Opinion: Duro Onabule and his Phantom Lady

Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's Coordinating Minister for the economy and Minister of Fiance

Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the economy and Minister of Fiance


By Ebun Asagbe
The events of the past few weeks have every one paying closer attention to news headlines; especially as it relates to the falling price of crude oil, the economy and how it all affects us as Nigerians, both in the short term, and in the years to come. That was how I stumbled across Duro Onabule’s op-ed titled, “Eventually, collapse of the economy?” published last week in The Sun.

Having read that lengthy article, I tend to disagree with him on some of what he may have considered to be salient points when developing his op-ed. I must confess that I am still a tad disturbed by the way Duro Onabule kept referring to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as “the Lady”. Something about it doesn’t just sit well with me. With the capitalization of the word, ‘lady’ each time, it almost seems like a title of scorn or ridicule. Now, as a woman myself, I find that offensive. If the minister had been a man, would he have called him “the Lord”? Or is this deliberately done so that whatever else he accused the said minister of doing or saying hereafter is hinged on the one indisputable fact; that she is FEMALE? I would have thought someone of his experience would be more sophisticated and delicate when addressing issues of this nature, alas! I am to be disappointed.

We know that there are several notable women in the president’s cabinet occupying key positions and heading ministries. So, when he calls Dr Okonjo-Iweala “the Lady of the Goodluck Jonathan administration”, in spite of the fact that she is not the only woman occupying a prominent position in government, there is the undertone of something hidden between the lines. That is both disrespectful and unfair. For a woman who has served this country passionately and has done it all on merit, she deserves an apology.

Anyone reading his op-ed on how Dr Okonjo-Iweala promised the creation of 10 million jobs knows at once how preposterous that sounds. No one in their right minds would make such a promise, least of all our Harvard-trained Minister of Finance. She knows this; and so does Duro, yet he mentions it, albeit in a manner that supposes he doesn’t believe it himself. I have scoured the internet looking for where the minister could possibly have made such a promise and the only hit I keep getting is Mr Onabule’s article. Where then did he get his information from? I wish he would have told us that.

This naturally has given me cause to ask: Why would a man who clearly has doubts about a statement still go ahead to mention that same statement in his op-ed with the intent of trash-talking a minister of this government? Did he validate his facts? I mean we are talking about a journalist with years of experience here.

Some of you may not know that Duro Onabule was an editor at a national daily before going on to serve as Chief Press Secretary to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida at the time when the latter was Head of State. I find it unnerving how those who have served leaders of our dear country in the past always come round to condemn those serving in the current government.

Another point which I find saddening is that when issues bordering on the current situation in the economy are raised, no one mentions the fact that the National Assembly keeps frustrating the efforts of the Finance Minister to reduce the crude oil bench mark. Had the current slide in oil prices not occurred, it would have been business as usual at NASS. What about the “share the money” mantra that the Governors’ Forum members chant unendingly when it comes to whether or not to touch the funds in the Excess Crude Account? For some reason, many Nigerians, Duro included, have deliberately decided to forget that prior to the setting up of the ECA, no one had any idea where all excess money from the sale of crude oil went.

Still talking about selective amnesia, our journalist here has not mentioned the SURE-P Graduate Internship Scheme, nor did he think it noteworthy to bring up the YouWIN Initiative; both of which have created jobs and a source of livelihood for many Nigerian youths. While these may not be the “ten million jobs”, these projects have taken people off the streets, put food on many people’s tables, and still offer hope to countless others.

That Dr Okonjo-Iweala never warned about the state of the economy is untrue. She has always, at every opportunity available, made it clear that we needed to spend less and save more. Just as she has been one our strongest advocates on the issue of diversifying and sourcing for other streams of income from viable sectors such as Agriculture. She has in the past been a victim of attacks; both offline and online because of her advocacy on prudence and savings. One need only enter key words in an online search to get proof of this. At least, I can assure you that on this, there is a plethora of evidence available as opposed to Duro’s non-existent figures and made up quotes of which he is the chief instigator and only source. What Nigerians expect from people of Duro’s experience is simple; facts. Give us facts and then let us decide for ourselves what to think, rather than filling our space with fairytales of a time long gone by and bogus datum.

Ebun Asagbe writes from Ado Ekiti, where she lives and works as a brand consultant.

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