June 12th and Emefiele: In praise of constructive engagement, By Issa Aremu

Better late than never! The Federal government and the National Assembly had finally found common ground in quick succession on the critical issues of good governance. Most Nigerians  hail the recent constructive collaboration and engagement between President Muhammadu Buhari and the outgoing 8th  National Assembly in ensuring the renewal of the appointment of Godwin Emefiele as the 11th Governor of the Central Bank as well as the prompt passage of  the Public Holiday Act Amendment Bill which  recognizes June 12 as the new Democracy Day. 

President Muhammadu Buhari had nominated Mr Godwin Emefiele for another 5 year tenure of CBN governor. Last Thursday on the 16th of May, at the plenary, the senate passed the amendment in concurrence with the House of Representatives which approved the new date of June 12th as new Democracy Day earlier in December 2018, following the adoption of a report by Senator Ahmad Lawan, the Majority Leader, for the Senate to concur with the House. The bill was passed almost one year after President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the date would replace May 29 for Nigerians to commemorate the return to the civilian government.

The bipartisan consensus on the twin issues of  Emefile’s reappointment and June 12th as the new Democracy Day should be sustained in the  next dispensation in the resolution of urgent critical national issues such as re-industrialization, inadequate electricity supply, insecurity, human capital development, endemic infrastructural deficits and poverty eradication. Nigeria lost considerable mileage in the long walk to nation-building in the past four years. No thanks to the wars of attrition between the NASS and the Federal Executive, the most notorious being repeated budget delays. The record time-remarkable win-win consensus on the confirmation of Emefiele and June 12th Bill shows that where there was the collective will on the parts of both arms, there would be collective way for national development. Independence of one arm of government is not exclusive of complementarity.

Godwin Emefiele undoubtedly earns and deserves his reappointment. It would go on record that  Emefiele as the CBN governor commendably gave meaning to the  concept of autonomy of the CBN. At  the height of the economic recession there was a sustained pressure by few  loud  “economic hit men” and  neoliberal forces pushing for unhelpful Naira floatation with the attendant unhelpful massive  devaluation. Emefiele stood his ground to shore up the value of the Naira. The   relatively stable exchange rate of the recent times had allowed for national planning and business decisions needed for growth and development. In the next five years, I urge Governor Emefiele to redenominate Naira value. The purchasing power of the Naira belies its dollar rate. However the most significant achievement of the CBN Governor in the first tenure was  development financing which has revolutionized rice production and is rekindling the hope of revival of cotton production through cheap long term credit and direct purchase and supply of inputs for farmers. In the next five years, CBN must deepen financial inclusion, not less in the entire textile value chains within the context of the Cotton, Textile and Garment policy (CTG).  It is refreshing that the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) is waking up to revive mouribound textile mills. The new governor elects in the region should just copy (or better still collaborate!) with the Governor of CBN in a number of the bank’s initiatives to revive the sector. In the coming years, CBN should be as firm in targeting production, wealth generation and job creation as much as it is targeting inflation. Nigeria is a developing economy. It  needs an activist CBN which through monetary and development finance policy would make scarce capital available to labour intensive sector such as textile. Nigeria needs a CBN that must  deliberately deny smugglers and economic saboteurs funds as  Emefiele has commendably done in recent  times. All  governors elects must initiate complementary fiscal and industrial policies in partnership with the Federal government and the CBN to revive closed industries and reopen new ones to engage the army of the unemployed. Nigeria’s  population expected to be some 425 million in year 2050 must be an asset not a liability.  The wealth of humans is the wealth of nations  in the 21st century, but that is if  humans are engaged in value adding  activities through full and compelling decent employment. The  new national consensus on the new Democracy Day has conclusively put a welcome closure to the tragedy of the annulment of 1993 popular election won by Chief Moshood Abiola. The  contemporary  election riggings, violence and political killings had their root in the impunity of  1993 June 12th election annulment. The  acknowledgement of the new Democracy Day, has symbolically exorcised the  specter of impunity, which repeatedly hunts Nigeria’s democratic process. Nigeria can  now move from countless political motions to  real political movement, in which rigging, ballot snatching and  annulment would be damned and votes would be conclusively counted. All compatriots must also  condemn the shadowy reactionary forces  with no fixed addresses reportedly  calling for unconstitutional regime change in the wake of the recent concluded elections.  Nigerians should  resist any attempt to return Nigeria to the discredited past of military dictatorship. With the sixth democratic dispensation around the corner and 20 years of uninterrupted civil rule, Nigeria needs more democracy not less. Indeed the alternative to insufficient democracy is more democracy. We must learn from South Africa which  in the past 25 years had faced more challenges. South Africa actually democratically  retrenched  two incumbent elected Presidents, (one undergoing  corruption trial!). But  no South African politician at the worst of moment ever contemplated military intervention. We helped to liberate South Africa. The latter should not  appreciate the virtue of democracy than Nigeria.    All  democratic forces must reaffirm abiding faith in democracy. The seemingly  imperfections of democracy are preferred than the irredeemable maladies of  military dictatorships.

Issa Aremu mni

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