March 2012

Reports have it that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, “a former World Bank Managing Director” and “Nigeria’s Finance Minister” has campaigned vigorously, and lobbied extensively for the top post at the World Bank – The President of the World Bank. According to the reports, she claims “her vision for the World Bank ‘is an institution that is swifter and nimbler’ in tackling what she called the ‘singular and most difficult problem’ of job creation for the youths in developing and emerging market nations”.

With regards to her noble and commendable ideal, I could not resist the temptation to say: Prophetess and miracle-worker, show your stuff and mettle first in your own country, and among your people – Nigeria.

As for the Presidency of the World Bank; there is a saying that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. If it is a fait accompli that whosoever America appoints subsequently goes on to head the World Bank; it is within its rights as the singular most dominant financial assets contributor to the Bank. The same holds sway at NATO where the Supreme Commander of NATO forces is, and has always been, an American because the preponderance of the forces is American soldiers.

They say that charity begins at home. If Madam Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s “vision” for the World Bank is to “tackle (the) problem of youth unemployment in many” African countries, Nigeria featuring very prominently in this regard; she is very well placed as the Finance Minister to engineer and influence conducive economic, good governance, and civil society legislations that would engender employment opportunities for the “millions of jobless youths roaming the streets” of Nigeria, disillusioned and dispirited.

Without exception, industry and commerce are the twin-wings with which every country, every region of the world has soared into development. These are the engines that power employment that promote the well-being of the people, which is the measure of the wealth of a nation. In Nigeria, there is no industry that can measure up to that appellation. As it is, Nigeria produces nothing, and exports nothing.

What about oil, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy? According to Reuters (and every Nigerian knows that), “for decades politicians have focused on milking cash (into their foreign bank accounts) from oil exports, which average more than 2 million barrels per day, rather than developing infrastructure and creating jobs” for their people. Moreover, it says, “despite holding the world’s seventh largest gas reserves, which could be used to generate power, Nigeria only produces enough electricity to power a medium-sized European city”. And it goes further to point out that most of the country’s more than 160 million people live daily without electricity, “while the rest have to rely on expensive generators run on diesel supplies controlled by a small and powerful cartel of importers”. How can any industry be sustained in, or attracted into Nigeria, given such perennial and perpetual dire conditions; and recently complicated by the activities of Boko Haram, and the rash of kidnappings.

What is more, there is nothing that augurs well for international trade and industry, employment, and development that is not banned in Nigeria by legislation. What is not banned is slapped with crippling tariffs and other stifling barriers-to-trade.

The World Bank cannot force good governance on any country. A case in point: there is a sprawling suburb of Owerri, the Capital of Imo State, popularly called World Bank. When I inquired as to why such a name, it was explained to me that the World Bank granted the funds to the Government to build housing for low income people. Who are the inhabitants of this expansive village? Definitely not the low income people for whom it was intended, but the elites and the well-to-dos!

It’s a little late in the game to worry about anticorruption measures because what in the world is the alternative going to be? If you find people who aren’t corrupt it is largely because they haven’t had the opportunity.

The above is the QUOTATION OF THE DAY in New York Times, March 8, 2012; by Anthony H. Cordesman, Defense Expert, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., on the corruption that pervades Afghanistan’s business and political elite.

I could not help it, but Africa did came to mind. Mr. Cordesman could have been speaking of Nigeria where corruption is systemic and endemic – intricately inter-woven in the fabric of society never to be effaced. Every one, even the elites, speak of the perennial and perpetual prevalence of corruption, but no one decries it.