Rekindling Nigeria’s economy

OLAWALE Edun, like avid watchers of Nigeria’s political scene, knew that his nebulous post of Special Adviser on Monetary Policy in the early days of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration was halfway on his journey to the current super-strategic office of Minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy.

The reasons for his supreme confidence are legion. The economist and finance expert was Tinubu’s highly effective Commissioner for Finance in the latter’s formative years as Lagos State’s governor. In eight eventful years (1999–2007), Edun stood rigidly behind Tinubu, managing the state’s purse strings and proffering first-class financial advice as the then-crusading governor laid the foundation for Lagos’ emergence as the fifth largest economy in Africa and a beacon to other states in Nigeria.

Edun didn’t get into the business of helping administrators run governments and cities by accident. He started out early in life by earning a Bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of London and a Master’s at the University of Sussex. In 1986, he put his academic attainment to the test and put it to good use when he went to work and honed his skills at the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). There, he worked on providing economic reform and management advice to countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, India, and Indonesia. He later moved to Wall Street to join Lehman Brothers and the Chase Manhattan Capital Market Corporation, then world-class investment banking institutions. At Chase, Edun became Head of Treasury and Deputy Head, Corporate Finance, gaining invaluable experience in the workings of global capital markets while dealing with top-notch corporate organizations with international connections.

Back home in Nigeria, in 1989, Edun played his part in the founding of IBTC (now Stanbic IBTC), where he served as Executive Director. Half a decade later, he would draw on his rich, varied experience in the world of finance to establish Denham Management Ltd., which is now incorporated as Chapel Hill Denham, a leading investment banking, securities trading, and investment management firm specializing in services to corporations, governments, institutions, and individuals interested in and operating in the Nigerian and indeed African markets.

Edun would not be such a compelling candidate for the strategic post of Nigeria’s Treasury Czar and chief fiscal policymaker if all he did and was interested in was the arcane world of finance. His contributions to his community and society at large make him an all-round, public-spirited problem solver. As Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Ogoni Trust Fund, Edun, though from Ogun State in South-West Nigeria, shows commitment and love for his father’s land by helping to find a solution to the problem of environmental degradation in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country.

He is also the proud Chair of Livewell Initiative, a health sector Civil Society Organization (CSO). Sisters Unite, another CSO that focuses on helping disadvantaged children achieve their potential, has him as a trustee. Edun’s versatility is demonstrated in his chairmanship of Lagos State’s Boxing Hall of Fame Committee, owing to his deep interest in sports and youth development. Nor would this citation be complete without a mention of the international dimension of his “off-work” engagements: Edun is a trustee of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Awards Foundation.

Nigeria’s new Finance Minister and Coordinator of the Economy has his job more than cut for him. Edun is taking up the double-barreled portfolio at a particularly difficult time in the nation’s political and economic history. Inflation is at rates not seen in decades, just as the all-important foreign exchange market is in great turmoil, crushing the value of the naira, the national currency, to lows twice the depths it was before the inception of the new administration. Indeed, the Nigerian economy’s fire seems extinguished.
Speaking of the new administration’s mode of entry into office on May 29, this year, even critics easily acknowledge that the Minister’s boss and President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, eager to revamp the slumping economy, “hit the ground running”. Edun himself says the president has “set the ball rolling” by taking “key macro, monetary, and fiscal policy measures to boost the economy” because “Nigerians’ expectations are heightened”.

Nigeria’s new “treasury minder” says that the ruling team “has a job to do” ensuring “that the reforms don’t leave people behind”. Now precariously perched in the flailing economy’s cockpit, Edun knows that he must do better than hit-the-ground-running: to rekindle the economy’s fire, he had better figure out a way of hitting Nigeria’s turbulent political-economic terrain and shooting forward like a purpose-driven, ground-hugging missile.

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