Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will resume this week as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance! Come September, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will be guest to the World Bank once again. It would be a home coming for someone who just vacated office one month ago. It will be another way of explaining the value of quality in human development. This kind of move is strictly reserved for people whose work could speak volumes, even when there are no benevolent spirits around them. When Okonjo-Iweala was speaking to about 20 West African journalists at the 2010 IMF/World Bank meeting in her office, she was all hopes and anticipations that the economy of the sub-region will soon bounce back to global reckoning if leadership issues will be appropriately addressed. She spoke particularly about human capital development and due-process, as well as the nagging issue of poor leadership.
But like a diplomat , she refused to answer some questions which were purely directed to the poor state of the Nigerian economy , especially the banking sector. Her reasons were obvious; she is not given to cheap criticisms. She believes that governments should know the right things to do at the right time. At the end of that interaction, most African journalists started raising the question as to why the Nigerian government must allow such a talent to remain in Washington. This question was posed by a business newspaper in Ghana and Cameroon few days after the meeting. I cannot tell if the Nigerian government read it.
Her vexed exit from the Obasanjo cabinet at the wee hours of that administration was an epic crisis that many could not imagine. Whatever happened between her and the operators of that political power house may have been settled because a disfavoured masquerade does not appear twice in a market square. Okonjo-Iweala has the goodwill of the Nigerian people and government and would always get the floor wherever Nigerians are involved.
The reason is that she had put in place a lexicon that attempted to create conducive operating environment and good governance platforms that would be the envy of any discerning government. Among all the ministers that had ruled this country in the last fifteen years, she is the only one that has been called back to join the Jonathan administration. This is an opportunity to recreate the stuff that made the country a new emerging economy in the last five years. The lack of continuity which took her out of government is part of the issues he had been addressing at the level of international institutions especially in her activities with the Asian nations.
The issue of due diligence is her forte and one wonders if such an advantage could be anything to behold considering the new and intimidating powers of the members of the National Assembly and the state governors since the Yar’ A’dua/Jonathan era. While she was here, limitations to what she could do revolved around the presidency and not the senate or a kangaroo clubs formed by state governors. That was why whenever she made her postulations everybody listened. Her due diligence efforts were so effective, so much so that ministers and parastatals were very cautious of how they go about matters relating to finance. The National Assembly really did not build up a lot of concurrent costs in their bills during her first time.
This her second coming could be the last chance this country may have in her efforts in building a society that could be cost and expenditure conscious at government level and even indirectly make it to rob off on the organized private sector. This becomes important because the government and the organized private sector should be made to function with the intention of observing same stringent financial guidelines.
There is every reason to believe that Okonjo-Iweala’s second coming will not come with a soft glove for the legislators. One thing many Nigerians would want her to do is to address the stupendous wealth the national legislative houses are squandering in the name of law making. The beginning of her judgement will be her hallowed position on financial management issues that are directly related to the causes for the increasing level of poverty in the country. If , as a minister of finance , she does not join the voices of people like Lamido Sanusi Lamido in condemning the overflowing bills at the National Assembly, Nigerians may be disappointed. There is every indication that she can convince all the legislators at both national and state levels to listen to the voice of reason.
The way costs have been submerging the will of the Nigerian economy is also traceable to the fact that diligent screening of projects and the monitoring of their executions have been lacking in the last six years. There is no longer the control on what should be built and who would build it. Personalities that consider themselves as first class citizens whose services to the economy were once questioned have been having a field day, constituting greatest cost implications to the economy. Nigerians may want to know if those sparkles that put her on the centre-stage of global economic management have vanished. If she does not begin to address our fears from the very dangerous spots, Nigerians will obviously question her celebrated home-coming.
With the checks that she will put in place, it may be all fears at the various sectors like Power, Banking, petroleum where trillions of money have been known to have found their ways out of the areas of value to the average Nigerian. This becomes imperative with the poor signals coming from the economy of the United States , bearing in mind that her debt crisis will create a corresponding crisis in the lesser economies. This second coming could be tougher as the wolves at the National Assembly would want to clip her wings; but trust the ebullient lady whose skills, finis and transparency could compare only with a few women leaders in Nigeria like Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, among others. If she can rebuild and oil her due-diligence missiles, the next four years will be good for every Nigerian. But she has to make sure that those spend-thrifts at the National Assembly do not shoot her down with their nuclear war heads!!!!