A revolutionary banker who follows his speech


December 25 (THEWILL) – Just on the eve of the Irish financial collapse in 2008, Central Bank Governor John Hurley appeared live on national television to reassure his Celtic compatriots that all would be fine and that there was no need to panic. Millions of people tipped in to watch what was supposed to be a message of hope, something close to saying, “Trust me, I’m your banker.

His television appearance elicited the opposite reaction from his viewers. As New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright described in an article titled “When Irish Eyes Cry,” Hurley listeners panicked when they saw their chief banker on TV, “a man with an insecure little mustache “. It didn’t inspire confidence.

After the show, many Irish citizens immediately walked over to the bank and withdrew their money faster than a farmer drinking a pint of Guinness at a local pub anywhere on the Emerald Isle. This is how the Irish real estate / financial crisis began and lasted for several months.

Of course, the wispy mustaches that adorned the upper lip of Ireland’s first banker at the time couldn’t have been the sole cause of the financial collapse. There were then contentious bailout issues for one or two large financial institutions. Moreover, it is simply possible that the numerous statistics presented by the on-screen banker have baffled his viewers, especially those outside the banking industry. What next?

Look closely at the face to see if he was lying or not because, as they say, faces inspire confidence and hope, or both, especially in critical situations like the ones the Irish faced during these years of economic upheaval. .

It’s hard to imagine Nigerians reacting in the same way as the Irish if the current Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, appeared before them live to address crucial national economic issues. In fact, he has done this on several occasions and on different occasions for local and international audiences. In many of them, Emefiele almost always came out with a standing ovation.

At a glance, Emefiele looks in every inch like a banker you can trust. His domed skull suggests enormous brain power. As an undergraduate student in banking and finance at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, for example, he established an upper second-class division becoming, in the process, the best graduate student in 1986. He followed with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, institutions known to shape and shape future leaders in finance and international business.

When Jim Ovia was looking for someone to start Zenith Bank with him in 1990, he set his sights on Emefiele. A trusted and professional banker that he is, Emefiele made a fledgling financial institution one of the most talked about success stories in the history of commercial banking in Nigeria. Becoming Managing Director of Zenith Bank Group in just 10 years speaks volumes about his qualities and professionalism, a man who would play by the rules and not skimp in a profession where such unethical business practices are not uncommon in Nigeria. .

Emefiele, affectionately known as Meffi by his close friends, was born on August 4, 1961 in Lagos, but to parents of Agbor in Delta State who lived and worked in the Coast State. He will also start his primary and secondary education in Lagos and then end up in an out-of-state school for his study program at UNN, Nsukka in Enugu State.

His meeting with Ovia afterwards and his eventual assumption of a post at Zenith Bank is the kind of success story that heads of departments B and F regularly seek out and tell their wards in business schools. In other words, Zenith’s success story will never be complete without the leading role Emefiele played in it. And, as anyone might imagine, success stories never hide, they are in plain sight.

Seeking a replacement in 2014 for outgoing CBN governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former President Goodluck Jonathan looked no further than Emefiele. Jonathan appointed him on June 4, 2014 as head of apex bank in Nigeria. The Senate immediately confirmed his appointment.

In his first-ever global press conference, held the next day, June 5, the new CBN man laid out his now famous 10-point agenda to restructure a shaky economy, to make it people-centered. Its main goals, Emefiele told Nigerians that day and, by extension, the rest of the world, are “a professional, non-political and people-centered central bank that devotes its energies to building a resilient financial system. which can serve the growth and development needs of our beloved country.

Never predict the future, economists like to say. And they are most often right. No one, to cite one example, foresaw the world crash of 1929. Likewise, despite its ambitious plans for Nigeria as the chief pilot of the country’s financial matters, the drop in crude oil prices around the world has was an unexpected blow to the Nigerians in general and the CBN coxswain in particular.

COVID-19 was also totally unexpected, which has humiliated much of humanity and almost crippled their businesses and social relationships. A proactive leader without a doubt, the governor of the CBN had put in place workable intervention programs in such a way that analysts were simply stunned by the drastic measures taken by Emefiele to meet this new challenge.

One of them is Boniface Chizea, who took the opportunity of Emefiele’s sixtieth birthday last August to congratulate him thus: “If we are looking for an institution which was responsible for the rapid exit of the country from the pandemic to resume growth, “wrote Chizea in a birthday tribute published in Vanguard,” it must be the Central Bank under your watch …

After his first term, anyone would have reasonably imagined that Jonathan’s successor, PMB, would get rid of Emefiele’s services. After all, successive governments are notoriously picky about carryovers from previous administrations. This was not the case. The PMB renewed him in 2019 as the number one man in the country’s banking affairs, a position he holds to this day. (For the record, Emefiele remains the only indigenous CBN governor to sit in two different and diametrically opposed governments – politically and economically – the Democratic People’s Party and the ruling All Progressives Congress.)

Of course, there have been skeptics, chronic skeptics of some of the CBN governor’s economic policies. But he always confused them with tangible results, results which are obvious to all.

Among them is the ban / ban of certain products and items that can be produced locally. Rice tops the list. Another is the sale of foreign currency to Bureau de Change operators. Making funds available to thousands of young people in Nigeria through the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund has been hailed as a program to tackle unemployment. The Anchor Borrowers Scheme Emefiele initiated as Governor of the CBN has revolutionized agriculture in Nigeria.

On November 21, 2019, for example, CBN signed a memorandum of understanding with the governors of cassava-producing states and the Cassava Producers Association. It was Emefiele’s original idea.

“Cassava,” he began by telling a mixed audience of heads of state and farmers, “represents one of the most important economic crops in the world… the global commodity market is one of the most dynamic with the volume of production and trade in constant growth.

The signing of the MoU, according to the governor, was in line with the PMB administration’s diversification program, due to overdependence on crude oil. Continuing, Emefiele told his audience that Nigeria is “particularly interested in the cassava value chain as it is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic diversification program for Nigeria. Indeed, economic diversification is an essential tool for national development and we are sparing no effort to reposition Nigeria on the world map not only as a leading cassava producer, but also as a processor. “

Around this time every year, most newspaper and magazine editors think for weeks about choosing their man or woman of the year, which is the person who has had the most positive impact. or negative on people’s lives. It is a painstaking process of winnowing chaff from grain, endless disagreements or support for subjects under study.

When it was suggested at one of our editorial meetings that Emefiele had become the MOY of THEWILL, there were about two disagreements. But editor-in-chief Sam Diala quickly took them down, listing Meffi’s accomplishments one by one during his seven years as CBN governor. It almost put an end to the opposing views. Of course, readers will find many of these Diala accomplishments in the article titled “Emefiele: Passionate Banker in Turbulent Times”.

It is true that the real test of individuals in positions of authority all over the world – whether they are presidents or prime ministers, heads of companies or educational institutions – is not how well they were able to move smoothly during their tenure, but overcome difficult passages along the way. Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele has had more than his fair share of natural and man-made problems as governor of the CBN over the past two years. Did he survive? A resounding yes is THEWILL’s response, which is why today we are giving him a standing ovation by naming him our Person of the Year.


About Lillian Coomer

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