President Muhammadu Buhari twice in less than one year has made two critical appointments I consider unprecedented, apt, and meritorious. The president, indeed, earned my applause. In our local parlance, this is usually described as a “square peg, in square hole”. It is also an appointment no one has so far condemned.
On January 16, 2020, the president gave the youth a well-deserved new year gift, giving his presidential seal to his earlier assent to the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill, signed into law at the eve of the 2019 general elections. This appointment, indeed, a paradigm shift from previous ones in such a strategic institution as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in its almost six decades of existence, was the request to the Senate to approve the appointment of Dr. Kingsley Obiora as a deputy governor of the apex bank. Surprisingly, the president also attached the portfolio of the Economic Policy Directorate to his nomination to replace the retiring Dr. Joseph Nnnanna.
The youthful 43-year-old Obiora was until his appointment an Alternate Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC. Obiora, on the board of the IMF, is a member of the 24-seat executive board members saddled with the day to day running of the institution. He also represents 23 African, countries including Nigeria, on the board.
The earlier merited appointment by the president which was the first after his re-election was the reappointment of Mr. Godwin Emefiele as CBN Governor for another five-year term. This writer, having assessed the performance of Emefiele in office in his first term wrote in a widely published article entitled – Would President Buhari Break the Jinx on Emefiele? The article was devoid of the usual ethno-political sentiments peculiar of critics of government appointments in recent times. It was argued that credible and outstanding performance must be the yard stick for appointments and reappointment within the ambits of constitutionality. And Emefiele in his first five years proved his mettle.
President Buhari in the twilight of Emefiele’s first term shocked those who had believed that as no person had ever been twice appointed in the past, especially since the return of democratic rule in Nigeria, had been shopping and canvassing for the appointment of their cronies to replace Emefiele. Some names were touted, but the president looked the other way, sticking to Emefiele and reappointing him in his first second term in office appointment even before he was sworn-in. It was indeed a reward for commendable performance.
Emefiele’s reappointment was globally applauded, despite the fact that President Buhari inherited him from his predecessor, yet he 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 Nigerians flying the Nigerian flag globally to return home and help develop Nigeria. It is also symbolic that Mr. President is seen by this unprecedented appointment of a young man in the top echelon of the apex bank not to be paying lip service to the bill he signed into law. It also demonstrates his promise to involve young, credible and intelligent Nigerians in the affairs and development of the country.
Kingsley Obiora who had his PhD at the age of 31 years in International Economics from the University of Ibadan was the overall best student. Same was when he had his Masters’ degree in the same institution. He had earlier had his first degree in Economics and Statistics at the University of Benin.
However, Obiora is not a stranger in the economic landscape and quest to see Nigeria become great again. He was recruited from the country through the global competitive Economist Programme in 2007 by the IMF (a recruitment unprecedented outside the conclave of some known and internationally acclaimed ivory towers in Europe and the Americas) having noticed his peculiarity and intelligence in his chosen career.
He cut his teeth in national economic management when he was invited into the country by the former World Bank managing director and former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as technical adviser on economic matters during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was a key figure in the design and production of an economic development policy document for the Obasanjo administration, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) in 2004/2005.
Obiora, a regional and global economist with international exposure, was also a Technical Adviser to former President Jonathan’s Economic Management Team as well as Technical Adviser to a former Economic Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan who had for almost two decades been involved in designing and shaping economic policies from all fronts.
Before returning to the IMF in 2018, Obiora was a Special Adviser to the CBN Governor and superintended over other aides of the governor. His contribution to the monetary policy architecture that helped Nigeria pre and post economic recession was commendable. Thus, his return as deputy governor with higher responsibility is huge not only to the CBN, but the country at large.
His rare gentle and unassuming mien, academic quality and career trajectory may have been what the president noticed as an asset the country deserve now and decided to reward him with higher responsibility not to only assist his former boss, the CBN governor and the management steer the affairs of the monetary institution, but Nigeria at this critical economic times. More so that, the president seemed committed to his pledge of creating enabling environment for Nigerian youths to ventilate their talents as well creating 10 million jobs within the next ten years.
It is thus expected that with his return to the apex bank and the federal government he will contribute his quota and quality that earned him the job, especially in macroeconomic management to achieve the set objectives of setting Nigeria on the path of sustainable growth.
Ademola writes from Ibadan, Oyo state