By Buraimoh Salami
Part of the issues in the front burner of Nigeria’s political landscape at the moment is the alleged interest of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to vie for the office of the nation’s President.
Many interested Nigerians have already indicated their interest to the presidency, some of them serving or former state governors. Others have previously aspired to the same office and are desirous of getting there. Still others have risen to become the second citizen of the country in the past.
There are also the clergies, journalists as well as academics among those jostling for the highest office of the land this time.
But, so far, none of them has created a storm in the water the way Emefiele has, except perhaps for Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose health concerns have created some form of controversy.
For whatever reason, the CBN governor’s name suddenly hit the news waves with the impact of a tornado on an island. He was mentioned by some obscure group that called itself the Green Alliance and the responses that followed are enough to give the impression of an impending war.
Green Alliance threw what was obviously a teaser, tossing Emefiele’s name into the Nigerian political arena. The group stimulated the sensitivities of a number of known and unknown adversaries who would not have wanted the CBN governor to join the race.
Not that he is not qualified to join. Emefiele has a constitutional right to contest any election in Nigeria. He is a Nigerian and has all the prerequisite qualification to be president in abundance. In fact, more than most of the other aspirants, Emefiele enjoys the pre-eminence of governing an institution that mimics the Nigerian state in its complicated nature and its vast areas of coverage. His understanding of the CBN and its mandates must have prepared him for the daunting task of facing Nigeria’s problems.
But those who have so far reacted to the mention of his name hinged their concern on the fact that he is still the CBN governor and should not be associated with any political office.
They therefore have continued to call on him to either resign or disassociate himself from speculation about him contesting the 2023 presidency.
According to a group, “By virtue of being the Governor of the apex bank in Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele is not eligible to contest for any election in Nigeria or participate in politics. By the provisions of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, he is statutorily barred from participating in politics or engaging in any other business for that matter.
“Section 9 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act provide thus: “The Governor and the Deputy Governors shall devote the whole of their time to the service of the Bank and while holding office shall not engage in any full or part time employment or vocation whether remunerated or not except such personal or charitable causes as may be determined by the Board and which do not conflict with or detract from their full-time duties.”
The group acknowledged that Emefiele has not publicly declared interest in the race to contest the 2023 presidential election. It also agreed that he has a constitutional right to contest any election in Nigeria.
It however asked him to make his stand known by refuting his alleged interest or resign because he cannot pursue political ambition while in office.
This position, by all standards, is too conservatively twisted. It really stands logic on its head and missed all the points about freedom of expression and right of association. In all, it is a bit uneducated and widely undemocratic. I will explain why.
If Emefiele wants to join partisan politics in order to contest to be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is his choice, his prerogative, his right. This much has been acknowledged even by those criticizing him.
And if he decides that he would do so, there are rules guiding what he should do as a serving CBN governor. His tenure in office is statutorily determined but he can resign if there are prevailing circumstances that would warrant that.
As he has not revealed that he would be vying to be president and there is no clear evidence indicating that he is doing so, it is absurd for anyone to ask him to relinquish his office simply because some groups of people are calling on him to contest. Many groups in Nigeria have been calling all sort of people to contest or recontest for political offices. Some have even called on past and present presidents to extend their tenures in office beyond the constitutionally allowed limits. Those who attempted to heed to calls to violate the constitution met with stiff resistance at the appropriate time.
Whoever may be calling on Emefiele to contest has right to associate for that purpose. Whether or not they succeed in persuading him to heed their call is a different thing.
It would have been meaningful if Emefiele had made moves towards joining the presidential race in 2023 without leaving office. All the hoes and cries would have been justified.
A more civilized way to approach the Emefiele alleged presidential ambition is to wait for him to declare his interest if he has one. It is a converse logic to expect him to be refuting all calls on him to contest.
Unless he is an unserious apex bank chief executive, he would ordinarily disregard those calls as he has done and stick to the tedious job before him until his tenure runs out.