A former Vice President of the World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili, on Thursday advised the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to redirect her energies towards confronting the issues that have ruined the country’s economy rather than declare war on critics.
Responding to a recent article by a former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, governor, Chukwuma Soludo, on the economy, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala took a swipe at most of the issues raised, particularly his assessment on President Goodluck Jonathan’s management of the economy in the last six years. Mr. Soludo graded the president ‘F9’ or fail.
Most Nigerians described the tone of the Minister’s reaction signed by her special adviser on media, Paul Nwabuikwu, as emotive and intemperate, as it dwelled more on attacking Mr. Soludo’s person and character than the issues he raised.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala accused Mr. Soludo of committing “intellectual hara-kiri” with his comments against the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its rival, All Progressives Congress, APC, describing him as the worst CBN governor the country has ever produced.
“Soludo has shamelessly pandered to so many past leaders that Nigerians are asking one more time – what position is Soludo gunning for now?” the minister asked. “There is definitely an issue of character with Prof. Charles Soludo and his desperate search for power and relevance in Nigeria. Nigerians should therefore beware of so-called intellectuals without character and wisdom because this combination is fatal.”
In her reaction via Twitter, Mrs. Ezekwesili condemned the tone of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s response to Mr. Soludo’s article, saying, more than ever, it provided the justification for calls for urgent national debate on the economy.
“With the “character” of response the manager of the economy – Finance Ministry – has given to @chukwumasoludo, a debate is imperative. Really!” Mrs. Ezekwesili said in a series of tweets. “Nation and people seem to be on an accelerated race to the bottom. So, sad! Why would a statement from government read like that? Gosh! It does not matter who gets the privilege of leading our nation on May 29th. Truth be told, there is ruin that we all must confront together. We must learn to debate in a democracy without being churlish and abusive. It will grow on us.”
Mrs. Ezekwesili has been waging a relentless campaign on and off social media, demanding that government rescue 217 schoolgirls kidnapped from their hostels at the Government Day Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in April, 2014.
She has also continued to campaign for better governance and more transparent management of the economy.
“People like me will never back off demanding,” she declared. “I speak very much because I am making up for all others who should be speaking out but have rather chosen the self-preservation path of silence.
“I repeat again, that article by @chukwumasoludo on the state of the economy is a new opportunity for us as a nation to debate not war. To call people names for speaking or asking questions is a waste of time. No name wrongly called can ever become the name rightly given. In a normal society where people are not busy with self-preservation and avoiding the personal cost of their conviction, we should have more (people) asking.
“No democracy that stands in enviable heights ever rose on the back of acquiescing, lethargic and kowtowing citizens. Every voice counts. It must never worry us that some swear by us, and others cannot stand the thought of us. That’s the way it will always be, and it is healthy. The spirit of true democracy resides in the willingness of leaders to debate and not war.”
Mrs. Ezekwesili, also known as “Madam Due Process” by her admirers during her days as the pioneer chairperson of the Nigerian Extractive industries Transparency Initiative [NEITI] Board, also added her voice to the demand for the release of the report on the forensic audit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The audit was ordered by the Federal Government last year in the wake of allegations by the then CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido, over missing $20 billion oil revenue.
“By the way, whatever happened to the Forensic Audit Report on missing $20 billion NNPC oil money that Ngozi promised?” Mrs. Ezekwesili asked.