By Bayo Onanuga
Olayemi Cardoso’s Dilemma
By Tunde Rahman
Those who know Mr. Olayemi Cardoso will agree he got his current job as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria on a platter of solid professional background and strong personal attributes. His pedigree is rich as his character is unsullied. Cardoso had a remarkable private sector career where he shone brilliantly in banking, stockbroking and consulting.
Cardoso also came from a very solid family pedigree. Nigeria’s late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, appointed his late father, Mr. Felix Bankole Cardoso, as the first Accountant-General of the Federation in 1963. The late elder Cardoso served with enviable record till 1971.
Part of the remarkable private sector career of Olayemi Cardoso was his appointment as the Chairman of the Board of Citi Bank in Nigeria.
Cardoso began his public service journey when he became the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in the cabinet of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor of Lagos State as he then was in 1999. In addition to superintending that ministry, Cardoso was charged with several other responsibilities including heading important cabinet committees that birthed landmark agencies in the state. Cardoso was known for enforcing strict budgetary discipline that contributed significantly to the overall success of the Tinubu administration in Lagos. He refused to authorise the release of funds for projects or programmes that had no budgetary head. For all of that and many more, Cardoso was nicknamed the Headmaster.
Armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in Managerial and Administrative Studies and Masters in Public Administration from the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School of Government and parading strong personal attributes, Cardoso is obviously a perfect fit for the CBN top job. He is calm but firm, strict but fair, prudent but practical, straightforward and honest with loads of integrity. These are the unique qualities he carried unto his job at the apex bank and his major selling points when on September 23, 2023 he officially assumed office with the Senate confirmation of his appointment.
However, it does appear Cardoso will need much more than that to succeed in his present assignment. Under him, the CBN seems to be doing the right thing or doing things right: thinking and working on coming up with appropriate monetary policies, moving to rein in the rising foreign exchange rates and particularly achieve an appropriate value for the naira, which Cardoso believes has been undervalued.
But in the wake of the floating of the Naira, some of the variables shaping the value of the national currency, including limited production in the country as a result of insecurity, Nigerians’ high taste for imported products, dwindling exports, poor dollar remittances, humongous school fees of Nigerian students abroad and medical tourism all of which engendered a strong demand for dollar, far outweighing supply, seem to be clearly beyond his control.
Until these situations change for better, no amount of monetary policies by the CBN will work any miracle, hence Cardoso’s predicament. For instance, in his presentation at the sectoral debate organised by the House of Representatives two weeks ago, the CBN governor lamented that the growing number of Nigerian students studying abroad, increasing medical tourism and food imports have led to the depreciation of the Naira against the Dollar. According to him, over the past decade, foreign exchange demand for education and healthcare totalled nearly $40 billion, surpassing the total current foreign exchange reserves of the CBN, while personal travel allowances accounted for a total of $58.7 billion during the same period.
Another critical yet intriguing factor but seemingly odd in Cardoso’s reckoning is the perception in some quarters of some of the decisions of the CBN, which the apex bank considers purely administrative, but which some others give strange connotations.
One of such is the decision to move some departments of the bank; notably banking supervision, other financial institutions supervision, consumer protection department and payment system management department from Abuja to Lagos.
Indeed, until the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, spoke on this issue last week, I had reckoned that the imperative of the planned relocation of some CBN departments and the headquarters of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria from Abuja to Lagos was evident enough. I had reasoned that the Northern politicians including Senator Ali Ndume from Borno State who had moved to bring down the roof over the development were merely playing politics.
The Emir of Kano, a highly revered royal father, raised the ante last Monday while receiving the First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who was in Kano to inaugurate the School of Law Building named after her by Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria, and had stopped by to pay a courtesy call on the Emir.
Emir Bayero, whose speech was translated from Hausa to English Language by a senior palace counsellor, had told the First Lady to convey his message to President Tinubu. He said among other things: “We are indeed suspicious on why Mr. President single-handedly relocated key departments of CBN, and outright relocation of FAAN to Lagos.
“We are receiving a series of messages from my subjects, and most of them expressed concern over the relocation of CBN and FAAN to Lagos. President Tinubu should come out clean on this matter and talk to Nigerians in the language they would understand. Do more enlightenment on this matter. I, for one, cannot tell the actual intentions of the government. We should be made to actually understand why the relocation of the CBN and FAAN offices back to Lagos.”
Many will wonder why some members of the northern elites are losing their cool, misinterpreting this move and, perhaps inadvertently, heating up the polity on this rather elementary matter. Is their reservation altruistic? Or are they just being sincerely mistaken and reading unnecessary motives into the policy? With the benefit of hindsight, one can say that Cardoso and his team should have understood the political dimensions of the decision better and undertake a more effective public enlightenment on it rather than treat it as a purely administrative matter. Knowing the kind of people and country that we are and the fact that ours is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural society where every action or decision is viewed from ethnic and religious lenses, the CBN ought not to have released the news about the movement of the departments concerned in a routine manner as it did.
It should have released the news with the detailed information and explanation behind the move. The CBN Communication Department should have deployed all in its arsenal to explain the movement to its critical stakeholders and the general public. The apex bank should have seen the movement beyond a mere administrative move, which is within its remit to do. The bank should have situated the movement and anticipated the social and political meanings some may give it. That is how things run in Nigeria.
A deeper and detailed explanation was later provided when Cardozo appeared on the floor of the House of Representatives in Abuja. I was there at the session and witnessed it all. Asked by one of the members of the House from the North, at the session, the rationale behind the movement, the CBN Governor said: “There is nothing political in the movement. We didn’t change any plan. It has always been like that to ease banking supervision. Most of the banks are based in Lagos. So it works well for supervision if our officials are there with them and close to them and close to those the banks interact with. It’s for administrative convenience. It’s also cheaper for the CBN.” He also disclosed that the movement of the departments concerned to Lagos is also important because, according to him, the country is at the point where there is a need for more banking surveillance.
It is important that the CBN governor draws the appropriate lesson from this. He should learn from this experience that though his job of superintending the country’s monetary system is a professional and economic one, yet it has its political aspects. His decisions have consequences not only on the economy but also on the political front. As such, the CBN Governor must always pay attention to the political ramifications of his decisions.
He must be political without being partisan.
Indeed, his situation is also not helped by the fact that he has had very political predecessors-in-office including the high-sounding Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the soft-spoken but loud former Emir of Kano, Khalifa Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and the immediate-past Governor, Godwin Emefiele (this one even attempted to contest for president while holding the office as CBN governor).
There are a couple of things to say on the hoopla about the staff transfer though.
One, President Tinubu is receiving attacks over the movement. Emir of Kano says he must reverse it, urging the First Lady to deploy the feminine soft power to actualise this. Yet, to all intent and purposes, the President that is being asked to reverse the transfer may not have been apprised of the decision because he does not micromanage those he gives responsibilities to where their unique expertise and experience are called to service. The CBN on its part may not have briefed the President because Cardoso had seen the planned movement as purely administrative.
Secondly and more importantly, those who are responding negatively to the policy are treating Abuja as if it belongs to the North rather than being the symbol of the entire country as the Federal Capital Territory. In that capacity, as the FCT, Abuja belongs to all and belongs to no one. In the same vein, as the economic capital and nerve center of the country, Lagos is a melting pot where representatives of virtually all ethnic and cultural groups in the country reside and earn a living.
There is absolutely nothing that says that the headquarters of all Federal Agencies must be located in the Federal Capital even when economic considerations and efficiency dictate otherwise. Some federal agencies reside neither in Abuja nor Lagos at present and their work go on unimpeded.
In any case, President Tinubu’s pan-Nigerian outlook and credentials are too well known. His ability to build political and personal networks and relationships across the length and breath of the country were partly responsible for his victory in the keenly contested 2023 presidential election. He will be the last person to approve or support any policy designed to be detrimental to any part of the country.
But for CBN Governor Cardoso, all of that represents his baptism of fire and a wake-up call for him to be a little more flexible particularly in matters that have wider political connotations.
– Rahman is a Senior Presidential aide
Valentine’s Day: Fertility In Fatality’s Shadow
By Wole Olujobi
“Forget not in your speed, Antonius, to touch Calpurnia, for our elders say the barren touched in this holy chase, shake off their sterile curse,” decreed Roman General and tribune, Julius Caesar, who had positioned his barren wife Calpurnia to stand on Mark Anthony’s way as the annual Roman fertility ritual got underway on the Feast of the Lupercalia.
Even though a colossus that betrode the entire world, the spiritual and cultural significance of the Lupercalia in the lives of Romans was not lost on this totalitarian Roman Army General, as Caesar stayed glued to seize the temples of the gods in his majesty to preside over the affairs of Romans.
On the feast of the Lupercalia, young noblemen were arrayed naked on a race course through the streets, carrying strips of leather with which they pretended to strike all the people in their way. Barren women who wanted children would stand in their path and hold out their hands to be struck, since they believed that this would bring then what they wanted (children).
The feast of Lupercalia, the festival of fertility in Roman culture, which turned out to be the precursor to Valentine’s Day, was marked by tradition and rituals for the procreation health need of the Roman society, yet it marked the beginning of the rebellion against tradition and culture that was the heart of the clash between Roman culture and the new religion (christianity), which was taking a firm root in the world’s first church, the Roman Catholic Church.
The most daring move by the church was the period that Emperor Claudius 11 held forte in the Roman royal court that awed the world. But then the spirit of the new religion seized a Roman Catholic priest, Valentine, who stood to the face of Emperor Claudius to challenge his authority and the place of tradition and culture in Romans’ lives.
For Valentine, it was against the Canon law to challenge the authority of the church. And also for Emperor Claudius, Rome would not abandon culture and tradition for the new religion.
Now the Feast of Lupercalia, also known as Lupercal, which is also the origin of Valentine’s Day, was a pagan holiday
in the middle of February, between February 13 and February 15. It was an holiday to celebrate fertility. Men would strip naked and sacrifice a goat and dog to purify the city of Rome, promoting health and fertility.
Lupercalia was a full month festival before the Ides of March (March 15). Therefore, within the one month period, no Christian religious activity of any sort must hold in the entire Rome as a mark of respect for the traditional Feast of Lupercalia commencing from February 13. But Valentine would not allow any let up in the resolve of the church to challenge the authority of the tradition and culture of Rome.
Emperor Claudius 11 warned Valentine against this heresy and and issued arrest threat as punishment for challenging the authority of Roman tradition. During the one month period marking the Feast of Lupercalia, no other event, particularly that of the new religion, must hold. But Valentine and his disciples would not accept that.
Among the new converts into the new religion were young men and women who had recruited themselves into the Army of Jesus Christ led by Valentine and who were bent on challenging the authority of Emperor and the tradition of Rome.
To assist Emperor Claudius II in his resolve against the church, he banned marriage because he thought married men were bad soldiers. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret.
As a direct affront and assault on the tradition and the palace, Valentine and his disciples chose the same period (February 13 and 15) coinciding with the Feast of Lupercal for a mass wedding among these disciples against the authority of the Palace. When Claudius found out, Valentine was imprisoned and sentenced to death, as Claudius, drawing from the authority of his office and exercising the power of his estate, seized Valentine and hurled him into jail. Inside his cell, Valentine agonised, and his disciples wailed, but that would not break their spirits, as they resolved not to bow to the authority of the Palace and tradition.
Buoyed by the audacity of the church, Valentine spoke from his jail and sent holy blessings to the couples in their connubial consummation in defiance of Emperor Claudius’ decree.
Despite remonstrations from Claudius’ daughter, Emperor Claudius sentenced Valentine to death by beheading. Valentine paid the supreme price for his faith in Christ. For his belief in the primacy of Jesus in His Holiness, Valentine in death was consecrated and canonised on February 14 into the Order of Holiness and Sainthood from which the annual celebration of St Valentine’s Day on February 14 emerged.
In the late 5th Century, Pope Gelasius I outlawed Lupercalia and designated the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day on February 14 to replace the pagan holiday of the Feast of Lupercalia.
In essence, Valentine’s Day, in its real form and content, in the past or even now, ought to be a religious event marking the belief of the adherents of the Christian faith and love in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It is to celebrate the sainthood of the ancient Roman Catholic priest, St Valentine. It is also the celebration of love between married couples, particularly those who suffered persecutions during courtship based on sectarian sentiments.
However, like the Lawrence Anini’s many Benin City’s hijacks, modern day Valentine’s Day is very much a product of the various industries that benefit from it – namely, stationery, chocolate, flowers, and jewelry companies.
Every year, billions of dollars are spent on these items, even in countries where Western holidays are frowned upon or outlawed have seen an upsurge in Valentine’s Day gifts in recent years. It is now a daylight hijack by multinationals and private individuals who cherish commerce and lechery over the spiritual essence of the Christian festival of faith and love of Christ.
Even in Saudi Arabia, where the holiday is illegal, there is a thriving black market for red roses and heart-shaped chocolates in February, all in the celebration of the body to spite the sanctity of the soul as the temple of Christ.
The bastardisation of the purport of Valentine’s Day (from the deep sense of the observance and reverence for the pious decencies of the holy cross to the festival of lechery and celebration of debauchery in the world) speaks loudly about the place of morals in the church and the society at large.
From the red districts of Allen Avenue, Toyin and Ayilara streets in Lagos, Maitama in Abuja to the hearts of Benin, Ibadan, Ports Harcourt and in fact across the country, where Esthers, Catherines, Deborahs (now Debby), Marys (the supposed mother of Jesus) make a living from the auctioning of their bodies to Matthews, Josephs, Andrews, Peters, James and Johns, the new reality in many parts of the world is that Valentine’s Day marks the annual preparation for the misfortunes of unborn children, who even before their birth, are already orphaned.
It is also the annual festival to breed and raise a large pool of criminals under city bridges to menace the society. Ask the devotees the meaning of Valentine’s Day and they tell you Valentine’s Day is a day licensed for a free and violent sex. For them, Jesus Christ and His Cross have no place in today’s Valentine’s Day. Even Saint Valentine himself remains an anonymity!
To stress the rot in Valentine’s Day celebration, Pastor Mike Bamiloye quipped: “Many men will sleep on the same beds with ghosts tonight” celebrating Valentine’s Day, in what is seen as a love by death sealed in hell.
In road accidents, drowning at the beaches and ritual murders, several devotees of Valentine’s Day lost their lives to what they do not even understand, as the fertility essence of the Feast of Lupercal, the precursor of Valentine’s Day, looms in the shadow of fatality.
For the married couples and those who survived persecutions and other forms of hard times before sealing your love in holy matrimony in the true spirit of martyrdom as espoused by Saint Valentine, happy Valentine’s Day. May you live long to celebrate more of Lovers’ Day in good health, peace in your homes and progress at work.
* Olujobi, a journalist and politician, writes from Ado-Ekiti
Femi Falana, Covid-19 Fund And The Art Of Misrepresentation
By Temitope Ajayi
There is a viral video where human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, made allusion to the sum of N135billion given to the 36 states in December 2023 at a memorial event in honour of Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti.
It is important to state here that Mr. Falana has a strong reputation for exaggerations and embellishments. What the Lagos lawyer rendered in that trending video was total misrepresentation of facts. He also did not tell his audience the real reason the said amount was released to the States under the World Bank-funded NG-CARES Programme.
Contrary to the wrong impression of wasteful and frivolous spending being conveyed to the public by Mr. Falana, it should be stressed that it is the Lagos lawyer who needs to get himself acquainted with the issue in contention.
Here are the facts:
1. The whole global economy is still reeling from the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic with the attendant disruptions to the global supply chain, which the world is yet to fully recover from.
2. Covid-19 exacerbated poverty around the world, especially as a result of loss of livelihoods in rural communities and among the urban poor.
3. Post-Covid-19, the World Health Organisation and World Bank are still supporting countries to strengthen their health systems and emergency preparedness so nations can be in much better position to deal with other public health emergencies that may occur in future. Just last year, there was an outbreak of Diphtheria, monkeypox, and Lassa Fever in more than 20 states in Nigeria that government effectively contained.
In a bid to further manage the aftermath of Covid-19 in line with the framework of the WHO and the World Bank, the Federal Government, in December 2023, disbursed N135.4billion to the states following Independent Assessment of results achieved under the Nigeria Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus Programme. The money, which Mr. Falana attempted to scandalise in the viral video, was released to address social and economic crisis created by Covid-19. This is not peculiar to Nigeria. Every country in the world today is still dealing with many socio-economic problems caused by Covid-19.
The aim of the NG-CARES Programme backed by World Bank, which is being implemented in all the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, is to mitigate the economic and social shocks faced by vulnerable people, who are yet to get their livelihoods back as a result of the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic. The project is structured as one that delivers results. Only states that have implemented according to laid-down procedures prescribed in the Financing Agreement, the Funds Release Policy, and the Independent Verification Agent Protocol get reimbursement for the money already spent.
Therefore, the money Mr. Falana mentioned with the intent to ridicule the Federal Government and incite the public against the government and President Tinubu was disbursed based on the results achieved by the States and FCT in their efforts at supporting poor and vulnerable Nigerians under the NG-CARES Programme.
The “top three best performing states in the Second Round of Assessment are Nasarawa, which got N13,697,828,496.96, Cross River N10,944,747,818.84 and Zamfara N10,231,055,267.82,” according to NG-CARES National Coordinator, Abdulkarim Obaje, in a statement.
While government needs critics as watchdogs for accountability and to engender more transparency in the management of public affairs and finance, that sacred duty should not be left in the hands of those who have elevated half-truths and embellishments as their article of trade. Criticisms should be constructive and fact-based.
-Ajayi is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
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