Obama reaches for a security chief with Nigerian roots

Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Photo: OkayAfrica

At a time stinging anti-immigrant rhetoric is consuming a section of the American political divide, President Barack Obama extended his immigrant narrative in the American political life by picking the son of a Nigerian immigrant, Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, 34, as his Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics.

Announcing the appointment at the White House in Washington DC, on Tuesday, President Obama said he “will be calling on Wally’s intellect, judgment and dedication as we sustain America’s global economic leadership, which reinforces our national security, and as we work with allies and partners around the world to create jobs and opportunity for all our people.”

Mr. Adeyemo’s life journey is the perfect meaning of the immigrant’s dream in the United States. It is a story of hard work, inspiration, and strict family values that came together 25 years ago when early in the morning of February 9, 1990, he was steered out of bed by his father, Joseph Adeyemo, now principal at the Terrace View Elementary School, Colton, in California.

It was a day of history. Nelson Mandela, legendary freedom fighter and later president of South Africa, was walking out from prison after 27 years in prison, and the older Adeyemo wanted his son to witness history as a source of inspiration.

“I could feel the hope Mandela inspired not only in South Africans but also in my father. Watching Nelson Mandela go from prisoner to president and start the process of bringing together a country was more than inspirational, it motivated me to imagine how I could use public service to improve the world around me” the younger Adeyemo told the U.S. Senate Committee On Banking, Housing, And Urban Affairs at a September confirmation hearings for the position of Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development.

A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his bachelor’s degree and the Yale University Law school, where he was the student–body president, tat desire for public service found entry in 2009 when Mr. Adeyemo joined the Treasury Department after law school, working alongside policymakers charged with coordinating international response to global recession.

In 2010, he was seconded to the team charged to implement a part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, where he worked for now Senator Elizabeth Warren as the first Chief of Staff of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mr. Adeyemo’s appointment has lifted interest among a section of the local Nigerian community in the United States.

Baba Adam, a leader of the broad Nigerian community and college administrator, thanked President Obama for the choice of Mr. Adeyemo, describing it as ”ascension of inspiration”.

Isa Odidi, a professor, chairman and co-chief scientist at Intellipharmaceutics International Inc, in Toronto, Canada, joins him in eulogy saying, “Your [Mr. Adeyemo’s] story hopefully will help remind everyone that people of Nigerian descent in Diaspora are very, very, very capable and that we should be aggressively ‘head hunting’ these individuals.”

Toyin Dawodu, who is a managing partner at the Capital Investment Group, in California, and a family friend of the Adeyemos, commended President Obama for “his excellent choice” adding, “The sky is the limit for second and subsequent generations of Nigerian Americans in terms of contributions to our adopted country and helping our native country”.

Mr. Adeyemo spoke to a life goal defined by community and society development in his September senate nomination hearing where he remarked on how “helping to build an agency devoted to protecting consumers was deeply personal for me”.

“I grew up in the Inland Empire, a region of Southern California, where in 2010, one in every 14 homes faced foreclosure,” he said.  These were not just numbers to me; they were my friends and family.  I know the impact that a lost job, cut in hours, or one bad financial decision can have on the ability to stay in the home your children grew up in.  I am grateful to have played a role in standing up an agency that helps consumers better understand and deal with their financial choices.”

In his new position, Mr. Adeyemo is expected to play a key role in coordinating United States response to international financial crises, working with international partners and allies to devise and implement targeted economic policies to advance and strengthen American national security and economic goals.

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