Whenever a new administration comes on board, there’s usually the hasty tendency, especially in this part of the world, to discard old hands in the system and appoint new ones to replace them.
It is given that the new sheriff in town wants his own people who will show complete loyalty to him and whatever governance agenda or model he intends to implement during his tenure.
While the appointment of new hands is the complete prerogative of the head of the new government, experience acquired by old functionaries in the system should not be totally jettisoned, for experience counts in governance.
As they say, the government is a continuum. And continuity helps to bring stability, amplify progress, and expand growth and sustainability in an organisation- be it in the private or public sector, especially where premium value is placed on the competence, dedication and loyalty of the personnel.
Against the foregoing, therefore, I will like to suggest to the new administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a man reputed for being an excellent talent hunter and retainer of excellent and capable hands, to, as a matter of importance, retain some capable hands who served in the administration of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari.
No matter the misgivings one may have with the immediate past administration – no administration, all over the world, is without shortcomings – it is on record that the preceding administration had some good hands that manned some critical agencies and departments of government.
For example, there’s no denying the vibrancy and spontaneous responsiveness of the NiDCOM – the agency that caters to the challenges and concerns of Nigerians in the diaspora for the past few years—all thanks to the indefatigable leadership of the commission led by Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Former President Buhari perhaps realised that Mrs Dabiri did so well as the head honcho of the commission, even in the most trying times, such as the recent Sudan conundrum where NiDCOM led, and admirably so, the concerted efforts to evacuate Nigerians trapped in the country following the war triggered by the battle of supremacy and control between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces.
The former lady of the tube was reappointed for another term in office by the departed President at the tail end of his administration so that she could continue to lead the commission excellently and build a sustainable culture of excellence there.
Another name that comes to mind in this category of public officials who deserve to be reappointed or even given higher responsibilities in the new administration is the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, who by all metrics of evaluation tick the box as a competent and dedicated hand which will always bring premium value saddled when saddled with a responsibility.
But of all the names, like the aforementioned names, that keep coming to my mind whenever I reflect on this particular subject matter, there is one that perennially strikes a cord, and that is the current MD and CEO of the Rural Electrification Agency(REA), Engineer Ahmadu Salihijo Ahmad.
Apart from his youthfulness and excellent all-around education with two high degrees in development studies and project planning, Engineer Ahmad’s imprints as the head of REA in the last three years bear eloquent testimony to his competence, enterprising innovative prowess and transformative leadership capacity.
Deploying evidence-based reporting, the renewable expert has been able to repurpose the agency to meet its core mandate of expanding electricity access to rural and underserved clusters in the country through the development of off-grid technologies.
REA, under the leadership of Engineer Ahmad, is the catalyst for the Nigeria Electrification Project(NEP) with funding from two multilateral institutions: World Bank and African Development Bank(ADB). Under the arrangement, there are renewable projects currently ongoing in the six geopolitical zones. So far, the agency has completed the first phase of REF Call, under which 12 solar hybrid mini-grids and over 19,000 solar systems have been delivered. As for REF 2 Call, projects are ongoing to provide 51 additional solar hybrid mini-grids.
Through the Energising Education Programme conceptualised by REA under the leadership of Ahmad, the agency has delivered solar hybrid power plants to seven universities under the initiative’s first phase. Phase two of the project is going on with several universities listed as beneficiaries, including two teaching hospitals.
While the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged and destroyed most countries of the world, Nigeria inclusive, REA designed and began implementing a project, with funding from the Central Bank of Nigeria, called Solar Power Naija Programme. The project, which is in line with the Federal Government’s Economic Sustainability Plan, upon completion, will add five million additional renewable energy connections, impacting about 25 million Nigerians.
Listening to the President’s inaugural speech on Monday, one could not but come away with one powerful takeaway: He is focusing on revitalising the Nigerian economy through aggressive industrialisation. Although electricity plays a massive role in industrial-scale industrialisation, which is the overall ambition of President Tinunu, it is essential to emphasise that no organically sustainable economic growth will occur in a developing economy like ours when the micro, small and medium enterprises corridor is neglected.
To drive the MSME subsector of the economy, renewable energy will play a significant and handy role. And there is no government agency now that can handle that aspect more than REA! It is even safe to say that at the risk of being immodest, there is no better hand to man the agency in the current administration than the current occupant, Engineer Ahmadu Salihijo. Retaining him on the job is the least the President can do in rewarding octane performance and loyalty to the system.
One does not need to listen to a sycophant or a praise singer to know the impact REA has made in the last three years. Industry stakeholders have attested to that, and they keep attesting to the transformation Engineer Salihijo has brought to the agency through the instrumentality of transparency and accountability and excellent institutional practice in discharging the core responsibilities of the agency. One can only hope to admonish President Tinubu to keep the REA head so that he can finish what he started.
Emmnuel Odozi, a political commentator writes from Asaba.