Intrigues, Blackmail In Search For New CBN Gov

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By Ade Ogidan
Intrigues, blackmail and subterfuge are now the stock in trade in the race for the office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as the tenure of the incumbent, Chukwuma Soludo, ends today.

The media, indeed, propaganda, is a major tool in the hands of jostlers, while Nigeria's interest is the casualty and an indecisive leadership is the culprit or the cause of it all.

The worsening state of confusion and uncertainty has been accentuated by resort to media war, as various candidates were being thrown up, with equal level of rebuttals, both from some candidates and their sponsors.

Names already being circulated around included Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, a former Deputy Governor of the apex bank, Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, Vice President of African Development Bank, Mr. Bisi Ogunjobi; Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Tanimu Yakubu, Governor of Bauchi State, Malam Isa Yuguda and CBN governor in charge of Operations Directorate, Alhaji Suleiman Barau.

Only yesterday, two new entrants joined the supposed list, to further give the impression of a wider search for a successor to Prof. Chukuma Soludo, when the President's choice should have been made. These are the Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwabo; and Jibrin Isa, an Executive Director of Afribank Plc.

The growing list may have also discounted a tacit approval given to the tenure of incumbent Soludo by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua two weeks ago, during the anniversary of CBN's anniversary.

Lamido Sanusi, who has just commenced a promotional campaign for First Bank's corporate and business profile, expressed dismay of his inclusion in the list of prospective candidates for the CBN top job, even when reports quoted him as having announced to close friends and associates of his approval for the governorship seat by the President. Indeed, there were reports that he had undergone all the mandatory security checks.

Ogunjobi, who had remained very much in the background, was said to be a compromise candidate, to dilute the totally northern profile of the list. He lost the presidency of ADB to the current helmsman and was described as a very close contestant for the job, due to his international exposure.

Mailafia, who also had a stint with ADB, was put on the list allegedly because of his vast experience in banking and his equally impressive academic qualifications.

Isa of Afribank, whose name came up last night, would not want his name published, as he pleaded that he was not interested in the race, even as reliable Presidency sources said the top banker, also from the North, was also being pushed by a section of northern Nigeria, which claims never to have produced a CBN governor.

The main legacy of the current governor, Chukwuma Soludo, is banking sector reforms which created some of Africa's biggest financial service institutions, deepening the country's capital markets and attracting a new wave of foreign investment.

But the banking reforms also won him enemies in the powerful political elite of a section of the country, who saw the move as eroding their region's commercial and business clout.

Soludo's aides say he is satisfied that he has permanently altered the financial landscape of the country and would be glad to hand over to whoever President Yar'Adua chooses to succeed him.

But with the announcement of a new CBN governor still being delayed, an avoidable vacuum has been created, after today when Soludo's tenure ends.

Reason: Since the appointment is still subject to Senate's approval, a time gap has obviously been created, as Soludo may likely be asked to hand over to his most senior deputy for an interim period, moreso as today is a public holiday in the country and the Upper Legislative House will not be sitting.

Analysts said the phenomenal slow decision-making posture of the current administration has also found expression in the appointment of a suitable candidate for the sensitive position, with its concomitant implications on the ailing economy. And, of course, the result has been the creation of a rumour, blackmail, subterfuge and lobby industry around who becomes the new CBN governor.

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