President Goodluck Jonathan has said that it would be in the interest of the World Bank and all its stakeholders to support Africa’s nominee for the post of World Bank President, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The president, in his first public drumming of support for his Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, said her knowledge and expertise as well as the depth and breadth of her experience makes her the best candidate to lead the World Bank.
“As a preeminent development institution, the World Bank is well-positioned to play an important role in partnering with developing countries to promote growth, tackle poverty and uplift living standards,” President Jonathan said.
“Accordingly, the leadership of the institution matters greatly and must be chosen with utmost care. It matters even more in a complex, increasingly inter-connected global environment characterized by volatility and uncertainty.”
Acknowledging the sterling credentials of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, the president said, by virtue of his privilege to have worked closely with her, he is firmly convinced her leadership of the bank at this time would not only be beneficial to the World Bank and all its principal stakeholders, but also “immensely beneficial to Africa and the developing world at large.”
“She has first-hand experience of managing complex financial and economic development issues at national and international levels, deploying her skills with demonstrated passion, commitment and professionalism,” the president noted.
“She has also shown a high degree of innovation and drive, while exhibiting a strong ability to integrate and manage interwoven problems of development in infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, and other sectors in her expanded role as Coordinating Minister for the Economy.
“Nigeria urges that her candidacy receives fair consideration in an open, transparent and merit-based process, which should be embraced by all stakeholders. “
Reiterating the call for an open, transparent and merit-based process in the election process, he said Nigeria aligns completely with the G-20 Countries as well as the World Bank’s Development Committee that have reaffirmed their commitment to an open and merit-based process to elect Mr. Robert Zoellick’s successor.
It has always been the tradition in the 187-member institution for the United States to produce the head of the bank since it was established during World War II, while allowing Europe to take up the leadership of its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who left the bank two years ago as its managing director, to take up the appointment as minister of Finance in the present administration, is aiming at making history as both the first woman as well as the first non-American in nearly 70 years of the apex Breton Wood institution to emerge as the World Bank president when the incumbent president takes his exit in June.
Since the announcement of her candidature by Nigeria, South Africa and Angola, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has continued to receive strong endorsements and backing as Africa’s nominee from the entire leadership in Africa, including the African Union Commission, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as African Ministers of Finance, Economy and Planning.
Interestingly, frontline international media, notably the influential New York Times, The Economist and Financial Times have queued behind the Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, drumming support for the call for the World Bank to jettison its old tradition of sacrificing experience, competence and merit to allow its leadership in the hands of Americans only.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala would be running against President Barack Obama’s nominee, Jim Yong Kim, the South Korean-born American, who is also an anthropologist and physician as well as global health expert.
Both would have Jose Antonio Ocampo, the Colombian finance minister, who is also representing the developing economies, to contend with.