Against all odds, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (GMD/CEO) of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, was Thursday nominated for the job of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
President Goodluck Jonathan has submitted Emefiele's name to the Senate to replace Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who has been suspended.
In the interim, Deputy Governor, Economic Policy of the CBN, Dr. Sarah Alade, will act in the capacity of CBN governor.
The president also nominated the current Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, as a Deputy Governor to replace Mr. Tunde Lemo, who retired from his position as deputy governor in charge of operations in January 2014.
Emefiele's nomination came as a surprise to the financial markets, as he had never been mentioned as a contender for the position and does not hail from the South-west, the geopolitical zone that was favoured to produce the next CBN governor.
Names previously mentioned in various news reports as contenders were Chairman, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Mr. Atedo Peterside; former GMD/CEO of Access Bank, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; GMD/CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Mr. Olabisi Onasanya; CEO of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr. Mustapha Chike-Obi; Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga; former Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama; Lemo; Deputy Governor of the CBN, Dr. Kingsley Moghalu; and Alade.
Emefiele's tenure, according to most analysts will be a departure from the controversy-prone era that characterised Sanusi's tenure.
If confirmed by the Senate, the Zenith Bank boss is expected to assume office by June this year. In the past, central banker chiefs were conservative and their interventions were felt primarily in the financial system and economic segments of the country.
A good central banker, said market watchers, is he who is measured in his pronouncement because of the likely impact of his comments on the markets.
They added that he is expected to be non-partisan, makes sure that his core mandates are pursued in a responsible manner and rarely dabbles into matters outside his terrain. These, according to most analysts, are the qualities that Emefiele will be bringing to the table as the CBN governor.
They noted that with Emefiele's nomination as Sanusi's replacement, he would be bringing to the CBN a calm and steady hand, which has seen him successfully steer Zenith Bank to becoming the largest bank in Nigeria, to the central bank.
Commenting on his nomination, a market analyst, who preferred not to be name, expressed confidence in the president's appointment.
He said: "Following Sanusi's controversy-strewn era, Emefiele with his even temperament, qualifications and unimpeachable track record as a sound banker, would be bringing stability to the table, which is what CBN needs.
"As a banker, he would also know how to walk the thin line between the implementation of monetary policies and maintaining financial system stability.
"More importantly, as we enter an election year, we expect him to deftly manage expectations and implement policies that would keep inflation in check and currency stable, as politicians open up their war chests and embark on spending binges to win voters. He would also be expected to reassure investors of the financial system's stability."
Commenting on his appointment, analysts at CSL Stockbrokers, a division of First City Monument Bank, said: "We are also of the view that the CBN has a strong institutional foundation and skilled leadership that should guide whoever occupies the position of the CBN governor."
The Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, advised Emefiele to be focused on stimulating economic growth when he assumes office. He also advised him to ensure that he continues the transformation of the payment system by enforcing the cashless policy and maintains the risk management policy of current central bank leadership.
Emefiele is a University of Nigeria, Nsukka-trained banker and financial strategist. Following his graduation in 1984 with Bachelor of Science degree in Banking and Finance from UNN, he obtained an MBA (Finance) from the same institution as the best graduating student of his class. He went on to deepen his knowledge of Economics at Oxford University, United Kingdom,
having attended several executive training programmes and courses in negotiations, strategy, leadership, critical thinking, delivering value/profit at Harvard University, Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Business School), all in the U.S.A
Emefiele, who joined Zenith Bank from inception, assumed the post of Managing Director/CEO of the bank on August 1, 2010. Prior to his appointment, he was Deputy Managing Director from 2001.
He was also the bank's Executive Director in charge of Corporate Banking, Treasury, Financial Control and Strategic Planning. He has over 23 years banking experience.
In conjunction with Jim Ovia, the founder of Zenith Bank, Emefiele has grown the bank from a second-generation bank set up in 1990, into a financial powerhouse that has surpassed its peers and older first-generation banks.
While Ovia was always been credited with the strategy, vision and evolution of Zenith Bank, Emefiele was the quiet but effective enforcer behind the scenes who implemented the vision to the letter.