News - Politics & Policy - May 7, 2022

Despite pressures, Emefiele says he’s not ready yet for 2023 presidential race

By Bassey Udo

Despite spirited clandestine attempts by some groups and individuals to drag him to join the 2023 Presidential race, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, on Saturday declared he has not yet come to that decision personally.

After several weeks of underground political campaigns spearheaded by a shadowy group, “The Coalition of North-Central Youths Vanguard for Emefiele” ostensibly for the CBN governor, media reports said on Friday a group of concerned farmers got together to raise their personal funds to pay and collect on his behalf the N100 million expression of interest form from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential nomination form.

For several weeks, Nigerians saw as colourful campaign posters surfaced on street corners in major cities across the country, apart from billboards and branded vehicles bearing Emefiele’s pictures.

The group even addressed a world press conference to launch their campaign to attempt to coarse the CBN governor to show interest in the race.

Apart from the farmers, our reporter learned others who were also involved in the costly campaigns included mostly individuals and small business owners who claimed to have been impacted by the CBN’s poverty alleviation policies and programmes over the years under Emefiele’s leadership of the apex bank.

Although Emefiele has all along not made any categorical public statement to denounce the campaign or his involvement, reports of the acquisition of the application form by the allegedly by the farmers on his behalf on Friday triggered a flurry of reactions across the political spectrum, as some prominent Nigerian politicians described the speculations as unbelievable.

The governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who described the reports as “a joke taken too far”, called for Emefiele’s immediate disengagement from the CBN.

“The news of the purchase of the Declaration of Intent and Nomination forms to contest for the office of the President in the forthcoming general elections, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, purportedly by the supporters of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, has been received with palpable disbelief and shock by many Nigerians. This act, if unchecked, timeously, portend great danger to the fragile economy of the country”, Akeredolu said in a statement published only.

Although Akeredolu conceded to Emefiele the constitutional right to belong to any political group or association and participate fully in the political process, he said it was however difficult to imagine that a person who occupied the exalted and sensitive office as the CBN governor would display such brazenness in actualizing his ambition.

Making references to the provisions of the Public Service Rules, CBN Act and the 1999 Constitution on the implications of the CBN governor’s ambition, Akeredolu said it would amount to an illegality if Emefiele proceeded to submit the forms while still occupying the seat as CBN governor.

He therefore called on Emefiele to vacate office immediately to pursue his political interest, since he cannot combine partisan politics with the very delicate assignment of his office as CBN governor.

Others who also condemned the alleged political ambition of the CBN governor called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack him from office, quoting Section 9 of the CBN Act to buttress their argument.

The section provides that: “The Governor and the Deputy Governor shall devote the whole of their time to the service of the Bank, and while holding office shall not engage in any full or part time employment or vocation, whether remunerated or not, except such personal and charitable causes, as may be determined by the Board and which do not conflict with or detract from their full time duties…”

However, in an apparent reaction to the concerns expressed by Nigerians, in what appears his first public reaction to the series of public campaigns to draft him into the presidential race, the CBN governor, through his verified Twitter handle, @GodwinEmefiele, on Friday said he was not ready yet. He did not categorically deny nursing any such ambition.

“I am humbled by the growing interest of those asking that I run for the Office of President in the 2023 general elections. I have not come to that decision.

“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 and decide to seek presidential nomination, I will use my own hard earned savings from over 35 years of banking leadership to buy my own Nomination Forms,
without proxies in an open and transparent manner in full compliance with the laws and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“And should I not run for elected office, I will continue to serve and sacrifice for the good people of Nigeria under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is a serious decision that requires God’s Divine intervention. In the next few days, the Almighty will so direct,” he said.

Regardless, in a press statement in response to Emefiele’s publication, members of The Coalition of North-Central Youths Vanguard for Emefiele rose in stout defence of the CBN governor, declaring categorically that he did not break any law by purchasing the APC Presidential nomination form.

The Publicity Secretary of the coalition, Ameenah Hayatudeen, said although the group was aware of the provisions of Section 9 of the CBN Act on the need for the Governor and Deputy Governor to devote their time to the service of the Bank while holding office, and not engaging in any full or part time employment or vocation, it still needed to clarify a few issues.

Hayatudeen argued that although the provision clearly barred the CBN Governor or his Deputy from involvement in any other employment or vocation while in office, there was still room to define what employment or vocation means.

She referred to the case between Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria and the Federal Board of Inland Revenue 1996 8 NWLR Part 466 256, in which the Supreme Court held that where the words of a statute are plain, precise and unambiguous, then it should be given the ordinary and natural meaning.

“We make bold to ask then: From Emefiele’s traducers “what then is the natural and ordinary meaning of the word “employment” ? And what is the natural and ordinary meaning of the word “vocation”?

“Employment means “the state of having paid work”, while vocation means “a person’s employment or main occupation”.

“Based on these definitions above, can it then be said that seeking election into the office of the President of Nigeria is an employment or vocation? The answer must surely be in the negative. Anything other than that will be the most artificial interpretation to suit a sinister purpose.
“Moreso, the constitution is clear on rights of association, and rights to seek elective positions.
And there is no impediment whatsoever on the exercise of such rights except such impediments are contained in the constitution.

“Contesting for the position of the president is an exercise of constitutional rights, and not an engagement in any employment or vocation.

“We wish to state unequivocally, that Godwin Emefiele is the right man to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he will enjoy the total support of North Central Youths,” the group said.

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