Nigeria: Adrift, Awaiting the Arrival of a Woman?

I owe the title of this post to my Facebook friend – TJ:

Most Nigerians don't know, that all of Nigeria is adrift, awaiting the arrival of a woman…

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI), the woman in question, is Nigeria’s new Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy. Until recently, NOI was the Managing Director of the World Bank.

As soon as the press went wild with her appointment, netizens have not ceased speaking about the most powerful woman in President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet. For many, she is one of the best in the team that the president will be working with.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's new Finance Minister. Photo source: IMF (Public Domain)

Obviously Okonjo-Iweala is a trouble maker as @nmachijidenma explains:

“When I became finance minister they called me Okonjo-Wahala – or Trouble Woman. It means ‘I give you hell.’ But I don't care what names they call me. I'm a fighter; I'm very focused on what I'm doing, and relentless in what I want to achieve. If you get in my way, you get kicked.”

The above were statements by Nigeria's former minister for finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her ministerial tenure in Nigeria.

Segun Adeleye applauds both NOI’s patriotism and President Goodluck’s goodwill:

The engagement of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank managing director, as the Minister of Finance, the position she formerly occupied under the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, can be seen from the point of view of great sacrifices both on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan and Okonjo Iweala. Without any preview to the negotiation that brought the former finance minister back, the President must have conceded a considerable power to her to manage the economy, while on her part, for a second time, she is resigning the job that has made her a global star to serve her father's land.

In a country where corruption is the norm, one has to be a ‘trouble woman’ or else it would be impossible to become “Nigeria’s Economic Reformer”. TED posits that:

As the first female Finance Minister in Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala attacked corruption to make the country more desirable for foreign investment and job creation. Now as a director of the World Bank and head of the Makeda Fund, she works for change in all of Africa.

In her first sojourn as in the Finance Ministry, NOI was credited with the following:

President Olusegun Obasanjo recruited Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from the World Bank and made her Nigeria’s finance minister from 2003 to 2006, and briefly foreign minister in 2006. During her time in office, she was probably the most successful and highest profile minister in Obasanjo’s government. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala promoted transparency into the Nigerian government’s finances by publishing in the newspapers Abuja’s monthly funding allocations (largely based on oil revenue) to each of the thirty six states. She also oversaw Nigeria’s first sovereign credit ratings from Fitch and Standard and Poor’s, BB- at the time.

However, there are many craters ahead and as such “Fears for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala” are not unfounded:

This, indeed, is good news for Nigerians, but the challenge is how Okonjo-Iweala will achieve this in an environment where both the executive and legislature are neck deep in profligacy. Already, Okonjo-Iweala has been reported to be getting threat calls from corrupt politicians and businessmen warning her not to return to Nigeria for this assignment. …. There are fears that the lady might be isolated in a cabinet that may not be on the same wavelength with her on some of the sensible reforms she would likely introduce. In particular, she is likely to step on some big toes in her bid to try to reduce the high cost of government.

Her association with the World Bank leaves her with a Janus-Complex. It may be a tight rope trying to wade off the ‘Imperialist’ label. Uchenna Osigwe insists that:

I have nothing against NOI and actually rejoice with her in her modest achievements in her chosen field. But I am also conscious of the fact that the institutes she works for are imperialist institutes that have not lifted any so-called third world country out of poverty. I challenge anybody reading this to point out one country in the southern hemisphere that has been lifted out of poverty by the institutes that has been in existence for that very reason for almost 70 years now. None. On the contrary, those who achieved any significant measure of financial autonomy, like Brazil, did it in opposition, indeed in defiance, to the prescriptions of those institutes.

Nonetheless NOI will be a breath of fresh air for Nigeria. As such it is difficult to demur with Nmachi Jidenma that:

… For corrupt and undisciplined government officials: ‘wahala dey’. It looks like ‘the trouble woman’ is back in town! This is of course good news for Nigerians and most of us would be happy to have her back.




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