The battle for the presidency of the World Bank has been won & lost. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s current Finance Minister, is Africa’s preferred candidate for the position. She confronted in her bid to succeed Robert Zoellick by South Korea’s Jim Yong Kim and Columbia’s Jose Anthonio Ocampo. While the U.S Presiedent Barack Obama has not hidden his preference for young Kim, a health expert, a larger section of world favors the Delta State-born professor, following her enormous experience and glaring leadership skills. Just few days ago, 39 former World Bank employees signed an open letter endorsing Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.
The respected New York Times did not mince words in its selection of Ngozi as its preferred choice. The publication put her miles ahead of her rivals. “As an economist, diplomat and former World Bank managing director she offers many conventional qualities of bank presidents. She breaks the mould as a woman from an African country where she fought to reduce the country’s debt, gain greater access to international credit markets and battle corruption. Advancing merit over politics, and given the current global economic and social challenges Okonjo-Iweala is the best fit for the presidency of the World Bank”, the paper said in one of its recent editions. The New York Times think Yong Kim could be subdued in the fiery politics of global financial matters as a result of his inexperience – a crucial advantage it believes the Nigeria has in spilling quantity. The Economist magazine another globally respected publication sang Iweala’s praise, tipping her as the best candidate for the top job at the World Bank. “When economist from the World Bank visits poor countries to dispense cash and advice, they routinely tell governments to reject cronyism and fill each important job with the best candidate available. It is good advice. The World Bank should take it, in appointing its next president, the bank’s board should reject the nominees of its most influential shareholder, America and pick Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala”, the magazine said.
The Federal Government has equally been magnanimous in its support of the 57-year-old for the biggest position at the World Bank, in a statement by President Goodluck Jonathan, the excitement was evident. “We firmly believe that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s knowledge and expertise, as well as the depth and breadths of her experience make her the best candidate to; lead the World Bank. She has first-hand experience of managing development issues at national and international levels deploying her skills with demonstrated passion, commitment and professionalism.
She has also known a high degree of innovation and drive. Has exhibited a strong ability to integrate and manage interwoven problems of development in infrastructure, health, education and other sectors in her expanded role as coordinating minister for the economy. I am firmly convinced that Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership will be beneficiary, both to the World Bank and to its principal stakeholder. I also believe that it will be immensely beneficial to Africa and the developing world at large. Nigeria urges that her candidacy receives fair consideration in an open, transparent and merit based process, which should be embraced by all stakeholders”, the statement read in part. The leadership of the institution was important to the developing world in particular with the third world countries to promote growth, tackle poverty and uplift living standards, according to Jonathan. Director of Royal African Society, Richard Dowden, has been speaking, too. He believes the time to break America and Europe’s monopoly on two strongest financial institutions in the world – International Monetary Find (IMF) and World Bank, is now. “The World Bank was the instrument by which structural adjustment was imposed on Africa in the 1990s. It was the most brutal economic policy; it millions of people and caused disruption and terrible insecurity. That an African should then become head of it would be hugely symbolic. The bank has been utterly direction-less in recent years, and Okonjo-Iweala would be a great choice to change that, she’s a very bright woman, absolutely no nonsense: the bullshit factor is extremely low with her”, Dowden said.
Adekeye Adebanjo, South African based Nigeria who heads the centre for conflict resolution in Cape Town, also highlights Okonjo-Iweala’s chances, said he: “it would be incredible. The anachronistic idea of American and European leadership does not reflect the current state of the world. It would be a good thing if someone from the global South were to take over. Okojo-Iweala has the right credentials for the bank. She’s been an insider there as managing director and is finance minister of one of the emerging economies which is about to take over from South Africa as the biggest in Africa. She’s certainly someone of substance and would be respected”.
The encomiums and level of support received ahead of the elections, which come up later on July 1, leave Ngozi completely overwhelmed. She did not hold back emotions while express appreciation. “I am honoured by my nomination and the support of multiple African Nations to make the World Bank more representatives of the people it serves. As an employee of the bank for 22 years, I know of its commitment to improving the lives of those in developing world. It is that passion that inspires me to do the most I can for Nigeria as the Minister of Finance. Without the efforts of key African leaders and the gracious acceptance of my nomination by the president, none of this would have been possible. I am really grateful and highly honoured that Africa has united behind my nomination. I valued the opportunity to compete in his contest and the tremendous support my candidacy has generated but the priority remains the best interest of Nigeria. Nothing changes that.
“An African presiding at the World Bank knows the problem confronting the continent and is therefore in the best position to design workable solutions that will take into account the socio-cultural environment, within which the ideas would be applied, using existing bench-America- would be hoping to break away from that oppression soon as its candidate steps into the mantle. Whether those clam-ours would depend on the much-awaited contest three months from now.
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