Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: A Beacon of Hope

 [ Masterweb Reports ] – A critical look at the composition of the present cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan may make one question the criteria used in selecting the persons for the different portfolios. Whilst majority of the officials have been dubbed as old guards whose reign in the federal ministries have been more like the same old story, few stand out in the midst of the pack. And, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, is one of those few.

 

Dr Okonjo-Iweala brings her suite of experience to the table as she is faced with, perhaps, the most challenging of her job functions till date - the Finance Minister of Africa’s most populous nation and second largest economy in the continent. No doubt, her present calling is one that attracts global scrutiny and commentary. And coming at a time when Nigerians are more expressive about their demands from government, it is obvious she will be severally called upon to defend and justify the radical policies she is introducing into the Nigerian economic sphere. But with what we have seen so far, one can safely vouchsafe that she is capable and well positioned to handle the onerous tasks ahead.

 

As the Economic Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo in year 2000, Dr Okonjo-Iweala was charged with the responsibility of mapping a way for Nigeria out of its external debt, which was then US$30 billion. At that time, Nigeria paid US$1 billion to service this loan without any dent in the repayment of the actual loan. She was invited back to Nigeria in 2003 to head the Finance Ministry. Her most prominent achievement during her tenure as Minister from 2003-2006 was the cancellation of about 60% of Nigeria’s external debt with the Paris Club, worth US$18 billion. It is only fair to say that Nigeria leveraged on Dr. Ngozi’s goodwill with the international community to achieve the cancellation of the debt; coupled with her sound economic policies that were introduced at that time.

 

A woman of uncompromisingly high standards and strong personal values, she honourably resigned her appointment when she was transferred from the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2006. She again heeded the call to national duty in 2011, when she was invited from the World Bank to again head the Finance Ministry of Nigeria. With her appointment came the news of the proposed removal of subsidy on fuel. While this made her largely unpopular among the populace, information coming to light has clearly shown the rationale behind her proposal to completely remove the subsidy on petroleum products, as some unscrupulous Nigerians have fraudulently enriched themselves from the subsidy scheme.

 

Her exceptional achievements have received global recognition, some of which include:

·        Top 100 most inspiring people delivering for girls and women, Women Deliver, 2011

·        The Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, Africare, 2010

·        This Day Award of 50 Most Notable Nigerians who have contributed most to 50 years of
Nigerian Development, 2010

·        Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Amherst College, USA, May 2008

·        Conde Nast International Business Intelligence Magazine Portfolio as one of 73 "Brilliant"
business influencers in the world, 2008

·        Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland, December 2007

·        Honorary Doctorate of Laws, Colby College, USA, May 2007

·        Honorary Doctorate of Laws, Brown University, USA, May 2006

·        Forbes Magazine 100 Most Powerful Women in the world, 2006

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