|AllAfrica News: Latest|
|All Africa, All the Time.|
In a statement, Special Adviser on Media to the Coordinating Minister, Paul Nwabuikwu, said the wife of the Obi of Ogwashi-Ukwu, Chukuka Okonjo, was released Friday morning.
“I can confirm that Professor Mrs Kamene Okonjo, wife of the Obi of Ogwashi-Uku, Professor Chukuka Okonjo and mother of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy/Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was released this morning, five days after her abduction.
“The Okonjo Family is full of thanks to the Almighty for this happy development. The family is also highly appreciative of the support and encouragement of President Goodluck Jonathan; the Country’s security services for their excellent operations; Governors Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Peter Obi of Anambra, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and other Governors as well other friends and well wishers within and outside government for their prayers and encouragement during a very difficult period. May God bless you all.”
Before her released Nigeria army y arrested 63 people in one of their raids in the the search for Prof. Okonjo.
Nigeria's finance minister's mother, Professor Kamene Okonjo, was kidnapped in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State. She is mother of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and wife of the Obi of Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom, Professor Chukwuka Aninshi Okonjo Agbogidi.
The mother of a senior Nigerian minister was today allegedly abducted from her residence by a gang of ten armed men, police said.
According to 2 Zeenews the "82-year-old Kanene Okonjo, mother of Nigeria's Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was kidnapped from the palace of the traditional ruler of the southern Nigerian town of Ogwasi Ukwu in Delta state, they said.
Okonjo is the wife of the traditional ruler of the town. Police spokesman Charles Muka said they arrested a man in connection with the case. "The man was said to have informed the housemaid that he was in the palace to take the queen mother to somewhere in the town." he said.
Abduction of prominent personalities is common in southern parts of Nigeria with the kidnappers demanding for ransom a few hours later. Okonjo-Iweala was previously the managing director of World Bank."
Nigeria’s relative macro-economic stability of the past decade has been aided by the groundwork of reforms embarked upon by two-term finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
In 1995, Nigeria’s inflation rate was a vertigo inducing 75 percent, while the naira which was at virtual parity with the dollar in the early eighties had tumbled to N21/ $1 by 1999, a more than 400 percent devaluation, according to a BusinessDay analysis of available CBN data.
This was of course in the official market, which met less than a tenth of dollar demand; in the parallel markets where the naira exchanged for N88/$1(in 1999) the rate of naira devaluation was much higher, at over 640 percent, between 1980 and 1999.
“Macro stability in the past decade has resulted fundamentally from the fiscal reforms put in place by Okonjo-Iweala in her first term (in particular, capping the deficit at 3 percent of GDP), and more recently, from the tighter monetary policy regime put in place by the
CBN,” said Razia Khan, regional Head of Research, Africa, at Standard Chartered Bank, in an email response to questions.
In the 20-year period (1980 – 1999) the CPI averaged 25.8 percent. This compares with the 2000 to 2010 period, when inflation averaged 11.9 percent, while the naira has moved from N110/$1 in 2000 – to N157/$1 in 2012, a 42 percent devaluation in ten years, and a testament to the relative macro-economic stability in the latter period.
The reforms have aided the development of the domestic bond market as well.
Moribund until 2003, the domestic bond market today finances much of the FG budget deficit, and some long term infrastructure projects.
This has eliminated the so called ‘ways and means’ (money printing) deficit financing, rampant in the eighties and nineties, and a major source of inflation.
Nigeria’s bond market development has benefited from the lifting of the 1 Year holding period restriction on FGN bonds by Sanusi last year, and a hike in interest rates, leading to attractive yields, and ultimately, the addition of Nigerian Bonds to JPMorgan’s GBI-EM and the Barclays EMLC index.
“It is very unlikely that foreigners would be showing the interest they currently show in Nigeria’s bond market, in the absence of reassurance on these reforms,” said Khan.
The size of the domestic bond market in 2011 was N9.5 trillion ($60 billion), made up of AMCON bonds (57.42 percent), FGN bonds (37.21 percent), Sub nationals (3.58 percent) and Corporate bonds (1.79 percent).
The value of transactions in the domestic fixed income market is up four folds since 2006, reaching a value of N14.7 trillion at the end of 2010, from an almost negligible level in 2000 according to data from investment firm, Vetiva Capital.
“The launch of the Primary Dealers Market Makers platform in 2006 ensured some broadly consistent trading activity in on-the-run bonds, and two-way quotes over-the-counter,” said Samir Gadio, an emerging markets strategist at Standard Bank.
Meanwhile, the nation’s yield curve has extended from 3 months to 20 years, with 3year, 5 year, 10 year and 20 year bonds, routinely issued by the Debt Management Office (DMO).
According to Khan, the important building blocks needed before this could become possible, were put in place by Okonjo-Iweala and Sanusi.
“As a result of the increased flow from offshore investors, the Naira is stable. This has helped too, with macro-economic stability, and acts as a check on policies that should continue to guarantee stability”, he said.
Nigeria last week got an upgrade and new coverage of its sovereign debt, as Standard and Poor’s (S&P) upped it to BB- and Moody’s initiated coverage at the equivalent level, due to progress on reforms.
My introduction to economic reform in my country really began in 2000 when, at the invitation of President Obasanjo, I took a leave of absence from my job at the World Bank to return to Nigeria for six months to serve as his Economic Adviser. My remit was very specific: advise the president on how to manage Nigeria’s debt so that the country could begin the process of seeking and obtaining debt relief from its largely Western group of official creditors, all members of the Paris Club.
I first met President Obasanjo in 1999, shortly after he won the elections but before he was sworn in as president. He had decided to visit important Western capitals to engage in discussions about Nigeria’s problems and to share his vision and his agenda for the country’s economic and social recovery from the “dead” years of General Abacha’s dictatorship.
His public relations adviser, Onyema Ugochukwu, a relative and a close friend of my husband, thought that he needed additional briefing on topical international economic issues of the time, as well as specific advice on how to approach Western leaders on issues of concern to Nigeria, such as lifting the country’s debt burden and improving its image.
Onyema Ugochukwu phoned me one Saturday morning in March 1999 and asked me to put together a brief that would help President Obasanjo prepare for his proposed world tour. The brief I put together focused on Nigeria’s most pressing economic problems, especially its debt, and on how the international community could contribute to solutions.
In particular, I suggested to the president that he might make the case to the international community that their support to solve pressing economic problems in Nigeria would yield the country a much needed “democracy dividend” after decades of military rule. The president liked the brief and the notion of a “democracy dividend.” He used the expression extensively throughout his term in office.
I met President Obasanjo in person when he came to the United States a few weeks later. In January of 2000, he requested that I return to Nigeria as his Economic Adviser for six months. My work in those six months focused on sorting out the extent of the country’s most important financial liabilities (including its US$30 billion in external debt), on getting the seven different offices managing different parts of the debt to cooperate with one another so we could begin to reconcile figures, and ultimately on creating a national Debt Management office (DMO) to bring some clarity and rationality to debt management. This work laid the foundation for my return as Minister of Finance three years later.
Building an Economic Team
In 2003, President Obasanjo won a second term in office and decided to focus much harder on reforming Nigeria’s faltering economy. He needed a modern and technocratic finance minister who was familiar with the fierce politics of the time. My name was suggested to him by Lady Lynda Chalker, a former International Development Secretary of the United Kingdom based on recommendations from two other reformers-Nasir EI Rufai and Oby Ezekwesili-with whom I had struck a friendship during my short stint at home.
Since President Obasanjo was already familiar with my work, I seemed a logical choice, so he rang up my boss-James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank-to ask him to persuade me to resign my job as vice president and corporate secretary of the World Bank to become Nigeria’s Minister of Finance.
When Jim Wolfensohn approached me, I was torn and conflicted on both a personal and a professional level. On the personal level, my financial situation was different than it had been in 2000 during my advisory stint at home. Then, I had been able to forgo some of my earnings and benefits to serve because we had only one child attending a university.
By 2003, we had two, and a third getting ready to go, and the main question that my husband and I had to confront was how to manage all the financial obligations without going into debt if I went home to serve President Obasanjo. On a professional level, setting up the Debt Management Office had been an eye-opening experience and at the same time a fulfilling one.
I thought this would be an unprecedented opportunity to serve my country again, with a new democracy in place and a president who seemed open to change. But I had also experienced firsthand some of the complicated politics of implementing reform.
Even with an issue as technical as debt management, there were people who were vested in the status quo and did not want change. It seemed to me that reforming the management of the country’s debt would be a picnic in comparison with the challenges I would face as a Minister of Finance.
This time, virtually every aspect of the economy would have to be reformed. A comprehensive strategy would be needed to stabilise Nigeria’s volatile macroeconomic environment, tackle endemic corruption, and redress various structural features of the economy hindering private enterprise. The country’s woeful social indicators and abysmal delivery of basic services such as power, water, and transportation would have to be addressed. The prospects were daunting.
Surely designing and implementing such wide-ranging reforms could not be done by one person alone. Were I to accept, I would need advice on how to approach that enormous task. And accept I did, after two weeks of reflection and consultation with family members and friends, many of whom were opposed to the idea because they felt it was too great a risk to my professional reputation. Many felt that somehow, to quote one of my friends, “my reputation would be rubbished” – either by those who would be against me in government or others outside.
Jim Wolfensohn proffered a great deal of wise advice that tended to confirm my own feelings that this could be a unique opportunity to give back to my country. Because the World Bank had a rule mandating resignation for those accepting policy-making positions, I resigned from my position there once I had decided to accept the offer from Nigeria.
The financial problems were sorted out by President Obasanjo’s approach to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to open a Diaspora Fund similar to the arrangement they had worked out for Afghanistan and other countries.
Returning members of the Nigerian Diaspora would be paid their previous salaries for a year or two until they could make adequate financial arrangements to take care of their existing obligations abroad. Several of us returning to Nigeria benefited from this fund, and it made a clear difference in our ability to return at short notice. The arrangement later became controversial.
Referred to in the news media as the” dollar salary” saga, it was seized on and played up over and over again by anti-reform elements to imply that I was somehow less than committed to Nigeria because I was being paid more than the other ministers, and in foreign currency.
Neither the circumstances in which I took the job, nor the fact that I was not the only official being thus paid, nor even the fact that it was a transitional arrangement and that I gave it up during my last 15 months of work got much play in the media.
As I contemplated the tasks before me, there were no manuals to tell me what to do, so I turned to someone who had just had some success in managing economic reforms. Amaury Bier, Brazil’s former deputy finance minister had just joined the Board of the World Bank as Alternate Executive Director after four years of implementing successful economic reforms under the Cardoso administration. Jim Wolfensohn suggested I talk to him. How did they do it? What practical day to day steps did they take?
The first piece of advice Amaury Bier gave me was critical. “You will need to form an Economic Team of like-minded people who can stick together to fight the tough battles,” he emphasized. In Brazil, he had learned the hard way, a team was essential to bring different perspectives and expertise to the design of the reform program, but, more important, to help push through the cabinet the approval of proposed reforms.
Without team members supporting one another in cabinet, important reforms displacing vested interests could easily be blocked, he emphasized. He also counseled that building team spirit and keeping the team working together would be important as the reforms began to bite, since some people would be interested in dividing the team and fomenting dissension. To avoid this, Bier urged, the team should meet frequently-at least once a week-to discuss progress and problems.
A second piece of advice Bier gave was equally important: there was need for a comprehensive strategy that would set out major challenges and the reforms needed to turn these around. In particular, it would be important to build in the sustainability of such reforms right from the start to avoid later reversals. One good tool was the enactment of legislation to underpin reforms.
Armed with this advice, I flew to Nigeria in May 2003 to discuss the scope of my job and to get President Obasanjo’s agreement on the formation of a Presidential Economic Team. The president readily agreed to the team, noting that I would lead it and he would preside over it as chair.
Working with him, colleagues and I came up with a list of twelve members representing the areas of expertise that various reforms would require. These twelve people – with expertise in macroeconomics, microeconomics, debt management, privatisation, private-sector development, governance, anti-corruption measures, civil-service reform, and budget management – became the core of the team.
One appointment of particular importance (because he or she would have the ear of the president every day) was that of Economic Adviser to the president. We needed a sound macroeconomist-something Nigeria had not had in many years – who would reinforce the importance of the reforms. I nominated Charles Chukwuma Soludo, who later became a Central Bank Governor.
The team faced many challenges and tensions in keeping together, some of these stoked from outside. One early challenge occurred in July 2003 right after cabinet members had been sworn in. The president invited all the new members and other top officials and presidential advisers to a one-day retreat to explain his priorities and objectives for the administration and also to familiarise most of us who had never been in government with the main public service rules and imperatives.
Most of the new members of the Economic Team were there. We sat close to one another in some kind of solidarity. The retreat was well under way when the president announced (completely out of the blue, to me) that he would be moving the Budget Office of the Federation, normally part of the Ministry of Finance, to the Office of the President, along with the new budget director, who was also a member of the Economic Team.
I could hardly believe what I had heard, and turned to a team member to double check if I had heard correctly. It
was already evident that drastic reform of the budget process and of budget priorities would be central to the reforms. It would be important to link such reforms to changes in the financial management system in the finance ministry. Removing the Budget Office was akin to ripping the heart from the chest.
I felt that this would make major changes impossible to achieve and would furthermore deprive the Ministry of Finance of a central economic and political function. I was also in shock because the president had not discussed this with me. I thought, as the Minister of Finance, that he would at least mention such a major change to me, and maybe even ask my opinion of it. The fact that he had not done this was a major eye opener.
I felt two things. First, I could not be Minister of Finance with a major function removed. It would be a hollow job. I would be unable to complete the reforms I had come to Nigeria to complete, and therefore there would be no need for my services. Second, the president evidently did not trust me.
Otherwise, why would he not even have mentioned such a momentous change? I was angry and confused. To shield my feelings from public view, I got up and left the meeting hall. Other members of the Economic Team followed me out of the hall in concern and solidarity. By the time I walked out, I had resolved to leave.
I went ahead and wrote my letter of resignation. I then called the president’s office and asked if I could see him after the retreat. I as granted an evening appointment. I took my resignation letter with me and handed it to the president in an audience filled with tension.
He flung the letter at me and said I was free to resign and leave. I took that at face value, thanked him, and left. I later found out that the flinging of the letter was a sign for me to apologise and withdraw my resignation, but I was as yet untutored in presidential mannerisms and probably still would have resigned had I known what the gesture meant.
That evening, several people came to see me and to put pressure on me to withdraw my resignation. I refused. At the same time, two important members of the president’s inner circle – Principal Secretary Steve Oronsaye and Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar – put pressure on him to reconsider and find a way out.
The president asked me to come back to see him the following morning. I attended the meeting with my father for support. At that meeting, the president told me that he had decided that the Budget Office could stay in the Ministry of Finance but the budget director would be reporting to him.
Mapping out the reform strategy
Even before the reform team had coalesced, some of us who formed the core of the reformers had begun to brainstorm on a strategy that would encapsulate the reforms. Nigeria was really not short on strategies, plans, or visions. We had Vision 2010, which attempted to articulate a way forward for the country’s development.
But this vision was actually not successfully translated into a medium-term program that could be implemented and monitored. We knew that we had to produce a medium-term plan that would pass three tests. It needed a sound diagnosis of the country’s socioeconomic problems; it needed to propose solutions; and it needed to translate the solutions into specific actions that would produce results and could be monitored.
We also knew that, in view of skepticism in the country about reforms and change, we would have to achieve some early victories that would signal change. My training at the World Bank, where I had worked on many reform matrices for a variety of low-income and middle-income countries, would come in handy.
The impetus for quick work on the strategy came from a meeting scheduled for September 2003 between President Obasanjo and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss Obasanjo’s quest for debt relief and for a return of public assets that had been stolen from Nigeria and lodged in the UK.
The president had proposed that the Economic Team accompany him to this meeting to explain Nigeria’s proposed new economic reforms. I solicited written inputs from members of the Economic Team already working on important areas of reform – privatisation, budget monitoring, and price intelligence linked to public procurement reform.
For example, over a weekend, using their inputs, I produced a 17-page paper outlining the major economic and social problems and especially highlighting the problem of Nigeria’s huge external debt overhang, which was a drag on investment and economic growth.
I proposed a set of macroeconomic and structural reforms focusing on budget management and priority setting; fiscal reforms; liberalisation and deregulation of important economic sectors; privatisation of important public enterprises; governance and institutional reforms, including public service reform; and anti-corruption actions, especially concerning public procurement.
After completing the first draft, I invited comments and inputs from team members, then translated the paper into a PowerPoint presentation for the president’s review and comment, including a set of matrices of specific reform actions with a timeline.
I presented the plan first to a joint UK technical team from the Department of International Development and the Treasury, which wanted to make sure we had something serious to share with the prime minister, and then to the prime minister himself.
Prime Minister Blair also invited World Bank president, Jim Wolfensohn to the meeting to get his views on Nigeria’s reforms. With a successful presentation, we knew we had the basis to deepen the analysis into a full-fledged program of change for the economy, incorporating action in essential sectors, including agriculture, education, and health.
During that visit to the UK, the Economic Team stayed late into the night further debating the content and even the name for the strategy. We bandied various names around. It was Nasir EI Rufai who came up with the name that we would eventually use for the strategy: the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS).
"A book "Reforming The Unreformable: Lessons From Nigeria", written by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was launched in Abuja.Various issues, including "Setting the Stage for Reforms", "Advancing Macro-economic Reforms", Promoting Privatisation and Deregulation", among others, are issues incorporated in the 198-page book . The book, which has received accolades from many important personalities, including Nobel Laureate in Economics, Prof. Joseph Stiglitz and Liberian President, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for its rich insights and prescriptions, is based on her experiences while working with the Economic Team of the Obasanjo administration." - ThisDay
Professor of Economics, Oxford University ,Paul Collier, Minister of Finance South Africa, Pavin Gordhan, Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Commonwealth Secretary, Emeka Anyaoku, General and Vice President Namadi Sambo, during the Book presentation. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan
Former Commonwealth Secretary, Emeka Anyaoku, General and Vice President Namadi Sambo . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan
President of Stock Exchange Aliko Dangote and Chairman House Committee on Banking and Currency, Rep. Chukwudi Jones Victor Oneyereri Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan
Book Presentation: Chief Sonny Odogwu, Ide-Ahaba of Asaba presenting and Launching Reforming the Ureformable –Lessons from Nigeria to the Public in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.
Director General of DMO, Dr Abraham Nwanko and Accountant General Jona Otunla Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.
Book Presentation: From Right, Editor in Chief Vanguard Newspapers Mr Gbenga Adefaye, chatting with Chairman of the event, Chief Emeka Anyaoku Former Commonwealth Secretary-General , Chairman of Vanguard Newspaper, Sam Amuka and Chief Oyema Ugochukwu at book presentation: Reforming the Unreformable Lessons from Nigeria by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala held in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.
It was an interesting and engaging article - Ngozi Iweala: Nigeria's weakest link- written by one Sonala Olumhense. It was not that the piece was illuminating the encumbrances in the affairs of Nigeria’s contemporary democratic dispensation that made it compelling but for the acute misunderstanding on the role and achievements of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in her capacity as the minister of finance for both Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations.
Just like the writer of the above aforementioned article, before I proceed any further, I would like to congratulate the Honorable minister of finance, Lady Dr. Okonjo-Iweala on making the Forbes' list of the most powerful women in the world. Let me remind everybody, I am not easily befuddled by titles and awards but when I see the real thing I do doff my cap.
Without mincing words, Okonjo-Iweala is the real thing. Why will I say that? Her record speaks for herself. After she graduated from the prestigious Harvard University with magna cum laude in Economics, she proceeded and obtained her PH.D from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in regional economic development. She finally joined the World Bank at Washington DC and contributed immensely in the fundamental restructuring and re-tooling of World Bank ways of doing business to the affirmative benefit of her customers that were primarily third world nations.
Okonjo-Iweala was the managing director of World Bank, when President Obasanjo beckoned her to come home to help in putting the country's messy financial house in order. When she was appointed the minister of finance in obasanjo's administration, it was a trying time for our hapless country, Nigeria. The nation has just came out from long military administration and intervention. The country's foreign debt that stood between 36-38 billion United States dollars was choking the country financial and economic landscape. There was dwindling in the attraction of foreign capital into Nigeria and most debilitating issue was the low trust of the country as a destination of tourism and capitals was greatly hampering economic development.
There was nadir moral in the country; our sense and sensibility were reflective of a nation in trouble, where capital flight was the order of the day. Another interesting phenomenon was that Nigeria for sure could not say precisely how much they owned to both Paris and London Clubs of Creditors due to poor bookkeeping and opaque financial dealings.
Okonjo-Iweala hit the ground and start performing her duties without much ado and waste of time. First and foremost, she revised the poor book keeping and with lot of expendable energy and deduction she arrived how much the country was in debted. She opened up the country's book and instituted transparency in the financial undertakings and dealings of the administration. She began to initiate and implant probity as a way of doing business in the country. She made good use of the country's gazette and published allocations that went to various departments and state governments. She endured the wraths of the powerful and connected as she was restructuring, changing and opening up the government's finance. That is not a small matter!
On hindsight and at present we can be begin to take those changes she made for granted. She put a great effort in bailing Nigeria away from the prisons of Paris and London Clubs of Credits. Her intellectual endeavor made it possible for granted $18 billion write-off from the original $36 billion owned to the international syndicates. It was a great achievement but I still believed that IMF should have persuaded Paris Club to be more generous to Nigeria for the money should have found its best use in Nigeria especially on the provision of health and educational infrastructures. But that does not take anything away from the pragmatic minister of finance, Dr. Okonjo-iweala. She was given a project and she did it successfully, for that she deserved the praise and accolade she did receive and garnish in the country's payment and settlement of her foreign debt in 2006.
When she started working for Obasanjo, the country inflationary trend was blowing down the economic landscape. Annual inflation rate stood at 22 percent and economic output was very poor indeed with anemic growth of about 1-2 percent despite oil export. Naira was extremely weak and feeble, depreciating and depressing the economy. The monetary policy coming from the Central Bank of Nigeria could not be productive and successful without a complimentary fiscal policy from the executive arm of the government. This is where Okonjo-Iweala brought her talent and knowledge to bear by reduction of some taxes and by giving targeted tax incentives to indigenous industries that need government aid. Her reform and economic restructure reduced annual inflation rate from 22 percent to 15 percent while the GDP was accelerating above six percent.
Without doubt, Okonjo-Iweala enhanced Nigeria's economic and financial climate with her logical and intelligent reforms. Under her leadership together with Dr. Soludo, the then governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the country's foreign reserve tripled to above $50 billion. This is a serious achievement by any standard and nobody that understands fundamentals of the economy can talk down such a powerful attainment.
In her writings, “Understanding the Nigeria’s debt situation”, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal wrote: "We have been implementing our own home grown reform program – NEEDS - and the results for last year have been quite positive. GDP growth was 6% compared to a 5% target. Average annual inflation came down from 22% to 15%, while point to point inflation (December to December) came down from 23% to 10%. This was not the single digit inflation we targeted but we came pretty close at 10%. The fiscal deficit at $25 a barrel was 1.9% of GDP, better than the 2.1% we targeted and the reserves recorded healthy growth again from $7 billion to $19 billion thus ensuring that our exchange rate remains fairly stable.”
By no means, Okonjo-Iweal is not perfect and nobody is insinuating that, she is one person and she is not the head of the government. As the American like to say, "the buck stops at president's desk" and Okonjo-Iweala is not yet the country's leader.
I do not agree with her all the time; earlier this year, the abrupt and quick removal of the fuel subsidy was not good for the poor masses of the country. Even with that scenario, all she can do is to make a recommendation to the president and she does not have the constitutional right to give the green light or go ahead signal.
As for corruption in the country, it is beyond a problem that can be solved by just one bureaucrat, no matter how gifted or talented the person may be. The corruption in the country is so pandemic and colossal that it has metamorphosed to being accepted as cultural and a way of life. Nigerians have even begun to see corruption as 'normal' and unavoidable sin. To make a change with regards to corruption, it must be fundamental, comprehensive and compassing that civics lesson will be devoted to it.
Okonjo-Iweala did not have to leave the comfort of her job at World Bank in United States to come down to our Nigeria with all the country's problem and disaster. But for the love of country, she sacrificed her good life for the nation to contribute in the rebuilding of the falling nation. She has the prestige, money and fame from doing her job as international renowned economist at World Bank. The last thing she needed is unnecessary headache from living and working in Nigeria but she opted for later because she is a PATRIOT.
During the Nigeria's budget proceedings this Monday morning, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala made the prediction that the United States man, Dr. Tim Yong Kim will land the top job and lead World Bank. But she quickly added that the victory would not base on merit.
Her words, “You know this thing is not really being decided on merit."
Astute global observers and analysts have never doubt that the outcome will be different. United States owns the process and since the formation of World Bank after the end of Second World War, it has never had a non-American citizen as the president.
Okonjo-Iweala and Columbia’s Jose Antonio Ocampo could be said to be the first to challenge an American nominated candidate for World Bank presidency. Ocampo eventually bowed-out from the race to enable Okonjo-Iweala redouble her momentum. But the reality remains that United States is the juggernaut that determines how the process will go and who will get the top job. And the presidents of World Bank position have always go to an American. A different outcome cannot be envisaged at this time and certain things never change.
"So we have won a big victory. Who gets to run the World Bank – we have shown we can contest this thing and Africa can produce people capable of running the entire architecture, will never ever be the same again". That’s how Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala surmised the process, thus giving credence to the effort that Nigeria and Africa had made in the uphill struggle to gain the top leadership at World Bank.
Okonjo-Iweala is making an intelligent prediction but by the end of the day, World Bank board of directors will name the president and that may confirmed her prediction.
It may happen because many emerging nations for first time are asking for inclusion in making monetary and economic decisions in the global institutions including World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Developing nations and emerging economies contributed more than fifty percent of the global GDP. Many of these nations have decided that the time has come to have one of their own lead World Bank. Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala with the most attractive experience and resume might be the beneficiary of the emerging nation’s quest for leadership position at World Bank.
Change maybe clumsy and cumbersome but it can be healthy too. Just ask some Nigerians who knew when the country changed from left hand drive to right hand drive. Changing to right-hand traffic was like doing something alien and unnatural but eventually they get used to the change.
Change is good for it gives a room for reflection and growth. When change takes place the excluded, the outsider gets the opportunity to become an insider and to pilot the affairs. In most cases change does bring innovation and invigorating ideas with affirmative outcome.
President Obama nominated Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a medical doctor by training and the current president of Darthmont College for World Bank leadership. But with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the competition for same position, Kim's luck appears to be gradually dimming. Okonjo-Iweala the Nigerian finance minister and former managing director of World Bank, has a solid support from African Union and growing endorsements from many emerging nations.
There is no need to re-introduce Okonjo-Iweala to the global community because she had already made a verifiable impact on macro- economics and finance of developing nations as she went through secretary, vice-president and managing director positions at World Bank.
Okonjo-Iweala emerging support and glowing endorsements for the position goes beyond Nigeria and Africa. Many influential news outlets including Financial Times of London and Economist Magazine are recommending her for the job. Even the United States flagship newspaper, the New York Times was extolling her experience and resume.
L-R:Jim Yong Kim and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Her fellow economists around the world including Joseph E. Stiglitz who has worked with her and Jose Ocampo, another candidate from Columbia had good things to say about Okonjo-Iweala. Stiglitz wrote recently that Okonjo-Iweala has what it takes to lead World Bank, suggesting that she had already made an impact on the developing world.
Stiglitz, a Nobel economics laureate wrote, "Both Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo understand the role of international financial institutions in providing global public goods. Throughout their careers, their hearts and minds have been devoted to development, and to fulfilling the World Bank’s mission of eliminating poverty. They have set a high bar for any American candidate."
All these endorsements for Okonjo-Iweala do not translate that she will easily be elected to lead the World Bank. United States is not willing to give up the leadership at World Bank and Dr. Kim has already embarked on international tour around the world to seek support and goodwill.
President Obama's United States still enjoys an upper hand at the World Bank because of its undeniable influence and power. United States has the most number of votes together with its supportive and willing allies including Europe, Japan and others can easily elect Dr. Kim to replace the United States outing president of World Bank, Robert Zoellick.
Obama's White House may have a compelling reason for nominating Dr. Kim, maybe for the touted compassion quality he brought to his former work at World Health Organization (WHO). But World Bank presidency should based on merit not on compassion. Kim may have been nominated as a result of domestic politics or for Geo-political reasons. When it comes to merit, Okonjo-Iweal stands taller than Kim.
All things being equal, the time has come for a new song from a new singer to be heard. Nigeria's Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should be considered seriously for this job. She has been at both ends; an insider at World Bank and outsider as Nigeria's minister of finance and former Foreign minister. She is ready for the challenges and rewards of the job.
It will be simply splendid! Splendid indeed to have a Nigerian woman become the president of the World Bank. Three frontline nations and economic powerhouse in Africa - South Africa, Angola and of course Nigeria have endorsed her for this important post. Nigeria has even gone further and has managed to get the African Union to stand by her. To buttress how serious the country of her birth is committed to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal, Nigerian diplomatic mission in Washington DC has started lobbying other foreign diplomats to support her.
The truth is that Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweal has strong competitors to the position and it will take more than qualification and credentials to topple those two other gentlemen. To be frank, the most compelling competitor is Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Korean American nominated by President Barrack Obama. The other gentleman Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo, is a Columbian who can be called a Latin American candidate. Jose Antonio Ocampo is also a good candidate; he is a college professor and a former finance minister in Columbia. The Latin American candidate, Jose Antonio Ocampo is in the process but we all have a feeling that he will not get the position,because United States has an upper hand in the hemisphere.
Without mincing words, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is the most qualify to be president of the World Bank. She has the resume, the requisitive education and experience to head the Brentwood institution. To top it all, she has worked for the World Bank for 25 years and she has hands on experience. She understands the philosophy, architecture and the nature of the job. She did not need anybody on the first day of her job to show her the cafeteria, conference room, library and the rest of the building. Okonjo-Iweala already knows the names of the most of the senior staff working in the building.
But it takes more than resume and experience to get the position. This is a political position that requires more than having a doctorate in economics from Ivy League college. United States needs the position to able to pilot her international affairs with regards to democratic dispensation and capitalism. It would have been better if President Obama has nominated Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. But Nigeria as a nation has poor branding, despite being an oil-rich nation and Nigerian constituency in America have not yet started flexing their voting and political muscle.
You are beginning to get the idea: Yes, few months ago Okonjo-Iweala was the managing director of World Bank before she returned home to become the minister of finance and economic coordinator for President Jonathan's administration. Before that she has been vice-president and corporate secretary at World Bank. Her stiff competitor Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the American nominee does not have a vast and ample experience like her in global economics and granulated management. Yong Kim, who is currently the president of Dartmouth College, is a medical doctor by training and does not enjoy adequate sophistication on international economics and finance, unlike Dr. Okonjo-Iweala who has her doctorate and experience in the field.
Jim Yong Kim has couple of things going for him; he is from a minority population group in United States, Korean community. That will help for America to counteract the argument that a candidate from emerging nation is needed. Jim Yong Kim was born in South Korea before he migrated to America for his advance and post graduate studies. He is an American citizen who was born in a developing nation and economically emerging market of South Korea. Moreover, at World Health Organization (WHO), he has been known to be generous with his care giving and dedication to the health of developing nations especially AIDS patients.
United States candidate has upper hand because since the inception of the two Brentwood institutions: World Bank and IMF, United States has always produced leaders of the World Bank while Europe takes over the leadership of International Monetary Fund (IMF) leadership. The United States has the most number of votes at the World Bank and together with its allies in Europe, Japan and Saudi Arabia; it will have its way.
But "let not your heart be troubled", hope is not all lost. Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweal can still take it and win the position. It is possible but Nigeria has to up her game and take the issue direct to United States and Europeans. Nigeria must make her point direct and precise why it is necessary for an African woman to land the World Bank apex job.
Nigeria and Okonjo-Iweala have made the point that the time has come for a candidate from an emerging nation to lead the World Bank. The point must be clearly established that Jim Yong Kim having been born in South Korea, will not be equated as being acceptable to developing world. For Yong Kim is now representing the developed nations.
Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala might also made the argument that the time has come to give a woman the opportunity to participate in global leadership. And by electing her as president of World Bank can prove to the entire world that women are to be taken serious, not just in talk but in action. By having a woman from Europe as the head of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and another woman from Africa as head of World Bank is the right thing to do and reassure the global community that equality is here to stay.
Good luck to Nigeria and Okonjo-Iweala!
President Barack Obama will nominate Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank, a surprise pick for the international financial institution's top job, senior administration officials said.
The Korean-born Kim is a physician by training and a prominent figure in global health and development circles. Officials believe his experience will help counter criticism from developing countries that have grown weary of the U.S. stranglehold on the World Bank presidency.
Obama took a strong personal interest in filling the World Bank vacancy after current president Robert Zoellick announced in February he was stepping down. Obama and his advisers considered more than a dozen candidates, including well-known figures in the administration. But in the end, officials said, Obama pushed for a nominee with broad development experience and was particularly drawn to Kim's innovative work fighting the spread of AIDS and tuberculosis.
The 187-nation World Bank focuses on fighting poverty and promoting development. It is a leading source of development loans for countries seeking financing to build dams, roads and other infrastructure projects.
Obama was to announce Kim's nomination Friday during a White House Rose Garden event.. The president was to be joined by Kim as well as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, a Dartmouth alumnus, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who officials said was the first to recommend Kim for the job.
The officials requested anonymity in order to speak ahead of the president's announcement.
Former President Bill Clinton also weighed in with support for Kim during Obama's deliberations. In a statement, the former president applauded Kim's nomination. "Jim Kim is an inspired and outstanding choice to lead the World Bank based on his years of commitment and leadership to development and particularly health care and AIDS treatment across the world," he said.
Since its founding in 1944, the World Bank always has been headed by an American. Developing countries have long sought to gain more power in the World Bank as well as its sister lending organization, the International Monetary Fund, which always has been headed by a European.
While U.S. and European officials have voiced support for those efforts, the status quo remains, with France's Christine Lagarde holding the top spot at the IMF and Kim's candidacy for World Bank president all but certain to prevail.
The actual selection will be made next month by the World Bank's 25-member executive board. The United States, as the world's largest economy, has the largest percentage of the votes.
Developing nations are expected to put forward as many as three candidates, including Jose Antonio Ocampo, a Columbia University professor who had been finance minister for Colombia, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's finance minister.
Economist Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, has openly campaigned for the World Bank post, saying the position should be filled by an expert in development issues.
Obama administration officials said the pick was already being well-received in the developing world. After learning of Kim's nomination, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the physician was "a true friend of Africa" and "a leader who knows what it takes to address poverty."
Kim is expected to travel around the world on a listening tour to rally support for his nomination ahead of the World Bank vote.
The World Bank opening put Obama in the awkward position of choosing between his desire to be seen as a supporter of rising economic powers and the pressures of a political year in which support for a non-U.S. candidate could have opened him to criticism.
"If the administration had pushed a non-American for the job, this could have been attacked as Obama fostering the decline of American influence in the world," said former IMF official Eswar Prasad, now an economics professor at Cornell University. "In an election year, Obama would have been accused of caving in to outside pressures and not being willing to protect U.S. interests."
Obama picked Kim over several more well-known candidates, including Susan Rice, current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; and Lawrence Summers, Obama's former director of the National Economic Council.
Others mentioned for the World Bank post included Indra Nooyi, the head of soft drink company PepsiCo, and Laura D'Andrea Tyson, who served in top economic jobs in the Clinton administration.
Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the U.S. at age 5. He is a graduate of Brown University and Harvard University. He co-founded the global health organization Partners in Health and served as director of the World Health Organization's department of HIV/AIDS.
He began his tenure as president of Dartmouth in 2009, becoming the first Asian-American to lead an Ivy League institution.
AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.