Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: A Patriot Or An ‘Economic Hit-Man

Ngozi

Before the Yale University ‘magic’ awarding an honorary doctorate degree to Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (NOI), one has decided not to be part of the argument about her merit or otherwise as ‘Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy’.

While Nigerians are reeling in the ‘economic pains’ that her legacies of the aforesaid portfolio left behind, she was being ‘appreciated’ in faraway Yale for ‘a job well done’, despite protest from Nigerians and not withstanding her implication in a missing $20 billion case.

Thus, Ngozi at one and the same time became the epicentre of the proverbial oddity of ‘one man’s meat, another man’s poison’, which places the question about her squarely thus: ‘who did she come to serve’?

To begin with, a doctoral in Economics is never enough a criterion for a ‘Coordinating Minister of the Economy’ whatever is conceived by that.

This especially for Third World Countries (TWCs) and particularly for Africa whose economy is besieged by structural incapacitation foisted on it from centuries of unequal economic exchanges and transactions, the template of which the global economic power houses continue to refine and re adjust to sustain the lopsided relationship with it.

Running any TWCs’ economy requires not only ‘Economics’ from so called neo liberal ‘macro-economic fundamentals, but a deep knowledge of its history, the place of such country in the current global politico-economic arrangements, its strength (of which human and natural resources especially oil and mineral deposits are Nigeria’s and Africa’s), as well as regional possibilities and alternatives, spiced with a radical intellectual approach which defies ‘iron cast’ prescriptions given nonetheless by the  same global economic power houses as  solutions, and involving an ‘out of the box’ thinking and thought processes.

Little wonder that in most newly emerging and successful economies, the ‘economy’ as a phenomenon and a challenge has always been managed by a team of experts drawn from such other areas of discipline as political economy, history, sociology, international relations and law, and the management sciences

‘Power Point Economics’

To say that the ‘glamour’ of acclaimed ‘brilliance’ of some so called experts is usually enhanced by the ‘power’ of presentations through computer power point is an understatement. Graphical depictions of whatever is conceived which seems to convey elements of clarity have always dazzled a lot of people.

However, behind the facade of power point fabricated statistics lay hard facts that hungry faces, angry hearts and tensed socio economic environment and realities convey, so obstinately and seemingly permanently too.

For long, many discerning Nigerians have doubted the truth of Ngozi’s ‘statistics’ about the economy which always give a positive outlook in the face of harsh economic conditions. She had boasted severally that the Nigerian economy is not only strong, but immune to stress.

But this ‘power point’ falsehood (which she has knitted together and continuously in the last few years) began to fall apart in the twilight of the Jonathan administration, as her monopoly over the interpretations of the performance(s) of the nation’s economy neared its end.

As she took her exit from the economic scene, the reality that could be read by even the starkest of illiterates began to reel out in the lives of Nigerians confronting brutally the ‘edifice’ she had built and pummelling all her ‘statistics’ into dust.

Fuel suddenly became scarce because so called marketers were being owed; meaning that, all along the claim of reduction in subsidy payment was doctored, spread and/or deferred, implying a continuing statistical fraud.

Incredibly too, many states of the federation increasingly became unable to pay salaries courtesy of ‘cuts’ in their allocations; and the revelation by the newly elected opposition party [the APC] that the country is back in the debt trap to the tune of $60 billion (or N12 trillion – a charge she is yet to deny as she was busy ‘cooking the ‘stats’ as at the time the elections were being won and lost, culminating in an improper handing-over) completed the picture of an economy in a state of serious distress and disrepair.

Yet the fact remains that for close to four years and under her ‘coordination’ the economy earned more than its budgets in oil revenue, with little or nothing to show for all those earnings!

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Between incompetence and sabotage

The question then is: has ‘economics’ gone from being a common sense discipline, where what is required is striking a balance between what is earned and spent within a nation’s resource endowment and possibilities?

The late Chief Awolowo was not an economist per se, but in his application of this ‘common sense’, he managed efficiently an economy that was just emerging from the stress of a civil war.

What then is it that our ‘World Bank guru’ didn’t understand with regard to this common sense enterprise? The answer is traceable to two explanations only- either incompetence or sabotage or both!

With regard to competence, it is not difficult to see a lack of this. Baring her being a part of the negotiating team for the country’s debt repayment (which was her major contribution under former OBJ as Minister of Finance), Ngozi came from the World Bank without any genuine economic blue print or road map –the type needed by an economy like ours’ to grow.

Even that debt repayment exercise was in all sense a patronage of the ‘decoy’ put up by her ‘masters’ – so called international club of creditors – to evade the demand at the time by Africans for outright debt cancellation or the payment of reparation for the injuries of the slave trade.

And for all the years Ngozi spent supervising the economy under Jonathan, there was no such talks as roadmap to industrialization –the very in-thing needed by the economy to propel it towards prosperity.

Under her supervision, an excessive dosage of the often parroted macro-economic ‘principles’ basically from the prism of neo liberalism were applied on the Nigerian economy despite its typical incongruities where there is hardly any connections/linkages between the barely existing manufacturing sector and the primary and extractive sectors like agriculture and mineral resources (even refining our God given crude became written off as an impossibility); where privatisation of national assets like the steel rolling mills deemed the ‘back bone’ of production and germane to any nation’s manufacturing ability continued unabated under a fraudulent ‘private sector- led’ approach! Students of international relations would remember that the Alsace Lorraine- a parcel of land between France and Germany- reputed for its vast deposits of iron ore was at the heart of the Franco-Prussian war of 1871.

In the midst of this charade, the diversification of the mainstay of the country’s economy (oil) was less thought of and the larger un-captured and un-integrated informal sector continues to widen as more and more people are thrown out of formal jobs with big industries folding up due to poor infrastructural facilities like power only to explore production opportunities in neighbouring countries.

Aside these, the common place economic knowledge of the flow/connection between households’ spending and firms’ production and service rendering capacity were ignored; the expansion that the extractive sector could generate when linked with local enterprise and furnished with appropriate framework for any participant (local or foreign); and the effect of all these on the welfare of the citizenry were not priorities. So what really did ‘economics’ meant to NOI?

Being an ‘Economic Hit man’

Perhaps it would not be out of place to say that an ‘economic hit (wo)man’ has been at the helms of the country’s economy in the last few years!

In his confession of what he has been all his life, John Perkins [himself an economic hit man] described an economic ‘hit man’ thus: ‘Economic hit men [EHMs] are highly paid professionals who cheat countries across the globe out of trillions of dollars.

They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign ‘aid’ organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources.

Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, pay offs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization…’ [‘Confession of an Economic Hit man’,-J. Perkins, xi, 2004].

Written in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 incident to enlighten Americans about the many ‘sins’ of their government that is at the heart of the attacks, Perkins described the aims and workings of the system which recruits the EHMs thus: ‘my job (as an EHM)…was to encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes U.S. commercial interests. In the end those leaders become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty. We can draw on them whenever we desire – to satisfy our political, economic, or military needs’.

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As to what the debt quagmire is used to achieve, he said, ‘if an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh.

This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to precious resources such as oil…Of course the debtor still owes us the money – and another country is added to our global empire’ .

More sinisterly, if the leader of a country refuses to ‘buy’ into the EHM’s proposal, Perkins tells of what happens ‘If we falter a more malicious form of hit man, the jackal (i. e. CIA assassin) steps to the plate. And if the jackal fails, then the job falls to the military’ as in Iraq and Libya recently.

Perkins gave the pathetic story of two heads of states (Jaime Roldos of Ecuador and Omar Torrijos of Panama) who refused to patronize the EHMs and whose deaths were organized in fiery crashes, ‘We EHMs failed to bring Roldos and Torrijos around, and the other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals who were always right behind us, stepped in’.

If in the 60s when Perkins was recruited only ‘whites’ could be found to do these kinds of dirty jobs around the globe on behalf of their empire, a change in strategy must have occurred over the years with ‘agents’ recruited from other parts of the world for same purpose.

The craving for wealth and greed represent the principal tools of inducement in individuals while the uncritical acceptance of ‘aid’ by governments and communities complemented the ability of the ‘empire’ to penetrate easily and procure new hands for its mission of enslavement and domination.

I remember in a class on International Political Economy at my Master’s program, my lecturer said something with regard to the effects of the Trans- Atlantic slave trade on Africa: that not only did it take away enormous human resources which could have benefited Africa for plantation farms in the ‘newly discovered world’ of America, it also left a culture in Africans in the form of undying taste for foreign products!

Yes, what really were Africans of those periods who colluded to sell their own blood brothers into slavery getting? Wine, mirror, lace and other material stuffs.

Today as well, the desire to show ‘class’ not via any natural intelligence, but selfish aggrandizement based mostly on ill- gotten wealth lay at the root of Africa’s inextricable subordination to the West.

Wealth are stolen from the African soil by its leaders in collusion with foreign corporations and taken to foreign lands only for the thieves of these collective patrimony to come forward again and lead delegations to beg for a part of what was stolen as ‘aid’, ‘loans’ or ‘assistance’!

The point being made here is that, those who control the planet’s resources today understand the human nature of greed and exploit same to put in debt trap others like Africans whose leaders are chronically ill as far as wealth and material accumulation is concerned.

How then can we talk of growing and developing the continent in the midst of this?

Ngozi betrayed her poor knowledge of Africa’s and Nigeria’s economic history. She not only failed to look inward for appropriate local potentials, but was also unable to create a framework for attracting enduring foreign investment. For instance, Oby Ezekwezili’s initiative in the extractive sector through Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative(NEITI) remains a diligent framework and a catalyst for that sector. This flaw in Ngozi pervaded other sectors like power and manufacturing under her watch.

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Fatally too, the phenomenon of borrowing (and subsequent indebtedness) which held Africa’s and Nigeria’s development down for decades was plunged into under her coordination without caution, all because neo liberalism glorifies ‘borrowing’ as a virtue and prod nations of the earth to indulge in it.

Even those nations with earnings far in excess of their needs like the Gulf States are encouraged to borrow! And how do you explain a borrowing that has grown to thrice your annual budget all in less than six years when even neo liberalism suggested a single-digit percentage of your GDP!

The Asian Tigers Example

The Asian Tigers, so called because of their outstanding growth leaps some of whom doubled their growth in just one or two decades, compared to America, 43 years and Europe 54.

Their growth was a lesson in the critical employment of phantom ‘economic prescriptions’ from the World Bank and the IMF.

In other words, what the ‘Bank’ and the ‘Fund’ peddled around as ‘economic remedies’ were in most cases either rejected or heavily modified taking into consideration their own stages of development, local endowments and opportunities, and cultural peculiarities.

After evolving an economy that is internally dynamic through the appropriate linkages of its various sectors; the establishment of various ‘incubation’ centers for technological advancement; the backing provided by government through appropriate frameworks and funding; and the social mobilization of the citizenry especially labor unions which sees in its leaders a sense of commitment to national and cultural revamping -external intervention in the form of FDIs (Foreign Direct Investment) were greatly moderated.

Only after a strong internal economy based on local productive capacity was assured did these nations fully opened up into the international system, because then, they have what to compete with, that is, what to sell.

It was only in that context that they began to apply ‘measures’ or ‘concepts’ which we most uncritically apply here.

Only in that context did the devaluation of their currencies (including its degree or extent) made meaning; only then did they apply subsidy to boost production (and not the consumption of what they do not produce) which made their products cheaper and able to compete well in international market.

They also took measures which protected their infant industries among others. In a nutshell, theirs’ were economies which gave larger and pivotal role to their governments as backers of their private sector.

This approach employed by the Asian Tigers is in essence the ‘Keynesian Compromise’ which saw a role for both the state and the market, and it was the bedrock of growth for Europe and America after the carnage of World War II, so called after John Maynard Keynes, upon whose ‘model’ or ‘thoughts’ the World Bank and the IMF were established.

It was only after the capitalist countries of the West had strengthened their economies using this model did some ‘families’ and ‘establishments’ changed the template for so called ‘market- led’ or neo liberal ‘economics’.

Thus neo liberalism was nothing but a decoy to corner the resources of the nations of the world through so called FDIs and other means in a seamless process of global economic integration- otherwise called globalization!

Of course there always will be uncritical ‘buyers’ of such jokes like Nigeria, which always talk of ‘private-sector’ led ‘progress’ in a disjointed, un-integrated and impoverished economy and a highly stratified society.

Could some of these be the reasons why former President Olusegun Obasanjo parted ways with NOI?

The whole of this goes to show that only an economic hit (wo)man representing the interests of external forces deserves such an honorary award from Yale University.

With all her failures, manifest incompetence and gargantuan corruption cases, Ngozi may have been rewarded for ‘a job well done’: she has after all, returned Nigeria into the debt trap from which it was emancipated less than a decade ago, all within six years!

 

By Shakiru Yekinni Ayinde 

Ayinde is the Executive Director, Center for Global Peace Initiative [CGPI]

laidetop06@yahoo.com

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16 comments

  1. Yinka Salaam

    History will neither forget the just nor shall it forgive the unjust. What goes around will surely come around. God knows best.

  2. Bolatitio Adelakun

    Could you have done better than her if you were in her shoes? Do you know what it takes to manage the economy of the most populous black nation? It’s no mean feat. Against all odds, she revamped the economy thereby making it the biggest in Africa. Through her initiatives, many young Nigerians have been empowered to become entrepreneurs. Whether you accept it or not, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a finance minister that has done well for Nigeria. Its rather unfortunate that many Nigerians are myopic in their thinking

  3. Don Desmond

    I can say confidently, that the author of this article is out of his senses. Describing Okonjo-Iweala as an Economic hit man is not only fallacious, but a condemnable one. He should even be taken to court for defamation of character.

  4. Bisola

    Another rambling by one of those faceless individuals whose only objective is to seek exposure by maligning popular figures. Well-worn tactic that doesn’t help anybody.

  5. Garba

    All these allegation against Okonjo Iweala lacks substance. This is nothing but another fail attempt to make ridicule this great woman. You guys will not succeed

  6. Folorunso Adetiba

    It’s obvious Mr. Shakiru Yekini is paranoid and ignorant. For all he cares, the honourable minister is responsible for all the ills that have bedevilled his ‘dearly-beloved’ Nigeria and as such is not deserving of any accolades. Wake up man, and channel your grievance to the appropriate quarters. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is an accomplished economist.

  7. Ola Balogun

    One thing that is certain is that Dr. NO Iweala left the economy in a bad shape. And because she is an accomplished economist, a fact that no one can take away from her, does not necessarily mean that she was able to place food on the tables of Nigerians. As the coordinating minister of economy of the country, one wound expect that her wealth of experience will make Nigerians better off but we all know what she left behind. As at the time of handing over, FG and some states were unable to pay salaries, that is fact.

    If you think the economy of Nigeria is in great shape, that the number of Nigerians with access to portable water, qualitatively education, improved health care facilities, employment has increased, that the Naira is stronger and stable, that inequalities and gaps between the haves and havenots have reduced and every marco economic indices are appluadable, please suit Mr. Shakiru to court of public opinion and allow Nigerians to be the judges.

  8. Adeyemi Sulaimon

    Despite all the vitriolics directed at the author of this piece, none of you guys have faulted his argument! Like Governor Adams Oshiomhole once said, Dr NOI was a bile in the dish of Nigerians. Posterity will judge.

  9. Yinka Salaam

    Folorunso, if you think Mr. Yekini is ‘paranoid and ignorant’, Garba, if you believe ‘all these allegation against Okonjo Iweala lacks substance’, Don Desmond, if you ‘say confidently, that the author of this article is out of his senses’, then you need to pause a little to read the excerpt of Governor Oshiomole’s interview, a member of 4-Governor Committee recently set up by NEC to investigate the NNPC accounts and the mismanagement of 8 billion naira ECA Fund by the ex-Finance Minister:

    “With all due respect to the former Minister Okonjo-Iweala, she knows how to play around with statistics. I have made the point; she keeps opening part of the pages and not the entire book. The logic of transparency is that every minister must publish in full what is accruing to the federation account month to month and what is distributed to them. What she has been publishing is that this is what went to the Federal Government, this is what went to the state government and this is what goes to the local government.

    “What she never published simultaneously is what accrued during the period out of which this was distributed. So we can now know what was collected to what was distributed so we can know what is left in the excess crude account. You can see her changing the goal post. On the authority to spend, Okonjo-Iweala was a member of the National Economic Council. I was a member [of the NEC] and I am on record of asking her not to give us verbal reports on matters of federation account, give us written reports and that the power to spend is not vested in Commissioners.

    “Look at the constitution and tell me which section gives the Commissioner of Finance the power, all of them, they are unknown to ballot, they are not elected but the membership of NEC is clear, Governors chaired by the Vice President representing the President, the CBN and other relevant ministries. How will she avoid this level of accountability?

    “The decision to take money from the excess crude account, that power is vested in the National Economic Council. The NEC is an institution created in the constitution. What she is referring to is her own administrative arrangement. The $2 billion is her last sum because in her last report, she said we had $4.1 billion, she said so orally but it was captured in the minutes only for her to come around again at the last minute to say “X” figure is left. We asked her, what did you pay for?”

    On States which owe salary arrears to their workers, Oshiomhole said: “I think what has happened is that at the peak of the oil boom, prices were high, people made projections about their expected expenditure and budget on the basis of those numbers. Down the line, there was a sharp drop and this sharp drop that people talk about is not just about a drop in terms of price of crude oil because prices have dropped below this level before.

    “What is new is the level of so-called crude oil theft. A situation in which certain persons, powerful in the system, pretend not to know what was going on and simply excuse the huge lapses in terms of crude oil theft. So you have a double squeeze of drop in price and escalation in the volume of alleged theft of crude. The combined effect of these is that the total inflow into the federation account dropped sharply.

    “This is also compounded by the fact that the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the two of them working together, simply refused to transfer to the federation account a lot of the money that ought to have accrued. For example, over the past 4 to 5 years, the NLNG had every year made huge payment between $1.5 to $2 billion which ought to go to the federation account. This money was never transferred to the federation account, it was unilaterally expended by the Federal Government.

    “We were not even informed of the fact that this money was paid, and each time we ask[ed] the then Hon. Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy what was happening with the proceeds from the NLNG, no explanation was ever offered–whether in black and white, or in oral [statements]. There are several other federal agencies that made huge sums of money which were illegally and unilaterally spent by the Federal Government, without being allowed to flow into the federation account.

    “So when you draw up a budget on the basis of anticipated revenue and there is such a sharp drop in revenue arising from diversion and there is also [a] drop in price, obviously something will have to give.

    “The federal finances are even worst hit. Over the past 9 months under the past government, [the] Federal

    Government could not pay salaries from her legitimate income. What she has been doing which States could not do; was to borrow, using the CBN through various instruments termed security, etc and basically drawing down the pension funds because they are the ones who have liquidity to patronize the bond market.

    “So if we were to be able to stop the Federal Government from borrowing to pay salaries, the Federal Government would have defaulted in payment of salaries much earlier than [the] States and the number of months the Federal Government would have been owing would be worse than the worst state in the federation.

    “Just look at the budget of the Federal Government over the past four years and you will see the level of deficit finances that was built into the budget. So in trying to understand the financial crisis, you shouldn’t limit yourself to those who can pay. Even those who purport to pay, look at their source of funding [for] the payment. If you do, you will find out that the Federal Government frees itself to borrow quite recklessly, reckless in the sense that no serious manager goes month after month to borrow for the payment of salaries.

    “I speak on my honor that the Federal Government is just as broke and that they are borrowing using CBN instruments in trillions of naira to pay salaries.

    “Now part of the problem is talking about taxes and this can be proved in black and white. The Federal Government illegally granted waivers to various organizations running into hundreds of billions of naira that ought to flow to the federation account.

    “Now those are taxes. When the Minister grants waivers for you to bring cement into the country; grants waiver for you to bring vegetable oil into the country; grants waiver for you to bring vehicles into the country and when you look at the total sum, sometimes, even VAT are illegally waived. So how do you get taxes?

    “There are two kinds of taxes: Direct and Indirect tax. Personal Income Tax which is deducted from your pay before your net gets to you and indirect tax which is VAT, Royalties, import tax where you spend quality of time looking at your tariff policies designed to protect your local industries and discourage importations. All of these are sources of funding of government.

    “We must understand that in other climes, government does not live on rents from oil money. Governments worldwide are run on taxes. Now this last government is the worst in terms of granting unexplained sources of money in the name of waivers. Can you believe that even oil companies were granted so-called pioneer status? They will set up a small vehicle in the oil sector, give them certain transactions, give them so-called pioneer status so that they are excused from paying taxes.”

  10. Yinka Salaam

    Under Okonjo Iweala watch, out of N8.1 trillion generated by the NNPC in three years, N3.8 trillion was not remitted to the Federation Account. Nigerians now know that the cash in the Excess Crude Account has been depleted by 2 billion dollars without explanation, query or alarm. What about 2.3 trillion petroleum subsidy scam and the 40 billion reduced to 12 billion naira unremitted money which led to Sanusi exit. A great economist no doubt, but a good non-corrupt administrator, in doubt

    • Godson

      Yinka, I can see that you are full of hatred and nothing more. Well let me bring to your notice that the innocent is always justified. Madam Iweala has no skeleton in her cupboard that is the reason she is still standing. I will advise you to channel you energy to discover your purpose so that we can both take this nation top a greater height and not just making unfounded statements. Pray for Nigeria and support the cause of the innocent.

  11. Bolade Adebulu

    The Nigerian economy is now the largest in Africa, thanks to GEJ and the able Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala. Things can only get better for us as a nation. But the notoriously pessimistic ones among us we leave them to God. irrespective of what this wants us to believe.

  12. Elijah Adebola

    I do not know why people particularly professional politicians like the writer above. What does he know about the technical economic issues. The only thing people like him knows(sic) is how to arrange thugs and rig elections as they always do.

  13. emeka

    We cannot help but laugh at the intelligence of some of our so-called writer. Read this man talk about the MIT-trained economist Dr Okonjo-Iweala in such despicable manner. That reminds me, he also brought World Bank into it.

  14. Segun Adegoke

    The author of this article wrote under the influence of strong wine. I say this because a lot of errors he committed will not have been avoided if he has written as a normal person. It is a pity that the author did not bother to confirm his facts before going to the press.

  15. Samuel

    I wonder why people choose to propagate rumors without facts and evidences. They should stop pulling the name of an innocent woman who only served this country into the mud. This accusation is propaganda.

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