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Saturday, January 18, 2014

A LOOK AT NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA: PROFESSIONAL CAREER, POLITICS, AND ECONOMICS


In continuation of my assessment of roles and contributions of some powerful Nigerian women to the nations economy in the last one and a half decades, i will today look at Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The supervising minister of economy and finance, former director of the World Bank, and a powerful woman in the country. With a PhD from  MIT and Bachelor degree from Harvard University as well as decades of work experience with the World Bank, She is unique in the league of Nigeria's professional women. Her last post before she left the World Bank in 2011 for her current role as finance minister is Managing Director of the bank in charge of South and East Asia, Europe and Africa where she control a portfolio worth $81 billion. She first served as finance minster during the second tenure of President Obasanjo in 2003, helping the country to secure debt relief of some $18 billion from western debtor nations. As finance minister under Obasanjo she relentlessly pursue the policy of reducing bureaucracy and trimming of government budgets. In 2012 she contested the office of the President of the World Bank where she lost to the powerful US candidate, Jim Yong Kim.
    Dr. Ngozi is currently in the mid of big brawl that is threatening to blow away the little morality that remain in this government; the leak that Nigerian national petroleum company NNPC has not remitted some $50 billion dollars of the central government money, means for its account with the CBN. Though, the figure was later scale down to about $11 billion it is still a huge some looking at the reality on the ground, as it relate to government inability to fulfill her promises and commitments to its citizens. Thus, unlike during her first appointment as a minister, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala is not doing much to stop corruption that is going on indirectly under her purview. While during her first coming she was seen as revolutionary, she is now giving the impression that she is (sort of) agreeing with the status quo. It is said that if you can beat them join them, it seems to me that Dr Ngozi has finally join the party. Her fight during her first ministerial appointment to instill transparency in governmental activities has almost banished, as is clear from the ongoing crisis that eminent from the CBN governor's revelation of non-remittance of some $11 billion by NNPC, the nation's national oil company. Remember that it was Dr. Ngozi who initiated Nigeria into a global transparency body, as a member of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative- a voluntary standard for petroleum and mining industries world wide, when she served in Obasanjo government 2003-2006.



      Many observers see Dr. Ngozi as a great schemer who hide behind artificial innocence to ensure the realization of her dictatorial tendencies. Last year She was fingered in the firing of the spokesman of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Yushai'u Shuaib for the crime of writing an article that is critical of her role in the appointment of a new boss for Federal Inland Revenue Service. The rumour issue of her interest to contest the presidency of Nigeria has been on and off, it first surface when Obasanjo transferred her from the ministry of finance to that of foreign affairs; where she was to get acquainted with the rudiments of international diplomacy, in the process getting the backing of international community for her candidacy. But, it fizzled out immediately she resigned from her appointment and went abroad. Last year the coming out of a Book by Nasiru El-Rufai (a  powerful former minister in Obasanjo government) with the title, 'Accidental Public Servant' further lent credence to her rumour interest in politics. The book made mention of Obasanjo earlier plan to field her as running mate with Muhammadu Buhari in the 2007 Presidential election.
      Many Nigerians see Dr. Ngozi as some kind of an agent for western capitalist interest (bloc), more especially the World Bank and IMF. As someone who has spent most of her working live in the world Bank and held some of the top posts in that organisation, she could easily be linked with any secrete effort by big western institutions to impose their agenda on Nigerian people. As a Distinguish fellow of the Brooking Institution, a leading Western think thank base in Washington DC, it is easier to see why Ngozi cannot convince a lot of Nigerians that she is not here to protect the interest of these capitalist institutions in Africa. Her controversial inducement of fuel subsidy removal in January 2012 further add to her image as propagator of World Bank-IMF beggar thy neighbor economic policies that advocate the implementation of harsh economic policies on poor Nigerians. In one of her deviations from her earlier promises, Dr. Ngozi has echoed during her confirmation as minister in 2011 her resolve to reduce federal government recurrent expenditure which was then at some 74% of the budget, but as it has become cleared during her presentation of this year budget Ngozi has done little to deliver on that earlier resolve. The recurrent expenditure aspect of the budget has remain high leaving little for capital expenditures.  

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