The central bank governor is doing his best for the economy, writes Williams Eghebi
Early this year, Pastor Tunde Bakare, perhaps in response to his dwindling church collections, called for the resignation or sack of Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Some legislators including Dino Melaye, the unofficial spokesman ofthe embattled Senator Bukola Saraki, joined the fray without empirical fact to link the current economic challenges to the nation’s chief banker. These rabble rousers received unquantifiable attacks from all angles.
Last week, a member of the Federal House of Representatives chose the CBN governor as the specimen to test its potency. According to him, Mr. Emefiele should be shown the exit door as sacrifice for the harsh economic realities we now face. My knowledge of economics did not transcend my secondary school aside what I gathered from my interactions with several countries visited and media reportage. But this recap may serve useful purpose.
In 2007 while in the UK, a friend visited from Nigeria. He had a Nigerian girlfriend who was a smoker. My friend came with about 20 packs of cigarettes he bought in Nigeria. Though the product was within the quantity allowed, he was detained for hours. As at the time he was let go without charges, he was mockingly told that tobacco products from Nigeria and other developing climes have higher tendency to cause cancer and other terminal ailments.
The reason for this boarder humiliation was very far from what was offered. In that particular country, such products receive over 800% value added tax. In addition, restriction of inflow of such products encourages employment and by extension, economic growth.
For a nation therefore to grow economically, there must be a structure that stimulates production of what is needed. No nation can survive without apparent dependence on another though the support may be little. And any nation that depends on another solely for its sustenance is doomed. And sadly, Nigeria with a sobriquet, ‘Giant of Africa’, belongs to this uncharitable club. We did not join the league by accident. Through our insatiable love for anything foreign, we spontaneously endorse inarticulate economic policy which entails we consume what we do not produce.
Nigerians, both educated and illiterate, long knew that we were sliding towards doom if we fail to change our consumption pattern. We allow the bureau de change business to replace groundnuts pyramids in Kano. The ingenious craftsmen in Nnewi and Aba were encouraged to drop their skills for ‘general importation and general merchandise’ and mass transit businesses. ‘Ekene Dili Chukwu and Osondi’ became their trademarks. The cocoa farmers in the West were nudged to accept politics as profession laced with violence despite the legacy the crop brought. In the Mid-West, palm trees were abandoned for civil service jobs. All these crossovers were motivated by the discovery of oil in Oloibiri in 1958 and subsequent exploration in various parts of Niger Delta.
The money began to flow, employment letters were dispatched to people who never sought them. People were paid to go to school. Graduates were offered cars to lure them to work. Jerome Odoji became worried that the vaults were no longer enough to house the proceeds from oil. He insisted that more money be distributed to workers without their request.
The managers of our economy requested that Asians be brought to teach in our schools. We are a rich nation. Our kids need be taught by ‘whites’. We were ‘progressing’. The foreign earnings were on the up. Young men and women were sent overseas to study. Quarrel amongst brothers and sisters that could be resolved ensued. Nay, let’s fight. After all, we have money. The Ibos were butchered. United Kingdom had opportunity to ship weapons to Nigeria. France had Biafra as business partners.
The brains sent overseas to study returned to fight along tribal lines. Those brains ended up in mass graves. Our infrastructure was decimated. Our Ibo brothers became malnourished and they were tagged enemies even if the mantra of reconciliation hinged on ‘no victor; no vanquish’.
Consequently, national leaders became ethnocentric to the extent that mediocrity became the norm. In the mid-1970s there was need to change the tide but the crusader was hacked down and our ‘brother’ who succeeded him against his wish was scared to do the needful. The former teacher was removed by a military gang not because his cigarette addiction hindered his articulation but because the military was idle in the barracks.
The jackboot boys introduced all manner of programmes to blindfold us against their loot, exchanging batons with ease until one of them died ‘thieving’, leaving the risqué apple-bearers behind. Their civilian collaborator was earlier nudged to take over from them. He fell into the booby trap and died in the presence of western accomplice. The Papa who was hitherto unready for governance was brought out from confinement to represent the interest of the military pensioners. He was fast to replenish his barn depleted while in jail over phantom coup plan. He sweet-talked our creditors to slash our debts but he spent the gains in his futile attempt to lead till eternity.
A sick but decent man was foisted on us. He was very austere and succeeded in taming the creek agitators and warlords. As his health was rapidly failing, his harem amazon emerged from the cocoon, giving instructions. Someday, the man was pronounced dead. Power suddenly dropped on the laps of the riverine dwellers. Mr. Transparency boasted that he was rigged out and allegedly vowed to withhold peace. Best brains were assembled. Not too long, we were convinced that ‘book nor be sense’. There came different competitions ranging from thieving to randy escapades with women of easy virtues in the team.
The gentle guy was not strong enough to confront the state monitors on saving the excess funds from crude oil. His party was drifting while the self-acclaimed ‘father’ motivated him to discard ‘Mr. Fix It’ and Papa Iyabo. Criminals became the godfathers. The leadership of the upper chambers of the national legislature was unchanged for eight years not because they cared a hoot about us but for harmonious ‘sharing of the loot’.
The senior prefect was overwhelmed. He called on a thorough bred to midwife the next election. He had no interest to run for a ‘second term’, hence he put in motion machinery for transparent and credible contest. His matriarch was scared to vacate the opulence just as his aides and kinsmen. He was threatened and consequently carved in. The professor was urged to drop the electronic device in order to help manipulate the results without success. Our vaults were emptied to buy votes but those sent kept the money in their underground wells. Nigerians were used as collateral for more loans that were shared amongst them. A blue-blooded retired army officer was given our national ATM card. It has no withdrawal limit.
Election came. Behold, the man lost. He hurriedly accepted defeat without consulting ‘Madam’, his domestic boss and aides. The maritime thugs felt their end was near without their kinsman calling the shots. The looting gang became afraid of the new czar in town. Thinking he would change the nation’s currency the way he did in 1984, they began to stack their coveted loot in foreign currency. The banks were not safe especially with the introduction of the BVN. Instead of forming his government few weeks after assumption of office, he concentrated on compiling the list of treasury looters. He hardly speaks and when he does, Nigerians were called rogues. Investors became tired of waiting for economic programme. They chose to wire their investment elsewhere. Oil price continues to slide while the creek guys began to detonate mines, destroying oil facilities which their brother paid them billions of dollars to protect.
Negotiating with the vandals was perceived as a sign of weakness for a retired soldier. He threatened to slaughter them until he realised that his armoury was empty. Workers were left without salaries. He reached out to CBN to bail out state governments. The recipients instead used the money to buy electoral judgments. Workers remain unpaid. Importation of rice was banned yet the shops are adorned with smuggled expensive cereals. No fertilisers, no grants to farmers but we expect bumper yields. Mothers begin to exchange kids for stapples. Pot of soups became insurable.
At onset, the ruling party was overwhelmed, failing to provide leadership in the National Assembly. The deputy senior prefect became sidelined by the monitor in Kaduna. The risk-takers in the 2015 election were shoved aside. Internal squabbles became rampant. They noticed that power was evaporating fast just as trust. Someone remembers one ‘Comrade’ as the new face of the ruling party. The governorship election must be won. It was postponed and later won by those who spent more.
How can there be any tangible economic growth under this scenario? Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor is not our problem; he is one of the solutions to our current economic woes. He was outstanding as the CEO of Zenith International Bank, the undisputed trail blazer in modern banking in Nigeria.
Eghebi is Acting Editor, Anioma Watch Newspaper