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AHMAD SALIHIJO AHMAD: NOT TOO YOUNG TO LEAD – by Babayola M Toungo

AHMAD SALIHIJO AHMAD: NOT TOO YOUNG TO LEAD – by Babayola M Toungo

The appointment of Engr. Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad as the Managing Director of the
Rural Electrification Agency (REA) brought out the knives from those who never,
ever see good in any appointment made by President Muhammadu Buhari into any
public office. To these group of people anyone appointed into any office by the
president got appointed because of nepotism and not because he has the requisite
qualification to be so appointed. The plethora of commentaries and news items in the
media on this particular appointment dwelt more on the relationship between
President Buhari and the late Salihijo Ahmad, the father of the new Managing
Director of the REA. This line of reasoning only goes to strengthening the nepotistic
angle instead of highlighting the pedigree of the appointee. Daily Trust and Premium
Times took this line while most other media houses opted for outright denigration.

Premium Times’s story on the appointment was skewed in such a way that one may
think Engr. Ahmad is a level 12 officer who was plucked from the civil service pool
and made a head of an agency of the government. The ESPR Act of 2004
empowered the President to appoint the Managing Director of the Rural
Electrification Agency, it specifies no qualification relative to grade level in the public
service. The President as such acted within his powers to appoint anyone he deems
qualified to execute his vision and executive mandate won at the polls within the
Rural Electrification Agency. To further buttress the nepotism angle, Premium Times
also alleged that Ahmad is a relation of Mansur Ahmad, the former Director General
of the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Council (ICRC), where Ahmad
Salihijo Ahmad worked before. For a medium that prides itself for fact-checking, this
is a big blunder, deliberate or otherwise. While Engr. Mansur Ahmad is from Kano
State, Engr. Ahmad Salihijo is from Adamawa State. Engr. Sallijho has been both a
public servant and a private practitioner, rising to mid-level managerial position within
ICRC before leading his own consultancy around project development in the sector.

Despite and In spite of his youth, which should be applauded in an industry that need
innovators in the age of renewable energy, he is an achiever that has helped others
build a portfolio of projects exceeding well over 1000 MW in the renewable power
sector. During his stint in the public sector, Engr. Salihijo was adviser to the former

Minister of Environment and now Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. If
he is suitable to give advice why is he not suitable to lead?

He coordinated the Green Bond Program which led to the launch of several
reputable projects, including many now being executed by the REA. He wasn’t then
deemed unqualified to lead negotiations with international organizations including
Moody on behalf of Nigeria, why should he now be deemed unqualified to lead the
execution of these Projects?

Premium times callously brought up his late father up in connection to this
appointment is a disservice to the distinguish hard work of Ahmad Salihijo, a
distinguished engineer and project developer in his own right. He is a COREN
registered engineer of over fourteen years post-graduate experience with solid
background in project development and project financing. Why is this not laudable?
Why wasn’t this highlighted instead of bringing up his father’s relationship with the
president? Where is our humanity? Must we retch up the dead just to get to Buhari?

The media have celebrated the likes of “Invictus”, who is now cooling his heels in an
American jail, as a goal getter in his late twenties and one who has made it in
“agriculture, oil & gas and finance”. It is alright to do so. But it is wrong for Buhari to
appoint an Electrical & Electronics engineer with fourteen years post qualification
experience. Are we truly serious about moving this country forward?

The “Pull Him Down” syndrome on exhibition by the mainstream media is blurring the
difference between the mainstream and social media. it is becoming more difficult to
distinguish between the two genres of media. it may appear that nothing can be
done to placate the opposition in its fixation against the Buhari government and its
efforts in trying to turn around the ship of state. If the President had appointed an
aged professional with fifty years’ experience, they would have complained that
they’re too old to act for an agency designed for agility. What exactly do we want?

We applauded the passage of the “Not Too Young to Run” Act but we are unwittingly
discouraging not too young to lead. A professional in his mid-thirties can lead an

agency in Nigeria since he is already qualified to run for President. What example
are we setting for the electorate that a retired Level 12 officer cannot lead a federal
agency? So what if he is the equivalent of a Lt colonel in the military, didn’t one Lt.
Col Jack Gowon lead this country?

REA is fundamental to Nigeria’s industrialization and the job creation agenda of the
Buhari administration, especially due to its ability to support agriculture and Agro-
processing jobs in rural areas where more than fifty percent of Nigerians live, often in
darkness. If the President has appointed someone he trusts, knows and is qualified,
regardless of civil service years which is not required, then that can only be a plus
not a minus.

We call on Premium Times and other media organisations to stick to their job of
shining light on corruption and misadventure in public service, not trying to do the
work of Mr. President to select whomever he deems fit in accordance with the law. If
everyone does their work, Nigeria will get better. Pursuing narratives of divisiveness
to suit a purpose or agenda also does no one any good in our current political
climate.

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