President TInubu has nominated Yemi Cardoso as Nigeria’s next CBN governor. Cardoso’s political affiliation raises questions about CBN’s independence.
Yesterday, President Bola Tinubu nominated Yemi Cardoso to head Nigeria’s Central Bank. Cardoso will be the 11th CBN governor if successfully confirmed by the Senate. He will succeed Godwin Emefiele, whose suspension and dramatic removal still raise legal questions. The nomination of the 66-year-old banker will revive the argument on whether bankers or economists make for better Central Bank governors. While Cardoso is a banker—he served as Chairman of Citibank—some of Nigeria’s more celebrated CBN governors have been economists.
The primary test for Nigeria’s next CBN governor is price stability. In six years, the CBN has done poorly at controlling inflation, with last month’s inflation numbers reaching an 18-year high. Godwin Emefiele suggested that greedy middlemen were the drivers of high prices. His time as governor was notable for expanding loans to the federal government, CBN-funded agricultural schemes, and artificially pegged exchange rates.
Many of the policies Emefiele pursued in his time as governor seemed to have the nod of President Buhari, calling the bank’s independence into question. Emefiele was also criticised for a short-lived attempt to run for the Presidency while he was CBN governor. Observers have similar concerns about his successor, Cardoso.
A partisan CBN governor?
In 2015, Cardoso was one of three names considered as Vice President to Muhammadu Buhari. “I was asked to submit three names, Yemi Cardoso, Wale Edun, and Yemi Osinbajo, but I told them if I submit three names, they would play a game, they might make it four and pick the fourth one. I gave them one name and that was Osinbajo,” Tinubu explained in the buildup to the 2023 elections.
The new CBN governor is a long-term associate of Tinubu; he was appointed Lagos State’s Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in 1999 but did not complete his tenure as Commissioner because he won the Michael Romer Memorial Scholarship. Some political experts claimed that Cardoso would have been nominated as deputy governor of Lagos following Senator Bucknor Akerele’s exit if he had not taken up the scholarship. Instead, Femi Pedro became deputy governor.
Despite questions about partisanship, Cardoso’s accomplished career with Citibank and Citizens International Bank and his academic and professional accomplishments will give some hope that he may make a good CBN governor. But like Wale Edun, who was appointed finance minister, he may have to shake off claims that his appointment is a continuation of Tinubu’s emerging pattern of placing his old allies in strategic teams.
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