Spirited efforts are being made by top shots of the All Progressives Congress (APC), including some officials in the Presidency, to draft Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele into the presidential race ahead of the 2023 elections.
Appointed in 2014, Emefiele, who hails from Delta State, was reappointed in 2019 for a second term of five years by President Muhammadu Buhari. The second tenure of the Delta-born economist will lapse in 2024.
- NIGERIA DAILY: The “Heartache” That Valentine’s Day Causes Young People
- Money ritual: How mob overpowered police, set 2 suspects ablaze
Credible sources told this newspaper that the CBN governor is being wooed by a section of the Presidency and some APC governors to throw his hat in the ring.
First appointed as CBN governor under then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Emefiele is not known to be a card-carrying member of any political party.
However, it was gathered that some APC chieftains are pushing the CBN governor to join the race. To them, if given the ticket of the party, Emefiele’s candidature will resonate across the country.
If he joins the race, he will have to battle for the ticket with the national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, and possibly Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is yet to declare.
One of the sources close to the corridors of power in Abuja said Emefiele might likely be chosen if at the end of the day the permutations favoured the South.
“The man has endeared himself to those close to President Buhari, including among the inner caucus.
“In fact, this is basically why his tenure as CBN governor was renewed even though he was first appointed by the previous administration. He knows how to play his game well as head of the apex financial institution as well as a politician,” the source said.
Another source said top northern captains of industry are also amenable to him.
“I don’t want to call names but Emefiele has the backing of top businessmen because he gave them all the support they need. Thousands of Small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) have also benefitted from the at least 37 different interventions by the CBN,” he said.
It was further gathered that serving governors who are close to the president have been packaging the apex bank czar before the president.
“A meeting between the governors, Emefiele and President Buhari held in Daura during the Eid el-Kabir, last year, was part of the packaging,” the source also said.
Recall that the chairman, Progressive Governors’ Forum and Kebbi State governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, had led other APC governors to felicitate with President Buhari on the occasion of the Eid el-Kabir celebration at his country home in Daura, Katsina State.
Another source said Emefiele enjoyed the overwhelming affection of the president because of his bold economic policy drive that led to the swift recovery from the recession of the country.
The source said the bank czar’s initiative also came to the rescue during the 2020 COVID-19 global lockdown as he mobilised resources from the bank and the private sector to uphold the economy. According to the source, “You can understand why the president makes time to personally attend major events by Emefiele.
“The president personally launched the eNaira. He was at the rice pyramid just recently. He was in Kebbi to flag off the Anchor Borrower Programme, amongst several other engagements.”
He further argued that the call by some Nigerians for the next president to be someone with a good measure of economic background or an understanding of the economy puts the apex banker in good standing.
But a lawmaker who spoke to Daily Trust last night said those pushing the CBN governor were doing that for their selfish interests.
“They are doing this because of their interest and it will not fly because you cannot exonerate him from the poor management of the country’s economy. Don’t be deceived,” he said.
Group plans nationwide mobilisation
Meanwhile, a civil society group under the aegis of the Green Alliance (TGA) has asked Emefiele to contest the presidency in 2023.
Convener of TGA, Mr. Wale Fapohunda, who spoke at the inaugural meeting of the group in Lagos, said the movement made up of various civil society and pressure groups from across the country, believes the country needs a candidate who has experience in steering the economy in the right direction, hence their call on Emefiele to join the race.
Fapohunda said in addition to spearheading the bank’s policies and programmes that have led to job creation, Emefiele has ensured the stability of macroeconomic concerns like inflation and exchange rate.
He also stated that the CBN governor inspired the rice revolution that brought about the near-zero importation of rice into the country.
The convener said, “Emefiele has been at the forefront of pushing for diversification of Nigeria’s revenue base with emphasis on agriculture and growth of small businesses. We have done a little research about him which is why we feel he is the best man for the job.
“He was appointed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government but President Muhammadu Buhari, in his wisdom, retained him and that tells a lot about his capacity and managerial acumen.”
Also speaking, co-founder of TGA, Mr. Valentine Gabriel said the Lagos outing, which is the first for the group, would be taken round the nation in a bid to canvass support for an Emefiele presidency.
Representative of Asaba Women Association of Nigeria and Women in Politics, Angela Ajufo, said women were desperately in need of change and looking for progress and peace, promising to give their support to Emefiele.
She said, “Some persons will challenge the choice of Dr Emefiele on the basis that a sound understanding of economic policies alone is not enough to run a country as diverse as Nigeria.
“Therefore, I think it is imperative to list some of Dr Emefiele’s achievements which are not exclusively tied to his roles and office as the CBN governor.
“Specifically, he has inspired the rice revolution through its famous Anchor Borrower’s Programme (ABP), which has led to a near-zero importation of rice into the country.
“He has been at the forefront of pushing for a diversification of the country’s revenue base with emphasis on agriculture and small businesses. He equally pushed through geared at reducing the huge sums spent by the country in importing items such as fish and rice, which went as high as N1.3 trillion every year.”
Don’t distract him – CBN
The CBN has however faulted the reports that Emefiele may resign his position to contest in the 2023 presidential election.
CBN spokesman Osita Nwasinobi said the report was a distraction from the CBN’s focus on its mandate of minding monetary policies, financial stability and supporting government programmes.
“We discuss monetary policies at the Central Bank and how to support the government, we don’t discuss politics. All these distractions, they should leave us out of them so that we do our job,” he said.