By Bade Adebolu
In my earlier article, Economic Crunch: What Should Okonjo-Iweala Have Done? I submit that we are not being fair to Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the immediate past minister of finance, over the way some people in the media vociferously criticised her for “mismanaging the economy.” I recall making this conclusion because we all know the powerful Governors’ Forum, led by the present minister of transport, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi, frustrated the efforts of, fought with, and incited the public against Okonjo-Iweala; all to score some political points.
Amaechi was not alone in this, if my memory still serves me right. We all remember the roles of persons like Governors Adams Oshiomhole, Raji Fashola and the likes, all of whom have been rewarded with big portfolios under the Buhari administration. Their only contribution to the Nigerian economy is for them to have prevented us from saving when the prices of oil were at the peak!
Let me make this very important point here. As against what some people might have thought, this writer is not a big fan of the former minister. He does not know her neither has he met her, not even on social media. All I am interested in, and have always advocated, is fairness on the part of the media. Nothing more!
As though I was a prophet, the answer soon came; this time from President Buhari himself. As unusual as that looks, the President gave Okonjo-Iweala a clean bill of health when he met Paul Polsen, the Chief Global CEO of Unilever Plc, who paid him a visit last week. In the words of President Buhari : “We refused to save for the rainy day. Now the rain is beating us. No money, no savings, nothing. And we are thoroughly wet from the rains.”
One thing is clear from Buhari’s statement. Apart from saying the obvious – the persons responsible for the present economic challenge are in his cabinet. Why? The inability to save “for the rainy day” has always been propped by the inability of the Pharaoh (Amaechi, Fashola, Oshiomhole) to take advice from Joseph (Okonjo-Iweala). Had the opposite been the case, things would have been better.
The truth is that there was the issue of falling oil prices when Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala held sway as the Coordinating Minister of the Nigerian economy. But how was she able to handle the economy in a professional manner? The difference has always been in the level of expertise and years of experience in economic management.
In the United States’ Federal Reserve Board, we can mention great persons like William M. Martin Jr. who served as chairman between 1951 to 1970, serving in five different political administrations, both Democrats and Republicans. Also we have Allan Greenspan who was appointed chairman in 1987 and served under four different Presidents, including Bill Clinton, even though he was a Republican. Do you still wonder why we are called a Third World country?
The fact that this important statement from the Office of the President is not given wider publicity should bother sincere media practitioners.
One wonders if the President’s men (many of whom contributed in no small ways to the present economic mess) ever give him sound advice on economic management at all. My unpaid advice to Mr President at this point is that he should look for his enemies not in Okonjo-Iweala, the PDP or the GEJ men, but among the sycophants gnawing at his administration. These are the people who publicly admire his torn outfits and criticise his tastes behind his back. He must first win the war against corruption from within before doing so from without.
On the part of the President’s praise-singers, my advice to them is for them to know the difference between defending a job and doing a job. Only a thin line separates the two. The inability to make this important distinction is what leads to fallacies, falsehoods and blatant lies as the case above. This was the reason Stalin’s and Hitler’s closest advisers were not spared the task of paying the ultimate price – with their lives!
For his sincerity, I personally wish to thank President Buhari for letting the world know the truth behind the present economic mess. But, after all these said, who still blames Okonjo-Iweala?
Bade Adebolu is an Accountant based in Ado-Ekiti. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org