Who is afraid of the rain — Those afraid of Emefiele?

By Hassan Garba

Those afraid of Emefiele are like those afraid of the rain. When Emefiele rains, it pours. When Emefiele pours, it rains and this is not unconnected to the general change in season that the rain brings. But, who is afraid of the rain? Perhaps, most of us that become used to the dry season; the comfort of how fast our clothes dry, and how easy it is to go to places without the fear of being drenched. Every year we encounter this doubt and fear, and irrespective that our lives and well-being depend on the coming of rain for changes in the circle and season of life. It is not just the rain we can be afraid of. Even humans orchestrate changes and take us away from the period of dryness in our life, and sometimes, because we get scared of the changes that come to disrupt our comfort zone, we become scared of them. This is partly the case with those afraid of Emefiele—the rainmaker. Because few individuals are comfortable with the dryness in the country and what that offers them, they are scared of the rapid changes that will transform the season, and make the Nigerian economic soil fertile for every Nigerian.

Of course, it is imperative for a proper understanding of the person of Emefiele, and his role in the economic sector that would have driven a gang of scared men who are not comfortable with his presence, just as, if the dry season was a human, it would be scared when the rain is coming. But, I will talk about Emefiele when I have shown the people who are scared of the harvest that will be reaped from his rainmaking. As a Nigerian who is also a Pan Africanist, I am interested in anything that relates to the economy and well-being of the people. This is because we have been static as a people for a long and lived in aridness, and one cannot wait to see Nigeria regain her space as the giant of Africa, and Africa returns to its heydays of glory as the cradle of human civilization. Hence, I always evaluate an event in its relation to the well-being of the continent.

In a simple and plain structure, I will mention eight groups of people who are affected by the policies—the rain Emefiele has caused to fall—designed to redeem the Nigerian economy. These groups are the Bureau De Change (BDC) operators, rice importers, young Nigerians who genuinely do not understand the dark edges of cryptocurrency on the country’s economy and the fraudsters and terrorist funders, ERRconomics cum armchair critics of the system, political contestants who are scared of the weight that Emefiele is gathering despite that he did not declare or show interest in contesting for the office of the presidency, and the ones who are desperate for the office of the CBN Governor.

The groups mentioned above all have their different motives and benefits that come from a country where the finance sector is hard soil to farm. So it is only natural for them to be uncomfortable when the rainmaker strikes the gong that invites the change of season. And, to fund their fears, they look for means to discredit the rituals of the rainmaker and make the villagers—the country people—think the change of season that comes with the rain is a fraud. I will elaborate on each of these groups and why they are afraid of Emefiele.

BDC Operators and Why they Are Afraid of Emefiele

While growing up in my village, I learnt that there are those who use magic to prevent the rain from coming even when its season is due. As the belief goes, these people are mostly rich men who have Tankers that sell water. Because of the profits that they make from their trade, they do not care if the entire community is suffering. This scene exemplifies the issues with Emefiele and the BDC operators.

When I read Henry Umoru and Joseph Erunke in January 2016 in the Vanguard, I recall their opinion on Emefiele where he hinted to the senate that “the activities of operators of BDCs were mainly responsible for the dwindling value of the Naira as they embark on rent-seeking speculation of the local currency.” This update by the CBN Governor is an eye-opener to those who might not be aware of the role BDC operators are planning in decreasing the naira. The BDCs who are supposed to serve the retail end-users; those who need 5,000 dollars or less have gone beyond their role thereby becoming a wholesale entity. Reporting further on the role of the BDCs, Emefiele is quoted by the Guardian that “They have turned themselves away from their objectives. They are now agents that facilitate graft and corruption in the country. We cannot continue with the bad practices that are happening at the BDC market” (The Guardian, 28 July 2021). So, the thunderstorm that comes after these group whose activities was affecting the naira is so loud that some well-intentioned Nigerians became concerned that the policy might not survive long as there are “ogas-at-the-top” who are connected to the BDC business. It is reported in the Guardian thus: “…economists have baulked at CBN’s ability to hold its ground against the political class, who are often linked to the ownership of the business. Dr Bongo Adi, a researcher and economist at Lagos Business School, admitted that the announcement was a demonstration of rare courage.” It is now visible why there will be attempts at discrediting the effort of Emefiele at resuscitating the falling naira. The people in the political class who are benefiting from the famine are trying to have their way so that they can keep making profits while the entire country is plunged into misery without the rain that touches everyone.

Rice Importers Who Do Not Want Improvement in the Agricultural Sector

Who else has gotten drenched in the Emefiele’s rain? Another group of people who are scared of the rain are rice importers. If you understand the dynamics of importation, you will instantly grasp why this group is afraid of Emefiele. I will invite you into a community where only one man brings water from another community to sell to his clansmen. When his clansmen decide that they can dig better wells to get water, or better still, allow the rainmaker to cause a downpour that will stop them from buying water, the man who brings water from another village will be angry as the self-reliance of the people will affect his profit.

The question of importation is an old discourse and almost all countries understand that a country that consumes more than it produces is in for a bad economy. Charles N Lambert notes that food importation “weakens African economies, decimates its agriculture and exports jobs from the continent.” In more plain terms, when Nigeria imports rice, it pays the producer of rice in other countries while it leaves Nigerian rice farmers impoverished, thereby creating more problems of unemployment.

This means that if the country continues with importation, it is creating and paying for jobs in another country while Nigeria is riddled with unemployment. The United State Department of Agriculture notes that the rice import in Nigeria is forecast at the lowest level in about 20 years. While this means growing employment and more value for the Nigerian currency, there are cabals of local and international actors that are not comfortable with this development as they are not getting the huge profit that they are set for. The statistics as noted in The Guardian in September 2020 are that: Meanwhile, Nigeria produced 4,536 million tonnes in 2017; 4,470m tonnes in 2018; 4,538m tonnes in 2019; 5,040m tonnes as of July 2020, while it consumed 6,700 million tonnes in 2017; 6,750m tonnes in 2018; 6,800m tonnes in 2019; 6,550m tonnes as of July 2020, according to the USDA production and consumption database.

The more production of rice, the less importation that comes to Nigeria from Thailand. This is not farfetched from the Anchor Borrower’s Scheme, AGSMEIS, and Thrive Agriculture projects, initiated by the CBN under Governor Emefiele. Within the sense of this idea, there has been a significant reduction in the country’s rice import bill, from a monstrous $1.05 billion before November 2015, to the current figure of $18.50 million. This places the Governor on the bad list of the importers and local actors that benefit from the trade. Several farmers have benefitted from this scheme and their productivity has increased tremendously.

Those Affected by the Ban on Cryptocurrency

Who else has Emefiele wet—those affected by the CBN’s ban on cryptocurrency? Yes. These groups believe that they can get water, and it does not matter if they are aware of the effect of their water source to the detriment of the general community. These are mostly young people who do not understand the dark impact of crypto. Nigeria is not the only country to ban crypto. Big countries like China, Russia, Turkey, and Qatar, among others have banned the use of crypto.

It is important to note that the use of crypto can funnel money laundering and extortion. Because crypto is done without leaving traces, terrorist groups and drug kingpins can use this channel to transfer money. With the increase of scammers in the country that has given Nigeria a bad name in the international community, there is the need to create a means that will limit such activities. According to a consultation paper presented by the Bank of Russia, it notes that cryptocurrencies pose three major threats to the well-being of Russian citizens namely “Threat to citizens’ wellbeing, threat to financial stability; and threat of an expansion of illegal activities.” These factors cannot be excused from the factors of the ban on cryptocurrency. It is also important to note that Emefiele is only the Governor of the Central Bank, and is charged to work with the Government towards the stability of the country.

Besides the young people who are ignorant of the effect of crypto on the local economy are the scammers, what we commonly call ‘yahoo boys and 419’ and those whose act of funding terrorism through crypto is halted. It is noted in the Oxford Academic that “Terrorist organizations use cryptocurrency to trade drugs, weapons, and other items on the black market. For example, ‘Fund the Islamic Struggle without Leaving a Trace’ is a dark website used to transfer bitcoins to jihadis. Some extremists have even published a book, Bitcoin wa Sadaqat al Jihad, which teaches how to transfer valuable bitcoins from North America and Western Europe to jihadists.” For a country like Nigeria where terrorism and banditry are on the rise, it is better for it to be curbed than allow international jihadists to begin to take full sponsorship. So, those whose activities are limited through the crypto ban are crying foul and trying to tarnish the image of Emefiele. If one does not know better, you might think that their cry is because of Nigerian youngsters who see crypto mining as a means to an end.

The Errconomist and the Armchair critic

Here I will lump two groups that are almost both driven by the same energy: the errconomists and the armchair critics. These group who doubts the forecast and the energy of the rainmaker and wants to see that their prediction comes true. I will label this group as pundits who think they understand the language of rain and rainmaking. The term errconomist is a conscious aberration of the spelling of economist to show how this group ‘err’ in their postulations. They are the ones that believe in floating the naira. They are like their fellow comrade (in the Nigerian cruise sense of the word), armchair critics who are quick to criticize and make a statement even when it is not needed. While we might think that the vocality of these groups is a genuine call, it must be noted that they do care about the Nigerian situation—they have enough water to last them. The main concern for this group is to be seen talking, and to them, it does not matter whether they are wrong, and they can go the extra mile to make sure that our rainwater gets dirty so that they can claim the rightness of their position. So, it is only natural for these sorts to be afraid of the effort that the Governor is putting into things to make sure that the Nigerian economy is working.

Political Distractors Who Are Scared of Emefiele’s Impact

In addition, most Nigerians must have seen the news of people from different zones all over the country calling for Emefiele to join the presidential race in 2023. For a man who persistently stays loyal to the President who appointed him, being pressured by well-intentioned Nigerians demonstrates that the patriots who remained in the country acknowledge his goodwill and commitment to the nation’s development. Different support groups have emerged calling on him to run for Presidency, despite his public announcement that he remains loyal to the Buhari-led government and wants to see to it that the administration achieves its mandate. This means that several people have felt the softness of the soil, enjoyed the harmony it births with their hoe, and have also drank the water from Emefiele’s rain. And despite the rainmaker’s loyalty, we cannot fail to offer the voice of our trumpets to call him.

One of the support groups that has taken it as their mandate to call on the CBN Governor to join the presidential race under the tag “Friends of Godwin Emefiele” met with him to clarify his position on the call to join the presidential quest. They state that the Governor notes that leadership is from God, and he wants to see the mandate of the Buhari-led administration attained. Despite his position, several support groups are still working tirelessly to convince him to contest. This is unsettling to several people who are already scared of the Governor’s relevance.

Among this group are also the people who are interested in the office of the CBN Governor. These lots who think that holding a public office is an avenue to siphon money as they do not see anything beyond the swelling of their pocket can go the extra length of staining someone’s name to get what they want. So, they close their eyes to the development happening in the country through the efforts of Emefiele. Every policy that he brings up, they go about through sponsored updates to call for his removal. They are not scared about the country not working; they are scared about the policies of the Governor working, and leaving them no hope of covering their schemes and lies. So, like the rain, these cabal cries that it has brought thunderstorm, or the wind that comes before the rain has caused dust to enter into their eyes.

I will conclude that these groups of people are, to use a word in the Nigerian parlance, busy-bodies, spreading libellous information about the Governor. It does not matter to them if they drank from the rain that Emefiele’s rainmaking skills have brought, nor profit from the softness of the soil brought about by the rain. As a way of ending, I will add the dictum that change is not rocket science. Through gradual steps and ideas, we are moving in the right direction. And, we owe this to the effort of Emefiele. Of course, he is only the CBN Governor, you might think. But for those of us that have keenly observed his roles in trying to stabilize the economy, he goes beyond that for us. For us, Emefiele is guts. Emefiele is agriculture and manufacturing. He is the lamb that dares the ancient claw-ed problems we have been scared to tackle. He refused to be carried by the tantalizing position of his office. Rather, he has committed himself to pro-masses policies: Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme, Agricultural programs, the power sectors, name them. The health sector is not left behind, under the Healthcare Sector Intervention Facility (HSIF), CBN had disbursed a total of N108.85 billion for 118 projects, comprising 31 pharmaceuticals, 82 hospitals and four other services. When the recession hit the country in 2016, instead of giving up, the tenacity of Emefiele made him see only opportunities. He saw the urgent need to diversify the operations and the revenue base of the country. With his understanding of the Nigerian economy, he saw the enormous productive potential of the economy and the need to reduce our lopsided reliance on imports. So, who is afraid of Emefiele, if not only those that do not want the country to work?

For those of us who are ‘ordinary’ Nigerian citizens and live to see the country get better, it is crucial for us to see change as every man’s business. We all need to intervene and wear the garment of patriotism, and participate in issues that concern the country. For instance, it is only righteous for us to learn to consume our local products, that will help to boost the Nigerian economy. While Emefiele’s effort offers the rain, the farming and gathering of water is ours to do. As a child, whenever it rains, my mother would wake me to carry a small rubber while she carries out the big pots for us to fetch water. So, even without being reminded, whenever it rained, I was always going to do the needful. Beyond those who are interested in their personal profit and want the country to be stagnated, we must all become the metaphor that spice the wellbeing of our country—if we see this country as a book that we all live and cannot escape from, we will not be afraid of another character who plays his part. We will move through chapters of pain, change, doubts, and uncertainty but the will and passion for our country will definitely see us through.

HASSAN GARBA, Programs Manager writes from Abuja.


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