We have all, at one time or another, had cause to hear or maybe even use this age-old saying, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country.” These words, spoken by the Lord Jesus, aptly summarise the story of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s sojourn in the corridors of executive power in Nigeria.
Our prophet (for so she must be called), blessed with the dual gifts of foresight and economic prowess, saw the need for a country as endowed in natural resources as Nigeria to set aside reasonable savings.
Thinking about it; this is basic, practical economy really. When you earn more, regardless of how tempted you are to spend, and spend, and spend, there is a little vice whispering in your ear to set some of it aside.
This sounds sensible enough, until you realise that some people do not even have a modicum of sense left in them. Or how else does one explain the obsession some of our public office holders have with spending? Should we get common sense a megaphone, so it’s voice can be louder than the sound of their hearts beating excitedly at the very thought of how they intend to rape our commonwealth? Can some noble scientist come up with a new vaccine to help us once and for all rid this nation of professional politicians whose goal is to steal, kill and destroy?
But, I digress.
A few days ago I read a report on Premium Times reviewing the opinion of Nigerians on President Buhari’s administration so far. While it was somewhat interesting to read what people thought about his efforts, my thoughts kept taking me back to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
You see, things may or may not have become so bad for us in this country if we had listened to this intelligent and very detailed woman when we really needed a voice of reason. As Finance Minister, she set up an Excess Crude Account that was supposed to help keep us afloat regardless of what the dynamics of the economy would present, and it did help indeed during the first economic recession. One would think that seeing how beneficial the ECA was, her work would be applauded.
But she became the Number One enemy of lecherous governors who, with their salivating mouths, could not keep their hands off the ECA.
The constituted Governors’ Forum suddenly had nothing better to talk about than how to sue the Federal Government over their unwillingness to share the money saved in the Excess Crude Account. The Wise King whose proverbs are renowned certainly knew no such men, else he would have added Amaechi, Fashola, and Oshimhole to his list of the grave, the barren womb, the thirsty desert, the blazing fire; making them eight things that never cry “ENOUGH!”.
They drained our commonwealth, leaving those who ought to have been generous lenders become the most pitiful of borrowers. Even with her smart setting up of the Sovereign Wealth Funds; something, I might add that other oil-rich nations were doing, our beloved leaders were more obsessed with lining their robust foreign accounts than in investing for the future.
When recession was in sight, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala began to talk of belt-tightening measures and the fight started again. Our thumb-sucking leaders didn’t want their ‘toys’ taken from them. No more holidays in Europe? No more study trips abroad? You mean we have to use local hospitals now? Our mummy is a bad mummy!
Shame on them, I say! And double shame on us! She saw it, predicted it, warned us about it, and we let these uncircumcised Philistines steal our heritage. Double shame on us! While it may sound glib simply to say, “If Okonjo-Iweala said it, so it will be”, it is sadly our reality today. We heard the prophet and did nothing about it. Despite her best efforts to keep us from experiencing the calamity she foresaw, here we are today.
Dan Osofisan writes from University of Jos