Lawyard Spotlight: Ibrahim Abdullahi (Special Adviser to the Nasarawa State Governor on Investment & Economic Planning)
In our latest Spotlight Interview, we spoke to Ibrahim Abdullahi, a lawyer and the Special Adviser to the Nasarawa State Governor on Investment & Economic Planning.
In this interview, he discusses the different phases of his career, successes and opportunities in public service as well as wisdom nuggets for young lawyers who may want to follow in his footsteps.
Kindly tell us about your personal journey
I was born in Abuja and grew up in the same city. I have also lived in
Kachia with my grandmother for a year or so. It was a major part of my growing up.
I studied at the University of Reading in the UK. However, I have not had the opportunity to get a postgraduate degree yet despite being accepted into top Universities like Warwick and the University of California Berkeley twice. I hope to have the opportunity to do more later.
Did mentors influence your career decisions?
Yes certainly. I have been surrounded by mentors who have played significant roles in my career growth. Not that mentors make my decisions, but they have always played a hand holding role in whatever direction I chose. I also always seek the guidance of my mentors because most of them have gone through the sort of career experience I have always wanted for myself.
Please tell us about your professional life
I currently work as the Special Adviser to the Nasarawa State Governor on
Investment & Economic Planning. My role in Governor Sule’s administration cuts across investment promotion and deal structuring, reform of the business environment, and the delivery of the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy.
In this respect, I double as Head of the Governor’s delivery unit as well as Secretary of our Ease of Doing Business Council and the Nasarawa Investment and Economic Advisory Council. In these roles, I routinely advise the Governor on investment deals, help investors navigate doing business in the state as well as overseeing the Governor’s delivery unit.
What would you say are those factors that encouraged you go into public service?
Change and Curiosity. Change because I have always believed that being in
Government is such an important role and is the best opportunity to change the things you do not like that affect your life and the lives of your people. I was also curious as to what working in Government at a high level would be like. Even though I grew up believing that I am being built for public service, my formative career days made me change my mind to embrace the private sector.
I also believe that every capable young person in Nigeria today should either be in Government or build a business. I have built a business and also helped to build other businesses that are growing and now it is time for me to apply that energy in Government. Our country must work in our time In shaa Allah.
What are your thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on trade,
investment and economic planning in Nasarawa State and what
changes do you think many states should be prepared to make?
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the face of our state’s economy. The lockdown especially has halted our largely informal economic activities. We also have much less revenue both from our IGR and Federal allocation.
We are now in survival mode and the goal is to keep Government still functional to provide services to the people and also provide all the necessary support for businesses to stay afloat because we do not want our people to be put out of jobs as a result of the impact of the pandemic on businesses.
Truth be told, this situation also provides us with an opportunity to reprioritize the Government’s spending and reallocation of resources to the sectors most in need of intervention. We are now competing for investments in a world coming out of a severe shock and people will now have much less risk appetite. We are therefore working hard to improve our business environment to be the most attractive destination for investments.
What will you say are the similarities and differences when comparing your experience in law firm practice and working with the
Personally, it feels quite similar from a delivery perspective. I apply the same energy in performing my responsibilities in Government, as I would have in the law firm because I have a passion for both.
However, working in Government comes with a higher burden because you must work in the public interest, which should be the overriding guiding principle. I also have to work with people from different backgrounds and orientations unlike at the law firm where we all have similar education and experiences. When working in a law firm, I was largely commercially driven because numbers must always add up but in Government, it is all about the people and what makes sense for them and I appreciate the nature of the demands.
What would you say are the most remarkable moments of your work
and what are some of the recurring challenges you have had to
confront in your current role?
It has been an absolute pleasure so far and Governor Sule has been the most supportive principal. I cannot single out any experience because I am now deep in it. However, I think working in Government at a very high level despite my age is very remarkable in itself. People still think young people cannot offer much and that is a big challenge but Alhamdulillah we are changing the story and we will continue to do so In shaa Allah.
What is your parting shot for lawyers who want to be like you and
follow the same career path?
I think every young lawyer must be able to develop basic professional
skills in writing, speaking and critical thinking. Most of our work revolves around these core skills. We should also take very seriously our personal and professional networks. It is from our network that most times we stumble into opportunities we have prepared for.
I have been offered a lot of opportunities from friends and mentors. You are only as powerful as the circle you keep. It is also important to read widely and be very open-minded. Learn about different things. I have noticed most young lawyers and lawyers, in general, like to read-only legal and academic texts. As a lawyer, you should be an all-rounder and always think outside the box.
What would you say are the opportunities in politics and public service for lawyers?
There are a lot of opportunities. Lawyers usually have the best skills to be able to perform diverse roles in Government.
On a lighter note, what do you do for fun?
I enjoy travelling, playing golf, hanging out with friends and eating out at different restaurants. I love good food.
Please tell us more about your work with the Positive Voice Campaign Project (PVCP) Organization
I served as an Advisory Board Member to help shape the delivery of the project. The objective of the project was to kick against violent extremism in young people through education and entrepreneurship. Selected candidates went through an orientation program after which they were trained on some basic skills to be able to run small businesses.
If you never forayed into public service or law, what career path would you have taken?
I have never thought about it. Right from when I knew what a career was, I have always wanted to be a Lawyer and it is because I wanted to be important and influential and being a lawyer prepares you better in my view. Now thinking about it I would have been in academia. I love sharing knowledge; it is such a beautiful thing.