President Bola Tinubu’s nomination of Yemi Cardoso as the new governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was made on Friday, filling a position that had been vacant for three months following the suspension of Godwin Emefiele.
During Emefiele’s absence, Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi, the deputy governor of the operations directorate, had been serving in an acting capacity.
Yemi Cardoso, a 66-year-old banker, has an intriguing background. He was born to parents who were descendants of Brazilian returnees and hailed from prominent families in Popo Aguda, Lagos Island. His father, Felix Bankole Cardoso, held the distinction of being the first indigenous accountant-general of Nigeria in 1963 and later became the first indigenous vice-chairman and managing director of Barclays Bank of Nigeria.
Cardoso’s educational journey began at Corona School in Ikoyi for his primary education, followed by St. Gregory’s College in Lagos for his secondary education. He furthered his studies by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in managerial and administrative studies from Aston University in 1980. Later, in 2005, he pursued a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government (HKS) as a Mason Fellow.
Extensive Career in Finance and Banking
Cardoso is a seasoned banker with a wealth of experience gained from roles at esteemed institutions such as Chase Bank, Citibank, and Citizens International Bank, to name a few. His professional journey began at Howard Tilly & Co. in London, where he worked as a chartered accountant before venturing into the banking sector. In 1981, he secured a position at the prestigious Citibank, which was the world’s largest financial services organization at that time.
Upon returning to Nigeria in 1982, Cardoso joined Chase Merchant Bank, an affiliate of Chase Manhattan. In 1984, he reconnected with Citibank when the institution received a license to operate as a full-fledged commercial bank in Nigeria. In 1990, along with some of his Citibank colleagues, Cardoso played a pivotal role in the founding of Citizens Bank. During his tenure, he held significant positions as the head of corporate banking and head of treasury and financial institutions.
Cardoso’s influence extends beyond the banking sector. He has served as the chairman of the board of the African Venture Philanthropy Alliance. More recently, he held the position of chairman at Citibank Nigeria Ltd. Additionally, he was the founding chairman and co-chair of the Ehingbeti Summit, an economic summit in Lagos state. Furthermore, Cardoso contributes his expertise as a member of the advisory board of Lagos Business School (LBS).
After Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, Tinubu appointed Cardoso as the commissioner of Nigeria’s first stand-alone ministry of economic planning and budget. During his tenure in this role, he crafted a strategy document for the state, emphasizing poverty alleviation and growth, and authored the 10-point economic agenda that played a crucial role in driving ongoing reforms and transformations in the state.
In an interview with Aston University, Cardoso acknowledged that it was a high-risk opportunity, but he believed in blazing a trail and encouraging skilled individuals to enter government and make positive contributions. He noted that becoming a government gatekeeper was not a role for popularity-seekers, which is why politicians were not typically sought for such positions. It was the first time such a ministry had been established in any state in Nigeria, and today, nearly every state (except one) has a ministry of economic planning and budget modeled on the one they pioneered in Lagos.
For his exceptional accomplishments in both the private and public sectors, Cardoso was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) by Aston University in 2017. Additionally, he holds the distinction of being a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers.
Following his government service, Cardoso remained engaged at the intersection of finance, governance, and public policy. He offered consultancy services in the realms of development and finance. He also established the Africa Institute for Leadership and Public Administration (AILPA), which focused on advancing private-public partnerships.
In a 2023 opinion piece titled ‘The Jagaban I know,’ Cardoso shared insights into his relationship with Tinubu. He recounted their first encounter during his tenure as a bank officer handling oil accounts, while Tinubu was working as a treasurer at Mobil.
Cardoso explained that he was initially drawn to Tinubu due to his unwavering support for Chief M.K.O. Abiola during the final days of the abrogated Third Republic. This initial connection led to a lasting relationship that extended beyond Tinubu’s private sector career and his time as a senator, ultimately culminating in Cardoso’s appointment as a commissioner in Tinubu’s administration.
If approved by the senate, Cardoso is set to become Nigeria’s next CBN governor.