A Toast to my Auntie Okonjo Wahala

by Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

They no longer make women like my very own Auntie Ngozi.

No, I have to be more precise: they no longer make men and women like Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the newly-minted Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

I am in a tizzy celebrating this one woman who can bravely put in her head where men are too afraid to even put their fingers.

That’s why she has been dubbed Okonjo Wahala!

There used to be a certain man called Donald Trump who thought he could stop the charge of Auntie Ngozi.

Poor Donald T, he has since been separated from his gravy train as American President so that Okonjo Wahala can get installed as the DG of WTO!

As I write now, The Donald has no proper forwarding address because he has no job, as in being jobless, but my crystal ball informs me that the Twitter man may be putting together the art of the deal for Okonjo Wahala to fix him up somewhere within the large ambit of the WTO.

Another bloke in urgent need of rehabilitation happens to be Adams Oshiomhole who used to badmouth Auntie Ngozi endlessly but who is today hibernating in the hills and bushes of Agenebode alongside Fulani herdsmen, waiting for the revalidation of his party card.

As the first woman, and first African, to head the WTO in its 73-odd-year history, Auntie Ngozi is nonpareil.

The gele she fashionably ties on her head and her Ankara gears have become global fashion statements.

In a clear case of “monkey see, money do”, most women are now copying the donning of Auntie Ngozi’s gele-headgear without going the full dimension of feeding their heads with books because, it needs to be stated that Okonjo Wahala’s head contains more books than a bookshop!

Ever since she left as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, the new regime has set the world record of making Nigerians poorer every year for the past six years!

Even amid the poverty scrambling my poor brain, I can still remember when she was awarded African Finance Minister of the Year in 2014 by African Investor, the leading investment and communications group advising governments, international organisations and businesses on capital market and foreign direct investment.

She has since taken her prodigious skills to the world stage, whence the grand WTO achievement, while Nigeria is still trapped in the forests of cattle romance.

Born on June 13, 1954, Okonjo-Iweala has garnered more achievements as an iconic economist of worldwide renown that can last most men several lifetimes.

Even with her personable mien, she exudes royalty as the daughter of Professor Chukwuka Okonjo, Obi of Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State.

She was educated at Ibadan International School, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she took a Ph.D. in Regional Economic Development.  Married to Prof Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon native of Umuahia, Abia State the couple is blessed with four children who have esteemed university degrees that read like the manual of higher education and intellection.

Her son, Uzodinma Iweala, in 2005 published the celebrated child soldier novel Beasts of No Nation.

Having distinguished herself as the vice-president and corporate secretary of the World Bank Group, Okonjo-Iweala in 2003 answered the call to national duty from President Olusegun Obasanjo who appointed her Minister of Finance.

She negotiated with the Paris Club in 2005 to pay a portion of Nigeria’s external debt, to wit, US $12 billion, in return for an $18 billion debt write-off.

Before her intervention, Nigeria was paying about $1 billion every year on debt-servicing.

To stem the tide of corruption, she initiated the watershed publishing in newspapers of each state‘s monthly financial allocation from the federal government.

It was to her credit that Nigeria obtained her first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.

In Nigeria where government appointees hardly ever resign their posts, Okonjo-Iweala did the impossible when she resigned as the Foreign Minister after her transfer from the Finance Ministry by then President  Obasanjo in 2006.

The then World Bank President, Robert Zoellick, in October 2007 appointed her to the post of Managing Director of the bank.

She became reappointed the Minister of Finance with the added responsibility of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy in 2011by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Her candid advice to free-spending Nigerian state governors to save the crude oil earnings against a future crash was kicked aside, and Nigeria is paying the price today.

She waded through storms such as the protests over fuel subsidy removal, a matter that has turned sordid in these sad days of Nigeria.

Not even the kidnapping of her beloved mother by kidnappers who demanded her resignation from the government could deter her.

Okonjo-Iweala is the multivalent author and editor of books such as Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light (with Tijan Sallah); The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy (co-edited with Charles C. Soludo and Mansur Muhtar); Reforming The Unreformable: Lessons From Nigeria; and Fighting Corruption is Dangerous.

As the Pentecostals would say, I here claim Okonjo Wahala as my very own Auntie Ngozi.

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