As the melee I describe as the Godwin Emefiele malady gains traction, one anecdote that seems to capture it can be found in the song of late Ibadan, Oyo State-born Yoruba Awurebe music maestro, Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara. The malady is unexampled for its cunning. In it, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Emefiele, seeks to disadvantage others in the scramble for Nigeria’s Number One office, simply because he holds the key to the Nigerian vault and opens it at will to President Muhammadu Buhari, his home and a coterie of hangers-on.
Epo Akara, in one of his vinyl, had told the story of Tortoise, the Master of cunning, who wanted to marry the Princess of his town whose name nobody knew. As the contest for the heart of the Princess got hotter, the King announced that the man who would win his beautiful daughter’s heart must tell the world her name. After wracking his brain endlessly, one day, Tortoise devised a stratagem. So he woke up very early and scurried to the farm. He then headed for a mango tree which he climbed and hid himself. This was the tree the Princess and his sisters often went in search of its fruits. When he eventually sighted them at the feet of the tree, Tortoise, armed with mango fruits he had soaked in honey, threw the fruits down. As he did so, one of the sisters, picking the mango fruits up, quickly called on the Princess whose heart was being contested for, shouting, “Opobipobi, come and see a sweet mango!” Tortoise then quickly ran to the king’s palace with drummers and singers making a ring round him and asked the King to bring the Princess for betrothals.
As the circus of the Muhammadu Buhari presidential years winds to a close, a fitting descriptive image of the administration will likely be the mythical head of Medusa. In Greek mythology, the Medusa, also called Gorgon, was a monstrous winged female which, in place of hairs, had living venomous snakes. Anyone who was unlucky to gaze into the Medusa’s eyes would instantly turn into stone. Like the Medusa, virtually everything the Buhari government laid its hands upon in the last seven years lost its savour. A badly hit economy under Goodluck Jonathan is today comatose; security that was on the verge of hitting the canvass is gasping for life and society, under which politics is woven, is such that, in the words of Oscar Wilde, the gutter and the things that live in it fascinate.
In the last two weeks, politics, with Buhari superintending, has faced a major deconstruction in the jostle for presidential office. Though you will say that the shenanigan of political office is as old as Nigerian politics, what Nigerians have witnessed in the last few weeks is weird, grim and combined, have deconstructed the highest office in the land as a hub of dirty and petty intrigues.
First was the jerking up of expression of interest fee to N100 million by the Buhari party, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in a way that has made fatal mockery of purity in politics, conferring jostling for office as exclusive preserve of those who have stolen huge sums from the Nigerian coffers. It is so bad that known malefactors who stole this country blind, rationalizing where they got the humongous money paid to collect forms, claim that some unnamed proxies paid on their behalf.
The second deconstruction of the highest office in the land is the scramble of all manner of Charlie Chaplin characters to become Nigeria’s Number One citizen. It is such that two reasons have been adduced for the scramble: One, that Buhari had cheapened the worth of the office of Nigeria’s president to such inconsequential level, through his tooth-picking, indolent, you-may-jump-inside-the-lagoon-disposition-to-Nigeria’s-travails-government he runs, so much that every chicken and cockerel feels that they could do better than him. Or that Buhari wanted to legitimize the coronation of his eventual candidate as successor and needed plural democratic contest as alibi. Nothing else seems capable of explaining this fervor for Aso Rock that is assuming the level of the scandalous.
The rat race to the Villa has provoked one of the most iconic comic reactions in Nigerian history, as well as the standing of democratic logic on its head. We began the circus with candidates whose emergence provoked mis-labeling. Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Yemi Osinbajo’s fans riled the public sphere with their very empty typecasts of who the duo were. One was qualified to aspire and the other disqualified by these partisans. Thereafter, the list began to metastasize. You would think it was an ensemble of the travelling company of acrobats, clowns, and other entertainers.
While on the list is Chris Ngige, a man whose fatal handling of the crisis in our health sector as Minister of Labour has led to doctors leaving federal clinics in droves, Emeka Nwajiuba, Minister of State for Education, under whom our children are idling on the streets and roaming about, also purchased the N100 million form. We also have Rotimi Amaechi, whose laughable but scornful ambition to administer Nigeria is as long as the huge debts his 19th century locomotives have excavated in the purse of Nigeria. The blood of those killed on the Kaduna-Abuja train had hardly coagulated when Amaechi, suddenly locating his consanguinity to the Igbo, began to run round the field of Abuja.
In saner societies, Buhari, with constitutional powers to sanction his ministers for unexampled lust for power, when they have had no cognizable track record of performance, should have been the first to wield the big stick against his appointees who filed out to contest for his office. Again, why didn’t Mr. Integrity see the absence of integrity in a minister under him pulling off N100 million like one pulling leaf off a tree and setting it alight in a barren presidential contest? Buhari could not and cannot, for some obvious reasons. The first is that, in seven years, the president has allowed his appointees to fester in their ignominious fare in office, without sanction. Reports of monumental corruption, rank indolence and wanton disrespect for rules fly about on these appointees with Buhari busy picking his teeth. By not replacing them in seven years, Buhari has lent official stamp to their ill performance and sleaze, basically adjudging them to have met his expectations. Armed with this presidential assent on their rot, it is no wonder that these ministers are proceeding to the next level by seeking to replace their effete boss in office.
To worsen matters, Buhari has been at the vanguard of seeking constitutional lacuna and alibi as shield for these appointees, so that they can eat their cake and have it. As we speak, none of these presidential contender ministers has resigned their appointments. This is in utter disregard for the immorality inherent in such gluttony. The norm in other democracies is that anyone with an eye on another office – except the presidency – should vacate the one he holds at the moment, in respect for equity and justice. Running a lax government exemplified by see-no-evil, say-no-evil, Buhari has played dumb to this moral assault.
Of all these aspirations, apparently funneled by greed and over-bloated estimation of selves, the one that has astounded Nigerians the most is that of Godwin Emefiele. Dubbing himself the ‘Development Central Banker,’ akin to that of Roberto Calvi, an Italian banker named “God’s Banker” by the Italian press due to his close affinity with the Holy See, Calvi, native of Milan, was Chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, a bank that collapsed under one of Italy’s hugest political scandals. He was murdered in London in June 1982.
Like Calvi, Emefiele has sat on a Nigerian monetary policy which is high in theory but an unmitigated disaster in practice. Beginning his apex bank round in 2014 after a career in commercial banking, he is said to have held the otherwise tribally bigoted mind of Buhari captive. Those who are in the know about this queer aspiration of his put it at the feet of an incongruously political management of the CBN institution and the reach of its policies in the past eight years of his being in the saddle. What Emefiele is about in the presidency is exemplified by a viral photograph of him groveling by one of Buhari’s Man Fridays. Emefiele is said to have acted as funnel to sieve Nigeria’s scarce forex inside the parachute of the cabal’s insatiable babanriga.
Outside of late Aba Kyari and in close contest with Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, no one in this government is said to have Emefiele’s access to Buhari. Considering Buhari’s renowned loath for the Igbo, it is one of the wonders of the world that a Delta Igbo at the apex of Nigeria’s cash cozens up to the Daura-born General with baffling closeness.
The reason why Buhari cannot wholly disclaim a vicarious responsibility for this flourishing of the worst of us aspiring for his office is that, virtually everyone who went to him to seek his consent to vie for Nigeria’s presidency got the retort, “you have my support.” This is either a gross inability to argue otherwise, the subsisting evil of his infamous taciturnity or a wily attempt to populate the traffic for the office by his successor. This will then ultimately obfuscate the process and give democratic legitimacy to his coronation of an anointed favourite.
On Friday, some proxies collected the N100 million expression of interest form of the APC for Emefiele. This audacity to contest for the Nigerian presidency by stealth has been effectively and robustly impugned by the governor of Ondo State, the indefatigable and fearless Rotimi Akeredolu. In a statement he posted on his Twitter handle on Friday, Akeredolu called on Buhari to sack the CBN governor, except he immediately resigns his office.
While referring to it as “a joke taken too far,” the governor said it was difficult to imagine that Emefiele, who occupied such “exalted and sensitive office,” would undertake the brazenness of using proxies to aspire for Nigeria’s No 1 office while at the same time occupying Nigeria’s No 1 Banker’s office. The SAN reeled into the Public Service Rules, CBN Act and the 1999 Constitution to show the insult and assault on society that Emefiele’s rumoured presidential aspiration constitutes.
In March, in an unexampled instance of public office impunity, Emefiele’s supporters swarmed the APC convention, openly campaigning that he be elected Nigeria’s next president. Earlier, photographs of hundreds of branded vehicles being prepared for the presidential contest flooded the social media, bearing Emefiele’s name. Multiple of millions of Naira-worth advertorials have also been sponsored in newspapers which were attributed to some nameless fronts. In all this, Emefiele has refused to distance himself from the campaigns.
On Saturday, Emefiele, basking in the time-worn Nigerian politicians’ belief that the rest of the people are dunderheads, put out a wonky and spineless rebuttal thus: “I have not come to that decision (italics mine). I note and salute the sacrifices of those farmers and patriots going as far as raising personal funds and offering me Presidential Nomination Forms: I thank them most profusely. However, Should I answer their calls (italics mine again) and decide to seek presidential nomination, I will use my own hard-earned savings from over 35 years of banking leadership (simulating the image of a public-spirited official) to buy my own Nomination Forms, without proxies…” He then added a caveat that is unequivocally the language of those who think the rest of us are simpletons: “This is a serious decision that requires God’s Divine intervention: in the next few days, (my italics) the Almighty will so direct.”
The greatest responsibility for the festering of Emefiele and the army of funny characters aspiring for the office of the Nigerian president lies with Buhari. He is either too timid to publicly stand on the path of normalcy or his Tortoise cunning, similar to Emefiele’s, has overwhelmed his sense of probity. Emefiele and Buhari will definitely know that the end of Tortoise and his cunning is always fatal. Or, don’t they know?