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Nigeria: Okonjo-Iweala’s Bid for World Bank’s Top Job Creates Ripples

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI), Nigeria’s Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy wants the World Bank top job. However, she has to slug it out with Jim Yong Kim (a Korean-American physician and President of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire) and José Antonio Ocampo (former finance minister of Colombia and currently a professor at Columbia University, New York).

These three wish to succeed current president, Robert Zoellick, who is stepping down at the end of his term on 30 June, 2012. Ever since NOI made her intentions public, the social media has known no peace with comments from African netizens.

NOI is no guest to the World Bank. She resigned as managing director to become the most important woman in present administration in Nigeria. Last year in Nigeria: Adrift Awaiting the Arrival of a Woman netizens predicted  that NOI will soon raise some dust:

When I became finance minister they called me Okonjo-Wahala –  or Trouble Woman. It means ‘I give you hell.’ But I don't care what names they call me. I'm a fighter; I'm very focused on what I'm doing, and relentless in what I want to achieve. If you get in my way, you get kicked.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy. Image released in the public domain by www.imf.org/

And sure she did! NOI was considered the lead protagonist of the removal of subsidy on petrol early this year. This lead to a national protest that was magnified by:

...the democratization of information as personified by young Nigerians through their use of social media. For days, the nation had been shut down: no one worked, earned or learned.

NOI declared her bid in Pretoria – with the support of two strong African economies, Angola and South Africa – in these words:

I consider the World Bank a very important institution for the world and particularly for developing countries deserving of the best leadership… So I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates, and am I confident? Absolutely.

She was also grateful for the support from other African countries. NOI’s Facebook post stated as follows:

I am honoured by my nomination and the support of multiple African Nations to make the World Bank more representative of the people it serves. As an employee of the Bank for 22 years, I know of its commitment to improving the lives of those in developing world. It is that passion that inspires me to do the most I can for Nigeria as the Minister of Finance.

Nonetheless, African netizens have reacted to her candidacy, some in support, others against and some just indifferent.

Sam Ayogu  commented on NOI Facebook wall:

You deserve the World Bank top-must position. I don’t know why USA must be so selfish to still eye that position again. Madam, may God see you through.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda did same like Sam:

In full support of your candidature my sister.

Dale @drkumo ranks among NOI’s supporters on Twitter:

@drkumo: Africa deserves the position of the World Bank President and Okonjo-Iweala should be the one.

Preh Omoni wrotes:

@prehfred: @NOIweala: Nigeria is indeed honoured. The nomination is as important as d job, just as for d Grammy, Oscar, Nobel, etc. Congrats!

Lant Pritchett in ‘Why Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Should Be the Next Head of the World Bank‘ employed a six-points criteria to compare NOI with Jim Yong Kim.  NOI ranked 5-1 to Yong Kim for the job. Pritchett asserted that:

The US had a chance to lead.  It abdicated that chance to play domestic politics and put forward a US nominee who is manifestly less qualified to be head of the World Bank than the alternative candidate nominated by African countries: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Below are tweeps who are against NOI’s bid.

Olaolu Adeniran :

@ladeniran: Nigerians & d hypes we eat up. #NOI wont get d world bank job. it's an electn yr 4 @barackobama & he's facing a close race.

Ismail Umar ‏ was a bit sarcastic:

@yankee200893: @NOIweala to be realistic, you can go ahead with your career in World Bank. We Nigerians we don't see your impact in Nigeria economy.

AA as in AA ‏:

@adaba2015: @NOIweala All the best in ur quest to be WB President. We wish u success bc we cant wait to see u go. You've become same of d shame in govt.

The indifferent gang was personified by Ken Opolo:

@kopalo: Interesting reactions to World Bank president nominee. I am ambivalent. Would love Ngozi to get it but wonder what difference that'd make.

One thing is certain, NOI is definitely not going to be a walk over in the race to the World Bank presidency. In a matter of weeks the decision will be made and who gets the top job will be settled. However, Peter Michael summarises the views of most netizens on NOI’s candidacy and nomination by other African nations:

Congratulations Madam! Even if you don’t make it we are still proud of you, you made Nigeria proud once again with your intellect and skills which is a legacy no one can dispute. May God continue to grease your elbow, increase you with wisdom as you continue to serve for the benefit of humanity.

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