Fresh concern is being drawn to the independence of the nation’s Central Bank after a former ‘rebellious’ political surrogate of President Bola Tinubu’s, Yemi Cardoso emerged as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
The rebellious tag on the new CBN governor follows the political folklore in Lagos that ahead of Tinubu’s exit as Lagos governor that his grand scheme to bring in Cardoso as his successor collapsed when he (Cardoso) fled the country when he got wind of the plan. That is what some allege led to the hurried resort to Tunde Fashola.
However, 16 years later, fate dwelt an ironic twist on Cardoso as Tinubu has again installed him as governor, if not in Lagos, then of the CBN.
Indeed, Cardoso, a close political ally of the president wears the allure of being one of the resourceful persons who helped the president make a positive impact in rejuvenating the economy of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 when he served as commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget.
GWG.ng reports that Cardoso brings to the table his experience in economic planning with a robust experience as a bank chairman. That mix has neuatralised calls for the emergence of an economist as Nigeria Central Bank governor after two successive stints of commercial bankers in the persons of HRH Lamido Sanusi and Mr Godwin Emefiele as governors at the apex bank.
It is generally regarded that the stewardship of the last economist, Prof Charles Soludo in the apex bank helped to solidify the Nigerian banking system against the stress that may have upturned the system from the malfeasances of the fiscal system especially during the Muhammadu Buhari regime.
However, the enthusiasm that has come with Cardoso is now being abated with questions as to his capacity to maintain the independence of the Central Bank as envisioned by the CBN Act of 2007.
GWG.ng reports that whereas the independence of Central Banks is about the craze in many developed economies, the situation in Nigeria and many other developing economies is punctuated by strongmen as presidents who vitiate the autonomy of the bank.
Under the Godwin Emefiele era, Nigeria’s Central Bank did not hide its intentions pushing developmental projects that were seen as well outside its core monetary policies. The conflict inevitably created a disconnect that led to erstwhile Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed publicly coming out to disown Emefiele on the naira redesign policy of the apex bank.
However, the emergence of Cardoso as CBN governor has now refreshed concerns as to the capacity of the Bank to trudge a pathway that would sustain its autonomy.
Can Cardoso look Tinubu in the eye and refuse to supply new money? That is one question that is being raised in some quarters.
The question is coming against the background of Tinubu’s negotiations with organised Labour in which in he may have to rely heavily on printed money to fund the demands of labour and with it at great pains to the CBN’s inflation control measures.
With headline inflation now about 25%, Mr Cardoso who has an unassailable reputation some think that he like many other professional hands around Tinubu will not deny him the correct advise.
Prof. Sam Amadi, director of Abuja School of Social and Political Theory reviewing the prospects of Cardoso standing up to Tinubu doesn’t envisage much of a problem saying that “even if the president seems to be dictating as long as it doesn’t lead to crisis it is good,” he spoke in an interview with Arise News Television.
“But the point is that with our politics, he needs (Cardoso) to find himself somehow defending the integrity of the monetary process. Don’t forget that part of Emefiele’s crisis was that he was seen as taking decisions to help government even if printing more money, exceeding prudential limits, whatever, it was driven by the idea that government needs the Central Banker to help them tide over momentary crises.”
For a man who snubbed or rather ran away from Tinubu’s political scheme 16 years ago, Cardoso and Tinubu may not have any dispute on the CBN’s independence as politics is not in the prospects for the apex banker.