7th July, 2011
The Managing Director at the World Bank and also the former Finance and Foreign Affairs Minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s administration, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been receiving threat calls from corrupt politicians and business elite not to return home for ministerial appointment.
She revealed this in an interview with the Financial Times of London.
According to the Financial Times, Okonjo-Iweala responded to the threat calls by saying â€œBut I cannot give up on Nigeria.â€
She added: â€œNigeria matters not just because it is the largest country in Africa by population but also because it is so significant for the rest of West Africa. If Nigeria gets it right, things would really move on, so we need to do better.â€
She has since returned to Nigeria and appeared before the senate screening panel on Wednesday where she answered questions on how she hoped to improve fiscal policies and the nationâ€™s economy. When Okonjo-Iweala served as Finance Minister under Obasanjo in 2003 to 2006, she played a key role in rehabilitating Nigeriaâ€™s battered image. Her efforts yielded fruitful dividend when she successfully persuaded Nigeriaâ€™s creditor nations that the nation was serious and willing to forsake her wasteful spending to justify a write-off of two thirds of her external debt then put at $30 billion.
The debt relief helped the Nigerian economy to begin a take off with improvement in macro-economic management and market reforms that liberated parts of the business sector.
However, when Okonjo-Iweala was posted to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, she resigned from the Obasanjo cabinet and returned to her duty at the World Bank.
With the coming into office of the late President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua in 2007, the economic gains he inherited soon fizzled out under a directionless government and fiscal mismanagement leading to the squadering in oil windfall.
Okonjo-Iweala told London Financial Times that she would tighten up fiscal policy again and revive the battle against corruption.
She said President Goodluck Jonathan had been persuading her for several weeks to come back home and assist government to fomulate the right type of economic policies that could sustain the confidence that foreign investors now have in the nation.
Okonjo-Iwealaâ€™s return home to the cabinet of Jonathan might give her the opportunity to once again strengthen economic reforms which is an uphill battle against vested economic and political interests blocking change.
However, some allies fear she might be isolated in a cabinet still being formed but with a few other nominees with a record for reform and some already tarnished image.
But Okonjo-Iweala said her priority will be to for a team similar to the one that brought change under Obasanjo adding: â€œIt is not only about technical expertise but also about having those who know how to put across difficult policies.â€