From Laolu Akande (Washington DC) and Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja)
Kagame lauds Ezekwesili on tenure at global financial body
THE House of Representatives yesterday unanimously endorsed the candidature of Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the position of World Bank President.
It also charged President Goodluck Jonathan to put more efforts into lobbying global support for her through diplomatic channels.
Okonjo-Iweala is in the race against a Korean-American Health expert, Jim Yong Kim, and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo.
Kim is the United States (U.S.) nominee for the World Bank top position. President Barack Obama nominated him for the plum job last Friday.
Adopting a motion sponsored by Austin Ogbaburum (PDP, Delta State) through matters of urgent public importance, the House commended the African Union (AU) for endorsing the candidature of Okonjo-Iweala.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s outgoing Vice President of the World Bank for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili, has been commended for bringing changes to the bank that transformed its attitude and approach towards Africa.
Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, gave the commendation on Wednesday evening in Washington DC at an event to honour Ezekwesili.
At the event were top U.S. government officials, including a representative of President Obama, U.S. Congressmen, 10 African Ambassadors serving in the U.S. led by Nigeria’s Ambassador Ade Adefuye and World Bank officials.
Kagame said: “Oby has warned those who ignore Africa, that the African train has already left the station, you are either on it or risk being irrelevant.”
According to Kagame, Ezekwesili ensured that the World Bank “worked with Africa and not worked for Africa,” and prepared the bank for the challenges ahead, building trust between the bank officials and African leaders.”
Showering praises on the former Nigerian Education Minister who used to be called “Madam Due Process” during her days in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s cabinet, Kagame stressed that not only did he trust Ezekwesili but he regarded her “as a sister, even a Rwandan.”
Recalling a meeting between the two of them to discuss Rwandan and African development, Kagame disclosed that having noticed his impatience and anger at some of the problems on ground, Ezekwesili actually advised him “as a sister to a brother, to calm down, holding my hands.”
Continuing with the story, Kagame said at first he asked Ezekwesili: “Don’t I have the right to be angry?” which Ezekwesili, whom he called “Oby” promptly validated but then “offered me other ways” to make the same point and advance on the development of the continent.
According to him, “she used her position well and forcefully…declaring that global prosperity will expand if Africa grows and prospers.”
Speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, the USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, noted that the U.S. government found out that the priorities they had agreed on and the strategies adopted towards African development were the same as those Ezekwesili set as Vice President of Africa Region in the World Bank.
According to the USAID administrator, “it takes extraordinary people to inspire us to do great things. On behalf of the Obama ‘family,’ we wish you a good life going forward.”
In her response to the tributes, Ezekwesili said: “Each time I travel to African nations, I felt like a citizen of that country. I see myself in those people some of whom are devoid of opportunities. It is the opportunities that people get or lack that make all the difference.
“At the World Bank, my work is all about using everything the institution can boast of to create opportunity for those outside the opportunity sphere.”
Presenting his motion, Ogbaburum stated: “Our Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is vying for the position of President of World Bank. This is the first time that a Nigerian will be vying for this position and it is pertinent for us as a House to endorse her candidature so that the whole world will know that she has our support because she is eminently qualified to hold the position.”
Supporting the motion, Ogbuefi Ozombachi (PDP, Enugu State) commended South Africa, Angola and other African countries for supporting Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, noting that this was the first time Africa would have a consensus candidate on any position in recent memory.
Ozombachi said: “Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the best candidate for the World Bank top position.
“This is the first time Africa as a whole will be supporting the candidature of a fellow African for a top position like this and we should toe the same line.”
He implored the House to charge its Committees on Inter-Parliamentary and Foreign Affairs to rally support for Okonjo-Iweala.
Lending his support to the motion, Farouk Lawan (PDP, Kano State) who was chairman of the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation during Okonjo-Iweala’s first term as Finance Minister, said that she has commitment to reviving Nigeria’s economy, which she demonstrated by resigning her position as Managing Director of the World Bank to join President Goodluck Jonathan in his bid to realise his Transformation Agenda.
According to Lawan, if Okonjo-Iweala gets the job, “it would be an honour, great privilege and indeed a major milestone for Nigeria.”
The World Bank has always been headed by an American and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by a European since their inceptions after World War II.
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