As 2019 general elections inch closer at the passing of each day, alignments and re-alignments among political players have started assuming feverish dimension. Political juggernauts are becoming intrepid enough to publicly associate and show their preferences. In the same vein, business moguls and economic players are coalescing, albeit discreetly, to choose which side of the divides to lend their support to.
Key among this group of economic players are managing directors and chief executive officers of top Nigerian banks. While loyalty of some several bank chiefs is not a hard nut to crack based on their closeness to and affinity with certain political leaders; there are others whose allegiance is yet to be unravelled. The major question agitating their minds is which camp to pitch their tents.
A section of Nigerian bank chiefs may have had their fortune shored up; there is also a group for whom the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari has been with burdens. Few have had their sterling career truncated when they played hosts to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), while several have emerged unscathed.
Nnamdi Okonkwo was arrested for allegedly receiving in cash $115 million into the Bank’s coffers from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke. The bank has denied complicity in the issue, saying it reported the development to the appropriate quarters. Former Managing Director of Sterling Bank Plc, Yemi Adeola was at one time also quizzed by the EFCC.
Ifie Sekibo of Heritage Bank has had to be invited by the commission for his role in the alleged diversion of N13 billion belonging to Oyo State. Adesola Oduntan of First Bank Plc faced hurdles at the National Assembly to provide answers to questions regarding the bank’s role in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.
Some are still under quiet probes so as not cause panic in the banking sector. These dudes are not just heading financial institutions; they sit on huge financial resources capable of influencing outcomes of elections. Would this group be rooting for a President under whom their stewardship and integrity have been called to question or camping with a candidate under whom their interests would be protected?
In another breadth, several other businessmen might also be finding themselves in the dilemma of choice. Notable among this group are Cletus Ibeto, the billionaire owner of the Ibeto Group and Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Motors. While Ibeto has had the noose of prosecution around his neck loosened; that of Chuwkuma has been the opposite. In whose corner Ibeto would be throwing his supports is not yet clear as he has only faced his cement business. He registered his corporate ambition several weeks ago when he signed a financing agreement of $850 million dollars with Milost Global Inc days ago. Chukwuma’s seemingly intractable ordeal might have given him a sense of direction as he reportedly donated two hi-tech sports utility vehicles to the Buhari Campaign Organisation.
It is a common practice all over the world for economic players to be identified with political interests; though this identification is mostly done with tact and discretion. Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein openly supported Hillary Clinton and granted an interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria to buttress his stance. Bank of America CEO, Brian Moynihan, spoke on national television against Donald Trump’s slogan of ‘Making America Great Again’, asserting that America was already great and making a lot of progress based on certain economic indices which needed no unnecessary interruption. These economic players, whose decisions are driven by their vested interests, form one of the pillars upon which electoral successes or otherwise of politicians stand. This practice does not exclude Nigeria which politics has always been one of the most intriguing. (The Capital)