Just recently, precisely on May 15th, 2015, the management of Yale University, the world’s leading citadel of learning and excellence bestowed on the Minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Nigerian economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala honorary doctorate Degree for the outstanding role she played in the fight against corruption in Nigeria and her efforts in helping to ensure that the economy did not collapse in the midst of mirage of problems the nation is grappling with. Those who insist that she does not deserve the honor are obviously entitled to their opinion, even when it might have been borne entirely of ulterior and sinister motive. The overwhelming impulse to succumb to the general bandwagon inclinations of Nigerians that virtually all those in the position of authority are corrupt and unpatriotic has been, no doubt, distorting our sense of rational and objective judgment and perception of the realities and limitations in the process of governance and the genuine and patriotic attempts of a select few Nigerians to move the country forward. One of such genuinely patriotic Nigerian is Dr. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala.
The insidious attempt to besmear her personality, character and performance as one of the most distinguished, credible and patriotic servant of the Nigerian state will certainly, sooner or later, be rubbished by the visible realities of her stewardship and the verdict of history. Fortunately, the verdict of history has begun to take its inexorable course. The Yale University remains one of the best Universities in the world, with uncommon tradition of integrity and excellence. In line with her pedigree, the management of the University has probably drawn the attention of skeptics whose psyche and sense of fair judgment are not governed by facts and realities but by sinister motive and uncharitable inclinations to Dr. Iweala’s commendable performance in office. While Okonjo-Iweala is busy doing what is necessary to revamp the Nigerian economy, certain subterranean, as well as glaringly visible groups, with deep-rooted, self-enlightened interests, are busy sabotaging, thwarting and subverting the efforts of government with far reaching debilitating effects on the economy. Of course, the blame for the ripple effects of the subversions and violations of our economy by thousands of corrupt, unscrupulous Nigerians in privileged positions of governance should be heaped on Okonjo-Iweala, who ought to have personally ensured that there was no corruption inside tens of thousands of the offices of civil servants across the nation, as well as within the rank and file of the Customs and Immigration, NNPC, Police, Army, Navy, Airforce, government Parastatals, not to talk of the economic sabotage from fake drug dealers, smugglers, Naira counterfeit printers and terribly corrupt politicians who loot, steal, siphon and stash away our commonwealth to European and American banking vaults!
I am, however, heartened when I read comments by well meaning and detribalized Nigerians, such as that of Undung Pam, published in the Daily Independent Newspaper edition of May 24, 2015. ‘’As President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration goes off the stage, there are attempts by numerous activists and emergency historians trying hard to rewrite the economic history of this country. This is history that is still very much fresh. It is known to us; it happened before our very eyes. The economic exploit of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was not done in the Stone Age; it was done in the era of Google. So, no matter what anyone will make us believe, history cannot be rewritten to fit someone else’s prejudice. We know that despite what critics will say, Okonjo-Iweala has revamped the Nigerian economy with her laudable reforms’’.
Dr. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala is without argument the most visible and influential woman in President Jonathan’s government who has been playing key roles in the bid to revamp, revitalize and regenerate the Nigerian economy. Okonjo-Iweala was not just the Finance Minister during Obasanjo administration but also the head of the economic team. During the period she was responsible for striking a deal with the Paris Club to ‘’pay a portion of Nigerian’s external debt (US12 billion dollars) in return for an18 billion dollar debt write-off’’. One will easily appreciate the magnitude of the feat, considering the fact that Nigeria was spending ‘’roughly one billion US dollars every year on debt servicing, without making a dent on the principal owed’’. Soon after leaving Obasanjo’s government, she was appointed one of the World Bank’s Managing Directors, a position she held until she was re-appointed by President Jonathan as the Finance Minister ‘with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister of the economy’.
In a society overwhelmed by doubt, suspicion, lingering feelings of alienation, despair, frustration and uncertainty, due to endemic corruption and ineptitude of majority of our leaders, it will be extremely difficult to appreciate honest contributions of men and women of integrity in positions of governance. This is, perhaps, part of the general burden Okonjo-Iweala will be sharing with the rest in Jonathan’s administration. As she bows out of the stage, there is no doubt that history will reckon with her as a patriot who served her fatherland creditably well, with unalloyed commitment and dedication to duty.