Nigeria’s former minister of education and co-founder of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ movement, Oby Ezekwesili, has criticised the former Vice President of Nigeria and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, over claims that he led the Economic Management Team during the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
In a series of tweets posted on her official Twitter page Tuesday, Mrs Ezekwesili asked Mr Abubakar to “stop misleading” the public, adding that the PDP presidential flagbearer was never the head of the Economic Management Team when he was vice president.
Mr Abubakar served as vice president of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 when Mr Obasanjo held office as Nigeria’s president. As part of his campaign messages, the PDP presidential flagbearer in the 2023 general elections claimed that he was instrumental in the designing of a private sector revival strategy that impacted the nation’s economy at the time. He also said that he advocated the opening of the economy for private sector investments, which spurred socio-economic growth.
“As head of the economic management team while I was Vice President, I was instrumental in designing a private sector revival strategy and advocated for the opening of the economy for private sector investments in several sectors. And we made tremendous progress,” Mr Abubakar tweeted.
As head of the economic management team while I was Vice President, I was instrumental in designing a private sector revival strategy and advocated for the opening of the economy for private sector investments in several sectors. And we made tremendous progress. #AtikuAtNESG
— Atiku Abubakar (@atiku) January 16, 2023
But Mrs Ezkwesili’s in her reaction described the claims as false and urged the former vice president to stop misleading Nigerians.
“Dear former Vice President Atiku, please ask the handlers of your @Twitter account to stop misleading the public. You were never the Head of the Economic Management Team,” the former education minister tweeted.
The former minister of education, who was also part of the economic management team, described the former vice president’s claim as an “absurd lie that will do you no good at all”.
“Please ask your Team to stop it,” she advised.
Mrs Ezekwesili explained further in another series of tweets that there is a difference between the Economic Management Team set up for the first time in 2003 by Mr Obasanjo and the National Economic Council (NEC) established by the 1999 Constitution as amended.
According to her, the Presidential Economic Management Team, which they referred to as “The Economic Team” for brevity, was a technical team of 12 persons from a range of expertise whom Mr Obasanjo constituted to drive Nigeria’s Economic Reform Agenda during his second term in office (2003-2007).
In constituting the Economic Team, Mrs Ezekwesili said they designed it at two levels of leadership—Political Leadership as headed by Mr Obasanjo, and Technical Leadership, led by the then Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
At the Political Leadership level of the Economic Team, the former education minister said that Mr Obasanjo who was the chairman instituted a weekly meeting before the Federal Executive Council where he would meet with his Economic Team to discuss the Economic Reform Agenda.
“As Chair of the Political Leadership Level of the Economic Team, the then President decided (usually with the counsel of his Economic Team) which sectoral Ministers, or Heads of Agencies, Parastatals and Departments joined this Weekly Wednesday meeting held before the FEC meeting,” she tweeted.
Also, she explained that the then Minister of Finance, Mrs Iweala, as the chairman of the Technical Level Leadership, was the Head of the Technocratic Team of 12 persons which met in her office at the Ministry statutorily weekly and as often as necessary daily as the team designed and began implementing the Economic Reforms.
“There is no sincere basis for confusing the work of the Presidential Economic Management Team that I described in the previous tweets with the National Economic Council, provided for in the Constitution and chaired by a Vice President. The functions are not the same at all. None,” Mrs Ezekwesili said.
She said the National Economic Council consists of the Vice-President as the Chairman; the Governor of each State of the Federation; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria established under the Central Bank of Nigeria Decree 1991 or any enactment replacing that Decree.
Constitutionally, Mrs Ezekwesili said the National Economic Council advises the president concerning the economic affairs of the federation, and in particular, on measures necessary for the co¬ordination of the economic planning efforts or economic programmes of the various governments of the federation.
Likewise, she noted that the National Economic Council which former Vice President, Mr Abubakar, constitutionally chaired is an advisory organ that provides the opportunity for the Federal Government and States of the Federation to discuss the economy for coordination purposes.
In response to Mrs Ezekwesili’s tweets, Paul Ibe, Media adviser to the PDP presidential candidate, in a series of tweets on his page, said some things should be considered too low.
“Dear @obyezeks, I know it’s political season and people resort to all sorts of antics in support of their preferred candidates. But some things should be considered too low,” he tweeted.
Mr Ibe said: “It is an established history that @atiku as Chairman, National Economic Council headed the nation’s Economic Management Team between 1999-2007, during which Nigeria had some of her best economic growth.”
“In trying – and failing – to weaken his standing in public, let us not resort to this sort of jaded ‘aproko’ pettiness. If Atiku wasn’t head of the Economic Management Team as VP, so who was? You?” he queried.
In trying – and failing – to weaken his standing in public, let us not resort to this sort of jaded 'aproko' pettiness. If Atiku wasn’t head of the Economic Management Team as VP, so who was? You?
— Paul Ibe (@omonlakiki) January 17, 2023
“This matter is a constitutional provision and you will do well either to bury your ignorance or advertise your apparent mischief. Enjoy the rest of your day but not in a bliss of ignorance, madam,” Mr Ibe said.
In a swift response, Mrs Ezekwesili pointed out that there are differences between both teams.
“You do need to be educated on the difference between the Presidential Economic Management Team and the National Economic Council.
Please check for the Thread on my TL,” she tweeted
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