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Published On: Tue, Feb 25th, 2014

Nigeria’s overhyped economy minister (II)

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okonjo-iwealaBy Samuel O. Oluyemi

 In a recent parliamentary inquiry at Nigeria’s energetic Hou e of Representatives, Ngozi’s acting skills were in full display as she tried to emotionally blackmail the committee, accusing them of being disrespectful, to the extent of releasing a doctored clip of the proceedings. Were it not for the original longer clip available from Premium Times, what really happened would have been obscured. Her propaganda machinery even went as far as playing the gender-discrimination card against the all-male committee. Thankfully, most Nigerians who followed the incident refused to fall for the trickery.

An effective manipulation strategy perfected by Ngozi is a pre-emptive mentioning of corruption in order to project the image of one who identifies the problem first. She does this when she senses a growing momentum by the public against corruption acts which she otherwise condones. This has happened on at least three occasions including the fuel subsidy corruption saga, ongoing oil theft and most recently at the TEDx talk in London, she alluded to corruption in elections financing. By mentioning such an issue to the press, for instance, giving estimates of 400,000 barrels of crude oil stolen daily, Ngozi cleverly distances herself from acts she deliberately overlooks, while creating an erroneous public perception that she is the lone and ‘brave reformer’ swimming against the tide of rancid venality.

One wonders why Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is so ruthless about projecting this squeaky clean super hero image to the detriment of free speech. The answer lies in who Dr. Okonjo-Iweala actually considers her constituents. With growing disdain for the ordinary Nigerians, professionals and even her ministerial colleagues, Ngozi has always found it easier to mingle and profess her ‘love’ for Nigeria, with the international community. She spares no time or resources in attending any conference at Harvard, New York, Davos or Oxford explaining her lone efforts to ‘reform’ Nigeria. Yet, she is hardly seen communicating her policies at the University of Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University, and the Lagos Business School not to mention everyday Nigerians. Consequently, Ngozi has invested significant resources ruthlessly suppressing any adverse news reports that could be seen by the international community. A well-oiled and cunning propaganda machinery run with her media assistant, Paul Nwabuikwu as the front, and a network of highly paid international media consultants at the back room, assures that the true picture of Madam Okonjo-Iweala is hardly seen.

With a consistent knack for wanting to outshine the master, Ngozi seems to have forgotten Robert Greene’s first law of power. This is perhaps the single reason why former President Obasanjo summarily dispatched her to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2006. With the current administration, she has carved a niche for being first to claim the glory on any positive initiatives at the expense of other hardworking colleagues and quickly distancing herself from any negatives.

This personal policy of fair-weathered friendship leaves the President vulnerable to consistent scorn from Nigerians and the international community while Ngozi scoops up all accolades.Even more indicative of Ngozi’s crass opportunism is the recent revelation in a book by former FCT Minister Nasir El-rufai in which he details how Dr. Okonjo-Iweala flew into Abuja all the way from Washington DC hoping to become General Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 elections- to run against President Jonathan. Shortly after that episode, she was appointed as Nigeria’s Finance Minister. No sooner did she have this post however, than she was scheming to be President of the World Bank, expending Nigeria’s financial and political capital for her own personal gains.

Effectively therefore, being Nigeria’s CME is second choice, reaffirming her superiority to ordinary Nigerians and her Ministerial colleagues. Her next move is rumoured to be a bid for the Presidency of the African Development Bank, a position also being eyed by outgoing Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido with some believing the ongoing altercation between the two is a proxy war for this upcoming contest.

I have found myself frequently asking if this is the same Ngozi we admired on the pages of newspapers between 2004 and 2007 or whether all along the power-hungry, egoistic and vindictive Nigerian politician she tries so hard to distance herself from is her true self. In searching for answers I picked up the Minister’s latest book on her experiences during the Obasanjo years titled “Reforming the unreformable”- ignoring that the title itself reeked of arrogant self-promotion. Reading through, I realised the preponderance of the word “I”. A word search astonishingly showed over 5,000 mentions of the word “I” in the book. It’s amazing that anyone who led an economic “team” could be so self-absorbed.

I also recalled that Ngozi’s one condition for joining the Obasanjo government was how to maintain her World Bank salary to which subsequently her Nigerian salaries were dollarized, and that of joining President Goodluck’s cabinet was that she would be “Coordinating Minister.” I wondered why her condition would not be a tolerance for zero corruption, or that as mandated by the constitution, all revenues must be paid to federation account. As President Jonathan’s first term, comes to an end, and possibly the end of his administration as well, this will hopefully be Minister Ngozi’s last ditch attempt at using Nigeria to build her international profile. We will wish her gsood luck in her departure and what will surely be the title of her next book; “Coordinating the uncoordinate-able”.Ended

Samuel O. Oluyemi is a financial and emerging capital markets consultant based in London. He can be reached on ooluyemi@gmail.com

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