By Emmanuel Onwubiko The Coordinating minister for the Nigerian Economy and the minister of Finance Mrs. [Dr] Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a woman known for her reported famed passion for the revival of the economy of the country that has gone comatose over the last several decades of mismanagement of the nation’s commonwealth by government officials at different levels.
Since her second coming courtesy of the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the chief driver of Nigeria’s economy and the minister of Finance has enjoyed favorable media coverage no thanks to her team of media managers who always carry along the different finance correspondents of the national private or public media houses. There is hardly any month that has passed without these private journalists that covers the activities of the Finance ministry in Abuja traveling to international meetings funded b the publicly run ministry of Finance. The Finance Ministry has tried although unsuccessfully to win the hearts ad souls of some leaders of the civil society groups. Twice the ministry of Finance staged public forum for the civil society groups but has failed to sustain this interface because of perceived lack of interest from most of the leaders of the organized civil society groups to buy in into the programs of the ministry of Finance.
The Finance minister’s international contacts have always come in handy with friendly global media coverage and a regime of generous international awards given that she spent considerable amount of time working in one of the strategic Bretton wood institutions- The World Bank where she rose to become the Managing Director before she assumed the political position of minister of Finance in 2011 when the current federal administration won a popular poll.
Few days back, the minister of Finance jetted out to Washington DC accompanied by a retinue of her close aides and other media correspondents that cover her official functions and the purpose of that trip is to receive the 2014 award from Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential persons in the World [whatever that means]. In this year’s version, Nigeria got two nominations in the sense that the richest black person in the World and the Nigerian born Aliko Dangote also received the award alongside the Nigerian minister of Finance.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who was accompanied to the United States by a strong team of media practitioners, was widely photographed in front pages of some major privately owned Nigerian newspapers smiling away as she received the award even as the Rich Nigerian entrepreneur Alhaji Aliko Dangote was accompanied by his daughter- the beautiful Miss. Halima Aliko Dangote. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, it must be recalled was also closely accompanied by her handsome supportive husband and a United States based Surgeon- Professor Ikemba Iweala.
The Finance Minister has dashed back to Abuja in time to join the Nigerian Federal Government officials to host the international community and other World leaders that have accepted invitation from the World Economic Forum for Africa to attend the colorful event scheduled to hold in Abuja from Wednesday 7th May 2014 which will end on Friday. But already Abuja is currently on lock down by security forces following the unprecedented security challenge posed by the campaign of terror by the armed terrorists Islamic. fundamentalists- Boko Haram.
The Nigerian President said he ordered the total closure of all government offices and schools during the period of the World Economic Forum so the participants can have easy access to and fro the venue of this events which is the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in the Central Business District of the nation’s capital. Criticisms have trailed this blanket security measures from a cross section of Nigerians including persons who were usually supportive of Government’s anti-terror campaign.
These critics say the ill -advised decision of the central government to close down the nation’s political capital for fear of attacks y the dreaded armed Islamic extremists meant that the Federal Government has capitulated to the deluge of threats issued by the hierarchy of the armed Islamic rebels and therefore amounts to a surrender which means that the Federal Government has indeed handed over symbolic and psychological victory to these mass murderers who had only recently detonated series of bombs in the densely populated suburban Nyanya town very close to Abuja municipality and successfully kidnapped into sexual slavery almost three hundred secondary school girls from the Government Secondary School in Chibok community in Borno state..
One of these critics stated that the decision of the Federal Government to close the city just so that it can host the World Economic Forum remains a sad commentary to international investors that the nation may not really be stable since the government can easily without the slightest long term notice close down government offices and even order private businesses to similarly close their offices. This panicky decision is said to be against the campaign by government to attract foreign direct investors to invest in the local economy of the country in order to help create sustainable jobs for Nigerian youth.
Now the questions that will logically follow this government’s hasty decision are as follows: What happens to some of these government and private offices located within these affected areas in the central business district of Abuja if they had hitherto entered into binding contractual agreements that will mature within the period under lockdown? Who takes responsibility and/or liability for any losses that may be occasioned by this sudden closure of business premises on the orders of the Federal Government just for the sake of hosting the World Economic Forum that will clearly not positively affect these privately owned businesses? Another question is why Government can not work out other measures of hosting these meetings in safe venues outside of the business district of Abuja or is the government saying it has no alternative venues that it can muster security apparatus of he nation to ensure that the hosting of these events succeed wherever the government choses outside of the center of Abuja?
Still on the aspects of preparations for the hosting of these events that have already occasioned strong inconveniences to a lot of Nigerians, the managers of the World Economic Forum said the 24th edition of this conference under the theme: ‘ forging inclusive Growth, Creating jobs’ will host over 1000 leaders from politics, business and civil society.
The Nigerian Newspaper- Thisday had on Sunday May 4th 2014 stated in the editorial comment that; “Every year, after the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum for Africa serves as a regional platform to distil key issues and outline concrete and actionable steps towards improving the socio economic lives of the people of the continent. It is arguably the most prestigious congregation of private sector executives, World leaders and academics which gather to discuss ideas towards stimulating and sustaining Africa’s growth”.
Thisday newspaper whose owner is closely linked to the current government affirmed that the thematic issue of the World Economic Forum for Africa corresponds with the Federal Government of Nigeria’s short term, medium and long term aspirations and commitments.
But critics say this forum is only but a public relations gambit for the current government which has come under increasing attacks by rebellious forces bent on scuttling any political ambition that the current President has to vie for a second and final tenure in next year’s general election. I accept that the current President has the constitutional right to seek to be elected for a second and final four year tenure during the coming elections.
But these critics say the events could be classified as the Word Economic Fraud for Africa since there is really no pragmatic and empirical scientific and economic data and statistical evidence of how the previous sessions of these talk shops have helped to advance the economic fortunes of African societies. It is believed in some quarters that the World Economic Forum is an extension of the pro-Euro/American financial institutions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Those who hold this view also believe that the spirit behind the World Economic Forum are some private forces supported actively by the Bretton Wood institutions to further widen the interest of the Western developed societies to keep subjugating the developing societies to the whims and caprices of these World Powers that always play games that serve the public national and economic interest of their respective countries.
Now if the World Economic Forum is a Geneva based non-profit organization why is the Nigerian Government committing so much public fund to host this carnival with no clear deliverables for the nation’s economy? Why is the Federal Government of Nigeria shutting the political capital of the country just so that it can organize series of events anchored by an independent and private non-profit body? How many foreign direct investors has this World Economic Forum for Africa attracted for the respective host nations on the black African continents over the years given that the forthcoming version is the 24th? Is this forum not a mere jamboree that will not succeed in creating any inclusive growth and create any sustainable jobs for the millions of job seeking youths of Nigeria? Why is the World Economic Forum that would be hosted by Nigeria be such an expensive venture so much so that one of Nigeria’s biggest and most obscenely expensive hotels-Hilton Hotel in Abuja embarked on expansive reconstruction works around the facilities to upgrade them to comply with global best practices at the cost of the Nigeria government? Something is definitely fishy with this World Economic Forum for Africa taking place in Abuja which is not owned by the Nigerian people who are completely excluded from attending and also made to suffer series of human rights breaches including the violations of their fundamental rights to freedom of movement and association. Even such big government offices like t Revenue Mobilization Allocation and fiscal commission has not been invited to attend.
Is this World Economic Forum for Africa another extension of one of those high profile secret meetings of some powerful cult groups based in Europe with membership among political and economic elites of Africa?
Is it any wonder then that a lot of Nigerians I have interviewed prior to this event calls it World Economic Fraud for Africa?