As the melee I describe as the Godwin Emefiele malady gains traction, one anecdote that seems to capture it can be found in the song of late Ibadan, Oyo State-born, Yoruba Awurebe music maestro, Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara. The malady is unexampled for its cunning. In it, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Emefiele, seeks to disadvantage others in the scramble for Nigeria’s Number One office, simply because he holds the key to the Nigerian vault and opens it at will to President Muhammadu Buhari, his household and a coterie of hangers-on.
Epo Akara, in one of his vinyl, had told the story of Tortoise, the master of cunning, who wanted to marry the princess of his village whose name nobody knew. As the contest for the heart of the princess got hotter, the king announced that the man who would win his beautiful daughter’s heart must tell the world her name. After wracking his brain endlessly, one day Tortoise devised a stratagem. So, he woke up very early and scurried to the farm. He then headed for a mango tree, which he climbed and hid himself on. This was the tree the princess and his sisters often went to in search of its fruits. When he eventually sighted them at the feet of the tree, Tortoise, armed with mango fruits he had soaked in honey, threw the fruits down. As he did so, one of the sisters, picking the mango fruits up, quickly called on the princess whose heart was being contested for, shouting, “Opobipobi, come and see a sweet mango!” Tortoise then quickly ran to the king’s palace with drummers and singers, making a ring round him and asked the king to bring the princess out for betrothal.
As the circus of the Muhammadu Buhari presidential years winds to a close, a fitting descriptive image of the administration will likely be the mythical head of Medusa. In Greek mythology, the Medusa, also called Gorgon, was a monstrous winged female which, in place of hairs, had living venomous snakes. Anyone who was unlucky to gaze into the Medusa’s eyes would instantly turn into stone. Like the Medusa, virtually everything the Buhari government laid its gaze upon in the last seven years lost its savour. A badly hit economy under Goodluck Jonathan is today comatose; security that was on the verge of hitting the canvass is gasping for life; and society, within which politics is woven, is such that, in the words of Oscar Wilde, the gutter and the things that live in it fascinate.
In the last two weeks, politics, with Buhari superintending, has faced a major deconstruction. The jostle for the presidential office examples this. Although many would say that the shenanigan of political office is as old as Nigerian politics, what Nigerians have witnessed in the last few weeks is weird, grim and, combined, has deconstructed the highest office in the land as a hub of dirty and petty intrigues.
First was the jerking up of the nomination and expression of interest fees to N100 million by Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a way that has made mockery of purity in politics. For a man whose catchphrase was integrity, that Buhari’s party would make the jostle for his office an exclusive preserve of those who have stolen huge sums from Nigeria’s coffers is a major deconstruction of what he hyped as his political philosophy. It is so bad that known malefactors who stole this country blind, cunningly rationalising where they got the humongous money paid to collect the forms from, claim that some unnamed proxies paid on their behalf.
The second deconstruction of the highest office in the land is the scramble of all manners of Charlie Chaplin characters to become Nigeria’s Number One citizen. It is such that two reasons have been adduced for the scramble: One, that Buhari has cheapened the worth of the office of Nigeria’s president to such an inconsequential level that anyone else would do. This, Buhari did through his tooth-picking, indolent, government of you-may-jump-inside-the-
The rat race to the Villa has provoked one of the most iconic comic reactions in Nigerian history, as well as the standing of democratic logic on its head. We began the circus with candidates whose emergence provoked mis-labeling. Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Yemi Osinbajo’s fans riled the public sphere with their very empty typecasts of who the duo were. Thereafter, the list began to metastasise. You would think it was an ensemble of the travelling company of acrobats, clowns, and other entertainers. It seemed that the conditionality for being considered as aspirants for the office of the Nigerian president was for Charlie Chaplin himself to scan the aspirants for conformity with the rules of idiocy. Right there in the list are a number of discredited characters who would be stoned if they aspired to administer their local governments. At the last count, the APC alone has no less than 30 aspirants, so much that, still in the words of Wilde, one either has to give up to them or give them up.
In saner societies, Buhari, with constitutional powers to sanction his ministers for being in possession of unexplained money and showing unexampled lust for power, especially with the ministers’ nil cognisable track records of performance, should have been the first to wield the big stick against these appointees. Why didn’t Mr Integrity see the absence of integrity in a minister under him pulling out N100 million like one pulling a dry leaf off a tree and setting it alight in a barren presidential contest?
On the list, for example, is Chris Ngige, a man whose very poor handling of the crisis in our health sector as minister of Labour has led to doctors leaving federal clinics in droves. Emeka Nwajiuba, minister of state for Education, under who our children are idling and roaming about on the streets, also purchased the N100 million form. We also have Rotimi Amaechi, whose laughable but scornful ambition to administer Nigeria is as long as the huge debts his 19th century locomotives have dug Nigeria into. The blood of those killed on the Kaduna-Abuja train had hardly coagulated when Amaechi, suddenly locating his consanguinity with the Igbo, began to run round the stadium in Port Harcourt. One thought Amaechi was a student of English Literature. Conflating the literal and metaphoric import of “running” should have been way off the ken of a graduate of English. Why mislabel running for Nigerian presidency with literal sprinting like one dispossessed on the field of athletics?
In saner societies, Buhari, with constitutional powers to sanction his ministers for being in possession of unexplained money and showing unexampled lust for power, especially with the ministers’ nil cognisable track records of performance, should have been the first to wield the big stick against these appointees. Why didn’t Mr Integrity see the absence of integrity in a minister under him pulling out N100 million like one pulling a dry leaf off a tree and setting it alight in a barren presidential contest? Buhari could not and cannot, for some obvious reasons. The first is that, in seven years, the president has allowed his appointees fester in their ignominious fare in office, without sanction. Reports of monumental corruption, rank indolence and wanton disrespect for rules fly about pertaining to these appointees, with Buhari busy picking his teeth. By not replacing them in seven years, Buhari has lent official stamp to their sleaze and ill performance in office, basically adjudging them to have met his expectations. Armed with this presidential assent on their rot, it is no wonder that the ministers are proceeding to the next level by seeking to replace their effete boss in office.
Of all these aspirations, apparently funneled by greed and the over-bloated estimation of selves, the one that has astounded Nigerians the most is that of Godwin Emefiele. Dubbing himself the “Development Central Banker,” akin to that of Roberto Calvi, an Italian banker named “God’s Banker” by the Italian press due to his close affinity with the Holy See. Calvi, a native of Milan, was Chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, a bank that collapsed under one of Italy’s biggest political scandals. He was murdered in London in June 1982.
Like Calvi, Emefiele has sat on a Nigerian monetary policy that has been high in theory but an unmitigated disaster in practice. Beginning his apex bank round in 2014, after a career in commercial banking, he is said to have held the otherwise tribally-bigoted mind of Buhari captive. Those who are in the know about this queer aspiration of his put it at the feet of an incongruously political management of the CBN and the reach of its policies in the past eight years. What Emefiele is about in the presidency is exemplified by a viral photograph of him groveling to one of Buhari’s Man Fridays, Mamman Daura. Emefiele is said to have acted as funnel for sieving Nigeria’s scarce forex inside the parachute of the cabal’s insatiable babanriga.
Besides the late Aba Kyari and in close contest with the minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, no one in this government is said to have Emefiele’s access to Buhari. Considering Buhari’s renowned loathing for the Igbo, it is one of the wonders of the world that a Delta Igbo at the apex of Nigeria’s financial institution has this baffling closeness with and cozens the Daura-born General. The chemistry is said to be cash. First appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, Emefiele’s retention by Buhari and ability to meander into his heart is said to be a function of his readiness to carry the can of Buhari’s spittle at any cost. He enjoys so much of a relationship with Buhari that, in March 2021, when Hassan Mahmud, director of Monetary Policy in CBN under him, attempted to stand up to him by suggesting that offshore investors be removed from purchasing treasury bills within the CBN’s open market operations, Emefiele breathed down on him like a dinosaur and mowed him down like a matador. The fear of Emefiele is the beginning of wisdom in the Villa.
In March, in an unexampled instance of public office impunity, Emefiele’s supporters swarmed the APC convention, openly campaigning that he be elected Nigeria’s next president. Earlier, photographs of hundreds of branded vehicles being prepared for the presidential contest flooded the social media, bearing Emefiele’s name. Multiples of millions of naira worth advertorials have also been sponsored in newspapers, which were attributed to some nameless fronts.
Emefiele’s economic and financial strategy, which he self-tags as ‘heterodox’ or homegrown, has worsened the fate of the naira as against other foreign currencies. Today, the naira is struggling to be at par with the worthlessness of the Zimbabwean dollar. He holds views on exchange rate policy and command economics that have individually benefitted a tiny strand of Buhari’s powerful kitchen cabinet. This readiness to grovel is regarded as the leitmotif of Emefiele’s wide-ranged acceptance by the cabal, as one to perpetuate it in office long after exiting Aso Rock.
The reason why Buhari cannot wholly disclaim a vicarious responsibility for this flourishing of the worst of us aspiring for his office is that, virtually everyone who went to him to seek his consent to vie for Nigeria’s presidency is said to be greeted with the retort, “you have my support.” This is either a gross inability on Buhari’s part to argue otherwise, the subsisting evil of his infamous taciturnity or a wily attempt to populate the traffic for the office by his successor. This will then ultimately confuse the process and give democratic legitimacy to his coronation of an anointed favourite.
On Friday, some proxies collected the N100 million expression of interest form of the APC for Emefiele. This audacity to contest for the Nigerian presidency by stealth has been effectively and robustly impugned by the governor of Ondo State, the indefatigable and fearless Rotimi Akeredolu. In a statement he posted on his Twitter handle on Friday, Akeredolu called on Buhari to sack the CBN governor, except he immediately resigns from office. The SAN reeled out the Public Service Rules, CBN Act and the 1999 Constitution to show the insult and assault on society that Emefiele’s rumoured presidential aspiration constitutes.
In March, in an unexampled instance of public office impunity, Emefiele’s supporters swarmed the APC convention, openly campaigning that he be elected Nigeria’s next president. Earlier, photographs of hundreds of branded vehicles being prepared for the presidential contest flooded the social media, bearing Emefiele’s name. Multiples of millions of naira worth advertorials have also been sponsored in newspapers, which were attributed to some nameless fronts. In all this, Emefiele has refused to distance himself from the campaigns.
On Saturday, Emefiele, basking in the time-worn Nigerian politicians’ belief that the rest of the people are dunderheads, put out a wonky and spineless rebuttal thus: “I have not come to that decision (italics mine). I note and salute the sacrifices of those farmers and patriots going as far as raising personal funds and offering me Presidential Nomination Forms: I thank them most profusely. However, Should I answer their calls (italics mine again) and decide to seek presidential nomination, I will use my own hard-earned savings from over 35 years of banking leadership (simulating the image of a public-spirited official) to buy my own Nomination Forms…” He then added a caveat that is unequivocally the language of those who think the rest of us are simpletons: “This is a serious decision that requires God’s Divine intervention: in the next few days, (my italics) the Almighty will so direct.”
The greatest enabler of the festering of Emefiele and the army of funny characters aspiring for the office of the Nigerian president is Buhari. He is either too timid to publicly stand on the path of normalcy or his Tortoise cunning, similar to Emefiele’s, has overwhelmed his sense of decency and probity. Emefiele and Buhari will definitely know that the end of the Tortoise and its cunning is always fatal. Or, don’t they know?
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.