Nigeria: Spotlighting the Presidential Aides (I)

4 September 2019

Abuja — It is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari recently approved the re-appointment and appointment of special advisers to work in the Presidency. What might be news, perhaps to some, could be the profile of a few new entrants who may not have been in the public domain. Having their profiles echoed or re-echoed could help the public to appreciate the quality of the personalities that the presidency had put ahead to drive its laudable next level agenda.

As released by Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, the president approved the re-appointment of Ade Ipaye as Deputy Chief of Staff to the president, Adeyemi Dipeolu as Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters and Maryam Uwais as Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programme.

Babafemi Ojudu retained his position as Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole was promoted to Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business (she was a Senior Special Assistant on Trade and Investment last administration).

The new entrant is Ahmad Rufai Zakari appointed as Special Adviser on Infrastructure. Femi Adesina himself retains his position as Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President.

Let's take a glance at their profile and the pedigree of the re-appointed and fresh aides at the presidency.

Femi Adesina

Hardly needing much introduction, Mr Femi Adesina is an ace journalist and the re-appointed Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari. His profile sourced from Wikipedia showed that Mr Adesina had worked at the Vanguard and National Concord newspapers before he headed for The Sun Newspaper, where he eventually became the Editor-in-Chief. As Editor-in-Chief, the prolific writer was serving his second term as president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors when fortune, as it were, smiled on him as President Buhari, his long-term admirer, appointed him and was sworn in as Special Adviser on Media and Publicity on August 31, 2015.

Adesina, a prolific wordsmith, who emerged as Editor of the Year for 2007 by the Nigeria Media Merit Awards (NMMA), graduated from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Osun State and later picked some skills at the Lagos Business School.

Adeyemi Dipeolu

Ambassador Adeyemi Dipeolu PhD, the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters in the Office of the Vice-President, parades a very intimidating curriculum vitae. The seasoned career diplomat was the Director of the Capacity Development Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) till December 2015. According to, a website belonging to his foundation, Visiola Foundation, Dipeolu who directed technical cooperation and advisory services to African countries, was a member of the Technical Committee and Head of Secretariat of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, responsible for the Regional Coordination Mechanism for UN Agencies in Africa and for Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) work relating to the NEPAD Programme and the African Peer Review Mechanism. He, additionally, oversaw the innovative work undertaken on 'conflict and development' and on 'smart industrialization in Africa.'

Dr. Dipeolu's earlier assignments at ECA included serving as Chief-of-Staff and as Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC). As ATPC Coordinator, he reportedly supported African countries in international trade negotiations and in the mainstreaming of trade into national development plans and strategies.

Before joining ECA, Dr. Dipeolu was in the Nigerian Foreign Service who served in overseas missions including Geneva, Switzerland; Pretoria, South Africa; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Caracas, Venezuela. Back home, he had served as Special Assistant in the Office of the Chief-of-Staff to the President, as well as in the International Economic Cooperation and African Affairs Directorates of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among other roles.

Dipeolu obtained his PhD in Economics from the University of South Africa, got his M.Phil degree in the Economics and Politics of Development with Distinction from the University of Cambridge, won the Jennings Prize of Wolfson College for outstanding performance and undertook diplomatic studies at the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme as a Chevening Scholar graduating with all-round distinction!

Dr. Dipeolu studied Economics at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he won two merit scholarships as a National Scholar and UAC of Nigeria Scholar.

Maryam Uwais

Maryam Uwais, MFR is the current Special Advisor to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investments. Her profile gleaned from an online publication by Lagos Business School, Pan Atlantic University, showed that she is a legal practitioner and human rights activist with over 36 years cognate law practice including the Kano State Ministry of Justice, the Nigerian Law Reform Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Mrs Uwais studied at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1981 and obtained an LLM in 1985. She was awarded a certificate in Advanced Practice and Procedure in 1985 and Legal Drafting in 1989 from the Nigeria Institute for Advanced Legal Studies.

Prior to serving as a Principal Partner of Wali Uwais & Co, an Abuja-based law firm, she had served on the Council of the National Human Rights Commission, where she also worked as Special Rapporteur on Child Rights; the Board of the Justice Research Institute, the Kukah Centre as well as the Coalition Against Tobacco, among others. She also served at the Kano State Almajiri Committee, President Goodluck Jonathan's Presidential Advisory Council, the Northern Nigeria Governor's Committee on Reconciliation, Security Healing, as well as the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child for five years.

The founder of the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (named after her father) in December 2009, which targets the conditions of women and children in education, healthcare and empowerment, Mrs Uwais, who bagged the National Honour of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) in 2011, also worked as a consultant to the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, UNICEF, the World Bank and DfID. A publisher of several articles on economic and social rights, interfaith dialogue, child justice administration and good governance, Uwais, before her appointment as a Non-Executive Director and Member of Board of Directors of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, was also a member of the Editorial Board of ThisDay newspapers.

She has bagged several awards and recognitions including the Outstanding Leadership Award for Contributions to Equity, Justice and Human Rights in Nigeria, by the Business and Professional Women in Nigeria Association (2012) and an award by the Nigerian Human Rights Community in appreciation of contributions as Member of the African Union Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (2013)., among others.

Babafemi Ojudu

Babafemi Ojudu, ace Nigerian journalist, was born 27th March, 1961 in Ado Ekiti. He was elected Senator for the Ekiti Central Constituency in the April 2011 general elections under the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) platform.

He had his elementary education at Ado Grammar School in Ado-Ekiti between 1973 and 1977). In 1976, he won a scholarship jointly sponsored by the late legal luminary and human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi and Jùjú musician, King Sunny Adé for indigent students of the state which reportedly endeared him to Fawehinmi.

In 1980, Ojudu gained admission to the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study English. He took an interest in journalism while at the university, joining the Association of Campus Journalists and reporting for COBRA, a campus journal. Two of his friends and himself founded a journal called The Parrot, which he edited until graduating in 1984. On completing his National Youth Service, Ojudu worked as a reporter in The Guardian while attending the University of Lagos (1985-86), where he studied for a Master's degree in Political Science.

Having declared to run for the Senate in August 2010, he left his post as Group Managing Editor of Independent Communications Network to run for office. Wikipedia has it that in April 2011 election for the Ekiti Central Senatorial seat, Ojudu polled 67,747 under the platform of ACN, thrashing Labour Party (LP) candidate and former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose who polled 29,773 votes and Kayode Alufa of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 29,488 votes.

It was reported that after conceding defeat, the PDP candidate, Alufa, awed by his unprecedented political sagacity, congratulated Ojudu, with these words: "Our God, in his wisdom, has chosen you with your experience and good credentials, which I am sure you will deploy for the service and improvement of our impoverished area."

Ojudu returned to federal recognition on January 7, 2016, when he was named Special Adviser, Political Matters by President Buhari, an office he has, so far, retained.

Olajumoke Oduwole

Born in Lagos State, Nigeria, where she had her primary and secondary education, Dr Olajumoke Omoniyi Oduwole is a Nigerian jurist and academic. She was the Prince Claus Chair holder from 2013-2015.

Oduwole graduated in 1998 with an LL.B degree in Law from the University of Lagos and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1999. She holds an LL.M degree in Commercial Law obtained from the University of Cambridge in 2000 as a DFID-Cambridge Commonwealth Trust scholar.

In 2007, the jurist graduated from Stanford University where she received a Master's degree in International Legal Studies and later, from the same institution, a doctorate degree in International Trade and Development.

Earlier in year 2000 according to Wikipedia, Oduwole had a stint with FCMB Capital Markets as an investment banker until 2003, and in 2004, she grabbed a teaching job in the Faculty of Law at the University of Lagos where she currently serves as a researcher and member of the senate committee.

Described as a lover of youth development, Dr Oduwole, in 2012, got a nod to attend the BMW Foundation Europe-Africa Young Leaders Forum. Her interest in youth development-related issues saw her co-founding an NGO called "No Limit," focusing on inspiring and imparting leadership values in Nigerian youths. She also got selected as an associate fellow by the African Leadership Institute for the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellowship in 2013 and in January 2016, the industrious researcher and scholar got a nod from the presidency as she was appointed Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment - a position she has retained.

Mr Ahmad Rufai Zakari

If Nigerians are yearning for youths to take up the baton of leadership, Mr Ahmad Rufai Zakari is one of such upcoming youths with some great prospects. Born February 25, 1984 in Kano, youthful Zakari is armed with an intimidating resume as a well-trained engineer of global standard. He's not too young to rule, having paid his dues in his career spanning over a decade in the engineering and business sectors. The presidency has deemed it fit to allow him have his first shot at the public service arena as Special Adviser to the President on Infrastructure (Office of the Vice President).

Zakari bagged a B.Sc in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Economics from the State University of New York at Buffalo, NY in June, 2006. His career build-up started at General Electric in the Transportation Division. He was on the Edison Engineering Development Programme (EEDP) from August 2006 to August 2008. He was admitted into a well regarded internal training program the GE Corporate Audit Staff. Between September 2008 to September 2012 he served as a Corporate Audit Staff Associate I and II, Audit Manager and Senior Audit Manager exposing him to multiple business models and regions across the globe. The program was a high intensity 4 month at a time rotational assessment of different businesses in GE to gauge performance and compliance.

From September 2012 to January 2014, Zakari was promoted to the Executive Audit Manager of GE Corporate (aligned to Oil and Gas, Sub Saharan Africa & Middle East). He was the first African to be promoted to the position of Executive Audit Manager. With a rare knack for excellence, the young professional also served as the Regional Liaison for all business units in the Middle East and Sub Saharan Africa. Over $7B of Oil and Gas acquisitions were executed during the period (including Lufkin), requiring increased scrutiny and monitoring of the business unit.

He was also the Business Ops Executive (Houston) at GE Oil & Gas Onshore between January 2014 to September 2015. Zakari's brilliance in his chosen career, until this federal appointment, got him the job of Chief Operating Office for Generel Electric in Nigeria in September 2015. In February 2016 he added scope as the Executive Director at Gas Power Business managing the Installed Fleet in Nigeria/South Africa. This amounted to over 150 turbines and up to 8GW of installed capacity. As a go-getter Engineer with economic training, Zakari has also partnered with NBET and Ministry of Power in 2017 to structure a payment scheme for brownfield customers that resulted in 300MW incremental power to the grid (Ibom-Ikot Abasi, FIPL - Afam, Pacific), a project said to be on going.

Zakari also oversaw the construction of the $100MM Calabar facility constructed by GE as a potential hub for Manufacturing and Repairs in Africa.

Engr Zakari is a recipient of several awards including the coveted GE Global Chairman's Circle Award. His wealth of experience and global exposure as an engineer in the energy sector has, no doubt, prepared him, for a greater national assignment as the Special Adviser to the President on Infrastructure. Seen as a round peg in a round hole, Zakari is expected to succeed in this onerous assignment. God willing this could just be the launchpad that other talented youths are waiting for to take the country to the coveted Next Level in line with the vision of the current administration.

Zakari was born in Kano but is an indigene of Jigawa State.

Kingsley Agu wrote from Abuja

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