Sometime in late April, 2018 I stumbled on a 2page extract of Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's (NOI) book on twitter and was absolutely stunned by its contents.
Ms. Ngozi, Nigeria's two-time minister of finance and former Managing Director of the World Bank in that extract had stated that Mr. Donald Duke, a "progressive" former governor of Cross-River State in South-South Nigeria, had called and visited her in Washington, trying to convince her not to accept serving in the newly elected government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ).
I have put the extract that stunned me here but I immediately went on Amazon to order the book.
In this book Ms. Ngozi or NOI as her initials spell, tries to inform her readers about happenings, achievements, corrupt practices and how it was curtailed; and relationships to other government personalities in and around government during her tenure from 2011 - 2015 as it relates to her office as Minister of Finance and Coordination Minister of the Economy.
Some have posited that she is only trying to launder her image seeing that general elections are slated for February 2019 and she could be considered by any of the foremost presidential candidates as a running mate others think she released the book so as to expose the current president and possibly damage his chances at re-election. Which is it really? That’s why I read the book and wrote this review.
Did NOI convince anyone that she wasn't corrupt and fought against corruption in this book?
NOI goes straight into the book talking about the two events that concern her personally borne out of how she carried out her job and affected her ability to do the job.
One was the kidnap of her mother on December 9, 2012 and the other was getting information that a meeting was held where it was agreed that she should be maimed so she would "leave office in a wheel chair". While she captured reader’s attention with these stories in the very first chapter, I believe she should have written the book in a certain chronological order as these events happened almost two years into her tenure.
I see that as trying to hold the reader’s attention as well as build sentiments around her so one would know how difficult it was to hold that office and the various threats faced. Not that any of it was a lie because it surely is very difficult to hold such an office in a country like Nigeria.
In Chapter two she writes about how she got recommended for the job and several attempts to discourage her from taking the job. It was such an extract of page seventeen where she described how Donald Duke called and visited her giving her "friendly advice" not to take the job that made me buy this book. Donald Duke's attempt to discourage and his half-witted response to NOI's book just show the reader that Nigeria's politics is about "self-interest" and NEVER about the country's development. I have inserted Donald Duke's response here as well. If Donald Duke's presidential ambition was figuratively already a teenager in the University, NOI's revelation sent it back to being a diaper-wearing 3-month old baby. He can as well just forget about it now. **laughs scornfully**
While it is funny now, the revelation wasn't funny to me at all when I first read it. I couldn't believe that Donald Duke was capable of that but I guess that explains the selfishness of Nigeria's politicians.
The underlying reason why NOI's mum was kidnapped on that December morning is the main subject of chapter 3: Confronting the Oil Scammers.
In it she describes how funds were being looted by certain companies/individuals who submitted subsidy claims of petroleum products not imported or used in Nigeria but expected the government to pay. Her team audited the claims and discovered that only about 30% of them were genuine and so they suspended the payments which resulted to her mother's kidnap and threat to her life. In my opinion it is clear that NOI was trying to be thorough with her audit and also supported discussing the "subsidy removal" in town hall meetings around the country before its eventual removal.
She also revealed here how GEJ was "convinced/rail-roaded" to announce the removal on January 1, 2012 by Babangida Aliyu, the governor of Niger state.
She also talked about the circumstances that led to the CBN governor's outburst that $50billion was missing from Nigeria's oil accounts.
She painted a picture that she was already aware of missing monies and auditing/investigating it when the news broke out that Sanusi Lamido has leaked a letter he sent to the president concerning the missing funds. How does one confirm that was true? She sure was been very sleek in those pages.
NOI, in the chapter about Nigeria's twisted budget process, writes about how the corruption around allocating funds to projects from Ministries, Agencies and Department to collusion with members of the National Assembly who then arbitrarily add funds and projects to the budget which they then siphon through disbursements. This has even become more terrible in the last two years resulting in the "Budget Padding" scandal as well as causing serious delays in the passage of budgets. As I type this on May 22nd 2018, Nigeria's 2018 budget hasn't been passed or signed.
Nigeria has gained a reputation the world over for being the base of "African Princes" who try to scam foreigners out of their hard-earned cash but in Chapter five NOI describes several scams/proposals that came from foreign lands and persons abroad trying to hoodwink the government into one deal or another.
These deals would have been bad for Nigeria and increased her debt profile if not for her vigilance/expertise and the democratic nature of GEJ who always sought her opinion when such proposals are brought to him. This brings to mind the need to have very intelligent and smart people in the corridors of power or else ineffectual leaders with sign away the entire country and people will think they still have a country.
One particular one that struck me was one where the foreigners came with the chief of Naval Staff and their unbelievably juicy proposal for a dockyard for all our naval ships. Upon further scrutiny and interviews it was all hogwash. So I ask myself, was the Naval Boss in on the scam from the get go or he himself just almost fell for it. Well the same naval boss was later arrested for misappropriation of funds with billions found in several of his bank accounts. My people, Ngozi was very 'woke'. She really helped to mitigate the scams that would have flown past GEJ's desk.
She then went on write about "Ghost Workers, Ghost Pensioners" within government payables and how she eliminated several during her first outing and now again during GEJ's government. As I read, all I could think of was that this "Ghost Worker" industry is probably the largest employer of labour in Nigeria. She wrote on the various resistances to her reforms and how she was only able to achieve deploying technology to stem all these due to the backing she got from the president.
As a female, Ngozi faced the challenge of being disrespected by several top politicians and presidential aides because of her gender. Some were even more envious just because she was named as 'Coordinating Minister of the Economy'. She writes about this and describes verbal assaults on her by the uncouth Osun state governor, Rauf Aregbesola and the pint-sized Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomole, who particularly started verbal attacks in the media against her person just because she refused to give her backing to loans he wanted. These loans would have further impoverished their states especially with their inability to pay.
Finally, this excerpt of the last chapter of the book gives a good idea of the circumstances just before GEJ called and congratulated PMB even before the results had been completely announced.
The book is actually an eye opener on the inner workings of high levels of government and the high-wire politics that come with it. I believe it serves two purposes for her, which is to launder her image and nail the coffin of other politician’s ambitions, something I believe would have appalled her seeing that she knew the characters very well. She convinced me that she is smart, intelligent, and incorruptible and loves Nigeria. The book also does nothing to dent PMB's re-election chances as she didn’t knock the sitting government in anyway. It is quite objective in its language and delivery.
I will score the book a 7 over 10 overall and I recommend that young aspiring politicians and everyone interested in our National development read it to learn how to navigate their ways past corrupt bureaucracy and vested interests. It serves as encouragement as well to those who hold office to stand their ground against all corrupt odds.
GOD BLESS NIGERIA.
Ukpetenan Frank Obehi