With three outstanding Nigerians being appointed by the new president of the United States of America (USA), Joe Biden, into various offices, BLESSING BATURE-AKPAKPAN, reports the reactions of Nigerians in the USA and at home to the development.
The appointees are Adewale Adeyemo aka “Wally”, Osaremen Okolo, and Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo. They are starting work immediately with Biden who was sworn in as US president on Wednesday, January 20, 2021.
Reacting to the Nigerians’ appointments, Mr Femi Soneye, a security consultant based in the US, said that the Biden administration could restore cooperative links with the African continent, something the Obama administration favoured during his eight-year presidency. He sees the Biden administration as refocusing its policy in Africa and fixing relationships “soured under the Trump administration.”
According to him, the new administration is a “credible reset” and brings with it “the prospects of a more predictable policy towards Nigeria and Africa in general in which nations will again be treated as important partners that they are and above all respected.”
Also, Mr Idowu Emmanuel, who lives in Dape community, Abuja, said the Nigerians’ appointment is a welcome development which will help other countries.
He urged the appointees to be diligent in their duties and work with the fear of God, as well as use their offices to help Nigerians in diaspora.
“We are encouraged when we hear news like this; it shows that Nigerians in diaspora are doing well. I urged other Nigerians who hold such sensitive positions to use them to help their kinsmen,” he said.
A media expert and businessman, Otobong Gabriel, said the decision of Biden to bring Nigerians on board his administration is a great sign of trust he has in Nigerians and Africans at large and going by the track records of the appointees, “we have the hope that they will add value to the Biden’s administration while consolidating on the bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and the US, especially at economic, diplomatic, political, and security levels.
Another resident of Abuja, Jonathan Deborah, said “when we hear news like this, we should deliberately celebrate it to encourage others to work hard to attain certain position. It is not by engaging in banditry, kidnapping or terrorising communities, it is by hard work.”
She tasked them to represent Nigeria well because history is reckoning with them to encourage other younger Nigerians to put in their best in whatever they do.
Adeyemo is the first African-American to be appointed assistant secretary of the treasury and a strong advocate of multilateralism. He is expected to help the US overcome its worst economic crisis since the 1929 crash.
Born in Nigeria in Gbongan, Osun State, LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that he was a baby when his parents emigrated to the US with their three children “in search of the American dream”, as he likes to say. The move across the ocean became the first stage of a journey that took him to the White House.
“Wally Adeyemo is graced with leadership dexterity, he was one of the stars of the Obama Administration.” Jason Furman, who was the chief economic adviser to the president of the US, was full of praise for his former colleague. “He impressed everyone he met with his intelligence, great judgment and kindness,” said Furman, who is now a professor of economic policy at Harvard University.
He was the first president of the Obama Foundation and now nominated by Biden as US deputy secretary of the treasury. During the Obama administration, Adeyemo was the deputy national security advisor for international economics from 2015 to 2016 and deputy director of the National Economic Council (NEC).
Although born in Nigeria, Adeyemo was raised in Southern California. His father was a teacher and his mother was a nurse. He has two younger siblings. After graduating from Eisenhower High School in Rialto, California, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley and Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.
At 39, Adeyemo has extensive experience in the Democratic Party and in the management of the country’s economic affairs. But just a month ago, he was little known by the general public, both in the US and across Africa. Appointed deputy treasury secretary by Joe Biden on November 30, 2020, he has now been brought to the forefront making headlines from Washington to Abuja.
Merit And Opportunity
Adeyemo rose from student body president at the University of Berkeley in 2001 to the head of the cabinet of the Financial Consumer Protection Bureau (a new federal agency created as a result of the financial crisis) in 2010.
He joined the Democratic Party at an early age. At 23, John Kerry’s presidential campaign charged him with inspiring African-American voters in California. He also participated in the presidential campaigns of John Edwards and Barack Obama, before being courted (unsuccessfully), according to a memo published by Wikileaks, by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The year 2015 marked him out: He was appointed advisor to the presidency on international economic issues. Furman recalls: “I worked with him on the US engagement through the G20, US economic policy with China, and a range of other international economic issues. Former President Barack Obama would consistently turn to him for advice on all of those topics.”
The young counsellor’s office is located a few dozen metres from the Oval Office. Among his achievements: The negotiation of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, a free trade treaty signed by Obama in 2016 but abandoned by the immediate past president Donald Trump before it came into force. His closeness to the former president earned him the appointment last year as president of the Obama Foundation that supports charitable work in Africa and other places.
However, his appointment to the Treasury is not supported unanimously. Some accuse him of playing both sides when he became chief of staff to Larry Fink, the CEO of asset management giant BlackRock, in 2017.
A link that disturbs some Democrats all the more since Biden has appointed another BlackRock alumnus, Brian Deese, to head the National Economic Council. Larry Fink, coincidentally, supported Biden’s candidacy during a January 2019 meeting, revealed by The Atlantic.
If the Senate confirms his appointment, as expected by Ross Baker, professor of American politics at Rutgers University, Adeyemo will support Janet Yellen, former president of the Federal Reserve, who has been appointed secretary of the treasury, a task that promises to be particularly difficult in these times of pandemic and political schism.
Joe Biden appointed Osaremen Okolo as COVID policy advisor and a member of the COVID-19 Response Team as disclosed by the Biden-Harris Transition Committee via a press statement shared on its Twitter handle.
Okolo from Edo State, is a daughter of Nigerian immigrants, born and raised in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard College.
Okolo serves on the Biden-Harris Transition Domestic Policy Team and prior to joining the transition, Okolo served as senior health policy advisor to US Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
Okolo drafted, negotiated, and managed the Congresswoman’s legislation, oversight, and policy across a comprehensive healthcare and public health agenda, most recently focusing almost exclusively on the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the statements, Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris announced additional members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team. These diverse accomplished and crisis-tested individuals will work to quickly implement a comprehensive, whole-of-government COVID-19 response strategy to contain the pandemic, restore public trust, and protect all Americans.
“The individuals in the team are deeply qualified and will restore public trust in the pandemic response by leading with facts, science, and integrity,” Joe Biden said.
Previously, Okolo served as legislative aide for health policy on the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour, and Pensions (HELP) for ranking member Patty Murray of Washington.
Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo
Badejo is appointed by Joe Biden as a member of the White House Counsel to serve as an associate counsel.
“The counsels are experienced and accomplished individuals, with wide range of knowledge from various fields and will be ready to get to work on day one.”
Before the new appointment, Badejo was general counsel of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by House majority whip, James E. Clyburn.
Other government roles she has served include counsel for policy to the assistant attorney-general in the Civil Division of the US Department of Justice, Ethics Counsel at the White House Counsel’s Office, and attorney advisor at the Administrative Conference of the United States during the Obama-Biden administration.
She started her career as an associate with the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP and was also a legal counsel at Palantir Technologies Inc.
She is a graduate of political science from the University of Florida, with a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Harvard University and holds a Law Doctorate from the University of California School of Law.
She becomes the 3rd Nigerian-American to be appointed under the Biden government.