Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad: Not Too Young To Lead


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.