By OBINNA EZUGWU
When it emerged early February that the ‘who is who’ in Nigeria’s business community, including governors of both the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) were holding strategic meetings in Abuja and Lagos to push for the presidential candidacy of a South South technocrat in 2023, with Mr. Godwin Emefiele’s name being mentioned as the said candidate, many people would have been amused.
Mr. Emefiele could not be an ideal presidential candidate in a contest featuring many time-tested politicians, even as the stakes are high on account of a number of factors. Indeed, only few individuals could have contemplated a possible power bid by the cool headed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who has practically no experience in party politics.
But the reality of the Agbor, Delta State born banker being potentially the favoured person to fly the presidential flag of Nigeria’s ruling party in 2023, is dawning and the political environment has continued to buzz with debates for and against him dominating political discuss, even as groups have emerged to drum support for him.
Last week, his campaign posters surfaced in Lagos, mostly around Surulere and recently, his supporters, mainly youths, spotted white T-Shirts with the inscription MEFFY 2023 at an occasion held in the state to promote his potential candidacy.
Though not entirely clear at moment, and Emefiele has, for obvious reason of his still presiding over the country’s apex bank, not come out to admit or deny the rumoured presidential ambition, preferring instead to put his fate in God’s hands while noting that it is the prerogative of President Muhammadu Buhari to map out his succession plan, what is clear is that he will be the candidate to watch should he finally own up to the rumour; what at this stage seems to be only a matter of time.
Several sources in the know have confirmed to our correspondents that Emefiele, known to have the ear of Buhari, is one of the president’s preferred candidates to succeed him, with Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and former president, Goodluck Jonathan also mentioned as potential candidates.
Jonathan, who remains officially a member of the PDP, has been mentioned severally, too, with the idea being that since he is only eligible for one term of four years, his presidency, which could be in breach of the eight tenure for power rotation, would be the quickest route for the North to reclaim power, potentially in 2027.
Emefiele, on the other hand, fits the bill in the president’s reckoning, sources said, on account of his loyalty and ethnic origin.
“The idea is that he (Emefiele) as president is unlikely to distort the order Buhari has established in the polity,” a source who preferred anonymity said. “Importantly, he is also from the Igbo speaking part of Delta State, which means that he would also be addressing the issue of Igbo presidency.”
The source continued: “The President knows how strongly the Igbo feel about producing president in 2023, but he is uncomfortable with the Southeast. He prefers someone from the South South and of course, the Igbo cannot argue against someone like Emefiele.”
Last week, the CBN governor created a twitter account and has been relatively active, with posts ranging from dismissing untrue reports about his person and praising Buhari for one project or the other. The development would have ordinarily seemed innocuous, but the timing of it, and given the role of the social media platform in the country’s politics, many have tended to link it to a certain intention to join partisan politics.
Indeed, what appears to be the strongest indication yet is that since the speculations began to emerge strongly in early February, Emefiele has yet to deny it, what he would have ordinarily wasted little time to do, especially given that he is still the governor of the Central Bank.
Speaking on Tuesday, February 15, when when a ‘group of his friends,’ that identified themselves as Friends of Godwin Emefiele, visited him to discuss the controversy over his rumoured presidential ambition in 2023, the CBN governor noted that his fate is in God’s hands.
Only yesterday, as the speculation became widespread, a group of his friends under the aegis of FRIENDS OF GODWIN EMEFIELE met with him to clarify his position, a statement signed by the group after the visit said.
The group said the verbal attacks on Emefiele over the rumoured 2023 bid are uncalled for, since he has not confirmed to anyone he is running for President even as he is constitutionally qualified to do so.”
Explaining what Emefiele said during the meeting, the group had said, Here is what he told us: That he remains focused on his job and will continue supporting the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal governments economic recovery drive; that in his career trajectory, right from his days as a young banker, he never asked, nor lobbied for a job, he was invited by the Board of Directors to be the Chief Executive Officer/Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank as he was an integral part of the team, led by founder Jim Ovia, that transformed Zenith Bank from a start-up to one of Africas largest banks with subsidiaries in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, South Africa, Dubai, China and the United Kingdom….
Mr. Emefiele told us that he believes its the prerogative of President Muhammadu Buhari to plan his succession in line with global best practices for good governance for the continuing peace and progress of the federal republic of Nigeria, as such he will play his part to stabilise the economy for an orderly transition.
And given that its God that anoints leaders, he will leave his fate firmly in the hands of God.
Groups Drum Support
Meanwhile, a number of groups have come out to demand that the CBN governor throws his hat in the ring. On Saturday, February 12, a coalition group, the Green Alliance, addressed a press conference in Lagos asking him to declare for president.
Addressing the press conference in Lagos on Saturday, Wale Fapounda, convener of the group, said the country needs a technocrat that can handle the affairs of the country, adding that Emefiele understands global economic growth and that it would compel him to accede to its request to run for the presidency under the APC platform.
This forum has come together to plead and beg Dr. Godwin Emefiele to run as president of Nigeria in 2023, Fapounda said.
Since he was appointed the governor of the CBN he has spent his energy in building a resilient financial system that can serve the growth and development needs of the Nigerian economy. A typical example of this was seen during his first term, he supervised an interventionist currency policy at the behest of the presidency, propping up the Nigerian Naira by pumping billions of dollars into the foreign exchange market.”
On February 2022, another group PUSH Emefiele 2023 (Pe2023), urged Nigerians to join in urging him to contest for president, as according to it, he remained the best man for the job.
The group, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Mr. Presley Okojie, argued that Emefieles candidacy would ensure economic consolidation project to life one hundred million Nigerians out poverty in the next couple of years.
PE2023 which claimed to have credible Nigerians, with solid grassroots connection across the six geopolitical zones within its ranks, had said, At this point in our history, we need a pan-Nigerian, with strong background in economics and versatile local and international connections/experience, to upscale our steady economic growth and ultimately tackle all forms of insecurity and separatists narratives.”
Yet, last week, another group, the Kaduna chapter of the Pro-Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele for President 2023, asked the CBN governor to join the race for the presidential election.
Chairman of the group, Mohammed Omale, who made the call at a meeting organised by his members in Kaduna, on Sunday, noted that Emefiele has devoted his time and energy towards building a strong financial system that would lead to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy.
According to him, Emefiele, has demonstrated the capability and ability to lead this great country to the promise land. The group therefore, urged the CBN governor to run for the presidency in 2023, maintaining that his track records at the CBN, are indication that he would transform Nigeria for the better if elected president.
As patriotic citizens of the federal republic of Nigeria, strong believers in democracy and advocates for a greater Nigeria built on a solid economic foundation, we declare support for the current governor of the Central Bank Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Omale said.
He promoted agricultural development through anchor borrowers schemes which has yielded great success in all parts of the country regardless of religion or tribe.
He has ensured stable economy in Nigeria by engaging the fiscal authority through various interventions.
He has worked tirelessly to see that Nigerian economy is among the 25th world best economy globally.
Politics remains the biggest industry in Nigeria, and support groups are never in short supply during election seasons. The emergence of various support groups, therefore, cannot be testament to Emefiele’s presidential credentials, but as a top Lagos businessman noted in an interaction with our correspondent, the decision of the business community to back the CBN governor speaks volumes.
I can assure you that it’s not for nothing that top businesses owners like Dangote are part of the Emefiele presidential project,” he said. “They won’t just back anyone. They have businesses everywhere, are in the know and just know the people to look look out for during election seasons. This time, Emefiele is one of such people.”