Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance
By Collins Edomaruse
As President Goodluck Jonathan prepares to unfold his make-or-mar cabinet after his inauguration this weekend, THISDAY can report that former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is top on his shopping list.
Also, former Senate President, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, is being seriously considered for the position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) if the recently agreed zoning formula of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is maintained.
However, THISDAY could not confirm Sunday night if three top current ministers Olusegun Aganga (Finance), Odein Ajumogobia (Foreign Affairs) and Diezani Alison-Madueke (Petroleum Resources) would return in the new cabinet.
Okonjo-Iweala, currently a Managing Director of the World Bank, commands respect globally and THISDAY learnt that President Jonathan wants her to return to handle the finance portfolio.
But she is yet to make up her mind whether or not to accept the offer because of her unpleasant experience under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
She was instrumental to the setting-up of Debt Management Office (DMO) as well as the Due Process Office and during her tenure as finance minister between 2003 and 2006, Nigeria secured debt relief from the Paris Club of Creditors.
Following what was believed to be a disagreement with Obasanjo in 2006, she was moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a minor cabinet reshuffle but she was still a member of the Economic Management Team.
She resigned her appointment shortly afterwards when the final negotiation for Nigeria’s exit from the London Club of Creditors was held without her knowledge.
She was then appointed as an MD at the World Bank, where she had left as vice-president and corporate secretary to take up ministerial appointment in Nigeria in 2003.
During her tenure as Finance Minister, she introduced the publication of the monthly allocations to different tiers of government on the website of the ministry as well as in the newspapers in the form of paid advertisements in order to encourage transparency and accountability.
Okonjo-Iweala was educated at Harvard University, graduating with an A.B. in 1977, and earned her Ph.D. in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Anyim, who was Senate President under Obasanjo from 2000 to 2003, tried to become the national chairman of the PDP in 2007 but the governors rooted for and installed Prince Vin Ogbulafor instead.
In the heat of the failure of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to transmit a vacation letter to the National Assembly when he went for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia in 2009, Anyim led a delegation of 41 eminent Nigerians to the federal legislature calling on Yar’Adua to send the letter so that Jonathan, who was then vice-president, could be made acting president.
Meanwhile, neither the name of Aganga nor Ajumogobia has been submitted by their respective states for ministerial appointments.
Ajumogobia is from Rivers State while Aganga is from Lagos, but their names are missing from the lists submitted by their respective states for consideration for federal appointments. This has put their fate in the balance as they are now seen as having “no sponsors”.
Aganga, in particular, has been having a running battle with the politicians from Lagos State who believed that he came from “nowhere” to be made minister in the first place as he was not known to the party before then.
Aganga is best remembered for his proposal of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) to legitimise the Excess Crude Account which has now been passed into law by the National Assembly, awaiting presidential assent.
He also drew up the 2011 budget which is considered to be pro-poor because of the public works content intended to generate massive employment in the process of building infrastructure.
Alison-Madueke has become a subject of intensive media attacks lately, with some arguing that retaining her as minister does not signify that the president wants a new-look cabinet.
However, the governor of her home state, Bayelsa, Chief Timipre Sylvia, is said to favour her retention as minister so as to fend her off from seeking the governorship of the state in the 2012 election.
Under her watch, the Local Content Law was passed by the National Assembly, while the National Gas Masterplan was launched and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is close to passage by the federal lawmakers as the knotty issues are being ironed out.