By Farouk Martins Aresa
FINANCE MINISTER, DR. NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
Africans now have this hang-up on international positions, considered as prestigious. You must remember that Africans have been Pope, Europe conqueror, United Nations President and now American President. None of these is enough as long as your Continent remains in shambles. If you know you are good enough to rule the world, rule your country and Continent competently first. American, Russian, Chinese or European greatest accomplishments are in their countries.
Anybody that has made as much money as Dr. Okonjo-Iweala did for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund through the Paris Club deserves to be its President; but, not in the case of Nigeria’s Finance Minister. What baffles some of us is how some people expect a cash cow to leave a cow like Nigeria, just to become the head of the taker. One would have thought Nkrumah’s lessons sunk, that colonialists do not take direct responsibility or blame anymore.
No, Africans do not hate one another for disagreeing on Dr. Iweala, they just want who could deliver the maximum social and economic justice to them, be it black, white or green. In reality, if black people never have the opportunity, they can never deliver. If they have the chance, the fear is there that some may squander it. If we are talking of squandering opportunities, nobody has done that more than Nigerians in their own Country. Until a black country can rise up and be a shining example to the world, we are going to have this debate for a while.
The days of direct incursion into the economic or political affairs of the African Continent are gone. It does not make sense when you can get African military, politicians or bankers that can do a better job milking their own people while you sit down in another continent and collect. You can even dictate the terms and condition or in what currency and bank you want it and if African “militriicians” do not comply, jail them for violating your laws like money laundering.
There is nothing Africans do not sell. After selling themselves, they sell their precious land rich in agriculture, oil and minerals for the next 99 years as a form of development to attract foreign investments. The vulture class gets the money to live like a drunken sailor in and outside of Africa and die leaving the next generation in perpetual payment with their sweat, blood and soul. It is like farm labor in the days of the serfs in Europe, you never pay it off.
People are either hard at hearing or refuse to learn. Here we are, we have an African doing a spectacular job for outside interest, yet Africans expect her to head the World Bank. Nobody nominated Lula da Silva of Brazil, as the type of man that will further the interest of the World Bank? If you do not know about him, just read up on him. A rebel that never minced his words in the condemnation of world inequality, is what you want in the interest of World Bank?
If you cannot manage Africa effectively, even when you attain these international positions, you have no point of greatness as reference. If your best achievement in life does not lift others up where everyone knows you belong, no matter how much you deny it or try to assimilate as an African European or African American, they know where you belong by history of accomplished prowess. Remember the Jamaican song – No matter where you are, you are an African.
Where else can you put in One million US dollar in aids and get back one billion contracts? The US is not in the mood for frivolous development or charity that does not bring back tangible returns. If we are talking about making filthy money as long as you can hold your nose, Africa is it. The only place you can get above 20% interest back on investment is in Africa, while Africans mostly poor hold the basket. Ask the Paris Club negotiators how much commission they made.
Both Okonjo Iweala and Jim Kim are Americans but their backgrounds differ. You get what you negotiate with your influence, unfortunately not what you deserve. Please do not bring racism as justifying as it may be or some superfluous reason as frivolous as it may be into international appointment. Your strength at home defines your internationally clout. United States Congress can spitefully cut off its share to World Bank if US does not have its way, it’s their ball.
So it is very amusing to see developing countries in solidarity asking for the World Bank President position when their share in the Bank or their power to appoint is in their pockets. If you want to negotiate, you do it from a strong point with a great deal of clout behind you. The President of United States knew that and was very conscious of Asian economic and political power, so he nominated Asian American. Asian American and African American power differ.
We cannot blame Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President for supporting US choice Dr. Jim Kim or Ghana for its choice of Jeffrey Sacks who in turn supported Kim choice and thanked his own supporters. Africans look at Nigeria as fellow Africans but doubt that we can deliver as much as selfless African friends as Dr. Kim or Prof. Sacks. They may secretly express fear that we may turn the World Bank into Nigeria Central Bank. They know our strong point and our weakness.
We have some type of disease that even afflicted Obama during the primary election with Mrs. Clinton. Some African Americans believed that Obama could not be a strong advocate for black issues because he would be watched like a hawk for what some Americans call black agenda. Whereas Mrs. Clinton could be as strong as President Johnson in Civil Right matters paving the way for economic progress. So far Obama has been cautiously good, but wait until second term.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala may be one of the most brilliant economists in the world stage but a meager benefit to Nigeria. Her first coming enriched Paris Club re than her Country and the doubt remains that her second coming will not benefit Nigeria again. True, she cannot fight poverty alone. She has to swim with the sharks, and some of us do not think she is the one that can buck the trend in Nigeria nor can her position at the World Bank make a positive case for Africa.