By Jibrin Ibrahim
As the Buhari Administration approaches the finish line, all the governance deficiencies of the regime are being amplified. Some years ago, I wrote a column about what happens to governance when the President is not governing. My conclusion was that every member of the Government becomes their own governor and do whatever pleases them. Governance at cross purposes becomes the order of the day and there is no coherence in governmental action and inaction. As there is no sheriff in town, public officials become emboldened and more brazen in their action. Accountability disappears completely and there are no rules in the game of governance. That is where we are today.
The latest strange behaviour is from Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He went to the federal high court in Abuja and filed a suit that he should be declared to eligible to participate as a candidate in the 2023 presidential election. His main prayer is that the respondents, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) should recognise him his as a public officer and in that capacity does not need to resign, withdraw or retire from his office as Governor of the Central Bank of appointment until 30 days to the elections. His idea is to do most of the campaign while still exercising the functions of the Governor of the Central Bank.
Were he to win the presidential nomination in the ruling APC, which as is now known, he has been a card-carrying member of for the past year, he will be the custodian of sensitive election materials. INEC as we all know keeps sensitive election material, including ballots in the Central Bank, believing as they should, that the officials of the venerable institution and its leadership cannot be involved in partisan politics and all parties would therefore feel that confident that the non-partisanship of the institution would be a guarantee that the materials would not be tampered with. It now appears that way back in February last year, Mr Emefiele joined the ruling APC party and that a lot of the policies he has promoted within the CBN are part of an orchestrated plan to build up a campaign strategy and manifesto. The support the CBN has been providing to farmers, the messaging about food security, the public relations project of building rice pyramids in Abuja for a photo opportunity for him and President Buhari and dismantling the pyramids immediately the cameras left the scene were all part of this partisan campaign agenda.
The massive amount of money the CBN has been giving the government to run its budget and creating massive debts that generations of Nigerians yet unborn would be paying for all their lives, were all part of his tactics to get a grateful President Buhari to support his presidential ambition. An essential element of the role of any central bank is to curb reckless financial expenditure by government. It is not an easy role and many committed central bank governors have boldly played this role of curbing financial recklessness. Mr. Emefiele however has been the one pushing government into more massive levels of reckless spending. It is now essential that the administration of the CBN by Mr. Emefiele must be thoroughly investigated as soon as he jumps out or is pushed out of the institution.
A shadowy support group is said to have invested 100 million naira to buy a nomination form for Emefiele to contest for the presidency on the ticket of the ruling APC. We all know how expensive presidential campaigns are. It is clear to me that this support group has set laser focused sight, not on Mr. Emefiele per say, but on the money kept in the vaults of the CBN. The only reason they would want him to remain in office during the campaign is to maintain access to Nigeria’s money, which he would be encouraged to pilfer to fund the campaign. Even the richest candidates in the race will find out that they would be no competition to the person with the keys of the CBN vaults in his pocket. In addition, they would be worried about the possibility of collecting extra ballots kept in the CBN for election rigging and their concerns would be justified.
It is to address such concerns that one of the most important conditions for free, fair and credible elections is ensuring a level playing field exists. The reality of Nigerian politics is that the odds are piled on the side of the very rich so those who cannot produce billions of naira for their campaign are not real contenders. As we see in the current process, so many who would have wanted to enter the contest are not even capable of paying for the nomination forms, not to talk of campaign resources. When one candidate joins the race with the keys of the central bank vaults in his pocket, it raises the unfairness to a new level.
After hesitating for a long time, the president has finally given the directive, through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) that all members of the Federal Executive Council, heads of extra-ministerial departments, agencies, parastatals of government, ambassadors and other political office holders who wish to contest the upcoming presidential, gubernatorial, national and state assemblies’ elections should resign on or before Monday, the 16th of May, 2022. Had the President been clearer at an earlier stage, we would have been saved the spectacle of people using government resources to contest for power. The next step, I suspect, is for the CBN Governor, Oga Emefiele. to tell the President that according to the CBN Act, only the National Assembly can remove him from office, after all, there is no sheriff in town.