Emefiele: A different honour for an outstanding performer

Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele


One of the first injunctions a reporter is given on arrival at Rutam House, home of The Guardian, the flagship of the Nigerian newspaper industry, is the principle of being different. You are not only reminded the son of whom you are and must be, from day one, in terms of attitude, mannerism and general etiquette, but you are pointedly schooled on how to maintain The Guardian standard.

You needed not worry about the language of your report. It counted for little. For no matter how good you thought you were, you were soon to learn that you were nothing than an untrained horse that must do with some breeding by the experts. By the time your story went into the furnace and came out the next day, you needed no conviction of your state of amateurism. But you must get that story and it must be different from what others have. For that, there is no compromise.

The imperative therefore, is that The Guardian reporter, must be alert always and on the lookout to spot out something to lace his story with that must give it a totally different flavour amidst its contemporaries on the vendor’s table the next day. You are encouraged to tarry back after an event and either pick up some newsworthy incidents or engage sources to say something extra that could turn the table. But there must be something different.

That has been one of the abiding trade secrets of the institution, which has burnished the majority of the outstanding media men and women, Nigeria has ever produced and the reason it has remained at the commanding height of the nation’s journalism industry, till date.

It is against this backdrop that the award given to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, last Saturday, April 7, finds its expression. The Flagship, has once again echoed in the most demonstrable way its penchant to be different.

It is heartwarming that in this era of an audacious cacophony, in which all kinds of awards are thrown around to all manner of persons, mostly for the simple reason of how much the beneficiaries could dish out, an institution like this, has restored reason and lustre to a phenomenon that has since lost its essence.

So cheap and banal has the idea become in recent times that there is hardly any media organisation that has not included a state governor on their awards list. Indeed, it has even got to a level where agents are commissioned to convince would-be candidates to accept these awards for prescribed fees or patronages.

Of course, it does not matter how low such a governor has gone in misgoverning his state, including pillaging the resources of his people, as long as he is willing to pay.

But with the current example, The Guardian has demonstrated once again that awards and other such recognitions must come with a clear concept of why they are being given and must be tied to specific, cogent and verifiable records of achievements.

Nobody can deny that these ingredients are visibly present in the records of Emefiele in his years in the CBN, especially in the last two or three years or so. Only an incurable pessimist or those far removed from the parlous situation in Nigeria, are likely to gloss over the achievements of the CBN boss within the period.

How the nation came to the sorry pass before Emefiele threw his magic wand onto the stage, maybe debatable, but what is not is that the measures he took, his tenacity of purpose and consistency of his policies, have been able to throw the rope around the neck of the galloping bull that bolted out of the stable and prevent it from causing one of the greatest economic woes known to black Africa.

Yes, many theorists have posited that he ought to have toed a different path in the propounding and pursuit of his monetary policies. In fact, one of the arguments is that he has no business attempting to stabilise the naira, Nigeria’s currency, but should allow it compete freely with other currencies across the world until it found its level and stablised on its own.

Plausible as it might seem to those propagating it, the flipside is that by the time that end is achieved, there might actually not be a Nigeria, given the uprising that must have followed as a result of the unlivable conditions that would have prevailed.

Ask those who lived on the Biafran side how many bundles of currencies they needed to buy the commonest goods in the market with the Biafran notes or the Zimbabwean how much a loaf of bread did cost at a time.

Indeed, someone actually narrated sometime ago how a Ghanaian football referee accepted a carton of milk to skew a match, to underscore how bad things got in the worst days of that country’s economy. From the scary picture some months back, not a few would have sworn that Nigeria was actually trotting on the same road.

For if the cost of a tuber of yam could jump from N120 to N1,200 at a time the naira was exchanging for N450 to a dollar, imagine what the situation would be when it becomes N2,000 to a dollar under the free market that was being advocated. Some were even quick to ask what a farmer had to do with foreign exchange, forgetting that the farmer would need to buy other products, with foreign inputs from the proceeds of his farm.

Besides, for as long economics is a science, there will always be divergent opinions. Put a hundred economists in one room, they are likely to have different opinions on the same subject matter. That Emefiele did not lose his head in the maze of economic theories and staccato noise around him is a very big plus worthy of recognition.

That much was, in fact, captured by Abraham Ogbodo, editor of the newspaper, who was no less emphatic in informing that it was Emefiele’s defiance of the pushes and shoves of divergent opinions, especially from the Bretton Woods, that earned him the award, coupled with his “calmness in the face of difficulty, evolving workable alternatives and successfully navigating the stormy weather.”

Acknowledging how some Nigerians literally singled out the CBN governor for blame at the time the Nigerian economy was nose-diving, even more than President Muhammadu Buhari and his economic officials, Ogbodo stressed how Emefiele and his team, had to stretch into fiscal responsibilities just to save the day, by manoeuvring through the “three troublemakers” – inflation, interest and exchange rates – to the existing level.

At the event, the CBN governor also gave some snippets on how he was able to achieve his feat, while painting a brighter picture of the days ahead, especially with the bank’s foray into supporting agriculture. Hear him: “As we speak, domestic rice production has increased many folds and its imports have crashed substantially. While Kebbi State alone is expected to produce over two million metric tons of rice annually, employees at Labana Rice Mills are trying to keep pace with demand, processing 320 tons of rice a day, a 250 percent increase from the previous year.

“Nigerian economy is experiencing a cyclical upswing and consolidating its recovery. There is a fall in headline inflation from a peak of 18.7 percent in January 2017 to 14.3 percent in February 2018. There is stabilisation and convergence of the exchange rate around N360/$ today from about N525/$ in February 2017.

“There is increased foreign exchange supply with over $20 billion inflow to the I&E window since inception in April 2017; strong recovery of the external reserves, which recorded increase from just over $23 billion in October 2016 to over $46.7 billion as of March 29, 2018; and improvement in the World Bank’s ‘doing business’ indicators, with Nigeria progressing by 24 notches.”

In fact, one of the fears of the naysayers to his policies of intervening in the free fall of the naira is that the nation’s foreign reserves were going to be dangerously depleted, constituting its own danger to the economy.But, somehow, this has turned out on the contrary. Instead, from the $26billion it was at the time his intervention began, the reserve has witnessed a steady growth. Just this Monday, the CBN gave indications that it would climb to $50billion in the coming months.

What else remains to give the CBN Governor and his team a pat on the back? As Ogbodo said, and held to be true in many quarters, The Guardian is not a frivolous entity. But, Emefiele, has also shown himself not to be frivolous either. Instead, he has exhibited the fine qualities deserving of his exalted office – conservative, urbane, apolitical and even to some extent, austere. Thus, this recognition must be given all the seriousness it deserves.  

Yes, time may not be ripe yet for him to throw the party. But, surely, nobody can blame Emefiele for taking a few drinks for now. This is because he was never found wanting at a time duty called.
• Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Abuja.

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