By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Nigeria has never been in short supply of giants in political economy, the same way it has neither been a stranger to economic crisis.
These explainers of the nexus between politics and the economy; and how to harness this relationship for economic growth have for long had a love/hate amity with successive governments under which they theorised and offered explanations for the political economic stability.
In the past, we have had first class brains such as Claude Ake, Adebayo Adedeji, Chu Okongwu, Samuel Aluko, Bade Onimode, Olu Falae among others, engaged in government policies at different times, whether in or outside government.
Thus when last Tuesday, Femi Adesina, presidential adviser on media, announced the appointment of Professor Doyin Salami as Buhari’s chief economic adviser, we were again awoken to the familiar pattern of a government in the headwinds of economic crisis looking for “A Houdini to do the magic and reverse the ugly trend”, as Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist put it last week, when asked by this medium to comment on Salami’s appointment.
How far can Salami go? “That depends on the sincerity of the Buhari administration, and to what extent is the president willing to listen to his views”, noted Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, director of Entrepreneurship at Redeemers University.
Professor Olufeagba Adesiyun, a political economist told Business Hallmark that “the appointment of Salami in the twilight of the Buhari administration has strong parallel in the way Professor Joseph Alois Schumpeter was brought into government and served as minister of finance in the Austrian government, the president of a private bank, and a professor, before being forced to emigrate, due to the rise of the Nazi Party.
“Schumpeter was brought in to reverse the ugly trend of the Austrian economy, which created a lot of resentment among the people because of inflation, unemployment and high prices, factors the Nazi latched on.
The university don said that like Salami, Schumpeter (1883-1950) was an economist, economic historian, and author, widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest intellectuals. Schumpeter is best known for his theories on business cycles and the development of capitalist economies, and for introducing the term entrepreneurship.
Omoyele told Business Hallmark that “the challenge is much greater than envisaged for Salami, a neo-liberal economist of free market advising a pro-government president with ‘socialist’ leaning, especially under a weak fiscal and monetary policies that pander to the whims of the President whom he’s supposed to advise.
Salami, a brilliant and cerebral intellectual has a tradition of independent-mindedness and forthrightness that may likely clash with the President’s ironclad stubbornness and belief in bloated government.
And all this is coming just barely 17 months to the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure .
Before this appointment, 58-year-old Salami was the chairperson of the presidential economic advisory council (PEAC).
A man with a formidable intellect forged in the best neo-liberal tradition of American economy, it would be hard to measure his relationship with the President as chair of the presidential economic advisory council, given the stuttering economy, bedeviled by inflation and two recessions in the life of the administration.
“My worry is, what is Salami going to tell the President about the economy that has not be told him these past years? The question is, has Salami’s and his team’s advice been taken into consideration in the past?
In his new role, to according to Adesina, Salami will address all issues on the domestic economy and present views on them to the president.
He will closely monitor national and international developments, trends and develop appropriate policy responses.
Salami will also develop and recommend national economic policies to foster macro-economic stability, promote growth, create jobs, and eradicate poverty, among others.
Unarguably, Salami is one of the most respected voices in the sphere of Economics today, and his views rankle given his formidable intellect.
He is one of the strong ramparts of the Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University, where he is associate professor, leading sessions in the Economic Environment of Business.
He is a doctoral degree graduate of Queen Mary College, University of London. His research interests include corporate long-term financial management, macroeconomic policy, corporate competitiveness and risk management, as well as focus on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
In recognition of his scholarship, he once served as a member of the monetary policy committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the federal government’s economic management team (EMT).
He was also a crucial part of the transition committee of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2015 as vice-chairman.
A scholar of global renown, he has severally consulted for the Department for International Development (DFID), World Bank, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
His rich intellect has also benefitted quite a lot of companies beyond multilateral organisations, as he had in the past acted as a consultant for corporations such as British American Tobacco (BAT) and BGL Securities Ltd.
Others include Coca-Cola Nigeria, Equatorial Africa (CCNEAL), and Kakawa Discount House. He has facilitated or participated in corporate retreats for, amongst others, Zain Nig Ltd., MTN, African Petroleum Plc.
Salami is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Kainos Edge Consulting Limited, a consulting firm.
One of the highlights of his advice to the current administration is a call for the liberalisation of economic policies and from within he has lashed out at the administration.
As chairman of the economic advisory council, Salami has repeatedly asked the government to remove subsidy on petrol and adopt a pricing regime that reflects the cost of the commodity.
Many have argued that Buhari’s interventionist economic approaches can be best described as “socialist”, with his imposition of border closures, trade and foreign exchange contro
At a point, he had criticised the policies of the CBN under the administration of Godwin Emefiele.
Notable criticism this newspaper could recall was in 2017, when he said the CBN was providing a “piggy-bank” service to the federal government with its excessive funding of government activities.
He said the CBN’s claims on the government had risen “20-fold” to N814 billion from the end of 2016, while its purchases of government treasury bills increased by 30 percent to N454 billio
“Perhaps the most challenging of the present characteristics of the economy in Nigeria is the adoption of a quantitative easing stance by the management of the Central Bank. Monetary data show a sharp rise in the extent of CBN financing of the government deficit,” Salami had said.
“It is clear that the CBN has provided piggy-bank services to the federal government. While I still wonder what the underlying economics is, I sincerely hope it works.”
Earlier in 2015, Salami as a member of CBN MPC opposed the listing of 41 items, including rice and toothpicks, as not valid for foreign exchange (forex) through the official forex window.
Salami said investors were confused by the apex bank’s policies.
“The credibility that CBN has carefully cultivated, if not lost, is most certainly undermined,” he had said.
In 2021, Salami complained bitterly on Nigeria’s public debt stock, describing it as unsustainable and unmaintainable as the country’s debt service-to-revenue ratio climbed to 97.7 percent (January to May 2021).
How far he will go, in spite of his brilliance, remains to be seen given the predictable disposition of his principal as a lover of bloated government and command economy, all this being in stark contrast to Salami’s.