An acquaintance of mine quickly retorted when I told him about it that it was to be expected because anyone running affairs in Nigeria was bound to be influential in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large. Nigeria’s population put at 160 million, which is still growing makes it a veritable market much sought after by investors seeking investment opportunity. Its oil and the trillions of petro-dollar that is got from it accords it a certain importance and relevance. This must be so, otherwise the well considered saying ‘’follow the money’’ would mean nothing. And many African countries have taken the advise too literally to heart, if you ask me, as many of them have come to Nigeria cap in hand and ever so generously Nigeria had obliged them handsomely.
Many years ago, the joke had been that Nigeria picked the bills for many a parlous country in Africa, the Caribbean and beyond that couldn’t pay their civil servants. All that needs to be done was a request to visit who ever was serving as the latest Oga patapata and once the go- ahead was given, your request was as good as answered. Any wonder therefore that anyone who could dispense so much goodwill would be deemed powerful and influential. All I am driving at is that once you become the Oga pata pata, you become willy nilly, powerful and influential. So Time Magazine’s choice of our latest oga pata pata as among the world’s powerful and influential people is hardly surprising. What is surprising however is why some Nigerians are scoffing and gnashing their teeth and wearing, long faces because Oga has been called powerful and influential. Oh! Common, it is not a Nobel Prize or Mo Ibrahim Prize for good and purposeful leadership in Africa, but just some magazine editors who, having run out of ideas are now trying to fill their journal with something titillating, if a little perplexing.
Ngozi—A Battering Ram
Let me state from the onset before some busy bodies take offence on behalf Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and proceed to threaten brimstone and fire. God forbid that our vivacious and gorgeous finance minister and would- have- been -President of the World Bank (WB) turn into a raving ram. But metaphorically her latest exploit at the World Bank is nothing if not trail blazing and pace -setting. There she was, as it were, and again no offence intended, like an angry ram, rearing up and viciously cracking its horns at the closed door of unconscionable power, unearned privilege, and arrogance that signified the whole charade of choosing the World Bank president.
Yes, that was what she was doing when she decided to fight to become the next president of the World Bank, knowing full well that it would be the mother of all fight to dislodge entrenched power and the vice -like grip of United States, Europe and other industrialized countries on the presidency of the World Bank. Many of us had rooted for our own sister, Ngozi, not because of any filial reasons of wanting one of your own, no matter what in the saddle at the WB but because it was time the apostles— of fairness, equity, and meritocracy –the US, Europe &co are made, for once, to live according to their own preachments. And no opportunity was more propitious than now when Ngozi, who incidentally had taken her time to prepare well for the position, was ranged against some jolly fellows who are also otherwise qualified but not as well as our own sister. One- Ocampo- quickly saw the handwriting on the wall and withdrew his candidature, as if to say, with what was at stake –jettisoning an unfair method of one country choosing the WB president and opening it up for contest from whomsoever was qualified—some self sacrifice would be necessary.
And so we were buoyed up by this outlandish belief that with the formidably qualified Ocampo out of he way, picking the slot over the head of Jim Yong Kim would be a piece of cake. After all, if indeed efficiency and competence were what was at stake, it would be better to go for the person that would hit the ground running—Ngozi Iweala, than choosing one who would rather be very much at home in the operation theatre of some exquisite hospital, complete with scalpels and knives cutting and probing for what ail his patients. But against all expectations, the whole world watched as the job that should have gone to an economist was offered to a physician—all because his country contributes a quarter of the funds of the WB. Well, in the slippery terrain of international politics power and influence are all that matter.
If all this makes your heart ache, not to worry, after all it was a good battle waged on the values of let’s do the proper thing. Ngozi as a battering ram has succeeded to force the door open and by dint of this she is now a crusader, some latter-day Joan of Arc battling down exclusivity and privilege to enthrone equity and fairness. Next time someone else would take the battle further.
Samuel Ogbemudia and Comrade Oshiomhole
The poet W.H. Auden, (1907—1973) once wrote… In the prison of his days/Teach the free man how to praise… in a poem entitled In Memory of W.B.Yeats. The ordeal Chief Samuel Ogbemudia, a beloved one -time governor of both Edo and Delta States in the hands of his fellow Peoples Democratic Party members for praising the Comrade Oshiomhole, governor of Edo State should baffle every lover of freedom and seeker of truth.
The venerable Governor of Bendel State, now split into Edo and Delta States has been at his wits’ end trying to tell his PDP party men that being in a different party from Oshiomhole should not stop him from commending the enviable work he has done in the state. ‘’My approval of the governor’’ he said ‘’originates from my performance rating of him since he assumed office. I want to advise my fellow PDP members that being in the opposition does not make me blind to reality.’’ Chief Samuel Ogbemudia should indeed know because during his time he had also worked unstintingly to position the then Bendel State as the state to beat in performance and good governance. His fellow PDP compatriots should grant the Comrade his due if he has discharged his duty to Edo State.