Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), declared his candidacy in the period before the 2023 elections, raising eyebrows despite months of unconvincing denials, dribbling, waffles, and hiding behind one finger. Legal action became necessary after receiving a barrage of criticism from the public, including calls for his resignation following the purchase of N100 million in All Progressive Congress (APC) expressions of interest and nomination forms for him by some vague groups.
Many were already perplexed when he went to the Abuja High Court to prevent the appropriate authorities from preventing him from pursuing his ambition. At the same time, he was still the CBN governor, especially since he wasn’t hoping to resign first. In essence, he didn’t just want to run in the APC’s presidential primary. But he wanted to continue holding onto his position as the henchman of what is likely the most critical institution in the economy.
Due to its strategic importance as the overseer of the nation’s monetary policy, the apex bank typically enjoys a high degree of autonomy and independence in most markets and mixed economies. It is expected to complete this crucial task in collaboration with the government that manages the fiscal side of the economy, not in submission to it. The goal is to protect the apex bank from factors that may not be in the country’s interest or that go beyond purely social and economic motives. However, that discipline is frequently challenging in government, particularly in Nigeria, where institutions are fragile.
As a result, in addition to legal concerns, Emefiele’s continued appointment as CBN governor following some groups’ promotion of his presidential ambition and feeble opposition raised previously unheard-of ethical, moral, and public governance issues. Politics must never taint the governor’s position on the CBN because it is sacred. Emefiele had tarnished the respect and confidence that domestic and foreign parties once had in the CBN through his bold decision to enter partisan politics. President Muhammadu Buhari has done the same through his characteristic aloofness and unwillingness to stop and rein in the inappropriate behaviours of his appointees -not only Emefiele, after all, the apex bank and the domestic economy suffered whichever way the circus ends.
The opposition questioned how an outspoken partisan CBN governor could oversee Nigeria’s monetary policy. For instance, the exchange rate reportedly spiked to N591 to a dollar in the parallel market compared to the average of N415/dollar in the official market when it was revealed that the presidential nomination form had been purchased for a CBN governor still in office. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that it is reviewing the arrangement because the chief custodian of election materials has become a party to the actual election, raising questions about the customary storage of sensitive election materials at the CBN. However, the CBN is among the safest locations to store election materials.
Many questioned why Emefiele was hanging onto the office when trust, a key component of it, was no longer present. This is how Nigerians are treated with contempt. And why further damage Nigeria’s already damaged reputation by presenting it as a place where anything goes?
Emefiele is undoubtedly within his constitutional rights to seek elective office, and no one is contesting that. What is in question is whether or not it was appropriate for him to want to continue serving as the head of the top bank while also hoping to run for office in a multi-party state using a political party’s platform -a party that was the ruling party too.
He lost his bid for president at the primaries to eventual election winner Tinubu, who was following the election saga at the time. The CBN decided to implement a Naira Redesign Policy while he still had tricks up his sleeve. During electioneering, Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, claimed that the naira redesign policy was implemented to ensure his defeat. The conflict between Tinubu’s camp and Emefiele then began. While Emefiele insisted that the policy would stop inflation and illicit financing and transition Nigeria to a cashless economy, many Nigerians were sceptics. It was also criticized how the policy was implemented. The DSS tried unsuccessfully to arrest Emefiele amid the shortage of naira notes.