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Okonjo-Iweala’s brave run

Everybody knew it was an uphill task, but it was worth a good try. By the time the clouds cleared on the heatedly contested position of President of the World Bank last Monday, April 16th 2012, America’s nominee, Jim Yong Kim, secured the nod of the 25-member Executive Board of Directors of the Bank to clinch the post.

Hours before the announcement was made, Nigeria’s Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told a packed audience at the NICON Luxury Hotel, venue of the presentation of the 2012 budget that Yong Kim was likely to emerge as the winner. According to her, “I want people to know what is happening, and that is that they are voting.

This thing is really not being decided on merit, it is voting with political weights and shares and therefore the US will get it”. No sooner was Yong Kim unveiled as the boss of the world’s premier super-lender than Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan rushed in to gamely congratulate the winner.

As Okonjo-Iweala aptly put it, she did not win, but at the same time her bid and the support of the entire African continent and the emerging economies of the world left a lasting message that the 72-year-old status quo that keeps the Bretton Wood Institutions (World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) as the preserves of the US and Europe respectively can be challenged and effectively too.

The whole world knew that our candidate had better credentials than the American nominee, particularly in terms of qualification and cognate experience, having risen strongly through the ranks and leaving indelible marks of performance and effective leadership. At the end of the day, political consideration won the day.

We must congratulate Nigerians, Africans and even the supporters of Nigeria’s candidacy from all over the world, particularly other co-contestants such as renowned Colombian economist, Jose Antonio Ocampo, who voluntarily stepped down for Dr Okonjo-Iweala just before balloting started. More importantly, we applaud Nigerians for closing ranks when our compatriot took the world centre-stage in search of a laurel that would have boosted our standing in the world arena.

Virtually all gone was the typical Nigerian cynical attitude known as “pull-him/her down” syndrome. There was enough reason for that, especially given the recent anti-petrol subsidy strikes which Okonjo-Iweala forcefully championed. Most Nigerians did not see this as an opportunity to extract a pound of flesh. Okonjo-Iweala’s loss did not, therefore, emanate from any setbacks from the home front. That is commendable.

However, now that the contest is over, we call on Okonjo-Iweala to press ahead firmly with the task of rebuilding the Nigerian economy, particularly the challenge of diversifying the base of the economy and creating jobs, her self-declared priorities. Nigerians expect her to channel her expertise and energies to the home-front now. Let the world’s loss be the gain of Nigeria.

We also call on the new President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, to live up to his promise of standing up to the expectations and needs of the poorer members of the global economic community.

The “occupy” protests of 2011 across the globe were sure signs that extreme capitalism could trigger sudden social revolutions that could unhinge the economic stability of the world.

The reforms that Okonjo-Iweala had hoped to pursue should occupy a prime spot on Jim Yong Kim’s scale of priorities.


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