Nigeria’s Iron lady: Dr.Okonjo-Iweala – Do Not Heap all the Blames on Her – By Emeka ChiakweluArticles, Columnists, Emeka Chiakwelu, NNP Columnists, Women Politics Sunday, April 1st, 2012
By Emeka Chiakwelu | NNP | April 1 | 2012 Nigeria finally got herself her very own Iron lady, Minister of Finance
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. A lady with vim and enduring conviction that
believes that Nigeria’s greatness is attainable.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a patriot with nerve of steel and to her
Nigeria’s potential can be harnessed for the country’s greatness.
Okonjo-Iweala plays an important and critical role in President Jonathan’s
economic team; she is the co-coordinator of the administration’s economic
team. Therefore as the issue of fuel removal subsidy and subsequent
agitation gained momentum, it became a normal occurrence to mention the
name of the minister of finance in everything to do with the subsidy
removal. To an alien from another planet without the knowledge of Nigerian
politics, it might conclude that she is the one running the country or she
is the godmother of Nigerian politics, but the reality is she’s neither.
She is only serving under the privilege of President Goodluck Jonathan,
who employed her to work for his administration. Why then are they
jumping on her business and pointing the accusing finger to her? The
answer to this question might be a tricky one. There are many layers that
must be understood and dissected to properly answer the question.
Many do not understand the complexities and workings of international
finance and banking institutions in the global economy. The average
Nigerian may not distinguish or contrast the difference between IMF and
World Bank. Therefore knowing that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala came from the World
Bank they attribute so much power to her without knowing that her scope of
control and influence in the global finance and economics are quite
limited. Nigerians, having lived under the austerity measures of IMF in
1980s and 1990s, are skeptical of the powerful IMF and they believe that
Okonjo-Iweala is working together with IMF to implement neo-liberal
economic policies including price fuel deregulation which entails the
subsequent fuel subsidy removal. Nigerians have resorted to exaggerated
perspectives when discussing and talking about Okonjo-Iweala.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is academically brilliant, hardworking and ambitious.
Yes, she is ambitious. You cannot attend the most powerful centers of
learning – Harvard, MIT and ends up being the managing director of the
World Bank in the absence of ambition. Nigerians are used to seeing
pretenders and pseudo-intellectuals who acquired advance degrees as tools
to exploit the nation and those who bought the degrees for showmanship.
Nigeria has few intellectual giants that are recognized all over the world
and that can stand on the international stage with the best.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala a committed citizen and patriot believe strongly in the
economic redemption of Nigeria. She has proven herself on how she goes
about her business especially in making sure that the Nigerian government
runs on transparency and probity. The work she did in the days of Paris
Club of Creditors’ payment was remarkable. Many of us might not see the
need for a poor country to transfer such enormous wealth to rich and first
world nations but we cannot deny her the enormous contribution she made in
paying off the debt and economic reforms she carried out for her country.
Iron lady Mindset
One of the most powerful British politicians and leaders was Margaret
Thatcher, the former prime minister of Britain. In the recent released
movie, Hollywood super star Meryl Streep, an academy award winner, played
the role of Margaret Thatcher. The movie once again reminded us again why
Margaret Thatcher was an indispensable prime minister who saved the
declining nation. She cut down on the social programs and trimmed down the
welfare British society. She encouraged and supported free enterprise by
slashing tax rates, pay down debts and slow down trade deficits. All these
moves made by Lady Thatcher earned her the iron lady title.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala although not a prime minster is following the
footsteps of Thatcher’s – love of country and the commitment to transform
a corrupt and a troubling nation. Okonjo-Iweala was given the task of
removing Nigeria from the Paris Club entanglement in 2006 by former
President Obasanjo and she did it well. This led to her becoming the first
iron lady of Nigeria.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala failed to define herself on Nigerian political
scene but allowed the current political situation and opposition to define
her. Without doubt Nigeria is convincingly corrupt and some Nigerians
hold the perception that she is casting her lot with out-of-touch
leadership and masterly IMF. But that is not the truth, Okonjo-Iweala
stands with the poor masses of Nigeria but her perceived aloofness and
clueless colored the peoples judgment. And against the prevailing view not
all Nigerian leaders are corrupt.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala a technocrat without much street adherence will
probably make her vulnerable to the Nigerian vindictive politics. Being a
technocrat is not the only requirement needed to transform a nation and a
people; understanding the politics and intricacies of a society is also an
advantage. The ability to convince the poor masses to trust programs and
personalities running the formulated agenda is quite essential to
accomplish the targeted goal. Okonjo-Iweala needs an effective
communication infrastructure in order to win the battle of public relation
against those that are committed to distort her image and her commitment
to her country.
Due to her visibility, outspokenness and co-ordination of the economic
team, most critics are blaming her for the sudden decision to remove the
fuel subsidy. But that is far from the truth because she does not own the
process nor is she the “de facto prime minister” as they choose to
describe her. Okonjo-Iweala is one of the ministers in the administration
and her power or sphere of influence is limited. She does not call the
shots and she does not make the final decisions for the administration.
Therefore she cannot be blamed for the removal of the fuel subsidy and the
unfavorable situation aftermath.
Emeka Chiakwelu is the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol
Organization. Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is
foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden
the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote
and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment,
human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa.
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