By Femi Soneye
Even before the inauguration of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration on May 29, 2023, media projections had favoured Wale Edun, a former Finance Commissioner in Lagos State for the position of Finance Minister in the new government. His initial appointment as Special Adviser on Monetary Policies would, therefore, somewhat create some puzzles about how the President intended to deploy and utilize the expertise and faculty of Edun, technocrat in finance world dealing with the “urgency of now” occasioned by the fragility of the national economy especially the volatability in the forex trading since the convergence of the exchange rates.
The hoisting of a Special Adviser intermediary by the President in between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and himself could unwittingly lead to the discounting of the monetary policy independence of the CBN. The argument in some quarters when Edun’s appointment was announced was that the apex regulatory bank, as contemplated, should report directly to the President, not through a Special Adviser.
One of the germane arguments is that the system for processing and understanding issues around monetary policies should be at a robust reporting level that should be driven by the President’s Economic Team to be synchronized by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy.
The eventual appointment of Wale Edu as Finance Minister would appear to have been informed by this logic and has fructified into reality.
With President Tinubu as the “Command Room General’’ of the political economy in addition to his title in Lagos as the “Tutor-General of Nigerian politics, ably and deftly providing leadership and the potential overall direction of his government, Edun as the captain of the Economic Team is expected to be on top of his game, ensuring an effective communication and intercourse between the fiscal policies (the core responsibility of ministry of finance) and the monetary policies (the core responsibility of the CBN).
As Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, a nomenclature created by the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration, he will be superintending over and coordinating the CBN, NNPCL, Ministry of Petroleum, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment, Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, among others.
Wale Edun has the responsibility to ensure that economic policies of the government not only align but align properly. He must lead the quest for the solution to devaluation of naira; he must advise the government on steps to take to make our four refineries function to boost production of petroleum commodities for local consumption and for export to earn more foreign exchange as well as shore up the country’s Foreign Reserves.
These interventions can assuage the economic pains and hardships almost immediately. He should be thinking of how to bolster security, education, and health, among others, while putting together the 2024 federal budget. His antecedents and pedigree validate his competence, suitability and appropriateness for the job of strengthening the nation’s economy.
President Tinubu’s knowledge of Wale Edun’s faculty and performance backgrounds recommended him for assisting him (Tinubu) in the task of revamping and firming up Nigeria’s fragile and debt-ridden economy with debt overhang of over N77 trillion three quarters of which was incurred by the immediate past Buhari administration. Edun, while he held sway as the finance brainbox of the Tinubu administration in Lagos State from 1999 to 2007, he assisted Tinubu in enunciating and formulating policies and programmes for managing the public finance of Lagos, raising its revenue from paltry N600 million monthly to about N35 billion.
He had also, acting in concert with the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, which was created in June 1999 by Tinubu, helped to recalibrate the economy of Lagos and shored it up for maximum efficiency.
The foundation laid by the Tinubu administration in Lagos with Edun and other members of the cabinet serving as critical collocating factors, continues to sustain the economy of Lagos till today as it were with successive administrations — progenies of the Tinubu political power dynasty — stepping in at different intersections, constitutionally circumscribed, to contribute their quotas.
Data from the BudgIT shows that Lagos generated internally generated revenue (IGR) of N14.6 billion annually in 1999, when Tinubu became governor, representing an average of N1.2 billion.
However, a report by Premium Times said that when Tinubu left office in 2007, the figure had risen to N83.02 billion, a monthly average of N6.9 billion. So, between 1999 and 2007, the IGR growth rate of Lagos stood at 468.63 percent , showing a considerable and geometrical increase.
Today, according to a report on lagossdgandinvestment.com, “the GDP of the formal economy of Lagos is estimated to be $136.6 billion contributing 30 per cent to the GDP of Nigeria as of August 2015. The GDP has an estimated growth rate of 10 per cent and it is expected that by 2025 the GDP will be $355 billion.” These positive narratives owe so much to Tinubu’s leadership, discipline and sharp focus that robbed off positively on administrations after his.
With Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set and their eyes on the ball of performance, just as they did in Lagos, there is hope for an encore and reenactment of the Lagos story in the bigger pictorial scenario of the Nigerian economy. Indeed, the stage is set and Tinubu has put his hands in the plough and so also is Wale Edun around whom much expectations revolve in the face of our challenged economy.
If the economy is stupid as it were, the elephant in the room is the economy; it needs revival. There is excitement that Tinubu has tapped the expertise of Edun to enable him give the economy a fillip and his touch of Midas.
Without a doubt, Wale Edun as a highly revered economist, his reputation has certainly preceded him in his new appointment. The magnitude of the respect he enjoys is writ large. His nomination received significant approbation and approval from diverse quarters and across the critical stakeholders.
Whereas, initially, at the point of his appointment as Special Adviser on Monetary Policy, projections had quickly shifted to Senator Tokunbo Abiru as likely ministerial nominee for the Finance portfolio. But for Abiru prognosis paled when Tinubu nominated Edun for ministerial appointment.
When he appeared before the Senate for screening and confirmation hearing, it was clear that the senators were pleased with him and the possibility of his being appointed into the finance portfolio. Their interrogatories centred on finance and economy. He lived up to his billing and did not disappoint. His responses were brilliant and extra-ordinary.
During the inauguration of ministers-designate at the Banquet Hall of the State House in Abuja, whereas the Master of Ceremony and Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, urged the audience to clap after their citations must have been read, when it was the turn of Edun, the mere announcement that it was time to read his citation drew a thunderous applause, and thereafter, other rounds of applause.
That association validated the high expectations by his colleagues and other stakeholders from his ministerial interventions in the economy.
Burnished in the high-octane banking, international finance and economics arena, Edun is ready to settle down to work. As he arrived at the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on Monday after inauguration and further briefing in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, he was welcomed by the staff member’s union, who chanted solidarity song to a frenzy to usher him into his office. He stepped down from his car, smiled and raised his right fist in solidarity.
A native of Ogun State, Edun holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of London and a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Sussex, England. He served as the Head of Treasury and Deputy Head of Corporate Finance at Chase Merchant Bank and he was in charge of the bank’s Treasury and Money Market activities where he had major responsibility for Capital Market and Financial Advisory operations on behalf of the local subsidiaries and affiliates of major multinational companies.
He has 25 years of experience in merchant banking, corporate finance, economics and international finance at national and international levels.
He is the founder of Denham Management Limited, Chairman of Livewell Initiative, a health sector Non-Governmental Organisation and a Trustee of Sisters Unite for Children, an NGO focused on helping children in need. He joined the World Bank/IFC in Washington DC, US through the elite Young Professionals programme in September 1986.
At the World Bank, Edun worked on economic and financial packages for several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic and Trinidad as well as Indonesia and India.
Wale Edun has been the Chairman of Chapel Hill Denham Group since March 2008. In 1989, he returned to Nigeria as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Stanbic IBTC Plc (formerly Investment Banking & Trust Company Limited).
As he steps in the saddle, the eyes of Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora as well as the international community are on this “emergent” poster boy of the Tinubu administration’s quest to salvage the Nigerian economy from the strangleholds of humongous local and foreign debts in trillions and the “cabal.’’