By BASIL ODILIM*
In February 2014 I wrote a memo to the Senate. In that memo I insisted that Senators should postpone screening Emefiele.
My argument was that because the 2007 CBN Act gave Governor Sanusi a lot of dictatorial powers, it was what caused serious fractions between governor and president. Had it not been the case, the governor ought to have not forgotten that as the chief banker of the country he was constitutionally also an economic adviser to the president.
In that memo to Senators, I showed all the sections of the said CBN Act to include the allowing of the governor to be both head of the apex bank management and its governance at the same time. Another was bringing governors straight from commercial banks. It shouldn’t have been allowed because that was why these governors look the other way while the banks enjoy supervisory and regulatory arbitrage at such a high cost to the economy.
Strengthening legislative oversights must be conspicuously stated as
part of the curtailment of the excesses of the apex bank. With such curtailment it’ll be difficult for a governor to assume monarchical powers, which Emefiele has assumed today.
I reminded them that the clean floating of the naira must be part of the amendment of the 2007 CBN Act. This was important since that is the only way to allow market forces of supply and demand to be the determinants, not dirty floating where some corrupt central bankers artificially hold local currency hostage and as a result selfishly benefit from facilitating forex manipulations and round-trippings.
From profiling Emefiele I was shocked that he is a man of poor moral upbringing and poor appreciation of what that office of the apex bank chief entails.
It clearly showed that notwithstanding Sanusi’s shortcomings, he has no doubt royal blood in his veins. And as a privileged philosopher-king he was what Socrates and Plato called a good leader.
In case of Soludo, my profiling him showed that his low middle-class background strengthened by his excellence in academic achievements too made him stand out.
Unfortunately, Emefiele lacked all these qualities. Coming from a ghetto background — which wasn’t his fault — and without any form of background in economics along with his banking career that only saw him more of a chaser of Idumota traders’ deposits and lender to finished goods importers, it would be difficult for him to suddenly change. And do so to the point that ghetto would stop following him wherever he goes, even though he left it a long time ago.
So, curtailing these powers as US Congress recently curtailed those of the Federal Reserve System (Fed) after discovering that the global financial meltdown of 2008 could be traced to lax Congressional oversights.
Was it not in an effort to introduce far-reaching sunshine into the Fed that led to Congress rolling out some draconian legislations?
Was it also not because of curtailing the powers of the Fed that Congress introduced the American Monetary Act that finally resolved the ambiguities over who controls the Fed?
What about the Federal Reserve Transparency Act enacted to pull back the curtain from a secretive and unaccountable Federal Reserve that Fed open and publicly accountable to the point that in each FOMC meeting, Congress has Government Accountability Office, the Congressional investigative arm of US Congress charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and payment of public funds should demand, and audit everything said and done during the meeting.
As I already saw it coming, I knew that Emefiele would eventually become the worst abuser of those powers if allowed as a governor without amending that CBN Act.
He was likened to Mayer Rothschild whose excesses as the controller of Britain’s money supply made him become more powerful in the British Empire than even the King, who literally was taking instructions from him.
Because of political exigencies and the fact that general election was around the corner, with the exception of a few patriotic senators, the David Mark-led Senate went ahead to give Emefiele what most saw as a “bow and go.”
Emefiele’s somersaulting monetary policy, occasioned by excessive neoliberal fiscal austerity of Okonjo-Iweala, was enough damage to have handed to Buhari the presidency on a platter of gold.
This was only further smoothened by the Obama administration’s open support for Buhari, notwithstanding his history of incompetence that led to Abacha and Babangida removing him in August 1985.
When Buhari came to power and as president-elect, his aides approached me to put together an economic plan since there was none during the campaign. Besides coming up with what I called Neo-Buharinomics, in a memo to the president-elect, I strongly made it abundantly clear to him that removing Emefiele should be one of his first actions as president.
I went as far as suggesting Chike-Obi and Ezekwesili as his potential replacement if he wanted to have Marriner Eccles’s kind of a central banker, someone who would have the courage of conducting quantitative easing, the monetary policymaking that by flooding the system with liquidity even the Great Depression in the U.S. had suddenly disappeared.
These aides of his told me that the president was going to make that decision once he was inaugurated — a decision he never made.
After inauguration Abba Kyari was appointed his chief of staff in August 2015 — it was alleged he had been sponsored by Governor Emefiele, and as a result it would be difficult to allow the president to sack him.
With that I was kept away from the administration. It was not until everyone was criticizing his government about the economy that was bleeding, including Soludo’s piece accusing the administration of implementing no economic plans, that I was approached again.
Once again I was contacted to help, but in the meeting with Abba Kyari, who during the three-hour-long meeting refused to hear anything wrong with Emefiele’s apex bank, I saw that Buhari would eventually fail in managing the country’s economy.
A few days later, his aides, now ministers, had a private meeting with me and said that the chief of staff was the problem. I reminded them that Nigerians elected Buhari, not Abba Kyari.
They asked for two names once again and I resubmitted the same two names — Mr Mustafa Chike-Obi, son of Africa’s world-renowned mathematician, and who himself excelled in academics with first class in mathematics at the University of Lagos and later one of the best-graduating Stanford MBA, and who also went to have a shining career at the Wall Street’s best bankers.
In the case of Ms Oby Ezekwesili, I told them that here was a renowned chartered accountant, a Harvard University MPA holder, and a former vice president of the World Bank.
Without any form of response from then on, I distanced myself from that government, a government more interested in who you are than what you know.
Today, the chicken has come home to roost. Emefiele with Buhari’s full support has destroyed Nigeria’s financial economy to the point of total economic financialization, and the naira from 166 to a dollar when he became governor to N880 to the same one dollar.
While millions of young Nigerian graduates are all trapped in the country’s economic mud, many out of desperation commiting suicide, some desperate trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean to get to Europe are drowned, Emefiele said to the unhappy ones to go ahead to have heart attacks for he is having fun.
For sometime now most people can’t believe that it is financially illiterate Buhari who’s giving Emefiele all the approvals, including half-baked eNaira, purchasing party ticket to contest for president of Nigeria, redesigning the same naira he launched its virtual version, and now going around the world collecting monetized awards.
Why have those showering him with these awards not thought of also hiring him or asking him to help their countries launch their own digital currencies, if his own digital naira is this successful? Are they not helping a drunk fool to continue misbehaving in the market square?
Truly, if this man is not having fun what else should he be doing to be having fun? It requires someone to tell the drunk that it is now time to stop dancing in a market square.
Of course, it is going to be difficult that after the unqualifiable damage done to the country’s economy Emefiele will be thinking that he too may be exonerated.
It’s this kind of youthful exuberance that shows that the governor is yet to grow up in central banking.
The inescapable truth is that once one is an adult one must take full responsibility for crimes committed.
You can’t blame someone else for the crimes you committed, especially when it’s you who should be culpable since you’re the only person found at the crime scene.
Buhari has already announced it to the world that he’s smart enough to have documented his actions during his eight years in office and that he has done so so well that there is nothing anyone can find in him or use against him in any court for his prosecution.
In other words, he is telling the world that even though he isn’t clean he has cleaned up all the potential traces to linking him to any crimes.
And he is down right. In this crime scene called CBN, Buhari would agree that he gave Emefiele the gun loaded with bullets. But he would be quick to deny being the one who pulled the trigger.
He will also agree to have mistakenly handed him the keys to the truck loaded with explosives.
But he’ll ask the police prosecutor, did I by handing him the keys force him to drive the truck?
That’ll be an excellent question, knowing that drunk driving or driving without a valid driver’s licence is a serious crime.
So who murdered Nigerian naira?
It’ll be Emefiele’s responsibility to inform the court when the time comes who his accomplices are.
But it takes a truly superior mind to stand out from oneself and say: You know what? I’m bad.
You can’t do that especially if you’re brought up in one of Lagos’ ghettos. You can’t do that when millions benefitting from you are chanting praises for you.
You can’t do that if you’re in a nation where wrongdoers get away with their wrongdoings.
Of course, you can’t do that if you’re suffering from a kind of inferiority complex occasioned by what’s in your part and parcel of your DNA.
It’s actually a mental health condition that needs serious treatment; but men of thumos in most cases prefer living with their pain to seeking medication.
*Odilim, a development economist, writes from Abuja