On Friday, President Bola Tinubu nominated Yemi Cardoso as the new governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Cardoso’s nomination comes three months after Godwin Emefiele was suspended as governor of the apex bank and Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi, the deputy governor, operations directorate, was appointed to fill his shoes in an acting capacity.
Olayemi Micheal Cardoso, a 66-year-old banker, was born to parents who were descendants of Brazilian returnees and came from prominent families in Popo Aguda, Lagos Island. His father, Felix Bankole Cardoso, was the first indigenous accountant-general of Nigeria in 1963, and the first indigenous vice-chairman and managing director of Barclays Bank of Nigeria.
Cardoso attended Corona School, Ikoyi, and St. Gregory’s College in Lagos for his primary and secondary education, respectively. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in managerial and administrative studies from Aston University in 1980, and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government (HKS) in 2005 as a Mason Fellow.
Cardoso is a professional banker with several years of experience with Chase Bank, Citibank, and Citizens International Bank, among others. He began his professional career at Howard Tilly & Co. as a chartered accountant in London before transitioning to the banking industry. In 1981, he secured a position at the renowned Citibank, the largest financial services organisation in the world at the time.
In 1982, Cardoso returned to Nigeria and joined Chase Merchant Bank, an affiliate of Chase Manhattan; and in 1984, he went back to Citibank when the organisation obtained a license to operate as a full-fledged commercial bank in Nigeria. Along with some of his Citibank colleagues, Cardoso founded Citizens Bank in 1990 where he served as the head of corporate banking and head of treasury and financial institutions.
He is an erstwhile chairman of the board of the African Venture Philanthropy Alliance; and most recently, chairman of Citibank Nigeria Ltd, and the founding chairman and co-chair of the Ehingbeti Summit, the Lagos state economic summit. He is also a member of the advisory board of Lagos Business School (LBS).
Upon Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, Cardoso was appointed by Tinubu as commissioner of Nigeria’s first stand-alone ministry of economic planning and budget.
According to information available on his website, in this position, he “designed and developed a strategy document for the state (based on poverty alleviation and growth), and wrote the 10-point economic agenda that helped catalyse the ongoing reforms and transformations in the state”.
Speaking in an interview with Aston University, Cardoso said though it seemed a high-risk-opportunity, “I felt that I needed to blaze a trail and encourage more people who had the skills to come into government, make their contributions and improve matters”.
“Nobody really believed it was possible. Then, suddenly you’re the gatekeeper of the government. It’s not a job for anybody who wants to be popular and that’s the reason why they don’t look for politicians to occupy these positions. It was the first time that such a ministry had been set up in any state in the federation. I’m happy to say that now, years later, almost every single state (with the exception of one) has a ministry of economic planning and budget fashioned along the lines of the one we started in Lagos,” Cardoso said.
In recognition of his outstanding achievements in the private and public sector, Cardoso was granted a doctorate in business administration (DBA) (honoris causa) by Aston University in 2017. He is also esteemed as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers.
At the end of his service in government, Cardoso engaged himself at the intersection of finance, governance and public policy. He provided consultancy services on development and financial matters. He founded the Africa Institute for Leadership and Public Administration (AILPA), which focused on promoting private-public partnerships.
In a 2023 opinion piece titled ‘The Jagaban I know’, Cardoso wrote about his relationship with Tinubu whom he said he first encountered while he was a bank officer handling oil accounts. At that time, he said Tinubu was a treasurer at Mobil.
According to Cardoso, he was drawn to Tinubu because of “his unflinching support for Chief M.K.O. Abiola during the dying embers of the abrogated Third Republic”.
Their relationship lasted beyond Tinubu’s private sector years and his time as senator up until the former Lagos governor appointed him as commissioner in his administration.
If confirmed by the senate, Cardoso will be Nigeria’s next CBN governor.