IN PRAISE OF OKONJO-IWEALA

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Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

In the cesspool of corruption and continuous A-grade drama that is Nigeria, only a handful of names have stood out to tell a different story, not only in Nigerian circles but across global scenes. One very prominent name to reckon with is the iconic Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who through sheer hard work and pristine service has risen to the rank of a national hero. She is a woman of reckoning across the world, sitting on many seats without breaking them, standing at many a podium, accepting heavy responsibilities and handling them all with classy aplomb, thus deserving the countless feathered caps that sit so immaculately well on her head.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is not a name that suddenly leapt out of nowhere. It belongs to a personality that has worked hard and tirelessly in the economic echelon of Nigeria. One quick mention of this is, to quote Forbes, “helping to increase the economic value of Nigeria by an average of 6%, consistently for three years”. This is no small feat as Nigeria’s economy is considered one of the largest in Africa and had been on a steady decline. This Harvard and MIT-trained epitome of excellence has left a long line of achievements in her trail and, at the risk of sounding repetitive, recounted they must be.

Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has shown her devotion to Nigeria’s progress since as far back as 1981 when she earned a PhD in Regional Economics with a thesis on Credit Policy, Rural Financial markets, and Nigeria’s Agricultural Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has since then, had a 25-year career with the World Bank, rising to the position of the Managing Director, the second-highest position there, and making indelible waves in procuring aid and support for developing countries. She also served as a two- time Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2003-2006, 2011-2015), Coordinating Minister of the Economy (2011-2015) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (June-August 2006).

During this time, she established herself as a leader who doesn’t turn up her nose at the mess made, but as one who rolls up her sleeve to clean up the debris. This she proved by embarking on several groundbreaking projects, including helping to increase the economic strength of the country, driving negotiations that led to the relief of Nigeria’s over USD30 billion debt, initiating transparency and accountability in the system with tools and policies such as publications of monthly financial allocations to each state, the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). She also spearheaded several notable projects such as the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC), the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN) and the Youth Enterprise with Innovation Programme (YouWIN), which has been proclaimed as one of the most effectual agendas deployed for economic balance by the World Bank.

She has not only clinched remarkable notches to her bedpost on a national level. She has also gained acclaim on an international level, as someone capable of deriving positive results from the most strenuous of situations.

This unbeatable portfolio of effective leadership is no doubt a solid launching pad for Okonjo-Iweala to head the World Trade Organisation.

Oluwakemi Makinde, an advocate of both art for art sake and art for life sake