OPINION: Emefiele Is Victim of Vendetta, by Reno Omokri

I have made a fortune trading in and analysing cryptocurrencies. So successful have I been in this field that I stumbled into just by chance, that I won Business Insiders election as the most influential business person in Africa, beating Vusi Thembekwayo of South Africa by over one hundred thousand votes in an election that could not be rigged.

So, believe me when I say that I have seen people lose princely fortunes trading in crypto. It is not a business for the faint-hearted. The only reason I have been able to maintain the success rate ascribed to me, is because I am ultra-cautious and never trade in a crypto that I have not extensively indexed.

That is why I have an estimated three hundred thousand loyal subscribers on my YouTube channel, #RenosMasterClass.

I was one of those people who raised hell when the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele banned crypto trading in Nigeria in February of 2021. I was extremely opinionated and blasted him. To me, he was being too conservative and closing up Nigeria to a sector that could help many young Nigerians make a king’s ransom.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, and the collapse of the world’s second-largest crypto exchange, FTX, of which an estimated $8 billion in subscriber and client funds were lost, and the current travails of the world’s largest cryptocurrency market, Binance, which is being prosecuted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, it is now very clear that Mr Emefiele was right and I was wrong.

Cryptocurrency is the future. It will replace fiat currency. However, it is not well regulated, and there is a lot of opacity behind its operations and those promoting it. And in a country like Nigeria, with somewhat weak institutions, cryptocurrencies and their promoters could wipe out our economy and disappear into thin air. And there would be no one to hold responsible.

Who is behind Bitcoin? Satoshi Nakamoto is an alias. A pseudonym. The real person remains anonymous. What is true for Bitcoin is true for literally thousands of other cryptos.

And the likelihood is that these persons are anonymous because they are shady characters. Like 0xSifu, the fellow behind the Wonderland crypto, who was eventually unmasked as Michael Partryn, a fraudster who has served eighteen months in prison in the United States.

I understand there is a lot of anger in Nigeria against Godwin Emefiele, but if we look back on his tenure without angst, we would actually see that he was a courageous man who took actions that greatly helped stabilise our polity.

Let us start with the Naira redesign policy. The total votes received by all presidential candidates in the 2019 Presidential elections were just under 27 million. In 2023, the figure dropped by more than 10% to under 25 million. Which seems strange when you take into account population growth and the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission registered 93.46 million voters.

The truth about the sharp reduction in votes is because politicians did not have cash to bribe voters and induce rigging. It affected all parties. It also brought hardship upon Nigerians. And because we are not always the most patriotic people, many of us cannot see beyond that.

Hence, Emefiele became public enemy number one.

Our frustrations blinded us to the fact that 2023 was the first election cycle where the Naira did not suffer a significant drop in value. In fact, quite the opposite. It rose in value.

And it was not just the election that it cleansed. The Naira redesign policy greatly reduced incidences of kidnapping and abduction.

I was amused when an Anglican Bishop, Rt. Rev. Christian Onyia, averred that kidnappings and abductions reduced in Nigeria during the first quarter of this year because those who were engaged in it were busy with elections. That is just so silly and nonsensical, I should not even have to respond to it.

Statistical data do not bear out what the Bishop said. And I hope he is not one of the notorious ‘Tinubu bishops’.

Statistically, abductions, kidnappings and incidents of violence increase during election seasons. But not this time around. And we have the Naira redesign policy to thank for that.

And that is why I believe that the suspension of Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, by President Bola Tinubu is not in good taste. It appears to be a vindictive act, to punish Mr Emefiele for the patriotic Naira redesign policy, which was meant, among other things, to reduce the impact of money on the #NigerianElections2023.

President Tinubu started well. Indeed, I have had cause to praise him. But he should not mar the progress he has made by this act of seeming vengeance. The country needs unity and stability after a fractious election. Now is the time for appeasement, not punishment. It is hoped that the President will reconsider his actions for the nation’s greater good.

I am not saying Emefiele is above arrest. However, accusing him of funding ‘Unknown Gunmen’ and other acts of terror in faraway Afghanistan is far-fetched. This is about the Naira redesign policy, and Emefiele is being punished because it is wrongly felt that the policy was targeted at then candidate Bola Tinubu.

That is why he was handcuffed (I saw the video).

Why would Emefiele sponsor terrorism? It makes no sense. Before Nigerians buy these allegations, may I remind them that Bukola Saraki, a then sitting Senate President, was also falsely charged with sponsoring armed robbery. Please make no mistake, this is payback time to punish Emefiele for his Naira redesign policy, which he introduced to reduce vote buying and clean up Nigeria’s elections.

The plan to treat Emefiele like Sambo Dasuki and keep him in detention while negative things are leaked to the media against him is anti-democratic. He should be treated with respect and allowed to speak to his lawyers and his family. He must not be made a scapegoat for Buhari’s sins because he is an Igbo-speaking minority from the South-South.

Nigerians should not allow the pains they felt during the Naira redesign policy to poison their minds against Emefiele. He is handcuffed while Buhari relaxes in Daura, and El-Rufai is Villa bound. While there was food on Emefiele’s plate, he was wined and dined by the cabal. Now that the food is gone, the plate is seen to be dirty, while those who ate from it are enjoying retirement in Daura and Niger Republic? Where is the justice?

In addition to being much more intelligent than almost all of those who contested the #NigerianElections2023 against him and, more significantly, having the ability to hide his intelligence, Bola Tinubu has a ruthless streak. He is not nice. But he is wise. I can never imagine him crying on the phone to an imam and kowtowing to the cleric.

It does not mean I support everything he does. For example, I am vehemently against his treatment of Mr Godwin Emefiele. The manner of the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor’s arrest reeks of vindictiveness. We saw the video. Handcuffs dangling from the hands of the DSS agent for a frail-looking banker who was in no position to resist arrest? And though I had cause to blast Emefiele in the past, I will fight for his right as best as I can.

Having said that, let me add that I know Tinubu to be a strategist. He knows Nigeria has an investment climate to project and a financial market to protect. So it is in his enlightened self-interest and for the good of Nigeria for him to eschew whatever bitterness he still harbours over the Naira redesign policy and not let revenge taint what has otherwise been a brilliant beginning to his Presidency.

And if my memory serves me correctly, there is a subsisting court order restraining the DSS from arresting Emefiele. Does Tinubu want to start his Presidency like this?

Yes, Laolu Akande is egging President Tinubu on. But it is the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. Akande is speaking for Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who has an axe to grind with Emefiele for banning cryptocurrencies in Nigeria.

Osinbajo was a great advocate for crypto because he planned to contest the Presidency and had people who could support him financially in the crypto world. But with the collapse of FTX, the world’s second-biggest crypto exchange, and the ongoing issues with Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, coupled with last year’s #CryptoCrash, which tanked the economy of El-Salvador, which had tied their currency to Bitcoin, Emefiele was vindicated.

In truth, if Osinbajo had had his way, Nigeria’s financial sector might have been wiped out, but for Emefiele’s prudent action.

Because they control so much wealth, and wealth influences power, no CBN Governor in the last thirty years has left office unscathed. Paul Ogwuma was almost arrested for the atrocities committed by Sani Abacha and was asked to refund monies by the Abdulsalami administration. Joseph Sanusi was denied a second term by President Obasanjo after Nigeria almost defaulted on her foreign loans. President Yar’adua almost fired Charles Soludo over the failed Naira redenomination policy and he was not reappointed. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was suspended for financial malfeasance (the same reason for his removal as Emir).

In the last thirty years, Emefiele has been the only CBN Governor reappointed for a second tenure. And what makes his case even more unique is that he was appointed by one President from one party and reappointed by another from a different party. So think twice before you condemn Emefiele. He held an office that was literally the most sought after non-elective position in Nigeria. There are lots of accusations against him and no evidence as of yet. A media trial by a mob will not get to the bottom of this issue. If the Tinubu administration feels he has a case to answer, let him be charged to court and given the judicial and media space to defend himself.

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