LETTER TO NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA AND NIGERIANS
Dear Ngozi Okonjo Iweala,
On Monday 1 August 2005, Ann McFerran in The Guardian introduced you this way: 'Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala relishes a good fight. Which is just as well. Since Nigeria's president persuaded her to sort out the country's infamously chaotic finances and rein in its notorious corruption she's been hailed by world leaders and reviled by her fellow countrymen'.
Beautiful introduction, frankly; one that depicts your passionate oomph and the attendant hurly-burly surrounding your job since you ventured into the country's politics of turbulence. Beautiful, just as the scarf you always put on, elegant.
In the same article Ann McFerran quoted your description of yourself as follows, "When I became finance minister they called me Okonjo-Wahala - or Trouble Woman," says the 51-year-old, with a throaty chuckle. "It means 'I give you hell.' But I don't care what names they call me. I'm a fighter; I'm very focused on what I'm doing, and relentless in what I want to achieve, almost to a fault. If you get in my way you get kicked."
I think you care. You do. Cut the crap. You care, woman. Indeed, you are one of the only two Nigerian ministers that have been paid in dollars. You care about your value and how people view you. Surprisingly, you have become the sweetest economist with the most gallant lips, with the most emphatic Victorian voice of modern age economic revolution. With your calculated and enigmatic touch on Nigeria's economy there have been some patches of evolution. I know there is more work to be done. However, you deserve encouragement. You are most devoted, most alert, and sometimes up to date and surely a caring finance manager.
The best and the most experienced economic minister in Africa is no other person than you, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. You are an Igbo woman whose fantastic sabotage of economic underdevelopment through your finance and economic competencies in Nigeria's Finance and Economic ministries can never be forgotten. Your exploits have kept you on the fountain of a robust global political and economic heritage.
Her fiscal intelligence and indomitability in monetary management have enhanced political debate and economic progress in Nigeria and beyond. When Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was nominated by the international finance and economic community for the position of World Bank president it was not surprising to me even. I was fully aware that Jim was into health and his elevation to the position of the president of the prestigious Dartmouth College was due to his glorious achievements in health science. I listen to him every now and then. Dr. Jim Yong Kim is eloquent, vaguely brassy, and cautiously niggling. Academically he's sagacious to the level of a genius. He believes so many possibilities. A righteous fellow, he is. Yet Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has better qualifications, more experience, and more finance leverage than Jim. She is an economic lioness. Her studies at MIT and her wider experience on global economic issues make her Mrs. Capable. She is the kpim of economic chess. But she was a black woman. She is. Jim wasn't.
However, the history of World Bank, Paris Club, IMF and Nigeria's democracy can never be complete without Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. Her singular reversal of Nigeria's debts, her classy improvement of Nigeria's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), improvement and stabilisation of Naira against dollar, enhancement of our Gross Development Product and so on, make her a charming patriot.
However, as you all can see, the improvements in our economy are just benefiting the rich and the endowed. It is vaguely plutonomical and plutocratic. The rich is having the fun they do not deserve in Lagos, Portharcourt and Abuja, while the poor languish in bus stops in a place like Nyanya. Even the sound of the city's name will make you understand how poverty, the child of economic collapse, had redefined that location.
Please listen Madam:
You have some big finance and economic decisions to make and implement in Nigeria within the coming weeks. You must, you must rise up to the occasion. On the 13th of June 2014 you will be 60 years old. You cannot afford to disappoint the world and Nigeria at your age. Above all, given the fact that terrorism has become ravaging in Nigeria, thus your response to the horrible economic linkage to terrorism must be taken seriously. Nigeria's economic decisions henceforth must gesticulate towards solid and lasting eradication of poverty. You must be as resolute and HARVADIC as ever.
I want you to introduce Welfare System across the country. Nigerians are hungry, north and south, home and abroad. Nigerians are jobless. Nigerians are angry. Nigerians are homeless. The poor masses are affronted by their few pompous rich neighbours. The gap between the rich and the poor is too wide. If you do not provide for the poor in Nigeria through a solid welfare programme, they will eat the rich like never before. They shall eat the rich raw. Boko Haram is an awful manifestation of lack of love, care and patriotism in a country that its government does not care about its people. Welfare includes but not limited to shelter for every Nigerian, water for all, monthly allowances for every home, free education until university level. Free medical care for every Nigerian must be approved within the month.
Secondly, you should adopt Gross National Happiness (GNH) index to measure the wealth of Nigeria. Improvements in trade and industry do not put food on the table of every Nigerian. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) does not measure the wealth and wellbeing of people. It is outdated. Our people are now suicide bombers, murderers of themselves, baby marketers, ritualists, Magas, pornographers, war mongers and kidnappers yet our GDP is growing. Even during Abacha's regime it was not this bad. Even Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida's regime was not as bad as it is today. The level of poverty in Nigeria today is due to bad economic decisions and indecisions, and you are aware of the suffering of people. Don't you think it is due to economic collapse? Poverty is the mother of crime. Every crime you see in Nigeria is linked to economic collapse. Let your finance decisions take a more practical focus on the masses.
The world will rank you higher if you introduce a happiness ratio programme that measures how happy every home in Nigeria is. God will however bless you extravagantly if you support that programme with a welfare scheme for every home. You will become not just an economic giant but a new age Mother Theresa. You may also do it for the sake of morality. We have the finance for welfare. We have it. It will do us good to start sharing the money before the masses are totally insane. It will be worse than it is now. Think about it.
Someone believes that there is no state governor who does not leave office with more than N50 billion. People still believe that all the loots returned to the government must be channelled to them directly. Over 80% of the youths are jobless. They need welfare to reduce their interest in crime. I wish to suggest you think about all these.
Does Nigeria have wealth which can go far in maintaining the suggestions I offered here?
May God bless you Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.
Chinonso Stanley Ndukwe, 18/04/2014.