Many people in her shoes would not have bothered to answer the national call a second time. And they would be justified. Having been bitten once, they would quite expectedly, wonder how deep the next bite could be. However, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala must be an incurable optimist of the Nigerian project. With her vantage position as managing director of the World Bank, she certainly sees the numerous opportunities that this country has to achieve greatness. She delivered an impromptu “lecture” to that effect at her screening by the Senate on July 6. The speculation that President Goodluck Jonathan was going to nominate her as a minister had been in the public domain for weeks. That speculation further gathered steam when she met with the President a few weeks ago. But when her name was missing from the initial list Jonathan sent to the Upper Chamber, Okonjo-Iweala was believed to have turned down the offer. Her screening last week finally settled the matter.
Okonjo-Iweala may be on her way back to the ministry of finance. It was from that office that she harmonised the activities of the Economic Team that made President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term a reference point till today. Her dramatic redeployment to the foreign affairs ministry led to Okonjo-Iweala’s exit from government. Although the economic policy stayed intact till Obasanjo’s tenure ended in May 2007, his successor did not share the same vision with his predecessor. President Umaru Yar’Adua, now late, simply upturned the policies by allowing the economy to drift. After his death, the incumbent who took over from him did not do anything to arrest the situation either. Perhaps, with the second coming of Okonjo-Iweala, the situation is about to change. Going by her response to the questions from senators, the choices before Nigerians are tough ones. But it is the political elite that have the toughest ones to make. The new minister says from what she has seen of the nation’s revenues, the current recurrent expenditure is unsustainable. So is the National Assembly listening? The members have a big role to play in curbing the greed of the nation’s public officers that is fuelling the recurrent expenditure, leaving little or nothing for capital projects. And the time to do it is now. For the patience of the nation’s youths is running out. They have for decades been at the receiving end of the mismanagement of our resources. Today we have hundreds of thousands of graduates who are jobless. Their rank grows every year. It is amazing that those who manage our affairs ignore the time bomb waiting to explode. “Unless something is done to defuse it (the time bomb) through the creation of jobs, jobs and more jobs, the bomb may explode in the not-too-distant future”. We are all witnesses to what happened in Tunisia, Egypt and what is still happening in other parts of the Middle East. The nation’s dire situation as seen by Okonjo-Iweala is something the citizenry have lived with for too long. What has been missing all along is the political will, by the ruling elite, to turn the bend for good. Obasanjo displayed that strong will between 1999 and 2007. If Jonathan borrows that wondering leaf and stays focused, he may leave Aso Rock in 2015 a hero.
M.K.O Abiola, Where Is The Healing Balm?
Last week Thursday, July 7, 2011 was a public holiday in Ogun State. It was declared by Governor Ibikunle Amosun. The holiday came like a bolt out of the blue and caught many people unaware. It was to commemorate the death of Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, politician and multi-billionaire businessman, who won the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was annulled by the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida regime. Abiola died in the fourth year of his detention for insisting that he won that election. A few states in the federation observe June 12 every year for its historic landmark. These days when some people refer to the recent April 2011 general election as the freest and fairest in the nation’s history, they seem to be trying not only to rewrite history but also to consign the historic feat of June 12, 1993 to the rubbish heap. Yet if that election had been allowed to stand, many of the challenges confronting the nation today may never have reared their ugly heads. For instance, the issue of religion has become a monster that flexes its muscle by the minute threatening to consume the nation. Those making appointments into public offices today walk a tightrope. They have to balance the number between Muslims and Christians.
Yet, in 1993, 18 years ago, Nigerians from all walks of life and across the ethnic and geo-political divide voted for Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, his running mate, who were both Muslims. No popular candidate can dare do that any longer. Babangida in his ignorance threw away a chance Allah gave him to become the father of modern Nigeria. Well he was a victim of his own deceit. His convoluted transition programme, which lasted for all of eight years, was from the onset a lie. All his actions were supposed to create for him a life presidency. The ambition of his friend, the late General Sani Abacha, put a spanner in the works.
Thus many Nigerians were really amazed when Babangida threw his hat in the ring last year, wanting to become an elected president. That is the tragic comedy the nation’s political affairs have become. Many of those who should hide their heads in shame for driving the country into the present cul-de-sac are forever brutalising our psyche by gallivanting all over the place, claiming they are the messiah the nation needs. Thanks to the likes of Amosun who will not allow us to forget where we are coming from so as to take proper stock of the present to enable us plan for the future.
“As we remember the painful death of Abiola, there are several questions yet to be answered as to why he was denied his mandate and who and what killed him”. To truthfully answer those questions is to set in motion the making of a healing balm for Nigeria, which sure aches in many places. Leaving those questions unanswered is not an option, because it is like trying to build a house with no proper foundation. Under his tenure, President Olusegun Obasanjo set up a Truth and Reconciliation panel headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, whose mandate was to find answers to these questions. The likes of Babangida shunned the panel. Till today Nigerians are still waiting for government to release the Oputa Panel’s recommendations. For how long shall we bury our heads in the sand like the ostrich, claiming all is well?