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W/Bank Presidency: Zuma, Ouattara, others pressure Jonathan to release Okonjo-Iweala

BY Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
ABUJA — The chances of Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be appointed President of the World Bank brightened, midweek, as President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has joined the league of those pushing for her Presidency of the global organisation.

Mr Zuma and Ivorien counterpart, Mr. Alassane Ouattara, it was gathered, met President Goodluck Jonathan to pressure him to release the Minister to the bank in the interest of developing nations of the World and Africa in particular.  That means that South African Trevor Manuel who should have been Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s closest contender from the continent has given way.

Besides, some Executive Directors of the bank have also visited Aso Rock with a view to urging the president to give his approval for Okonjo-Iweala to take the exalted office at the bank, which has been dominated by the United States since its creation after the World War II, along side  the International Monetary Fund, in 1945.

The current President of the bank, Mr. Robert Zoellick, is stepping down in less than two and a half months time.

A lot of developing countries are said to be pushing for Okonjo-Iweala who worked in those regions for a long time helping to manage their economies by providing expertise and, therefore, endeared herself to them, a reason for which she is said to be highly favoured candidate of emerging markets.

She is expected to be nominated on Friday and if she wins, she will be making history as the first African woman to head the Washington-based institution.

Obstacle

Those familiar with the politics of the World Bank say the only obstacle before Okonjo-Iweala would be the position of American President Barak Obama.

The USA which is the largest shareholder of the bank has dominated its presidency since inception, and whether President Obama would relinquish America’s hold on the bank is not certain.

Sources close to the minister said she was not putting herself forward for the prime job but that it was a great honour for her efforts to make life more meaningful for people in various countries of the world to be so recognised.

Born on June 13, 1954, Okonjo-Iweala had a long career at the World Bank rising to the position of Managing Director before President Jonathan, in July last year, persuaded her to join his cabinet where she performs critical roles in managing the nation’s economy.

Before then, she had served in the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as Minister of Finance between 2003 and 2006. She quit Obasanjo’s government  after she was redeployed from the Ministry of Finance to Foreign Affairs.


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