On The Resignation of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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On The Resignation of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala From The Obasanjo Administration

 

By

 

Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD

alukome@gmail.com

Burtonsville , MD , USA

 

August 7, 2006

 

 

 

 

The August 3, 2006 resignation of the Nigeria's erstwhile Minister for Finance - and more lately Foreign Minister - Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is intriguing to say the least (see attached letters).  The initial official and un-official attempts to put a "prestigious promotion" gloss over her surprising enforced movement (on June 21) from Finance (where she demonstrated focus, dedication and competence, even if one did not always agree with her initial dollar salary or her economic policies) to Foreign Affairs (where she self-admittedly had little or no experience or preparation) have now been shown to be disingenuous. 

 

Something definitely appeared to have gone amiss between herself and her boss, President Obasanjo.    One does not know for sure what happened earlier, but right from the moment when Okonjo-Iweala inscrutably wrote a letter (dated June 6, 2006) to the Senate stating that " (President Olusegun Obasanjo) has conveyed to me a document containing information on withdrawals from the excess crude and Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) between October 2005 and April 2006."  -  clearly shifting responsibility away from herself - to her hasty and ill-advised declaration of an administrative rut in the Foreign Ministry of her immediate predecessor Olu Adeniji,  including  a declaration on July 4 before another Senate committee of an officially disputed discovery of fraud - she ran into stormy weather publicly with the Obasanjo administration.    

 

Okonjo-Iweala should have resigned earlier immediately she was re-assigned from Finance to Foreign Affairs, but most probably  a combination of "patriotic" blackmail and the  lure of the devious "military" tactic of being temporarily retained as head of the Economic Team delayed her now courageous resignation move.   The Iweala-as-economic-team-head arrangement was bound to be un-workable given the fact that a substantive Finance Minister (Mrs. Nenadi Usman, formerly Minister of State for Finance and hence Ngozi's equally-dedicated and loyal deputy), no political pushover herself, was in place.   Nenadi had privately complained and indicated an unwillingness to sign onto any document negotiated by the Minister of another ministry. 

 

The fact of the matter was that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had completed in Obasanjo's government what she was "employed" or "assigned" to do in the first instance - pay up  Nigeria's Paris-Club debts as some kind of "bailiff" to the West.  She was thus now expendable.  Her dismissal as head of the economic team while negotiating abroad on behalf of the team, followed by her announced confinement in Foreign Affairs to the Non-Aligned Movement was heavy-handed, uncouth and un-classy, but not unusual for President Obasanjo, who has often displayed the penchant for throwing his closest advisers and collaborators off-balance and out in the cold when they least expect it.

 

A couple of  things are certain: on paper the former duo of Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Minister of State Mrs. Nenadi Usman in the  Ministry of Finance was far more qualified and internationally exposed, and far less politically malleable than the new team of  Minister Mrs. Usman and  Minister of State Engineer Elias Nwalen Mbam.  Secondly, life will go on for my former primary school mate Ngozi as she most probably returns to join us Diaspora Nigerians.   Nigeria will remember her as its first female Finance Minister ; as its first  female and shortest-serving Foreign Minister (44 days); for leading the debt relief effort and bringing Nigeria's external debt down from $35 billion to $5 billion (while controversially paying off $12 billion at a go to the Paris Club of creditors);  for ensuring the transparent publication of federal, state and local government federal allocation figures - and for her very recognizable small full-figure frame, her trade-mark glasses,  brightly-colored Ankara wear and "osuka" head gear.  She will be re-embraced, celebrated and rewarded by the West - while Nigerians will still have to wait for the "trickle-down" effects of many of the controversial reform policies which she and her boss championed.

 

Will she run for president or vice-president or even for Governor of her own Delta State (not her husband's Abia State) as rumors to those effects swirl?   My own political tea-leaves reading indicates that those are highly unlikely events..

 

The last time I saw Ngozi was just on July 27, when as the new Foreign Minister, her ministry was listed as host of a banquet for visiting Diaspora at the Transcorp Hilton. I stood in line to re-introduce myself and greet her, whereupon she asked pointedly "Any more controversial issues to write on?" in oblique reference to my criticisms (among others) of her dollar salary, debt relief policies and ..umm..umm.. Potomac Maryland neighborhood - and we cracked up laughing.  If I had an inkling into the future, I should have retorted "Wait until next week!"


In any case, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala's plight should not be interpreted negatively by members of the Diaspora who wish to join one government or the other in Nigeria:   without being immodest, I vouch to state that we are sorely needed in Nigeria provided we offer our skills respectfully.  Rather, the former minister of Finance & Foreign Affairs situation should be seen as a convergence of an unusual set of political actors and economic circumstances.

 

 

 

MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

NIGERIA

 

                                                                                                            August 3, 2006

 

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR

President, Commander-in-Chief,

Federal Republic of Nigeria,

Presidential Villa

Abuja

 

Mr. President:

 

 

RESIGNATION FROM POSITION OF

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER

 

This is to tender my resignation as Foreign Affairs Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

I want to thank Your Excellency for granting me the honour of serving our beloved country Nigeria first as Minister of Finance and Leader of the Economic Team under your Chairmanship for a period of three years and then as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Economic Team for a period of one and a half months.

 

Mr. President, I am compelled to tender my resignation at this time because of a) the need to take care of pressing family issues that demand my immediate attention and b) because I believe that I have faithfully delivered on all of the tasks Your Excellency charged me with when you invited me to resign from the World Bank to become Finance Minister three years ago.

 

Your Excellency outlined a terms of reference that included formulation and spearheading of the implementation of a reform program that would turn the Nigerian Economy around. Specifically, Your Excellency also asked that I deliver debt relief for Nigeria a quest that had eluded the country for some time.

 

Mr. President, working with your Presidential Economic Team under your leadership and guidance, I believe we were able to create a strong reform program and implement this to worldwide acclaim and to the benefit of Nigerians. The results speak for themselves and need not be repeated here..

 

I am particularly proud of the fiscal aspects of this program which brought sanity and prudent management to our fiscal regime and above all greater transparency so that all Nigerians can hold government more accountable whether for revenues collected in the Federation Account or for the costs of running government or other financial responsibilities.


I am especially grateful to God for shepherding us through a very difficult Paris Club debt relief process spearheaded by your Excellency and resulting in success beyond most people's expectations with an unprecedented $18 billion write-off. This success has also allowed us to initiate the restructuring of our London Club debt. I am also grateful for other work done in Finance that saved the country more than $500 million through the analytical work of the new oil and gas unit, and through the analysis and renegotiations of various contracts in the Ministry of Finance.

 

Mr. President, you provided the opportunity to do so much more by appointing me chairman of several of the important committees you created to solve the topical problems our government faced.

In the short time I have been in Foreign Affairs, important changes have also been initiated to help strengthen and refocus the ministry and sharpen certain aspects of our foreign policy as you instructed. In fact, a roadmap has been developed to illustrate necessary changes to improve the ministry.


Your Excellency, I have delivered on your targets and benchmarks and I believe it is time for me to look after my family whilst at the same time contributing to Nigeria in another fashion. I am particularly grateful to my colleagues in the Federal Executive Council and on the Economic Team, to the staff of the ministries in which I served, and to fellow Nigerians who have shown me unremitting and wonderful support. I am also grateful to the National Assembly, especially its leadership, for the partnership and support they provided me throughout my tenure. I must not forget to thank my fellow Abians for trusting me to represent them in the cabinet for these past three years. Above all, I am grateful to Your Excellency for this opportunity to serve our country.

 

God Bless Mr. President!  God Bless Nigeria!

 

 

Signed:

 

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

 

 

 

 

OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION

THE PRESIDENCY, FEDERAL SECRETARIAT, SHEHU SHAGARI WAY,

ABUJA NIGERIA

Website:  www.osgf.gov.ng  Email: info@osgf.gov.ng

Tel: 09-5233540

 

 

Reference:  SGF.12/S.6/VII/798                                              3rd August, 2006

 

 

Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,

Honourable Minister,

Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Wuse,

Abuja

 

RE: RESIGNATION FROM POSITION OF

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER

I write to convey the regretful acceptance of your resignation by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, based on your compelling need to take care of pressing family issues that demand your immediate attention.   Mr. President wishes to acknowledge the unparalleled patriotism, dedication and loyalty that you displayed throughout your tenure, first as Minister of Finance and lately as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

2.  Mr..  President notes in particular the monumental achievements recorded by Nigeria during your tenure as Minister of Finance, and Chairperson Economic Management Team, as well as the successes of our reform programme in the Finance Sector with clearly visible results being applauded worldwide and by all Nigerians.   You were able to utilize the vast network and experience of over 20 years at the World Bank to contribute to getting our nation the debt relief that had eluded us for so long. You delivered on all the tasks and targets set for you in that sector by Mr. President.    At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs you have within this short time set the tone for a transformation of the ministry. This administration will certainly miss you.

3.  Mr..  President therefore regrets that you had to resign at this stage of our reform programme when various measures adopted by government were beginning to yield positive results.   Mr. President, however, respects your reasons for tendering your resignation which he has regretfully accepted.

4.  Mr President believes that although you have left the cabinet, you will as a patriotic Nigerian continue to make positive contributions to the development of your beloved country and wishes you every success in your future endeavours.

 

Signed

Chief U.J. Ekaette, CFR, mni

Secretary to the Government of the Federation

 

Editor's note: The original letters are available:

1. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's Letter Of Resignation

2. FGN's Response To Dr. Okonjo-Iweala's Letter Of Resignation

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