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Is Dr Okonjo-Iweala still relevant?

By Dele Sobowale

“Economists are like theologians. Every religion other than their own is the invention of man, whereas their own particular brand of religion is an emanation from God”.

Karl Marx, 1818-1883 (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 45).

To listen to the Federal Minister of Finance, you would think she is the only one in the entire country who ever read economics. From her ill-received but well-understood position on fuel subsidy to her current mantra $75 per barrel benchmark, about which she had spoken at great length and launched a book, you would think $75 per barrel was some kind of divine revelation to her alone.

Indeed, like most “prosperity theologians”, who rake in millions from increasingly impoverished church members – and the worse the economic condition the fuller the churches become. More bankers have been retrenched in the last three years, and more are on the way out, than at any time in history.

Neither prayers, nor the World Bank brand of economics had been able to save them. For that matter, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, have not been able to help Greece and Spain from lurching to the brink of economic disaster. The recommendations they offer Greece and Spain are fuelling incipient revolution in those countries.

Unfortunately for Nigeria, World Bank and IMF brand of economics is all Dr Okonjo-Iweala knows. That is what she is offering Nigeria. Nothing original; just the same old carbon copy of an economic paradigm last experienced before the Great Depression woke the world up to the bareness of the approach at times like these.

Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Before we proceed, let me take our readers down memory lane, especially those who have been with us for more than ten years. Unijankara people have never failed to participate in issues concerning the economy. In fact, we were involved in all the economic policy debates since the ill-advised Udoji Awards of the Gowon administration which ruined the Nigerian economy for more than ten years.

We were also here when General Obasanjo decided to launch a debt-free Nigeria into the debt trap from which we were released by Okonjo-Iweala – but not before paying through our collective noses to the Western creditors and millions of dollars in commissions disappeared into private pockets belonging to people close to the corridors of Obasanjo’s power.

Now, she is leading us back into debt and millions more will vanish into private pockets as commissions…


“Suffering and smiling”,(Fela Anikulapo Kuti, describing Nigerians in one of his most memorable pieces.

All masochists need conscienceless sadists to administer the pains the victims endure. In Nigeria, the masochists remain the people; while the psychopaths remain the people in governments nationwide. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the greatest robbers are not armed robbers. The greatest robbery, even against other tiers of government, is committed by the Federal government of Nigeria.

This is not peculiar to Jonathan; it is a tradition inherited from former governments. The grand larceny reached its present record level in 1999 when “my brother” Obasanjo mounted the saddle. Despite all pretences, corruption took off at a furious gallop and has accelerated ever since.

It can even be said, with a great degree of justification, that fraud is now the main business of the Federal government. They don’t fix roads; power supply remains epileptic; top officials go to Germany for healthcare and their wives go to the same place to “rest”; and, fuel scarcity is back with the pains associated with it. Meanwhile, individually and collectively, federal government officials steal with reckless abandon.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s committee told us nothing new. The Ministry of Petroleum and NNPC parade the best-dressed pen-robbers in the world. Every time someone is said to work for NNPC or the Ministry, at the middle to top levels, you can almost be sure you are possibly looking at a serial criminal who has not been caught.

Fortunately for them, and, unfortunately for us, some top government officials do not “give a damn”, working for a boss who also does not “give a damn either. Every new swindle uncovered is shaken off like water off a duck’s back. In fact, generally known incompetence, as well as, deliberate or inadvertent complicity, provided the abiding environment for fraud to flourish in the Nigerian petroleum sector – unlike the Ghanaian sector; where they have a real Minister….


“If you work with glue; sooner or later you are going to get stuck”. Leo Tolstoy, I828-I9I0


Mallam Nuhu Ribadu is stuck once again. Why Ribadu, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, accepted an appointment from his presidential election opponent, President Goodluck Jonathan, will probably never be truly revealed.

Ribadu will always hang on to the fig-leaf of “patriotism” to explain his motives. He probably never heard about Dr Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, who informed us that, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 182). But scoundrels are not the only people taking refuge under love of fatherland. World class mugus also do. Nuhu is not a scoundrel; at least, not yet. But, he is not wise either.

There were rumours that Ribadu accepted the offer because he was broke. There might be some merit in that. After all, the man had been destitute of top grade job since he was shown the gate at the EFCC. It is the verdict of history that gratuities and severance pay go down like sand in the upper chamber of the hour glass over time – unless replenished.

Soon, a former employee, without a steady job, finds bank balances tending towards red – especially when there is a heavy mortgage to pay for the expensive building purchased when the going was good. So, if he needed “bread” (Fela again), NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum was the right place to go; but Nuhu went with the wrong attitude given the organisation’s culture.

At NNPC, anybody invited, to “come and eat”, is expected to come to the table, not with a spoon, but a shovel. It is an establishment for gluttons; not a place for whistle blowers. Thus, when Ribadu started singing like a female canary, in heat, he invited the sort of response the whole world witnessed from Mr. Oronsaye, the former Head of Service.


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