Nigeria's next CBN governor may be qualified for the job, but this fact about him could be a problem

Key takeaways:

  • President Bola Tinubu has nominated Yemi Cardoso for Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor.
  • If approved by the Senate, Cardoso would be leading the apex bank after Godwin Emefiele’s nine-year reign.
  • While Cardoso is qualified on paper, there are questions about his relationship with the President and the independence of the CBN.

With over 30 years of experience in the public and private financial sectors, Yemi Cardoso is a good fit for CBN governor, but this fact about him could be a problem.

From a botched naira redesign to inflation-inducing FX policies, Yemi Cardoso, President Bola Tinubu’s nominee for CBN governor, has what can be described as a herculean task ahead of him if approved by the Senate.

Cardoso could take the reins after Godwin Emefiele’s nine-year reign. Emefiele, who is now facing allegations of fraud after his suspension, created policies which some believe plunged Nigeria into economic problems.

Muktar Mohammed, CNBC Africa Finance and Economic Analyst said in an interview that Emefiele went beyond making monetary policies to making economic policies. He explained that the former was within the CBN’s purview, while the latter was a task meant solely for the government.

The CBN ensures that the economic policies created by the government are in synergy with the monetary policies it creates, a synergy, which Mohammed said was largely absent during Emefiele’s terms as CBN governor.

Therefore, one of Cardoso’s major tasks would not just be to synergise monetary with economic policies, but to create a clear distinction between them.

A stellar record 

Cardoso has a track record that makes him fit to lead Nigeria’s apex bank.

The former Citibank vice president has over 30 years of experience in the public and private financial sectors. In 2022, he won the Citi Distinguished Alumni Award for Leadership and Ingenuity, making him the first sub-Saharan recipient of the award.

He has sat on the board of Nigerian subsidiaries of Chevron and Texaco and served as the first commissioner for economic planning and budget for Lagos State in 1999.

Cardoso has also served as a consultant and policy expert for international organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations, Ford Foundation, and the World Health Organization.

While these credentials are impressive, there’s a fact about Cardoso could stand in the way of his objectives as CBN governor.

A fact about Cardoso that could pose a challenge

Close ties with the President  

A central bank’s independence is critical to its ability to create policies in favour of its country. This independence allows the apex bank to prioritise long-term economic growth over short-term political mandates.

To ensure the independence of Nigeria’s apex bank, the governor is not allowed to participate in partisan politics. According to the CBN Act of 2007, the CBN governor is disqualified from holding any public office other than the office of the CBN governor.

In 1999, Cardoso was appointed as the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in Lagos State under Tinubu. While the office isn’t partisan, the relationship between Cardoso and the current president could have grown into that of partisan politics.

Tinubu’s consideration of Cardoso as vice president in 2015 hints at an association that could also be termed partisan. The current president revealed in 2022 that he submitted three names — Yemi Cardoso, Wale Edun, and Yemi Osinbajo — as potential running mates when asked to do so by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

While it cannot be concluded that this will make the former banker partisan, he’ll have to prove that he’ll put the country’s needs over the President’s.