By Jaafar Jaafar
Let me start with a confession today. The return of Godwin Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) after five uneventful years pained me. And to borrow Ayo Fayose’s sniveling confessions, I am in severe pain.
Even the president who gave him the chance for another five-year term can not give a cogent explanation for his action. But we are in Buharian era where ‘losing weight’ is the key aspect of performance evaluation, chronic indecision is the fuel of statecraft and downright incompetence is the ticket for term renewal.
A couple of weeks ago, President Muhammadu Buhari stunned the nation in his reply to a reporter’s question. While the president was away in London for a 10-day ‘private visit’, mass abduction of citizens on Abuja-Kaduna expressway took place, the president’s in-law was kidnapped in Daura and scores were killed in Zamfara and Kaduna States. A reporter asked: “Are we likely to see a different approach in the fight against insecurity, especially kidnapping, which is a big issue now, Sir?”
The president retorted: “You know I have just seen the IG. He is… I think he is losing weight; so, I think he is working very hard.” Save the president’s magnum opus – “the other room” goof – this is the most unintelligent presidential response I have heard in his entire gaffe-laden tenure.
Apart from Emefiele’s elfin frame (which the president perhaps views as a weight loss), the CBN governor’s prodigality, elite-centric back-alley recruitments and cabal-worshipping may have earned him the golden return. Presidency sources said Emefiele was so bounteous that the ruling cabal could not wish for a better replacement.
But Nigerians thought the Senate would do the needful by turning down the president’s nomination. The senators, who may have benefitted from Goddy’s secret hire or weekly greenback allocation, are smart. It is to their advantage if they go along the executive tide. They know how powerful a Nigerian president is. They know Emefiele, rightly or wrongly, could be allowed to serve as acting governor throughout Buhari’s tenure.
As a precursor to his final confirmation on Thursday by the Senate, the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance, and Other Financial Institutions on Wednesday cleared him of a N500 billion fraud allegation published by Saharareporters.
A few days after Mr Emefiele’s nomination for reappointment, Nigerians thought the leaked audio clip published by the online newspaper would threw spanner into the wheels of his return journey. It didn’t. As weighty as the allegations sound, the chairman of the Senate screening committee, Rabiu Ibrahim, dismissed the allegations, saying they were targeted at bringing him down because he is a good person.
“I do not have any question for the governor,” the senator said, “I am overwhelmed. I wish you well and pray for you. May God continue to guide you. Now, we know the reason why there are some audios on social media because in Nigeria, once you are a good person, some people will always try to bring you down. We will expeditiously take a report to the chamber for consideration. You can take a bow.”
Why did we even think an audio leak can stop Emefiele under Buhari? Have we forgotten that we are in a country that harbored, gave a return ticket and rigged election in favour of a thieving governor caught on video stealing public funds?
I have no problem with Emefiele as a person but my grouse is about the Buhari administration, which preaches zero tolerance for corruption but hobnobs, dines and wines with those who either have tough questions to answer on charges of corruption or stood corruption trial.
PREMIUM TIMES had in an exclusive report after the 2015 presidential elections exposed how the CBN paid out N67.2billion to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the office of the National Security Adviser, with graphic details of how bullion vans were used by government officials to cart away the cash.
Even the controversial NIA’s N13bn found in Ikoyi apartment was given by the CBN under Emefiele. The huge cash, which included $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000, is reportedly the balance of the N57.2billion released to the NIA for “special services” by the CBN.
A CBN insider once lamented to me how Emefiele set aside due process in recruitment, posting and allocation of foreign exchange to politicians for round-tripping. “Emefiele has no problem with staff welfare at CBN, but with due process. Recruitment is no longer based on merit. Everyday, we see new faces bearing familiar surnames.
“Medical screening is no longer strict for new recruits of CBN. I remember some cases involving sons of political office holders who tested positive of illicit substance but were employed nevertheless. Certificate forgery was outright dismissal at CBN before, but a particular case was allowed recently because it involves the son of a powerful politician,” the insider told me.
From the starting line to the finishing line of Buhari’s first term in office, Nigerians were regaled with how the administration of Goodluck Jonathan emptied the CBN vaults to fund PDP’s 2015 campaign and mismanaged Nigeria’s economy. In my elementary understanding of micro economy based on rise in the prices garri, rice and the like, Emefiele’s scorecard under Jonathan was more impressive than under Buhari.
The truth is that if there is any culprit deserving prosecution in the multi-billion naira arms-gate/Dasukigate is the CBN governor. The slush funds Sambo Dasuki, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the rest shared to politicians did not fall from the sky or sprout as a plant. Buhari administration knows the source was Emefiele’s CBN.
By hook or crook, Emefiele knows how to play his card to retain his job in the exchequer, while Sambo Dasuki languishes in the secret service cell and Alison-Madueke faces extradition.
But in life, everything has advantage and disadvantage. Emefiele’s appointment is, in a way, a victory for some of us who want the president to eschew nepotism, reflect our diversity in appointment and respect the spirit and letters of the federal character principles. Had there a vacuum at the CBN, perhaps the president would opt for a Northern Muslim replacement.
The administration’s silence on why Emefiele was given another term not prosecuted is an implied admission that the $2billion Dasuki-gate is a hoax and those facing persecution and prosecution are wrongly tried.