Okonjo-Iweala quest to lead World Bank: Politics over Qualification

It will be simply splendid! Splendid indeed to have a Nigerian woman become the president of the World Bank. Three frontline nations and economic powerhouse in Africa – South Africa, Angola and of course Nigeria have endorsed her for this important post. Nigeria has even gone further and has managed to get the African Union to stand by her. To buttress how serious the country of her birth is committed to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal, Nigerian diplomatic mission in Washington DC has started lobbying other foreign diplomats to support her.

The truth is that Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala has strong competitors to the position and it will take more than qualification and credentials to topple those two other gentlemen. To be frank, the most compelling competitor is Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Korean American nominated by President Barrack Obama. The other gentleman Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo, is a Columbian who can be called a Latin American candidate. Jose Antonio Ocampo is also a good candidate; he is a college professor and a former finance minister in Columbia. The Latin American candidate, Jose Antonio Ocampo is in the process but we all have a feeling that he will not get the position,because United States has an upper hand in the hemisphere.

Without mincing words, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is the most qualify to be president of the World Bank. She has the resume, the requisitive education and experience to head the Brentwood institution. To top it all, she has worked for the World Bank for 25 years and she has hands on experience. She understands the philosophy, architecture and the nature of the job. She did not need anybody on the first day of her job to show her the cafeteria, conference room, library and the rest of the building. Okonjo-Iweala already knows the names of the most of the senior staff working in the building.

But it takes more than resume and experience to get the position. This is a political position that requires more than having a doctorate in economics from Ivy League college. United States needs the position to be able to pilot her international affairs with regards to democratic dispensation and capitalism. It would have been better if President Obama has nominated Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. But Nigeria as a nation has poor branding, despite being an oil-rich nation and Nigerian constituency in America have not yet started flexing their voting and political muscle.

You are beginning to get the idea: Yes, few months ago Okonjo-Iweala was the managing director of World Bank before she returned home to become the minister of finance and economic coordinator for President Jonathan’s administration. Before that she has been vice-president and corporate secretary at World Bank. Her stiff competitor Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the American nominee does not have a vast and ample experience like her in global economics and granulated management. Yong Kim, who is currently the president of Dartmouth College, is a medical doctor by training and does not enjoy adequate sophistication on international economics and finance, unlike Dr. Okonjo-Iweala who has her doctorate and experience in the field.

Jim Yong Kim has couple of things going for him; he is from a minority population group in United States, Korean community. That will help for America to counteract the argument that a candidate from emerging nation is needed. Jim Yong Kim was born in South Korea before he migrated to America for his advance and post graduate studies. He is an American citizen who was born in a developing nation and economically emerging market of South Korea. Moreover, at World Health Organization (WHO), he has been known to be generous with his care giving and dedication to the health of developing nations especially AIDS patients.

United States candidate has upper hand because since the inception of the two Brentwood institutions: World Bank and IMF, United States has always produced leaders of the World Bank while Europe takes over the leadership of International Monetary Fund (IMF) leadership. The United States has the most number of votes at the World Bank and together with its allies in Europe, Japan and Saudi Arabia; it will have its way.

But “let not your heart be troubled”, hope is not all lost. Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweal can still take it and win the position. It is possible but Nigeria has to up her game and take the issue direct to United States and Europeans. Nigeria must make her point direct and precise why it is necessary for an African woman to land the World Bank apex job.
Nigeria and Okonjo-Iweala have made the point that the time has come for a candidate from an emerging nation to lead the World Bank. The point must be clearly established that Jim Yong Kim having been born in South Korea, will not be equated as being acceptable to developing world. For Yong Kim is now representing the developed nations.

Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala might also made the argument that the time has come to give a woman the opportunity to participate in global leadership. And by electing her as president of World Bank can prove to the entire world that women are to be taken serious, not just in talk but in action. By having a woman from Europe as the head of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and another woman from Africa as head of World Bank is the right thing to do and reassure the global community that equality is here to stay.

Good luck to Nigeria and Okonjo-Iweala!

Written by
Emeka Chiakwelu
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