Emefiele: The great talent misunderstood by many Nigerians

Godwin Emefiele

In Chinua Achebe’s famous 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s father Unoka is described as a tall, thin man with a slight stoop who appeared haggard and mournful except when he was drinking or playing his flute. His favourite time of year was after the harvest when he joined with village musicians to make music and feast.

As an excellent flautist, he was happy and peaceful when playing his flute, despite the sorrow and grief that was evident in his music. He was said to be an irresponsible man who never planned for the future with a lot of debts and without any title. The painful part was that even his son Okonkwo believed that narrative and loathed his father.

Okonkwo and the entire Umoufia clan failed woefully to see the musical talent and skills that Unoka possessed for what it is. After enjoying his music and failing to reward him accordingly, they turned around to make a mockery of him and treat him as a second class citizen. For the people of Umoufia, every man was supposed to be a great farmer, hunter and fighter and so they neglected the most talented musician of all times.

Were Unoka in this century, his music would have earned him more money and titles than the greatest man in the whole of Igbo land. That’s what happens when people’s seeming faults are emphasised above their talents, skills and giant strides.

Recently, there have been calls by Nigerians for the immediate sack of the current Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Chief Godwin Ifeanyichukwu Emefiele over speculations of his involvement in partisan politics. While the facts remain sketchy as to the veracity of that claim, it is pertinent to appeal to Nigerians to kindly go beyond the roar and the condemnations that have followed this accusation and look at the very numerous achievements recorded under Emefiele as the CBN Governor within the short period he has held sway as the nation’s number one banker.

The needless speculations will blur our vision and prevent us from seeing what a fine banker Emefiele is just like Unoka’s kinsmen failed to see beyond his inability to engage in farm work, fight wars and take titles like every other Igbo man at the time. Instead of loathing and hating our son the way Okonkwo did to his father, let’s celebrate our son and all the magic he has done to our economy rather than asking for his head.

While everyone is entitled to his opinion and free speech which is one of the tenets of democratic culture, it is important to note that Mr. Emefiele has not breached any law, not the CBN Act, the Electoral Act or the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If there is any crime that Emefiele has committed, it’ll be his avid dedication to the economy and fiscal policies of Nigeria. This, of course, is not a crime, so, instead of throwing the baby away with the bathwater, let’s take time and remind ourselves of the numerous achievements of this great financial czar, especially in rescuing the Nigerian economy which had almost collapsed under the 16-year rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, world economies literally crumbled with no hope in sight. However, during the same period, proactive fiscal and economic policies championed by the ever-resourceful Emefiele steered the country away from this imminent catastrophe, leading to positive growth in the economy to the wonder of even the IMF, Europeans and Americans. By prioritizing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the CBN in partnership with NIRSAL MFB rolled out tailor-made financial services that targeted households and small businesses. Millions of Nigerians accessed loans running into trillions of naira which boosted the economy and productivity.

The manufacturing sector received the greatest boost under the current CBN Governor. As an astute economist, he knows that stimulating domestic production helps to reduce dependence on foreign goods, reduces imports and creates a balance of trade and improves foreign exchange. By deliberately making funds available to manufacturers through the Bank of Industry, the CBN under Emefiele did not just create more jobs but grew the economy in ways that were never expected before this era. Manufacturers won’t forget in a hurry the ease with which they obtained forex after the racketeering and artificial scarcity created by those who hoarded forex and traded it on the black market.

It is important to specifically talk about the stoppage in forex racketeering and the efforts made by the CBN to stabilise the dollar against the naira. What many Nigerians do not know is that Mr. President’s pledge to reverse the exchange rate of naira to the dollar where one dollar will be equal to one dollar would have been possible under Emefiele if not for the handiwork of economic saboteurs. They created a false sense of instability in the forex market spreading rumours and fears in the minds of Nigerians and foreigners alike. The successful end to that charade has not only stabilised the naira but has also boosted confidence in the Nigerian economy. Instead of calling for Emefiele’s sack, let’s support him to actualise Mr Presidents’ vision of one dollar to one naira.

It is also on record that Godwin Emefiele has made concerted efforts to strengthen the naira including the launch of the e-naira which is the first of its kind in the whole world. The cashless policy of the CBN equally revolutionized payments and trade in ways that Nigerians never expected. Many jobs were created through the myriad of businesses that sprang up as a result. The success of schemes and policies of the CBN are our successes and we must be part of the vibrant efforts made by the apex bank instead of joining the chorus of those who did not see Unoka’s talents and are still in a hurry to crucify a resourceful banker because his tactics and logic defied what is commonplace.

There’s hardly an aspect of the economy that Emefiele has not touched. His penchant for addressing youth unemployment has led to several youth intervention programs and funds channeled through the NYSC, Universities and an array of loans and grants aimed at strengthening the entrepreneurs with capital and working tools. The Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneur Scheme (TIES), the National Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) and many more are some of the direct interventions that have made lasting impressions on the youth and the Nigerian economy at large. We cannot begin to crucify Emefiele over little speculations without paying him tribute for the many things he has done for the Nigerian state.

While not trying to depend on Chief Emefiele, it is important to appeal to discerning Nigerians and all people across political and social divides to support rather than distract him from doing the work he has always done to make the economy better. For a man who has twice saved Nigeria from recession, especially in the face of falling oil revenues and the damages of the COVID-19 pandemic, we owe him at least a debt of gratitude and support.

Semaka, a public affairs commentator and convener Save Nigeria Movement, writes from Abuja