How I was asked to resign on national television, says Okonjo-Iweala
... As Gordon Brown, Mo Ibrahim, others hail Nigeria’s ex-finance minister’s new book
By Valentine Amanze
Nigeria’s immediate past Finance Minister and Head of Economic Team, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has revealed how dangerous it is to fight corruption in the country.
She disclosed this in her latest book titled, “Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous: The Story Behind The Headlines,” published by MIT Press.
Okonjo-Iweala, in the book, narrated her experiences while serving in the Jonathan administration.
She disclosed that her most difficult time in government was when her 83-year-old mother, was kidnapped as a result of her policy, which affected corrupt officials.
According to her, she was asked to resign on national television and leave the country before her mother could be released by her abductors.
Meanwhile, many respected global leaders are commending the book by former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her experiences while serving in the Jonathan administration as a timely, honest and very useful account on the challenges of progressing national development and fighting corruption in a very challenging environment.
Former British Prime Minister and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, described the book, an often riveting account of the challenges and serious dangers which the former Minister faced, as “Fearless, principled, compassionate for Africa’s poor and passionate for Africa’s future”.
According to Brown, “Okonjo-Iweala’s book tells us what politics and public service should be about.”
Famous entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, Dr Mo Ibrahim, said that the book was a potent reminder of the reality that fighting corruption is tough and risky.
His words: “Brave declarations and indignant statements about fighting corruption are what we are used to hearing from well-meaning people in politics or business. How difficult and sometimes dangerous it is to fight corruption is not always appreciated. Okonjo-Iweala is a lioness on the hunt who writes eloquently to tell us the story from the front lines.”
On his part, Lord Nicholas Stern, Professor of Economics and Government, London School of Economics described “Fighting Corruption is Dangerous” as “a remarkable book by a truly outstanding human being.”
He continued: “Okonjo-Iweala is not only a fine economist but also a charismatic leader. Good governance is a key element in fostering successful economic development, and corruption is deeply corrosive of governance. 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.
Tales of Intimidation
The book includes several examples of the dangers and risks the former minister faced in office. For example, according to excerpts from the publisher’s summary: “Okonjo-Iweala discovered just how dangerous fighting corruption could be when her 83-year-old mother was kidnapped in 2012 by forces who objected to some of the government’s efforts at reforms led by Okonjo-Iweala — in particular a crackdown on fraudulent claims for oil subsidy payments, a huge drain on the country’s finances. The kidnappers’ first demand was that Okonjo-Iweala resign from her position on live television and leave the country…”
As she said in the book: “They asked my brother to tell me to announce on national television and radio that I was resigning from my job as Finance Minister and leaving the country”.
The former Finance Minister also told the startling tale of how she and the visiting IMF President, Christine Lagarde, were almost bounced out of State House by a top official who was upset that Okonjo-Iweala refused to do his bidding in a deal he was interested in.
Complete book summary by publishers – MIT Press
A Frontline Account Of How To Fight Corruption, From Nigeria’s Former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
“In Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has written a primer for those working to root out corruption and disrupt vested interests. Drawing on her experience as Nigeria’s finance minister and that of her team, she describes dangers, pitfalls, and successes in fighting corruption. She provides practical lessons learned and tells how anti-corruption advocates need to equip themselves. Okonjo-Iweala details the numerous ways in which corruption can divert resources away from development, rewarding the unscrupulous and depriving poor people of services.
Okonjo-Iweala discovered just how dangerous fighting corruption could be when her 83-year-old mother was kidnapped in 2012 by forces who objected to some of the government’s efforts at reforms led by Okonjo-Iweala — in particular a crackdown on fraudulent claims for oil subsidy payments, a huge drain on the country’s finances. The kidnappers’ first demand was that Okonjo-Iweala resign from her position on live television and leave the country. Okonjo-Iweala did not resign, her mother escaped, and the programme of economic reforms continued. “Telling my story is risky,” Okonjo-Iweala writes. “But not telling it is also dangerous.” Her book ultimately leaves us with hope, showing that victories are possible in the fight against corruption.”