Still on Okonjo-Iweala over Controversial Appointments, By Yushau Shuaib

Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

“People are wondering at the coincidence of only Igbos beating every other person at competitive interviews conducted by her nominated international consulting groups.”

I still wonder how the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and the Honourable Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is in the eye of the storm. Her grandiose title is not a mere tautology as some people will assume. Being the first holder of that title in Nigeria’s history, her position could be seen as equivalent to that of a Prime Minister, which gave her the mandate to oversee and superintend over every other ministry, department and agency of government including their budgetary allocations and revenue expenditures. She is invariably the next most powerful cabinet member after President Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo.

In the last ten years, this writer is one of her ardent admirers who is impressed by her academic accomplishments and enviable working experiences on the international scene including her contributions to Nigeria’s economic development after her appointment as the first female Finance Minister and later first female Foreign Affairs Minister by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 and 2006. Though she left the administration unceremoniously over personal issues, her tenure then was a success story.

One of the major reasons some of us believe strongly in the ability of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was the way and manner she carried major players both from the North and the South along while she was Minister of Finance between 2003 and 2006. She was never accused of discrimination or bias against any of the diverse groups of the ethnically charged and religiously polarized nation. The same will be said of her then principal, Olusegun Obasanjo who, despite some of his shortcomings will never be accused of tribalism. He is a detribalized leader and a nationalist to the core who believes strongly in the Nigerian project.

The choice of her nominees into top public appointments and even the composition of her associates cut across every segment of Nigeria including those in her Economic Team like Nasir Elrufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Bode Agusto, Dr. Mansur Mukhtar and Chukwuma Soludo among others.

Her achievements too were glaring. We recall that in 2005 she led Nigeria to striking a deal with the Paris Club, a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a portion of Nigeria’s external debt amounting US $12 billion in return for an $18 billion debt write-off.

She ensured transparency in monthly federation account allocation by the introduction of monthly publication of the disbursements in selected media. She was instrumental to helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from an international ratings agency. Even when she left the government in 2006, her nongovernmental organisation, NOI Global Consulting, partnered with the Gallup Organization to introduce what may be described as the first credible opinion poll, the NOI poll, into the Nigerian polity.

With these at the background, it was not surprising that when she were reappointed by President Jonathan as Finance Minister and when she was shortlisted for the post of President of the World Bank in 2012, she received overwhelming support from all Nigerians. An online publication even claimed that some Northern Mallams were praying for her success in the mosques. Everyone at that period believed that she was a detribalized Nigerian with real-world experience of policy-making.

The reason for writing this write-up is to alert her to some disturbing trends as regards some recent appointments into top public offices in Nigeria in view of their economic and political implications. As the most powerful minister and an Igbo Princess from the Niger Delta by virtue of being a daughter of Obi of Ogwashi-Uku community in Delta State, I believe she should continue to live above board.

Recently the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) made some disturbing allegations of ethnic cleansing of Yoruba in federal appointments by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. The wife of the sage, Chief HID Awolowo and the retired Bishop of Akure, Rt. Rev. Bolanle Gbonigi, in Ikenne Ogun State after the meeting of the forum accused the administration of systematically excluding the Yoruba nation from the federation in terms of appointments without justification. They called on the government to redress the “systematic discrimination” against the Yoruba nationality in federal appointive positions without delay, saying that the Yoruba have been getting “crumbs” from the administration.

No sooner than the Yoruba allegation was made that the Northern Senators Forum (NSF) also publicly lamented gaping marginalization against the North over appointments and promotions in the military. According to these distinguished Nigerians, there are lopsidedness in employment and postings in the Nigerian Army in favour of the Igbos, which is clearly in the breach of the principle of Federal Character.

She should be aware that many Nigerians are referring to a book, ‘Chinua Achebe Teacher of Light’ which she co-authored where she expressed bitterness about how her tribe was dealt with before, during and after the civil war and insinuating that now that she is in authority, she is determined to correct all that she perceived as injustice against her people. Some even insist that what she is doing now is promoting regional and ethnic agenda to the detriment of other groupings in Nigeria by manipulating appointments.

To drive the point home, her name has been lately mentioned as collaborating with another Igbo top ranking appointee in government to ensure the reinstallation of Arunma Oteh as Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) despite the glaring allegations against her and consistent calls by the National Assembly for her removal. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala stood her ground, damning all and today, Ms. Oteh remains in the position.

While the debate on Ms. Oteh’s saga was yet to subside, a coalition of youths, led by human rights activist and President of Civil Rights Congress, Shehu Sani, queried the rationale behind the appointment of a new Chairman for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) when a northerner, Kabir Mashi, was already in the position and improving the revenue base of the agency, especially VAT collection for the Federation Account. Under Mashi FIRS has continued to record steady increases in the collection of taxes that it closed the 2012 financial year with a total collection of N5 trillion where N1.8 trillion (36.07 per cent) came from non-oil taxes.

The group claimed that the committee that Okonjo-Iweala set up was a smokescreen just to give a semblance of due process and fairness whereas it was populated mainly by her Igbo kinsmen. They added that “We don’t believe there is transparency in the process, and we caution the President against the excessive ceding of his own power to the finance minister.”

They publicly criticized her of playing an ethnic game with many of the appointments made in the country since she returned to the saddle. Some of the other positions, they alleged, which were created and filled during this period include those of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Sovereign Wealth Fund, Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) and even the recent appointment of a 40 year old lady as Director General of National Pension Commission (PENCOM).

People are wondering at the coincidence of only Igbos beating every other person at competitive interviews conducted by her nominated international consulting groups. The only semblance of federal character principle in some of those institutions is the appointment of ceremonious but temporary chairmen who are merely figure-heads, with mandates for mere advisory roles.

The use of catchy phrases such as “best brains,” “foreign trained,” and “foreign-based” to deprived qualified, competent and experienced Nigerians to aspire to top positions is quite inimical to the progress of our nation. The erroneous impression that some competitive and sensitive positions can only be filled by unique intelligent tribes must be corrected.

Experiences have shown that in practical situations, some so-called foreign trained and bookish first class graduates could not do better than other Nigerians who have the competence and experience to prove their worth in most difficulty terrains.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala should also note that blatant disregard to the sensitivities and sensibilities of others while arrogantly promoting only people from her tribe may expose them to hatred with potentially explosive consequences such as those experienced in the 1960s when most federal positions were occupied by a particular tribal group.

For those of us who still respect the Hon Minister of Finance and Economic Development, we strongly believe she should dissociate herself from current allegations of ‘biafranization’ of top public offices in Nigeria. We are in a democratic government where policy issues should not be done in dictatorial manner of ‘we-are-now-in-power’.

I therefore urge her to ensure that appointments into important positions should be done in credible and transparent manners that can withstand public scrutiny. I believe strongly that only those that mean well will dare to tell the truth on the general feeling in the country.

 

  • Bayode Oluyemi

    Subtle propaganda! Everyone knows that Dr Iweala is not ethnocentric; she is not tribalistic at all!

    • http://twitter.com/AfroVII The Cunnin’ Linguist

      Exactly! Instead of the writer to encourage his kinfolk to stay in school, he’s here writing nonsense. How many children were forwarded for common entrance this year in Jigawa? 85! And when the time comes idiots like him will complain that there aren’t enough Northerners being employed. The emphasis has to be put on education in the North. I trust the Minister and I trust that she hiring people capable for the job. Nepotism and federal character has held Nigeria(ns) back. I don’t care if she hires all Igbos, if they are the best for the job, then so be it, this should encourage other people to go an improve and get better. We should not hire half wits for important jobs. This is his second article on this trite subject, he ought to go out and do proper journalism and stop trying to stoke the flames of ethnic warfare. Rubbish.

      • Sadiq Garba

        You guys are only displaying how tribalistic you are.
        The writer was only advising her on her job and the perceptions of many Nigerians.
        If the issue is about going to school, how many of the Igbo children are in school?
        Most of them do not go to school at school age. They only enrol into adult education classes and buy their way out of exams. Check out all Nigerian Universities, is it not the Igbos that pay for exams/grades?
        It is where one cannot make it here in Nigeria, that they go out of the country to pay for these certificates we are celebrating here at home. Check out the universities they are claiming to have attended and qualify as “foreign trained”.
        Most of those universities are at best “glorified Secondary Schools”.

  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    My best part in the article:
    ‘The use of catchy phrases such as “best brains,” “foreign trained,” and “foreign-based” to deprived qualified, competent and experienced Nigerians to aspire to top positions is quite inimical to the progress of our nation.’
    No worries, Shuaibu. When Iweala goes, replace them with illiterates. So far their names, sounds like yours. If Shuaibu has a brain, he will be asking why Imo state alone has more JAMB candidates than the seven North-West states. Answer that and you will no why it is possible that no in Jigawa was qualified. It seems some people wants to continue dragging us back.

    • Sadiq Garba

      Shuaibu doesn’t have to ask why Imo state has more JAMB candidates than the seven North-Western States. Your answer is that there were no “Wonder Centres” in the Northwest of Nigeria.
      And for your records, inspite of working meritriously to earn what is deserved, a number of Jigawa candidates made it to the maximum scores in UTME last year.
      Who then are the best brains?

      • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

        First of all, Jamb candidates is different is from ‘successful’ Jamb candidates. The question is how many young people in the north want university education. You have ten million almajiris roaming the street from one generation to another. These are people who could have been all manner of professionals. The north should sort out her academic gap with the south. That should be the priority, rather than this jealousy. There are smart people in the north. Trust me, I know a few of them but they are like a drop in ocean. DON’T GET BITTER, GET BETTER.

  • Austin Ajaye

    The arrogance of those Igbo chaps is so obvious. They still think they are the most intelligent folks in Nigeria. Imagine the comments in the previous posts. I am glad that the writer has exposed the dirty gameplans of the failed Biafra agitators. It could be their time now. Definitely the real titfortap will soon come after all we know how some of them get to the top through robbery, prostitution, 419, kidnappings, massive frauds among other vices. They are the only tribal group that could sell their birthright for a Naira handshake. What a bloody set of nincompoop

  • Marty

    Oluyemi, don’t mind them. This article is a subtle propaganda of the so called ‘born to rule’ people. They have become worried just because this woman wants not to sacrifice merit on the alter of mediocrity and federal character of the north. If we are truly one Nigeria, why should we promote the policy of federal character? Let us for once support merit. I believe that there is no geopolitical zone or region in Nigeria that doesn’t have intelligent people. Therefore, when a national position is advertised let the best brains compete for it and at the end let the best amongst the bests have it. All the allegations in the article are just to whip sentiment after all the officers he alleges were favoured by the Minister are all performing. If so, why is the writer not comfortable with a winning team. Remember Igbo nation is the fastening band that holds Nigeria together, when it is removed, Nigeria will seize to be.

  • Nalado

    I have never seen arrogant and selfish group of people like those claiming to be more intelligent and important than the rest of us. Can these Igbo chaps be decent for a while even from their comments? The writer admitted his admiration for Ngozi the finance minister and advises her on how she could avoid pitfalls yet rather than commend hom for his courage they are busy abusing him in this forum and elsewhere… This is rather very unfortunate. Our joy is Niger Deltans would never go with Igbos because they will oppress and torment them because of the abudant oil well in the South-South