By Idoko Ainoko
An opinion piece titled, “Who is bankrolling Emefiele’s political campaigns?” by one Etim Etim is symptomatic of an emerging problem of cancel culture that is fast taking over in Nigeria. According to Wikipedia, “Cancel culture or call-out culture is a blanket term used to refer to a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been “cancelled”. The expression “cancel culture” has mostly negative connotations and is used in debates on free speech and censorship.”
Etim’s opinion piece also finds expression in the corrosive wokery and wokeism that is fast taking over the world and increasingly making free thought and free speech impossible let alone actions taken in good faith. The root word for wokery and wokeism is of coure the slang use of the word “woke” which Urban Dictionary defined as “A word illogical people use to band together to give their lives meaning. A community of people who seek to assert sexual exploitation, social injustice, and so on, into issues in which none of it exist just so they can feel like they belong to something superior.”
The referenced opinion piece is therefore a weak attempt at “canceling” Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), by a woke activist, who has elected to find something wrong to fight irrespective of what good is possible from what is under discourse. Etim’s perceived grouse in this instance is that there are paid advertisements asking Mr. Emefiele to join the contest for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2023 presidential election. He went on to raise several issues, albeit on the wrong premises, which makes it necessary to correct some of the wrong impressions the writer created.
First, it is baffling that Etim decided to castigate Mr. Emefiele for the financing of the advertisements asking him to run for president when he was unable to prove that the CBN Governor caused the same to be published. It is not enough to cite nameless and faceless sources in a matter that is as grievous as abuse of office that the writer maliciously accused the Apex Bank Governor of. We are in an era where tracking financial flow is possible at the click of a few keypads, and this is in addition to the prospects offered by the Freedom of Information Act that could be leveraged. The writer could have asked to know if the CBN or its subsidiaries paid for the advertisements he referred to in his piece. If these cannot be proven then asserting that Mr. Emefiele is running a political campaign and paying for the messaging borders on criminal libel.
A flip side of the accusation of groups and farmers paying for the advertisements is that Etim wants the CBN to become an emergency dictator, who as the chief regulator of the nation’s financial sector, would gag individuals and organizations to prevent them from exercising the freedom of expression that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees. Etim did not prove that he was able to investigate the books of these farmers and organizations and was on account of that able to surmise that they were insolvent to the extent of not being able to spend money to sway someone who has aided their sector (agro) to contest for a higher office in the belief that he (Emefiele) would prioritize agriculture. That is something that would ultimately make farming profitable. For someone who wrote glibly about political communication, it is surprising that Etim is ignorant about how sectors and industries galvanize support for the candidate they know will advance their own interest, even in the western countries that the likes of Etim are quick to point out as glowing examples of democracy. That is the business side of politics.
Also, accusing Mr. Emefiele of not repudiating those asking him to contest for president is akin to entrapment. There is every likelihood that any response the CBN Governor makes on this subject matter would be twisted out of context and exploited for negative propaganda by those that are waiting for such opportunity. Rather than being condemned, Mr. Emefiele’s silence on this matter is to be commended. He has demonstrated the stoic silence expected of the office he presently occupies when the subject of the discourse is political.
Secondly, while the writer could have a point about the import of a CBN governor being dragged into politics, the way the concern was expressed smacked of someone that has been addicted for too long to a diet of CNN hogwash. The framing of the argument showed that the writer is hooked on the western concept of right and wrong. Nigeria presently faces unusual challenges and if taking the unusual measure of conscripting a sitting CBN Governor to drive the reforms initiated by the present administration further there should not be a problem with that. What right people should find worrisome is if Mr. Emefiele tries to turn down this call to patriotic duty based on certain rules about his CBN tenure and fear of how the likes of Etim will respond to his involvement in serving Nigeria in a higher capacity.
Furthermore, the writer admitted that he had in the past written in support of Emefiele, possibly eulogizing him, which is a red flag that should be investigated further. Usually, pay-for-hire hacks write such glowing tributes or articles in support of a public office holder in expectations of reciprocation; failure to be acknowledged in kind or by being given access usually cause the same writer who has written in glowing terms to turn on the public office holder by dishing out negative articles until the needful is done. Could this be the case with Etim? Would he suddenly begin to see the sterling qualities that have made people rout for the CBN Governor if something should drop to grease his palm?
The writer is right in the litany of names of former CBN top shots that have gone on to occupy higher offices or run for the office of president. This acknowledgment alone negates all the other points marshaled in his piece, which implies there was no point in penning the opinion if he wasted seven paragraphs to make tenuous points only to obliterate his own argument in the closing final paragraph.
One must nonetheless thank Etim for his efforts. There are key takeaways from the opinion article even though it was initially meant to “cancel” Mr. Emefiele as presidential material. One, the writer established the CBN Governor is a competent hand to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in view of the superlative performance and achievements he has recorded even before the end of his stay at the helm in CBN. Two, Mr. Emefiele is so desirable as Nigeria’s president that people in some sectors of the economy are willing to spend their hard-earned money to persuade him to run for president. And three, there are precedents of former CBN governors that have occupied elective office after their stint at the apex bank.
One is tempted to include the other points that the writer missed. The first is that in addition to his intimidating resume, Mr. Emefiele is from the south, to which many political parties are expected to zone their presidential tickets in the spirit of the informal rotational presidency practiced in the country. Incidentally, being from Delta state could be a plus as a choice of Emefiele would straddle the south-west and south-east, which would douse the tension over what part of southern Nigeria should produce the next president.
Secondly, compared to other names that are being mentioned as presidential hopefuls, Mr. Emefiele has age on his side – he is somewhere between the too young and too old aspirants that Nigerians are wary of. The other edges he has over aspirants that have so far shown interest are so numerous and convincing that they are best discussed in other articles.
In conclusion, Etim, and other people on his train should give up the toxic attempt to “cancel” Mr. Emefiele and focus on intervening in areas that genuinely require Nigerians to speak out. They must also note that the kind of vocal wokery they are trying to replicate in Nigeria is now being rejected in the countries where such used to be prevalent.
Ainoko is a public affairs analyst and wrote from Kaduna.