Wednesday 2 August 2006

A doctor without a patient

Our best finance minister
When Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was redeployed to Nigeria from her position as vice-president of the World, having an MIT doctorate in regional economics and development made her probably the best person to take up the office of Minister of Finance in Nigeria.
She has held that office with distinction with bringing transparency to the ways moneys are disbursed in the country all down to local government and the paying off of debts to the Paris Club was a signal of prudence that had come into the management of Nigeria’s oil-derived economy.
After 3 years in that post, there was a cabinet reshuffle that moved her to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but still retaining the leadership of the Economic Management Team.
On speed or up to speed?
It would appear that the new Minister of Finance who deputised for Dr Okonjo-Iweala was not ripe enough to assume that position and handle it with the despatch and expertise of her former boss.
Her not relinquishing the post with the ministerial appointment might also have been the sop to keep the doctor in the cabinet as well as quell the fears of global economic monitors who would have thought Nigeria was about to descend in pre-election profligacy.
It now transpires that whilst the doctor was busy negotiating the Nigeria’s exit from the London Club of creditors she received a letter indicating that with immediate effect she is no more the chair of the Economic Management Team as the post would now go to the current Minister of Finance who in less than six weeks is supposed to have mastered the brief.
This is the same brief, in which she would have been a deputy in liaison with her boss for at least 3 years before.
The executive president’s prerogative
Obviously, the president in the kind of democracy that Nigeria runs is the chief executive of the country, but I am beginning to wonder how he manages and accords respect to his team.
When the reshuffle took place in June, it was evident that the doctor was informed out of the blue and was in some ways reluctant about the plans, however, to be stripped of the leadership of an important position whilst negotiating in the self-same authority to rid Nigeria of some of the most burdensome encumbrances to our development is a tad disrespectful at least and annoying to person who commit themselves to the service of the country.
Stripped by letters
They were informed by letter it appears, so the doctor would have received a letter whilst in London negotiating on our behalf that she has with immediate effect lost the clout to press issues.
If her erstwhile deputy were in the negotiation panel, the day before the doctor would have been speaking for Nigeria in the centre and the next day, her deputy would be calling the shots as it appears the doctor does not have anymore roles in that team.
There probably is a tendency for the president due to his tenure of military leadership from 1976 to 1979 and his advancement in years to be so patriarchal in outlook to forget that it takes teamwork to run a great country like Nigeria and people may as well have positions of similar clout in any part of the globe without having to be pushed around for being willing to serve their country.
As the elections of 2007 appear over the horizon, here is hoping that the machinations of the president do not lead to an implosion of the cabinet feeding into uncertainties and foreboding about the future.
I am beginning to think the doctor might be of greater value to the World Bank; this is one doctor who has no more patients to treat in Nigeria.

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