By Ahmed Abdulkadir
Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in recent years always gets the denigration when the economy dithers. It’s becoming a pattern. And the man in the maelstrom of deprecation is usually Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of the apex bank.
An inquisition on the serial attacks shows that they are borne out of ignorance of the baying mob. Ignorance of the role of central banks across the globe; ignorance of micro and macro-economic dynamics in a national economy.
But talk is always cheap. And in a democracy with its full complement of free speech, talk is even cheaper, in some cases, crass. This is the context to situate the recent poorly choreographed verbal attacks on Emefiele and the CBN. Some Nigerians have blamed him even for their personal failings.
Others think he has everything to do with the sudden arrival of the coronavirus pandemic since early last year. Emefiele has been blamed for Nigeria’s dwindling economic fortunes. And you would think he and he alone has the magisterial power to determine the price of crude oil in the international market.
Simply put, Emefiele has become the fall guy in the national blame game. And surprisingly, the Nigerian Central Banker takes all the darts with equanimity and grace. He has managed to stay focused, heralding a plethora of reforms to move the nation from the pit of consumerism to productivity. He has fought many battles and still does. Those who criticise the CBN Governor obviously do so either out of ignorance or are driven by sheer mischief to satiate the pleasure of rent merchants, crooked forex foxes and abusers of the basic rudiments in banking including bank-customer relations.
A sinister pattern is emerging in the manner the central banker is being placed on the chopping board by his traducers. Each time Emefiele busts the bubble of enemies of the nation’s economic well-being, he gets the flaks. When in June 2015, the CBN in a bold bid to save the naira and shore up the nation’s forex reserve excluded importers of 41 goods from accessing forex through the official window, all hell was let loose. Import magnates and tycoons who have over the years abused the official forex window by accessing forex from CBN for local production of goods and services only to turn round and plough the same forex into importation of the same items they pretended to produce locally, found in Emefiele the obstacle to their easy fortune. It did not matter to them that Emefiele had to make the tough decision to save the naira and encourage local production.
These import mandarins went to town, calling for the head of the CBN Governor. Away with Emefiele, they chanted. Some alluded to his incompetence. To them, anybody that stops their devious trade of making easy money to the detriment of the nation’s economy is evil, an enemy of progress. But they, not Emefiele, are the proven enemies of the nation. They are the ones who frustrated local production and have turned our factories into warehouses for their imported merchandise. Today, by hindsight, Nigerians now see the wisdom in Emefiele’s courageous decision to discontinue funding importation of those items from the nation’s hugely depleted forex reserve. Most of those items are now locally produced in commercial quantity through a vastly improved value chain.
Local production of rice, for instance, has never been this glorious. Nigerian rice now compete favourably with foreign rice in quality. Needless restating the fact that in terms of health benefits and for purposes of healthy living, Nigerian-produced grains come highly recommended ahead of the foreign ones most of which have not only long expired but are highly toxic because they have been subjected to huge volume of preservatives and chemicals to elongate their shelf life. This is aside the fact that Emefiele has used that masterstroke of no-forex funding for about 40 items to provide jobs for millions of Nigerian farmers, fabricators and those in allied industries.
Now, the same Emefiele has come under another hail of censure. A group styled Arewa Youth Assembly wants Emefiele to resign. The group accused Emefiele of being responsible for the downward spiral in the value of the naira. They say he is nursing a Presidential ambition in 2023; that he’s responsible for yet another bout of ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strike. They even accused him of ‘dishing out’ BDC licences to National Assembly members, the same Emefiele that recently reined in BDCs by stopping sale of forex to them because they have continually breached the agreement under which they were given forex and also for aiding in the spread and sustenance of terrorism in the country. Some BDCs had been reputed to be willing conduits through which Boko Haram and its bloody mission are funded.
But it’s obvious that the group lacks the capacity to understand the basic functions of CBN, or the sacrifices being made by CBN through several interventions to keep the economy afloat. The group’s pathetic lack of capacity is eloquently highlighted by the solecisms and gross infelicities including grammatical flaws that defined its press statement. Such is the cheapness of talk. And more importantly, such is the uncanny fate of the critic. As George Edward Monroe once said, ‘the lot of critics is to be remembered by what they failed to understand.’ This is the sense in which critics of Emefiele should be excused. They dabble into a subject matter they have no understanding of. They goof and roll in the mud and still expect rational minds to applaud them. Never! No applause for them. They can only be remembered, even pitied, for what they failed to understand.
But wait a minute, does this not sound like another voice of Jacob and hand of Esau? How come this new ‘Emefiele must resign’ crusade is coming after Emefiele curbed the excesses of BDCs? And it might just as well be that there’s a big masquerade beating the drums for these young critics. But need I remind my beloved Arewa Youth Assembly that if there was ever any Central Bank Governor that has been fair, nice and benevolent to the north and the cause of the north, it’s Emefiele. The resurgence of momentum in agri-business in the north is all thanks to Emefiele who introduced the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, ABP. The fact that we have rice pyramid these days in Kebbi, improved processes across the entire rice value chain; the fact that there’s improved cotton, maize, beans, wheat production among other productive ventures captured in the ABP speaks volume of the love of Emefiele for the north who today are the highest beneficiaries of the ABP.
Emefiele is not the problem of Nigeria economy. On the contrary, he’s the solution provider, bringing comfort and mounting a coterie of interventions to save the naira and by extension, the economy. It’s not Emefiele’s fault that Nigeria produces crude oil, sells it cheap and spends much more than the production cost to import finished products of the same crude oil. It’s not Emefiele’s fault that Nigeria these past decades abandoned agriculture and a once thriving primary sector to anchor her economy on the weak ramparts of crude oil receipts which today has dropped significantly.
Let’s spare a thought. Emefiele has been good to the north, and to the country in general. We should never be the same people calling for his scalp. That’s the height of ingratitude.
Abdulkadir, a farmer, writes from Kano