Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Nigerian Technocrats Revisited

At Africa Is a Country, Omolade Adunbi has written an incisive review of former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s newest memoir, Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous. An excerpt from the review:

What becomes clear is that Okonjo-Iweala sees every disagreement with her economic policies as an attack on her person because of her gender, ethnic identity or her previous role as a World Bank employee.


it is hard to find any evidence of the fight against corruption by Okonjo-Iweala in the entire book. She presided over the economy under two administrations adjudged to be some of the most corrupt in the history of the country. For example, electricity is a major challenge in the country and the $16 billion that Obasanjo administration under which Okonjo-Iweala served spent on the power sector was mismanaged and power is still at the level it was before the administration came to power in 1999. Over $32 billion was said to have been lost to corruption during the Jonathan administration because state coffers were turned into personal coffers by the president and his cronies and it is hard to fathom that a Finance minister who coordinates the economy can feign ignorance of the monumental fraud that took place under her watch. At best, the book highlights how narratives can be reconstructed in ways that turns principled opposition into personal attacks in an attempt to provide cover for someone who might be seen as culpable in the mismanagement of Nigeria’s wealth for about 16 years. If anything is dangerous, it is not admitting to one’s culpability in the scheme of monumental fraud in the history of Nigeria.

Adunbi’s review, I think, goes well with my article “The Politics of Technocracy in Fourth Republic Nigeria.” Okonjo-Iweala was a key character in that article as well, and I drew heavily on her earlier memoir, Reforming the Unreformable. My basic argument in the article is that technocrats such as Okonjo-Iweala are essentially politicians and should be understood as such. And my basic motivation for writing the article was a lingering frustration from my time at the State Department (2013-2014), when various American officials seemed quiet enamored with Okonjo-Iweala and wondered how someone “good” like her could tolerate serving in the corrupt atmosphere of the Jonathan administration. Again, the short answer is that she is a political actor who is interested in power, and cultivating a “reformer” image is part of her pursuit of power. Adunbi’s review, in my reading, confirms and extends these arguments. Particularly troubling is his convincing case that Okonjo-Iweala’s political outlook runs in a strongly authoritarian direction: In the memoir, Adunbi observers, “Every invitation to the [National Assembly] to give account of the stewardship of her ministry is considered an attack on her person such that the reader might be convinced that she would rather serve under a dictatorial government than a democracy.”


50 thoughts on “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Nigerian Technocrats Revisited

  1. One thing I know for sure, there’s nothing you people can say or do, that can make me change my mind about this great woman… You people are just trying to bring her down, and she can never come down to your levels again…

  2. Can you people at least talk about how to move Nigeria forward and not backward, this is one reason we aren’t moving forward in this country when all that we do is badmouth our own people.

    • I’m so tired of this kind of people… They’ll be forming saint here, and be pointing fingers at others, but they are actually the worst people ever.

  3. There is hardly anything incisive about Omolade Adunbi’s biased review of Okonjo-Iweala’s book. It is clearly an agenda-setting initiative, because he conspicuously left out a lot of germane issues she raised in her book about corruption, the challenges (which are still prevalent till today), her efforts and achievements while in office. So, he was obviously writing from a biased point of view.

  4. You wonder why Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is loved by the Americans Alex Thurnton?! Need I remind you of her staggering academic records, her impressive professional feats and contributions as a director at the World Bank, and being a board member of several global financial and charitable institutions, and that she recently was signed on by Twitter Inc? Such reputable organizations won’t come near a poisoned chalice nor a corrupted soul.

  5. Be reminded that one of the great stuffs she did as finance minister was spearheading negotiations with the Paris Club that led to the wiping out of $30 billion of Nigeria’s external debt, 60% of which was outright cancellation and the country was relieved of her debt burden, but somehow, we have found ourselves back in that hole.

  6. There is no question about gender inequality being a global phenomenon. Also, a larger percentage of Nigerians are highly tribalistic. Omolade Adunbi didn’t have to berate Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for mentioning it in her book. It’s high time we moved beyond all these primordial sentiments and critique people based on their character and output, and for Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to remind of its prevalence means we still have quite a lot to do to properly integrate our world and make it a better place.

  7. I feel Adunbi was in a way speaking for the government of the day, but the same government boasted about ending subsidy payment and actually hid paying large sums as subsidy. These payments were done without due appropriation from the legislative arm. I will never be a party to contravening constitutional provisions, and you should at least give the administrations Dr Okonjo-Iweala served in some kudos, because they didn’t play the ostrich on this one.

  8. For a woman who contracted one of the best Audit firms in the world, Price Waters Cooper, to audit the books and operations of NNPC-the agency managing Nigeria’s largest source of revenue-and came out with staggering revelations and workable reforms, for a woman who vigorously worked for drastic reduction of govt’s spending by reducing the bloated wage bill and so came up with the biometric solutions, she proposed and executed the ECA to save for rainy days, and ensuring its statements were published periodically etc. Say what you wanna, she is reformer. Most of the things listed above are in your earlier article.

  9. Even if Madam Ezekwesili said she wasn’t a politician in her interview with Aljazeera and she is now seeking political office, that doesn’t demean her in anyway. If all countries of the world are governed by the best minds, committed to socio-economic development, I believe the world will be a better place. Though Dr. Okonjo-Iweala hasn’t shown any interest to vie for any elective position, but great minds like her should be encouraged to do so. One of the banes of our society is the dearth of genuine leadership; a lot of people seeking political offices are doing so for personal reasons.

  10. It’s quite unfortunate that you tow the line of Adunbi on the leadership style of Madam Okonjo-Iweala. For someone who ensured the process of appropriation was adhered to and carried on her reforms to the best of her ability. Are you trying to libelously concur with Adunbi that suggests that she prefers we go back to the military dark days?

  11. Some of us do know the name Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala scares the heck out of a lot of folks like Adunbi out there, that’s why he weakly and baselessly attacks everything she puts out, everything she stands for, and trying so hard at tainting her exceptional reputation.

  12. On the flip side, Adunbi’s piece could be an attention seeking one. The name Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala carries a lot of weight and if you try to smear it as he has sheepishly done, the people on the other side could be fascinated enough to onboard you. It’s the political correctness of the times.

  13. What a load of tosh. She would have been VP candidate if she even showed the slightest hint of interest but she did not. I can bet my top dollar she will never venture into Nigerian politics again. All these conjectures by you and Adunbi should be put to rest.

  14. I feel the need to comment some more. How you could read Adunbi’s article and not see the obvious bias and hatred is beyond me. The man alleged she lied about the reason for her own mother’s kidnap! How insensitive is that? That alone set the tone for the whole article. Biased and hate filled.

  15. One day you all will come out clean and finally say why you so maliciously malign the person of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the extent that you can never write an objective piece on Nigerian economic progression without recourse to personal abuse. Nasty Charlatans

  16. These people will never tire of their nonsense and shameless dirty politicking. They are so shameless but those who can go in search of the true knowledge of how NOI saved Nigeria’s economy will find out for themselves.

  17. Oh and Finally on the issue of her seeing criticism as an attack and how her political outlook runs in an authoritarian direction? Look at her career before Nigerian politics and her career now after Nigerian politics. Does she look authoritarian to you? I do not think she would have gotten to the level she is now if she didn’t know how to take criticism!!!

  18. So you actually read Fighting Corruption is Dangerous and this is all you could bring out? No wonder they say even if you do everything for your enemies, they will never stop hating. Just say you have a personal dislike for CME or is this your way of getting noticed?

  19. And you being your usual hypocrite self decided to jump on that fallacy Prof Adunbi person posted as review? You all are the kind of “intellectuals” that are the bane of Nigeria’s progress.

  20. NOI came to Nigeria to help steer a country fresh out of military highhandedness and gross mismanagement by applying policies that best fit best the times but pseudo-intellectuals like you would rather crucify and malign her than admit the giant strides she achieved for Nigeria’s economy

  21. What are you even saying? Do you know the leaps Nigeria took economically under Obasanjo administration alone? You know how foreign reserve increased and GDP??? For a young democracy, you know how enviable those strides were?

  22. This is what annoys me with these Nigerians in diaspora writing think pieces about Nigeria for a mostly foreign audience. They are not on ground to really see and feel what is actually going on but through the filter of ill-reported news they read, they go on and pose as experts in Nigerian governance.

  23. Your write-up maligning technocrats like NOI who came to work despite the ugly political terrain just to realise the Nigeria of our dreams and make sure the rest of the world don’t leave us behind, is so ignorant and vindictive. You and your ilks, what have y’all done to ever get Nigeria as a country working?

  24. Mr Thurston, you and Adunbi, what have both of you done to improve the economy? Or criticizing NOI is your only talent and contribution??

  25. Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala got Nigeria its debt relief that has done so much for her development. She implemented the TSA and IPPIS systems for accountability and transparency in Nigeria’s notoriously finance-draining civil service, she went headstrong against thieving politicians in form of governors, legislators, oil marketers, etc. She started a system of publishing every state’s financial report to stem corruption, she ensured ECA funds were adequately put in place. This woman did all these to salvage our economy from corruption and no matter the amount of image battering articles, thesis, reviews you and your likes put out here, her achievements and personality will never be diminished. She will get even more international appraisal. We living in Nigeria know these.

  26. Adunbi’s article is one of the worst and most biased I have ever read. He could have just written “I hate Okonjo Iweala and we will get his point. And you, you need to go back and read again. This time take off you politics tinted glasses.

  27. I would have really loved it if you lot have achieved a strand of what she has. Your constant bashing of a woman who minds her business and while having an impact on the world is nauseating.

  28. I wonder how I found Adunbi’s article and then your blog. I Wonder why I keep seeing nonsense on the Internet when I’m looking for something reasonable. You and Adunbi need to get a room and talk of your mutual hatred for a renowned achiever over a glass of cheap wine.

  29. Adunbi I must say this is indeed a review. But I think you still need some learning to understand what NOI really means. I see your points as baseless and I can see you are just doing show off. Ko le work.

  30. If you are blind to notice the former Minister of Finance effort s she put in to revive our country, then allow those who can see to appreciate her efforts instead of going making up false story and untrue review.

  31. Do you just say NOI is a political actor? Excuse me, you can’t just speak like that of a woman who has devoted and contributed to he development of the state. She saved the country economy so what are we saying. She is never a political actor. Please you need some concrete evidence to back up your blame. I basically disagree with you on that.

  32. World renowned economist is whom you speak of in this manner, my friend you must be stupid. If you don’t know what to write or better still if you don’t understand what you’ve read, you can get people to explain things to you in a way you will understand. If you need a teacher then get one.

  33. Okonjo Iweala’s book on “fighting corruption is dangerous” is truly a remarkable book by an outstanding human being. These reflections on fighting corruption are not only a gripping and moving personal story of stress and courage but a deeply thoughtful and constructive analysis of a fundamental aspect of economic development. Mr. Man you need to get your facts right before you conclude and pick up your pen to write.

  34. Must you cook up a false story just because you want to gain people’s attention? One thing I know for sure is that no matter how hard you guys try, you will always meet NOI at the top/front because she has been ordained by God and nothing I mean absolutely nothing can make me fall for your sweet talks.

  35. What you fail to realise is that this woman is an astute finance person, an accomplished and world renown economist. She is not an everyday politician. She has done her bit professionally to the best of her abilities. Glad you have flown the kite and registered your political ambition. Let’s see how far you can go with that your untamed tongue and next to zero public-service experience.

  36. NOI was the best gift God gave to the Nigerian Economy but unfortunately people like Adunbi never know her value. Now I believe in the saying that “People don’ value you when you are with them they only value you when you are gone”. Adunbi you are a gonner. No matter what you say, it doesn’t change her personality.

  37. May God delete anything good you’ve done just as you’re here trying to erase Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s legacy. How can someone sacrifice so much to uplift her fatherland only for skreps like Adunbi to discredit it all all for selfish ambitions?

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