The aphorism that a prophet is not recognized, or is with honour save in his own land, and in his own country, is clearly manifested in the case of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, who has since been ignored by the present administration in the country.
NgoziOkonjo-Iweala was Finance Minister under the Obasanjo administration, and she helped Nigeria to get debt forgiveness. She was Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister under the Jonathan administration, and she equally helped the country became the largest economy in Africa. So far, under the present administration in the country nobody knows that she exists.
But in a twist of fate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has become the toast of many world leaders and is being celebrated all over the place. She has become the stones which the builders had rejected that turned out as the cornerstone of the building.
Two days ago, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebgeyesus, announced Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, an international collaboration aimed at accelerating the development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 drugs, test kits, and vaccines around the world.
Before then, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, had named Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Member, External Advisory Group constituted by the IMF to provide perspective on key development and policy issues.
Furthermore, the Chairperson of African Union and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, had appointed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Special Envoy for the African Union to mobilize international support for the African efforts to address the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Ramaphosa had earlier appointed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Member, Economic Advisory Council of the South African government. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is equally sitting on the board of many other several international organizations.
All these appointments were made by people who know the worth of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, what she is capable of doing, who want positive results, and who want right things to be done. In other words, if Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala could not be valued at home, surely she has become a hot cake outside the country.
In 1970, soon after the Nigeria-Biafra war, the Nigerian government was alleged to have approached the World Bank to ask for renowned economists that would help her rebuild her battered economy, as a result of the war. But they were told to go back and consult with Dr. Pius Okigbo because the World Bank had no better person to give the country than Okigbo! Whether the Nigerian government heeded the advice or not is another point.
What we are trying to stress is that Nigerians do not value what they have, or if they do, they always deliberately would go for the mediocre, perhaps because of some special interests they have in mind. That is why the country has failed to grow or to develop.
Otherwise, why on earth would any right thinking regime not want to seek the services of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to help put the country’s economy on sound footing?
But Nigerians do not even believe in themselves, that they have the ability, or the capability of doing anything positive. That is why many of the country’s best brains are not being made use of, why they are allowed to drain outside the country, why the country’s public institutions like in health and education, are in shambles, unattended to, why our leaders always travel overseas to access medical treatment, why they usually send their children to study abroad, etc.
But the current COVID-19 pandemic seems to be teaching many people some lessons, if they can learn from it. Those who usually travelled overseas for medical treatment appear now to have been stranded as they can no longer travel abroad, and they have not put the hospitals in the country in good shape for them to access medical treatment at home. They are now in the middle of the road, between the devil and the deep blue sea. May God help us.
Dr. Dons Eze is former Editor of defunct Satellite newspaper.