President Buhari, twice in less than one year, has made twocritical appointments I considered unprecedented, apt, and meritorious.
The President indeed earned my applause. In our localparlance, this is usually described as a “square peg, in square hole”. It isalso an appointment no one has so far condemned.
On January 16, 2020, the President gave the youth awell-deserved new year gift, giving his presidential seal to his earlier assentto the Not Too Young To Rule Bill, signed into law at the eve of the 2019general elections. This appointment, indeed a paradigm shift, from the otherprevious ones in such a strategic institution as the Central Bank of Nigeria inits almost six decades of its existence, was the request to the Senate of theNational Assembly to approve the appointment of Dr. Kingsley Obiora, as adeputy governor of the Bank.
Surprisingly, the President also attached the portfolio ofthe Economic Policy Directorate to his nomination to replace the retiring Dr.Joseph Nnnanna.
The youthful 43-year old Obiora was until his appointment anAlternate Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) inWashington D.C. Obiora on the board of the IMF is a member of the 24-seatexecutive board members saddled with the day to day running of the institution.He also represents 23 African countries including Nigeria at the board.
The earlier merited appointment made by the President whichwas the first after his re-election was the reappointment of Mr. GodwinEmefiele, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for another five-yearterm.
This writer having assessed the performance of Emefiele inoffice in his first term wrote in a widely publicised article entitled – WouldPresident Buhari Break the Jinx on Emefiele? The article was devoid of theusual ethno-political sentiments peculiar of critics of government appointmentsin recent times. It was argued that credible and outstanding performance mustbe the yardstick for appointments and reappointment within the ambits ofconstitutionality. And Godwin Emefiele in his first five years proved hismettle.
The President Buhari in the twilight of Godwin Emefiele’sfirst term shocked those who had believed that as no person had ever been twiceappointed in the past, especially since the return of democratic rule inNigeria, the president had been shopping and canvassing for the appointment oftheir cronies to replace Emefiele. Some names were touted, but the Presidentlooked the other way, sticking to Emefiele and reappointing him in his firstsecond term in office appointment even before he was sworn-in. It was indeed areward for commendable performance.
Emefiele’s reappointment was globally applauded, despite thefact that President Buhari inherited Godwin Emefiele from his predecessor, yethe acknowledged and rewarded him for hard work.
The appointment of young Obiora is both welcoming,heart-warming, with a potential to spur and encourage other young Nigeriansflying the Nigerian flag globally to return home and help develop Nigeria. Itis also symbolic that Mr. President is seen by this unprecedented appointmentof a young man in the top echelon of the apex bank not to be paying lip serviceto the bill he signed into law. It also demonstrates his promise to involveyoung, credible and intelligent Nigerians in the affairs and development of thecountry.
Kingsley Obiora who had his PhD at the age of 31 years inInternational Economics from the University of Ibadan was the overall beststudent. Same was when he had his Masters’ degree in the same institution. Hehad earlier had his first degree in Economics and Statistics at the Universityof Benin.
However, Obiora is not a stranger in the economic landscapeand quest to see Nigeria become great again. He was recruited from the countrythrough the global competitive Economist Program in 2007 by the IMF (arecruitment unprecedented outside the conclave of some known andinternationally acclaimed ivory towers in Europe and the Americas) havingnoticed his peculiarity and intelligence in his chosen career. He cut his teethin national economic management when he was invited into the country by theformer World Bank managing director and former Minister of Finance andCoordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as technicaladviser on economic matters during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He was a key figure in the design and production of aneconomic development policy document for the then President Obasanjoadministration, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy(NEEDS) in 2004/2005.
Obiora, a regional and global economist with internationalexposure, was also a Technical Adviser to former President Jonathan’s EconomicManagement Team as well as Technical Adviser to a former Economic Adviser tothe former President, Goodluck Jonathan, who had for almost two decades beeninvolved in designing and shaping economic policies from all fronts.
Before returning to the IMF in 2018, Obiora was a SpecialAdviser to the CBN Governor and superintended over other aides of the governor.His contribution to the monetary policy architecture that helped Nigeria preand post economic recession was commendable. Thus, his return as deputygovernor with higher responsibility is huge not only to the CBN, but thecountry at large.
His rare gentle and unassuming mien, academic quality andcareer trajectory may have been what the President noticed as an asset thecountry deserve now and decided to reward him with higher responsibility not toonly assist his former boss, the CBN governor and the management steer theaffairs of the monetary institution, but Nigeria at this critical economictimes. Moreso, that, the President seemed committed to his pledge of creatingenabling environment for Nigerian youths to ventilate their talents as well ascreating 10 million jobs within the next ten years.
It is thus expected that with his return to the apex bankand the federal government he will contribute his quota and quality that earnedhim the job, especially in macroeconomic management to achieve the setobjectives of setting Nigeria on the path of sustainable growth.
Oyetunji Ademola writes from Ibadan.