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As the race for World Bank Presidency nears a climax with the commencement of voting, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is the African candidate and representative of the emerging economy countries, says she has come under increasing pressure to step down.
 
Though she did not specify the angle from which the pressure is emanating, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, said in Abuja that some unwritten rules have been cited for her to comply, apparently to pave the way for the United States candidate, Jim Yong Kim, to emerge as the consensus candidate.
 
“I just want to let people know what is happening, and that is that they are voting,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala told an anxious audience at the public presentation of the 2012 Federal Budget in Abuja.
 
“You know, this thing is not really being decided on merit. It is voting with political weights and shapes, and therefore the United States will get it.
 
“I know all of you are praying that a miracle happens, and we all believe in God Almighty, but God has also given us common sense to know that they are going to use their weights and shapes to get this thing.
 
“But some of their rules do not give me any comfort. I have been pressurised to withdraw from the race, because they claim that the rule demands that a person that must be elected must come by consensus. If that is so, that means at some stage, the last person must leave so that they can do that.
 
“Unless they officially announce that the rule requires that I withdraw, I don’t know on what basis I should withdraw. They have to announce the rule publicly so that people would know. So, we have made up our minds to stay through. If they want me to withdraw, they have to publicly tell me why, for everybody to understand. Otherwise, nobody would understand what I am doing. They have not published the rules for everyone to know how the thing is going to be done.
 
“But, why I am not worried is that we have already won, because Africa has presented for the first time a candidate to contest for the leadership of the World Bank, to show that we are not just there to take aid, but that we are also capable of running the architecture of administration. The Africans who sent me say I should stay (in the race). So, I have to stay to the end. So, let’s wait and see what the voting is going to be.
“But, don’t worry, because we have won by declaring so in faith. We have made the process different, and it will never ever be the same again. We have won a big victory on who gets to run the World Bank. We have shown that Africa can produce people capable of running the entire architecture.”
 
Last week, the Former Colombian finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, who was nominated by Brazil to represent a constituency of Latin American countries on the World Bank board, had to pull out, citing political reasons and lack of support from his home country.
 
According to Mr. Ocampo, who opted to trade his support for Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala in the spirit of the agreement among the emerging economy countries to field a single candidate, it became clear to him that the race was “no longer a competition on the merits of the candidates, but a political exercise.”
 
The process for the selection of the new President by the 25-member board is scheduled to be completed today when the outcome of the vote is to be announced at the bank’s headquarters in Washington DC.
 
The tradition in the over 170 year financial institution has always been for the United States to produce the head of the World Bank.
 

But, the impression was given at the beginning that the Board was ready to elect, on merit, a successor when the tenure of the outgoing president, Robert Zoellick, comes to an end next June.


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