently subsist in.

Nigerians need answers to the presidential question of 2023.  Who among the applicants who have so far declared their interest in the Presidency has answers to this question? Who among these gladiators has what it takes to navigate this country out of the formidable economic labyrinths itcurrently flounders in? Who will help Nigerians confront the familiar leadership demons of nepotism, cronyism, tribalism and other primordial dispositions? These are the questions that should be animating the minds of Nigerians as 2023 draws closer.

Godwin Emefiele has not formally declared interest in running for the Presidency in 2023, despite strident calls on him to do so. But if he were to affirmatively respond to these calls, he would, no doubt, find a multitude of compatriots ready to follow him all the way. This explains why for the several Nigerians, who have selflessly deployed their personal resources in advocating for his candidacy, he is the most suitable man to succeed Buhari in 2023.

Building the Nigeria of our dreams may seem a herculean task, a scary one at that. But if we can bring our best hands on deck, that utopia can become a reality. This we must do in 2023 by wisely choosing our next crop of leaders. 

God bless Nigeria!

Mr. Jude Obuseh, a public affairs commentator, writes from Benin City. email: syncado2006@gmail.com

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