By Zainab Suleiman Okino
The Former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele finally got a respite last Friday when he was released from Kuje prison after meeting his bail conditions, but not before his alleged atrocious and unfathomable heist was made public, to his eternal disgrace. Emefiele was arrested by the Tinubu-led government and spent 195 days in detention, while investigations into his tenure at the apex bank were ongoing. Though the media decried his and EFCC former chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa’s long detention without trial in line with the country’s laws, by the time his trial commenced, it is obvious we had a juvenile-like man in charge of a trillion-dollar economy of Nigeria. It is therefore not a surprise that the economy also collapsed and all he could do was to encourage a figure head President Buhari to borrow and borrow more.
Back to the shocking revelations shaking the fabrics of the Nigeria society, Emefiele according to the special investigator, Jim Obazee operated 593 illegal US, UK, and China accounts and diverted 543,482, 213 pounds in UK banks alone, in addition to his trial over N1.2 billion procurement frauds. There are also allegations that Emefiele sold or is it “gave away” Union Bank, Keystone Bank and Polaris Bank to proxies and cronies in the guise of special purpose vehicle (SPV) for acquisition after CBN’s no objection report orchestrated by the governor of course.
Emefiele’s sins are many and the coming days will reveal the Tinubu-led government’s readiness to handle corruption-related issues concerning the ex-CBN governor, other key players of the previous government and anybody for that matter, and that includes those associated with him. Emefiele, fresh out of prison has sought for further investigation of the shady deals he was accused of while claiming that the accusations against him “are false, misleading and calculated to disparage my person and injure my character.” I hope so too and wish Emefiele good luck, because only a person with mental disorder would commit such malfeasance and hope not to be reprimanded.
By far, the most damaging of Emefiele’s obnoxious policies, was the Naira redesign, which assumed a political dimension allegedly to stop Tinubu from emerging as president, but nonetheless had devastating consequences on ordinary Nigerians leading to deaths and crippling of people’s finances.
To think that the idea is perceived to have emanated from a former presidential aide and relation of President Tinubu, is to take Emefiele’s loyalty to the Buhari cabal to a ridiculous extent. What exactly did Emefiele want? As a former MD/CEO of Zenith Bank before his appointment to the apex bank by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, he should feel accomplished enough not to allow his ambition, greed, and pressures from the cabal (no matter how powerful they are) to sway him towards unethical deeds with far reaching consequences on his reputation. Again, Emefiele is fighting back, claiming he had presidential approval for the Naira redesign; and that he neither operated 596 accounts, nor withdrew N6.23 million dollars with former SGF Boss Mustapha. Whatever!
He was perceived as having his two hands in the cookie jar, while the Nigerian people reeled in poverty. His disastrous political voyage did not help matters. His alleged financial sleaze and fleece is unprecedented and brazen in recent times. But instead of being cautioned he was encouraged by the officials of the Buhari government in an unholy alliance that only the ex-CBN governor is now paying for. With his experience in one of the biggest banks in the country, why he allowed non-professionals in government to drag him into the pit is incomprehensible. Does it really mean there is no limit to official corruption of top government functionaries or because the Nigerian public also condones it and collects peanuts to become their cheerleaders. So, the joke is on us as a people, if there are no mechanisms to stop financial recklessness in high places before they get to the outrageous level like Emefiele’s.
Running for the office of the president was Emefiele’s greatest undoing and the height of impunity. For this brazen arrogance, it was obvious that losing out would also lead to his waterloo. Was becoming president calculated to protect his loot and turf? To whose detriment? To prove his immunity from prosecution or that he was untouchable. If he had transmuted to become the president of Nigeria, he would have made history, running for election as a sitting CBN governor, when he was supposed to be non-partisan. That thoughtless action would have finally nailed Nigeria as a banana Republic, with far-reaching implications for the country’s image and its people. It also means diminished integrity of the number one financial institution, becoming a cash cow for his inexhaustible laundering; another form of state capture, where corporate governance, leadership capability and personal morals are near zero. Surely Emefiele needs to do a lot to clear his name and extricate himself from the rot that happened under his leadership.
Rivers State comedy of errors
When last week, President Bola Tinubu invited the warring personalities in the Rivers state political crisis, Governor Siminalayi Fubura and ex-governor and Minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike to the Presidential Villa for a truce, little did we know that instead of a thaw, the crisis would spiral into ridiculous confusions, drama, and intrigues. However, as things stand today, only ex-governor Nyesom Wike seems triumphant, but will his laughter last long? With President Tinubu behind him, the answer is in the affirmative. However, will Governor Fubura and the people of Rivers state live with the idea of being governed from Abuja? The reactions from River state stakeholders and interest groups so far show otherwise. They were mistaken to think the president meant well by the time the details of the ‘negotiation’ began to unravel.
The president neither reprimanded the 27 lawmakers who had defected to his party (APC), nor asked all parties to return to status quo ante, which would have ensured they remain in their party, drop impeachment idea on the governor and withdrawal of the legal case against the lawmakers from the court. As impossible as this may look, it was the closest to a peace deal for all. But that did not happen. Instead, the president was silent on their defection. Some other details have since emerged indicating that it was a win-win deal for the strongman and minister, Wike now in the inner recesses of the power loop of the Tinubu government.
If the PDP-Fubura drops the case of defection against the 27 lawmakers now in APC, how can the governor sleep with his two eyes closed when an impeachment can be organised and executed within an hour? So where is the governor’s amour or shield against the unexpected? Again, many legal luminaries like Femi Falana and Chief Robert Clark have condemned the unconstitutionality of Tinubu’s intervention and therefore cannot hold water. So, where do we go from here and what transpired?
A member of the Rivers Elders Forum and delegation to the Villa, Chief David Briggs, in an interview described the reconciliation effort as akin to a trick and imposition of a one-sided resolution. “That was not a meeting. Mr President walked in with a written resolution, addressed us, and declared that what he had in his hand is presidential proclamation. He emphasised the fact that he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and anybody who tends to say no to what he is saying, it has consequences. Tinubu in a simple lay man’s word is a threat. He wrote the resolution but refused to read it. He handed the resolution to Dr Peter Odili to read it.”
I’m not sure Tinubu would have accepted this kind of resolution from President Obasanjo during his crises-ridden governorship era with his two deputies at various times, yet that is the bitter pill Fubara is expected to swallow to avoid being impeached and to make Wike feel good. That Rivers stakeholders are now speaking is a natural consequence of the comedy of error unfolding in their state. If Fubara-Wike rift continues and political divides exist, the crisis will linger and multiply. And if President Tinubu does not display sincere neutrality but shows more preference for Wike and defectors from PDP to APC, the intrigues will continue. Who will laugh last in the Rivers conundrum? The politics in Rivers state is more than humour. It has the capacity to consume the governor and create endless frictions, sadly to the detriment of the people. But then who can ever understand politicians’ game plan?
Zainab Suleiman Okino is a syndicated columnist. She chairs Blueprint Editorial Board and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org