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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Nigeria's Iron lady: Dr.Okonjo-Iweala - Do not heap all the blames on her
Friday, 09 March 2012 14:21

Nigeria's Iron lady: Dr.Okonjo-Iweala - Do not heap all the blames on her

Written by Emeka Chiakwelu
Dr.Okonjo-Iweala Dr.Okonjo-Iweala guardian uk

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.


(R) Dr. Okonjo-Iweala & Afripol's Emeka Chiakwelu at World Affairs conference


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.   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Last modified on Friday, 09 March 2012 14:39

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