Former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said in all the positions she has occupied, serving as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance remains one of her toughest jobs so far.
Okonjo-Iweala, who has occupied several high-level positions locally and internationally including serving as the Finance Minister under former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, explained that finance ministers usually have many enemies, including their colleagues and bosses, because they have to decline certain requests.
She however said she was very proud to have served Nigeria in that capacity for seven years.
She also stated that her greatest accomplishment was her four children.
Okonjo-Iweala said these on Friday at a webinar organised by the Emmanuel Chapel, themed, ‘Economic sustainability beyond COVID-19’ while responding to questions from one of the moderators, Prof Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN), on her most difficult task so far.
She said, “That’s a tough question, but I will answer it this way; being finance minister was a tough job because nobody likes finance ministers; your colleagues don’t like you, your boss may not even like you because you are in the business of saying no.
“You have to say no to your colleagues and sometimes to your boss. So, it’s a very difficult position all over the world. Former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, once told me he calculated the average tenure of finance minister and we rechecked what he said sometime ago, it’s two years.
“They don’t last very long because it’s such a tough job. So, I’m very proud I was able to do seven years in Abuja and the longest finance minister in our history if you combine the two terms. So, that’s huge for me.”
Notably, Okonjo-Iweala, who obtained an AB magna cum laude in Economics, Harvard University and PhD in Regional Economics & Development from MIT, served as finance minister for three years and one year as Foreign Affairs Minister under Obasanjo, while she was reappointed as Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy for four years under Jonathan.
Apart from rising to the position of Managing Director in her 25-year career at the World Bank, she is currently the Chair, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and Special African Union Envoy of COVID-19 Rehabilitation and has also been nominated for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
While speaking on her biggest accomplishment, she said, “People usually ask me my biggest accomplishment, and they get astonished when I say my four children. It’s not being a finance minister; it’s not having a PhD, it’s not being in the World Bank. It’s just thanking God to have four healthy children who are good human beings.
“It’s not about going to Harvard University (as they are all graduates of Harvard University); it’s about what type of a human being are you; they are nice children, they still like to hang out with us and I like to hang out with them.”
Other panellists at the webinar were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and a former President of the African Development Bank and Rwandan economist, Dr Donald Kaberuka; with Dr Chinny Ogunro as a co-moderator.