Nigerian Economy: Detractors Can’t Rewrite History

That the Nigerian economy is the envy of the black race is not in doubt, thanks to the astute management and foresight of a scholar like Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the immediate past Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy. What is the point of contention is the fact that some of her detractors simply attempt to subvert, misinform, or totally falsify facts.

Some of these “experts” dole out doses of falsehoods that are intended to weaken the consciousness of the unconscious; compounding the problems for the ignorant and in some cases confounding the pseudo-intelligent. My intention with this piece is to set the records straight and divest all politico-emotional shreds from the issues so that they may be properly understood.

While this writer is not one of those you may call her admirers, I stand to be counted as one of those who dare to call a spade by its proper name. I equally stand to be counted as one of those who refuse to be distracted by short-sighted Vikings, religious buccaneers and tribal pirates. Inasmuch as one agrees that it is good to be diplomatic, it becomes necessary to call a spade its true name when it comes to being ruthless with ‘eternal detractors’.

One of Okonjo-Iweala’s detractors who has stood out in the past few months evidently left his primary responsibility as governor (in a state where workers haven’t received salaries for several months) to daily criticise this woman. This man’s criticism, going off the mark as usual, has become so embarrassing not only to himself, but also to his immediate family and his party leadership. Or how else would one describe his ramblings?

As mentioned earlier, I am not the sort of person who is easily swayed by detractors and their ill-conceived distractions. Today, however, I choose not to stand alone; hence my mission becomes to bring clarity where, for some, there were some grey areas. I fully intend to alert readers on what some of these distractions are, and help us keep our eyes fixed on facts rather than on the temperamental tirades of certain people.

In 2013, Nigerian economy officially became the largest in Africa, leaving behind South Africa and Ghana to battle for the second position. In a mercurial reportage by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the medium was in full praise of the work done by the then economic management team, led by the indefatigable former minister of finance. The BBC issued the following indisputable facts (for those who still remember):

Nigerian GDP now includes previously uncounted industries like telecoms, information technology, music, online sales, airlines, and film production. GDP for 2013 totalled 80.3 trillion naira (£307.6bn: $509.9bn), the Nigerian statistics office said.That compares with South Africa's GDP of $370.3bn at the end of 2013.

Her detractors, as you can well imagine, responded by turning the fact on its head and refusing to see it in the light of a purely economic rather than a political issue. They see everything through political lenses. Thank God that the reportage came from the highly respected, politically neutral BBC if not, her detractors would have sworn she paid for the reportage. This is the length her well-known maligners can go!

Even the opposition attests to the fact that Okonjo-Iweala created more jobs than any other Finance Minister in Nigerian history, with a staggering 1.6 million jobs created through various people-oriented programmes. This, among other achievements, attracted the attention of the prestigious Yale University to confer on her its honourary doctorate degree. About 4,000 people benefited from the YouWIN programme which won her several national and international awards.

The programme, which has earned the World Bank’s approval, is today a model in countries like Angola, Mozambique and other developing economies. For constraint of time and space and to avoid the problem of repetition, I will not delve into other progressive programmes like the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS), SURE-P and others with their monumental achievements in job creation.

“Opinions are free,” the Scottish say, “but facts are sacred”. We may go on educating this great woman’s detractors about her unprecedented achievements within and without office, but will they ever learn? Then again, they may not want to learn because to learn the truth may suddenly render them jobless. After all, what else can detractors do and be if they stop being what they are now? Be that as it may, let me leave them with a parting word: Millions of Okonjo-Iweala’s detractors cannot rewrite history!

Olusola Daniel is a political observer and advocate for community development. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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Articles by Olusola Daniel