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Navigating Choppy Waters: The Role of an Economic Adviser in Nigeria

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By Abdulrauf Aliyu

In the bustling city of Abuja, under the golden sun of Nigeria, a seasoned economist named Dr. Adaobi found herself in an unenviable position. She had just been appointed as the Economic Adviser to President Oluwa, who was unwaveringly committed to a policy that she believed was inconsistent with sound economic principles. Dr. Adaobi knew that her predecessors had faced similar challenges over the past two decades, and she was determined to chart a different course.

As Dr. Adaobi settled into her role, she couldn’t help but reflect on the experiences of those who had come before her. Nigeria had seen its fair share of economic ups and downs, policy shifts, and political pressures. She knew that being an Economic Adviser in this nation was no easy feat. Her predecessors had often found themselves torn between their commitment to good economics and the president’s determination to pursue populist policies.

Over the past two decades, Nigeria has witnessed several administrations, each with its own economic agenda. Some sought to boost manufacturing, others were fixated on agricultural development, and a few even dabbled in currency policy. But one particular issue that had been a thorn in the side of economic advisers was the matter of floating the naira while grappling with structural inflation.

In theory, floating the naira could make Nigerian exports more competitive and attract foreign investment. It was a step toward a more market-driven exchange rate, a move often recommended by international financial institutions. However, the country was also plagued by structural inflation, driven by a host of factors, including a reliance on imported goods, inadequate infrastructure, and corruption.

Dr. Adaobi knew that the president was keen on floating the naira, even though it might exacerbate inflation in the short term. She found herself at a crossroads. Should she stand her ground and advocate for sound economic policies, or should she bend to the president’s wishes and risk further economic instability?

She decided to take a different approach, one that drew from the experiences of her predecessors and her own convictions as an economist. Dr. Adaobi believed that her role was not merely to provide economic advice but also to be a persuasive voice for rational economic policies.

First, she scheduled a meeting with President Oluwa and respectfully presented her concerns about floating the naira. She emphasized the potential short-term pain of inflation and the need for complementary measures to mitigate its impact, such as boosting domestic production and investing in infrastructure.

President Oluwa listened attentively, and to her surprise, he acknowledged the potential pitfalls of the policy. However, he was concerned about the political ramifications of delaying the float. He feared that it might be portrayed as a retreat from his commitment to economic reform.

This is where Dr. Adaobi’s strategic thinking came into play. She suggested a phased approach to floating the naira, one that would allow for gradual adjustments while actively addressing structural inflation. She proposed a comprehensive economic reform plan that included measures to stimulate domestic production, curb corruption, and improve the business environment.

With her proposal in hand, Dr. Adaobi convened a meeting with key stakeholders, including representatives from the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, and business leaders. She knew that to implement her plan successfully, she needed the support of a broad coalition.

Through persuasive argumentation and leveraging her deep understanding of economic principles, she won over many of the skeptics in the room. They recognized the importance of addressing structural inflation before fully floating the naira.

The president, seeing the growing consensus and the well-thought-out plan, decided to proceed with the phased approach. He appreciated Dr. Adaobi’s dedication to both good economics and the political realities of Nigeria.

Over the next few years, Nigeria embarked on a journey of economic transformation. The phased floating of the naira was complemented by a series of reforms aimed at strengthening the domestic economy. Investments poured into infrastructure development, agricultural revitalization, and anti-corruption measures.

As structural inflation began to recede, the country experienced a gradual stabilization of prices. The business environment improved, attracting foreign investment and spurring job creation. Dr. Adaobi’s commitment to a balanced approach had paid off.

Looking back on her tenure as Economic Adviser, Dr. Adaobi realized that she had followed in the footsteps of her predecessors in some ways, but she had also broken new ground. She had found a way to navigate the complex world of economic policy in Nigeria, where politics and economics often clashed.

Her experience taught her that being an Economic Adviser wasn’t just about providing the right answers; it was about persuading leaders to make the right choices. It was about crafting policies that acknowledged political realities while staying true to sound economic principles.

In conclusion, the role of an Economic Adviser in Nigeria is undoubtedly challenging, especially when faced with policies that may seem inconsistent with good economics. Dr. Adaobi’s journey exemplifies the importance of diplomacy, strategic thinking, and a commitment to comprehensive reform. By finding common ground between economic wisdom and political realities, advisers can help steer their nations toward sustainable economic growth and prosperity. It is a challenging task, but one that can make a profound difference in the lives of millions of Nigerians.

Abdulrauf Aliyu
An economist and Policy Analyst writes from
45 Ashiru Road, U/Dosa New Extension

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