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By Simon Tuleh

It is 2021 as the world gradually returns to normalcy, Nigeria is on the horizon for its place in the comity of nations amidst overcoming the fight against the pandemic, managing plunged oil prices for economic stability, fighting terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, inter-regional ultimatums and ploys for 2023 elections.

These have not been harder on any of the echelons of power that Nigerians have gazed their eyes on in the past months like the topnotch of public service including MDAs, parastatals and others bodies who play a critical role in protecting our sovereignty and indivisible nature.

As we take a look at this rebound year, 2021, I wish to take you through some of the developments in our nation’s leadership by focusing mainly on those I consider emerging leaders in this rebound year who have taken the lead at various levels in the public sphere. These are my under 50 years of age leaders in Nigeria’s public service in the year 2021 in no particular order. If you are wondering why I chose under 50 years rather than under 30 or 40 years of age, it is because even global the bar of leadership has gotten higher now than it did when we had leaders below this mark as countries like United States of America, Britain, China, India, Germany, Russia have majority of its leaders at above 50 years of age since the 20th century.

So these are some of Nigeria’s leaders under 50 years in public service in 2021:

Mr. Ahmad Rufai Zakari, Special Adviser to the president on Infrastructure, (Jigawa State-North West), 37 years old; a graduate of Electrical Engineering/Economics from University of Buffalo, New York where he distinguished himself as a young Nigerian at the age of 22. His interest into the oil and gas sector paved the way for him into one of the world’s leading corporations, General Electric (GE) Company (with more than 200,000 employees and net worth of over $5 billion) where he rose to become an Executive Director, Gas Power Installed Fleet and Services for Nigeria/South Africa General Electric. Ahmad held several other positions at GE including Electric Engineer, Audit Manager, Executive Audit Manager (first African to occupy such position) and Executive Director/Chief Operation Officer. Ahmad’s passion for motherland fostered his drive which engineered actualization of some critical projects into the country such as the revamp of the acquisition integration framework for GE and gas installations in the country.

His appointment as Special Adviser to the President did not come as a surprise as he has so far facilitated various power projects and initiatives. Ahmad is one of the shining lights who truly make a hard bargain for youth leadership and position in public office.

Amb. Elijah Onyeagba, Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Republic of Burundi, East Africa (Anambra State – South East), 43 years; He is an Economist, banker by experience, accomplished entrepreneur and politician with experience spanning over two decades in private and public sector finance sector. He is an alumnus of the International Housing Finance Program and Securitization of the Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellow of the African Leadership Institute. A Senior Member of the Chartered institute of Bankers of Nigeria (HCIB) and a Fellow of the Institute of Treasury and Financial Administration (FITFA), a new leader with the Crans Montana Forum and a member of the African Leadership Network-ALN.

He bagged his first degree in Economics with 21 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Master’s Business Administration in Finance from University of Calabar, Master’s in Applied Economics from the American University in Washington DC, USA and he has a PhD in Economics (Public Policy) from the Prestigious Atlantic International University, Hawaii USA.

He contested for the Federal House of Representatives of Anaocha, Dunukofia and Njikoka in Anambra state under the All Progressives Congress against candidates from the state’s dominant political parties like People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Even though the outcome of the election was soiled in litigations, Elijah embraced the results and congratulated the winner.

Elijah’s capacity to parlay with every Nigerian without prejudice of their ethnicity, religion or party affiliation earned his unanimous support when appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s ambassador to the republic of Burundi, East Africa. He has expressed commitment to utilize this appointment to promote investment opportunities in Nigeria and also represent the country well enough to gratify the stakes of younger leaders in Nigeria’s polity and future.

Mrs. Aishah Ahmad, Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), (Niger State- North Central) 44; considered one of the youngest women to occupy such a position in Nigeria’s apex financial institution, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) depicts focus and commitment to excellence. She is an accountant, financial analyst and financial manager with experience across various top financial institutions. She worked as Head, Consumer Banking & Investment at Diamond Bank, Retail Banking at Zenith Bank Plc, Private Banking at NAL Bank Plc (now Sterling Bank Plc), Zenith Capital, Bank of New York Mellon, U.K., Stanbic IBTC Holdings and other private firms.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Abuja, Master of Business Administration (majoring in Finance) from the University of Lagos and a Master of Science degree in Finance and Management, awarded by the Cranfield School of Management in the United Kingdom.

As a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) she has practiced professionally with reputable firms as a Group Accountant at “Manstructs Group Nigeria Limited”, Z.O. Ososanya & Company, First Interstate Bank (Nigeria) Plc. and Treasury Group.

Mrs. Aisha’s appointment as Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability at Nigeria’s Central Bank did not only demystify the possibility of a young woman attaining such a lofty position but earned her a place among amazons in Nigeria’s history. She continues to contribute immensely in designing policies that contribute to the bank’s regulatory framework to strengthen financial stability for economic growth in the country.

Mrs Ogechukwu Olufunmilola Modie, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Strategic Communications (Delta State, South South) 45; is a strategist, planner and innovator who’s commitment to system reengineering spans over two decades focusing on Strategy Consulting, Corporate Finance, SME Ventures, Private Equity, Opinion Research, and most recently Public Policy and Administration. An amazon who also seeks to inspire people to become successful through her literary publications like her popular book “Waters for the Thirty Soul” and has featured on radio programs where she speaks to millions across the country.

Ogechukwu Olu who’s background cuts across the north and south of Nigeria graduated from University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Cranefield University, England has earned her place on the topmost jobs including Chief of Staff to the Honourable Minister of State, Petroleum Resources and Coordinator of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources’ Project Management Office, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, NOIPolls (one of Africa’s leading polling monitoring and reporting body) and she was the first woman to occupy the position. She has worked with other organizations such as Tony Elumelu’s Heirs Foundation, Ford Foundation, SMEDAN, LEAP Africa and Fate Foundation.

Her appointment to serve in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet has been proved worthy by her notable contributions in providing invaluable ideas for effective strategic communications within the presidency.

Mr Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, Managing Director/Chief Executive officer, Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency (Adamawa State – North East), 38; is considered one of Nigeria’s youngest top executives who’s entrant into public service is timely as the Buhari administration is focused on infrastructural development in the power sector where 60% of the country is considered rural settlements.

He studied Electronic and Electrical Engineering at University of Leeds, U.K, holds a Masters on Project Planning and Management and Development Studies which have been evident in his contributions to the power sector of the country. Ahmad who is reputed for being a renewable energy advocate has worked with Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P), respectively. At SURE-P, he led the development of a project that empowered over 50, 000 Nigerian youth. He served as the Special Adviser to the Nigerian Minister of Environment, Federal Ministry of Environment, Amina Mohammed, and was the coordinator of Nigerian Green Board Program during which he coordinated for the issuance of Africa’s first Sovereign Green Bonds valued for over 10 billion NGN. He was the Executive Director Operations at eN Consulting and Projects Limited.

Since his appointment as Managing Director/CEO, Rural Electrification Agency (REA) by President Muhammadu Buhari he has championed increased access to alternative energy in the rural areas at more affordable rate and using more efficient methods. His ability to engage local and international stakeholders is commendable and speaks more for greater involvement of younger leaders in public service.

Mrs Hadiza Bala-Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) (Kastina State – North East) 45; is a new breed of young female politicians from northern Nigeria who have demonstrated vision and ingenuity as Chief Executive of one of Nigeria’s key agencies; Nigeria Ports Authority. The agency which dates back to the 19th century before Nigeria’s amalgamation has seen much older individuals at the helm, but the stint of this young northern woman has doused many.

An Alumni of Ahmadu Bello University and Leeds University, UK she is a management expert per excellence, human rights activist, technocrat and emerging young leader from northern Nigeria.

She worked formerly as chief of staff to the Governor of Kaduna State, co-founder BringBackOurGirls campaign, researcher at Centre for Democratic Development, Bureau of Public Enterprises, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Special Assistant to the Minister of FCT.

Mrs Hadiza contested and lost for the Federal Constituency of Musawa/Matazu as a candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change. She then joined the Good Governance Group in Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation, as the country director of strategy.

Her ability to thrive amidst older and highly experienced civil servants speaks of her competence and capacity to lead. She has led the deployment cutting edge technology and innovation into the agency since her appointment.

Dr Sanusi Ohiare, Executive Director Rural Electrification Fund (REF), (Kogi State – North Central), 36; he represents a new breed of young leaders emerging from the north central region of the country, the emergence of his state governor Yahaya Bello, Ramatu Tijani and others in the state rising to national prominence and becoming major players in the political space cannot be surprising for many the emergence of this technocrat cum politician.

The appointment of Sanusi as the Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund, the ‘’engine room’’ of the Rural Electrification Agency by President Muhammadu Buhari is a depiction of the great trust in this young Nigerian who was just 32 years at the time.

Dr Sanusi Mohammed Ohiare is a graduate of University of Jos, Plateau State where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Economics, Centre for Energy, Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP), University of Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom, Master of Science degree in Energy Studies, with Specialization in Energy Finance in 2011 and holds a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Rural Energy Development from the prestigious Institute for Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD), De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom.

With over a decade experience in the Rural Electrification sector across local and foreign organizations including German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ), Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP), Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). He also contributed immensely to policy framework at other government bodies like Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc. (NBET), Sustainability, Policy and Innovative Development Research (Spider) Solutions, Federal Capital Territory Administration-Abuja and other private companies in various capacities.

He has contributed to youth development and empowerment at socio-economic and political levels. His active involvement in professional bodies like International Association of Energy Economics (IAEE), Nigerian Association of Energy Economics (NAEE), Lagos Oil Club and Society for Petroleum Engineers (SPE), Energy Institute UK and a Mandela Washington Fellow (2017) are a display of his tireless commitment to human development.

Dr Sanusi is surrounded by a team of young and vibrant individuals at REF where he challenges them to innovate and design effective strategies for maximum utilization of the fund in line with national policy.

Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), (Kebbi State – North West) 40; he is one of the youngest Nigerians at the helm of one of the highest and most critical agencies in this administration, the EFCC as one of the major agencies saddled with fighting corruption which is President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to Nigerians. The agency is considered one of the places with the most political interests in the country where politicians jostle to see their own loyalist at the top yet saw the emergence of a young man of 41 years of age away from the old practice of older individuals appointed to this high office.

Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa is a proven detective and law enforcement officer who’s track record of stellar performance in financial crime investigation, intelligence and analysis elevated him above his contemporaries starting from his joining the EFCC as an Assistant Detective Superintendent to head of investigation of key persons of interest, participation in top level prosecution of advance fee fraud, official corruption, bank fraud, money laundery and other related crimes. Prior to his appointment, he was the Deputy Chief Superintendent of the anti-graft agency.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Usman Dan fodio University, Sokoto, Master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy studying Bachelor of Law at the University of London.

He was trained by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FINCEN), and United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).

The appointment of Abdulrasheed was well received by so many Nigerians as a mark of significant progress in our nation’s polity where more young leaders will be appointed to key positions in public service.

Amb Terhemen Tarzoor, Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Republic of Namibia (Benue State- North Central) 49; one of the emerging youthful leaders from Nigeria’s food basket who dared to challenge the status in the state where old and retired politicians dominated the political space. His dogged resolve not to settle for less in the political sphere makes him admirable and noteworthy of emulation.

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Terhemen who was formerly a Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly where he proved his ingenuity in human relations by successfully managing older members of the house and ensuring stability at the time.

Tarzoor gained national repute when he vied for the state’s number one seat in 2015 against the incumbent governor Samuel Ortom. Even though he lost the election, his position among the top runners raised the hope of other young men and women that there is room at the top echelon.

Terhemen was born to the family of the late Chief Tarzoor Orbiam, immediate past Tyoor Mbawa and Mue Ter Mbawa in Makurdi Local Government Traditional Council and Mama Chive Orbiam of Mbawa, Sherev, Makurdi Local Government Area of Benue State. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Benue State University, Masters in Business Administration (MBA), majoring in Banking and Finance and an additional Master of Science (M.Sc) Degree in Economics with specifics in monetary economics. He went on to earn a doctorate degree from the same institution.

Amb. Terhemen Tarzoor, Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Republic seeks to leverage on this appointment to pave way for more young leaders to put themselves out there and give their best no matter how tough and discouraging it will be.

Mrs Yewande Sadiku, Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) (Lagos State – South West) 48; she is an investment promoter per excellence, investment banker extraordinaire with an extensive banking career. Considered one of the star girls of the Buhari administration since 2016 she has proved her mettle in no small way among men, even at the most difficult times when the country was either battling with plunged oil prices, insecurity, corona virus, capital flight and so much that the nation has grappled with.

She is a graduate of University of Benin, Delta State where she studied Industrial Chemistry and also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.

Her banking career which began at International Bank Limited, now Citibank Nigeria, she later moved to Investment Banking & Trust Company Limited, now Stanbic IBTC where she climbed her way up the corporate ladder becoming an Executive Director, Corporate and Investment Banking.

Since her appointment as Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) in 2016, she has transformed the commission with world class innovations and technology to facilitate easy foreign direct investment into the country.

She has blazed the trail with initiatives such as “Invest in Nigeria”, publishing of “Compendium of Investment Incentives in Nigeria”, “Reform of the pioneer Status Incentive (PSI)” and so many other initiatives that have greatly enhanced the economic value of Nigerian and Nigerians abroad.

She is known for hard work and commitment to excellence earning various recognitions such as “35 International Women Under 35”, “Eisenhower Fellowship for International Leadership”, “Honorary Citizen of the City of St. Louis and presented with a Civic Leadership, in appreciation of her leadership qualities. Also, she has been celebrated by The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) as a “Distinguished Friend of the Media” for her role in promoting press freedom and accountability.

As Nigeria gradually regains her place amidst unexpected world events and seeks to woo investors to make our country their safe haven, Mrs Yewande Sadiku is saddled with this great task. But more than the task at hand, she proves clearly to anyone who cares to listen that “what a man can do, a woman can do better”

Simon is an Abuja basef Business and finance consultant.

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