By Livinus Igboanugo
Flamboyant Lagos publisher, Nduka Obaigbena, has secured another fat image-laundering brief from the embattled CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, it was gathered.
Part of the job is the staging of pro-Emefiele marches in major cities of the country as well as well solidarity messages by amorphous groups through press conferences/statements.
Competent sources at CBN headquarters in Abuja disclosed that huge disbursement in nine digits has been made to the Lagos publisher to counter the swelter of negative publicity generated by the ongoing currency exchange fiasco. The owner of Thisday/Arise group had similarly coordinated the multi-billionaire media campaign for Emefiele in his ill-fated bid for the presidential ticket of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), last year.
Aside a well-reported running-battle with DSS over alleged “terror financing”, the top banker is currently enmeshed in a national scandal over the currency crisis plaguing the financial sector following the bungling of the Naira redesign process which has plunged cross-sections of Nigerians into untold hardship in banking halls and ATM centres nationwide.
Emefiele returned to the country penultimate weekend amid high drama at the Abuja airport as he was escorted home and to the office by a platoon of heavily armed soldiers ostensibly to shield him from arrest by DSS operatives, fueling speculations of high-stake power-play in Abuja. He had stayed back in the U.S. for several weeks “on sick leave” after attending an official engagement in the company of President Muhammadu Buhari in early December. The “military protection” for Emefiele is believed to have been facilitated by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who hails from Ikaland, Delta State like the embattled CBN governor.
Already, Obaigbena, owner of Thisday/Arise group, has deployed his platforms in simultaneous media blitz to burnish Emefiele’s image. For instance, Thisday led with a story entitled “In battle against independent monetary policy, House threatens Emefiele” on January 28, which was also syndicated on Arise platform.
In what observers considered to be more like opinion than news report, the story termed the House invitation of the CBN governor to appear before its banking committee over the lingering currency crisis in line with its statutory oversight function, as a plot to “erode” CBN’s independence.
For failing to honour House committee summon over the lingering currency crisis after several appointments, the Speaker, Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila, had threatened to invoke relevant sections of the law to effect Emefiele’s arrest by the police. The house summon was in accordance with the provisions of the Central Bank Act which mandate it to submit to the oversight of the House.
Thisday front-page lead report defended CBN governor by claiming ironically that the House summon was “against the provisions of the law and in clear pursuit of personal interest, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila”.
In the last three weeks, the image-laundering campaign for Emefiele has been sustained daily in Thisday and Arise with lead reports creating alternate reality by casting the Naira redesign as a “success story” against compelling evidence of Nigerians undergoing untold hardship in banking halls and ATM centres across the country.
The ongoing brief, according to the CBN source, is aside the standing juicy “retainership” enjoyed by Obaigbena since Emefiele assumed office as CBN governor in 2014. Huge sum is said to be paid to Thisday/Arise regularly for “enlightenment services”, just as Emefiele was said to have encouraged his favorite bank CEOs to specifically “pour adverts” into Arise, fueling speculations in some quarters that he has a stake in the television station which recently marked its tenth year of operation.
Interestingly, Emefiele enjoys the distinction of being the first CBN governor to serve two terms under two presidents. His first term started under President Goodluck Jonathan and it was under him that $2.1b was released to the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) which was shared as election largesse by PDP leaders and some well-connected individuals in 2015.
Following Emefiele’s appointment for a second term by President Buhari in 2019, Thisday gushed in an exhilarated report that the appointment “being the first major one to be made by Buhari in his second term” and given that it favored a southerner “signals a shift of the administration to run an inclusive government this time.”
But observers believed Obaigbena was only too happy that his “oil bloc” had been renewed.