Can a woman turn Nigeria around? In other words, can a woman fix Nigeria and make her better? If a woman, Angela Merkel, is calling the shots in a highly sophisticated European country like Germany, in this jet age, why can’t a woman lead Nigeria? If a woman, the late Margret Thatcher, supervised the ever controversial but world leading country like Britain, what is wrong for Nigeria to replicate such a noble feat? Many are even aware that it was a woman, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who reactivated and rebuilt the political cum socio –economic orbit of Liberia.
Recently voted as the African Woman of the Year (2020) by the influential and highly flying Forbes Magazine, Dr Ngozi Oknojo – Iweala, based on her antecedents, qualifications and performances, has once again, proved that she has the wherewithal to calibrate the country out of her present economic, social and political quagmire.
An economist and international development expert, the Nigerian is on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the African Risk Capacity (ARC), among others.
This is a manifestation that she is a boardroom guru, a renowned content and development builder with knack for creativity, competence and result.
Her sojourn at the World Bank where she graciously spent 25 years as a development economist and ultimately breaking all glass ceiling to function as the number two position of Managing Director, Operations, obviously prepared her to manage any office on planet earth, including the presidency of her dear country.
This is so because, for a black woman from Third World Country, to have risen to that high ranking position, means that such a lady was professionally superb, administratively proficient and procedurally enterprising.
Okonjo-Iweala was so assiduous on her duty that she attracted the attention of the non conformist President Olusegun Obasnajo to appoint her as the first ever Nigerian woman finance minister. In view of her near immaculate performance, in which she worked harmoniously with another great economist,
Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo then governor, Central Bank of Nigeria. The two ingenious minds combined beautifully to save Nigeria during the global economic meltdown that brought the world to its knees. It therefore goes to say that the guidelines and financial blueprints of Okonjo –Iweala was what fundamentally and practically brought back Nigeria from the brink and tenaciously saved her from the throes of death during world economic crisis between 2007 and 2009.
As it is said, the reward for more job is more job, President Goodluck Jonathan reappointed this Igbo woman of industry and ingenuity as minister of finance and coordinating minister of economy. Again, buoyed with an extraordinary capacity to correctly periscope the future of global business, Iweala, accurately, foresaw what would be the fate of world economy.
To that effect, Okonjo – Iweala warned Jonathan and Nigerians about the impending gloom that would be occasioned by the gross effects of downfall of oil price. She providently created the Sovereign Wealth Fund now the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority. The agency is an establishment which manages the country’s sovereign wealth fund, into which the surplus income produced from Nigeria’s excess oil reserves is deposited.
This sovereign wealth fund was founded for the purpose of managing and investing these funds on behalf of the government of Nigeria. When therefore in 2015, after Jonathan lost election and retired General Muhammadu Buhari emerged as the president, the ugly fans of recession hit Nigeria hard.
It was from the reserves of this purse that Buhari relied on to grant the state governors the first bailout funds that enabled them to pay workers’ outstanding salaries as well as pensions’ arrears and also carry out other capital projects. Yet, when she came out with that noble idea, some opposition governors then, including Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Barrister Raji Fashola of Lagos and few others, purely on grounds of patrician politics, opposed it. But it came out to be what gave Nigeria a breath of life during the first ranch of the recession.
According to a report, “as the Managing Director of the World Bank, she had oversight responsibility for the institution’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia. Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008 – 2009, food crises, and later during the financial crisis.
In 2010, she was Chair of the IDA replenishment, the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low interest credit for the poorest countries in the world. During her time at the World Bank, she was also a member of the Commission on Effective Development Cooperation with Africa, which was set up by the Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, and held meetings between April and October 2008”.
The same published account stated that, “she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club that led to the wiping out of US$30 billion of Nigeria’s debt, including the outright cancellation of US$18 billion. In 2003 she led efforts to improve Nigeria’s macroeconomic management including the implementation of an oil-price based fiscal rule where revenues accruing above a reference benchmark oil price were saved in a special account, “The Excess Crude Account” which helped to reduce macroeconomic volatility.
“She also introduced the practice of publishing each state’s monthly financial allocation from the Federal Government of Nigeria in the newspapers. This action went a long way in increasing transparency in governance.
With the support of the World Bank and the IMF to the Federal Government of Nigeria, she helped build an electronic financial management platform—the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), helping to curtail corruption in the process.
As at 31 December 2014, the IPPIS platform had eliminated 62,893 ghost workers from the system and saved the Nigerian government about $1.25 billion in the process. Okonjo-Iweala was also instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s in 2006”.
It is also public knowledge that “her legacy includes strengthening Nigeria’s public financial systems and stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC). She also empowered Nigeria’s women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN); a gender responsive budgeting system, and the highly acclaimed Youth Enterprise with Innovation programme (YouWIN); to support entrepreneurs, that created thousands of jobs .
This program has been evaluated by the World Bank as one of the most effective programmes of its kind globally. Under her leadership, the National Bureau of Statistics carried out a re-basing exercise of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); the first in 24 years, which saw Nigeria emerge as the largest economy in Africa.
She took a lot of heat for the fuel subsidy removal policy by the Nigerian government, an action that led to protests in January 2012. In May 2016, the new Nigerian administration eventually removed the fuel subsidy after it became apparent that it was unsustainable and inefficient”.
During the electioneering for the director general of the World Trade Centre, WTC, Okonjo-Iweala raced all the way to the final and is facing South Korea trade minister Yoo Myung-hee, also a woman. If Okonjo – Iweala eventually emerges the DG, it will be first time an African and a woman will lead the global outfit.
The double effects of Okonjo – Iweala’s WTC and Forbes magnificent sparkles and her previous display at national and international spheres are confirmations that she will certainly revive Nigeria’s ailing economy; rebuild her financial misfortunes through her rich and intimidating contact and connection. As a matter of fact, she will revitalize Nigeria’s national and international image in sports, religion and social life.
Since it has been established that Nigeria’s biggest problem is weakness of the institutions and Oknonjo – Iweala grew in leaps and bounds in global organizations that respect institutions, it therefore goes to say that she will bring her wealth of experience to bear on all the sectors. Indeed, her legacies at the world stage are indications that, if given opportunity as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, her ideas and philosophies will make the country to fly.