Correct me if am wrong, but we can’t help but admit that President Jonathan’s appointment of key ministers is laudable. In addition to this, Mr. President, for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, made these ministers signed a Performance Contract (although there are no penalties for defaulters). He also retained the services of one or two ministers he inherited from his late boss -President Yar’adua of blessed memory- added to the appointment of new technocrats, renowned and certified reformers like the three I have focused on.Most Nigerians (even policy bad belle) agree to a reasonable extent that some of these appointments are well deserved mainly because of the capabilities and credentials these ministers hold; and if they are allowed to do their jobs in all sincerity, Nigeria can actually record significant improvements under President Jonathan.
Obviously the credentials and capabilities of Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance have never been in doubt. Ask those who have completed educational courses in the United States; with a combined qualification (mostly those related to Economics or Development Studies) from the twin Bostonian institutions of Havard and MIT –Massachusetts Institute of Technology –added with a job experience at the World Bank, it is only a matter of time before you become the President of any country of your choosing or the World Bank President when you choose. In addition to her education credentials, work experience and the fact that she is among the few female finance ministers in the world, Iweala has received other accolades for herself which includes: Five honorary doctorate from different universities across the world; Times Magazine Hero of 2004, African Finance Banker 2005; Global Finance Minister of the year 2005; and she is listed among Forbes top 100 Most Powerful Women in the world. With all these accolades, who would want to under-sell him or herself? Little wonder she demanded for her salary of 240,000 to be paid in US dollars (during the Fourth Republic).
But the story for our Finance Minister (who never thought of becoming one while she was with the World Bank) was not as rosy as it appears. Many Nigerians don’t know that despite her father’s riches (which he lost during the Nigerian Civil War as a brigadier in the Biafrian army), he insisted that his daughter (fourteen years old then) should stay in Nigeria and witness the war. One particular event she recounts was how she had to carry her three year old sister on her back for three miles to the doctor’s surgery because her sister was sick with malaria. Iweala determined to see the doctor forced her way into a crowd of over six hundred people just to save her sister. With such doggedness and determination, Iweala who had monitored closely political and economic events in Nigeria from her Washington home and believed that Nigeria did not need to be subjected to the appalling status of the second most corrupt nation in the world amidst her numerous potentials. In lieu of this, her dogma for reforms is anchored on the fact that when she encounters resistance in initiating reforms, she believes that she is on the right track. You could say that she can give trouble and ensure the needed change is achieved. That’s why she is fondly called Ngozi Okonjo ‘Wahala’ (the Pidgin English word for trouble). Although politically, you could say that Ngozi has not expressed any interest to contest elections, but she has been seen fraternizing with big wigs in Nigeria’s ruling party –PDP. Please, check her bag for her membership card.
Anyone who wants to doubt the credentials and capabilities of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development should answer this basic question. What course did he/she study in the university and why did he/she choose to study it? With his background, Dr. Adesina can hold his own anywhere in the world. Like I said in the part one of this series, while others were studying courses related to Nigeria’s booming oil wealth in the 1970s and 80s, he patiently and assiduously studied Nigeria (and Africa’s) ailing sector –agriculture. Although Adesina does not hold an educational qualification from Havard (must we all?), but this first class graduate of Obafemi Awolowo Universityhas over 20 years’ experiencein African agriculture development totally outweighs any parameters for measuring him. This Doctor trained at Prude University (USA) in Agricultural Economics has spearheaded numerous policy reforms for African agricultural sector for more than two decades. Expectations from Nigerians on Dr. Adesina when he was appointed were high (and still high). The reason for such high expectations rests on evidence-based reforms initiated by Adesina while he was at the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and his introduction of a fertilizer policy of international repute for Africa which brought together African leaders to unanimously agree to this policy. For me, the ‘agric doc’ is a technocrat per excellence committed to poverty alleviation.
Is it easy to be the Vice President of an international agriculture organization (the AGRA) with the backing of the mighty foundations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation? Anyone familiar with development funding and finance would appreciate the feats Dr. Adesina has achieved for himself. Other accolades Adesina has achieved include: recipient of the prestigious Borlaug Council for Agriculture Science and Technology (CAST) communication award in Iowa; the YARA Prize for African Green Revolution in Oslo, Norway; and he has the backing of the United Nations Secretary General as a reformer galvanizing international support to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals are met. Perhaps it is just me, but I tried looking for further information on my beloved Doc, but I couldn’t find. Maybe he is like a ghost who only appeared when there was clarion call for reformation. If you ask me, I really don’t think Adesina is political, but 2015 will tell.
Olusegun Aganga, Nigeria’s third reform champion is from Edo state (sorry Lagos State) and another first class degree graduate in President Jonathan’s Transformation Team (trust me they are many). Although during my research I saw conflicting information on what he studied (one site said Biological Sciences (in 1977) and another said Accountancy (in 1980) both from the University of Ibadan, but Aganga’s education romance with Oxford University(even if it is theology) makes up for this (I think). If accountancy is your passion, you should meet Aganga, because his experience as a Chartered Accountant spans from Nigeria to the United Kingdom. This father of four and brother-in-law to a former Governor of Kwara State must have impressed Mr. President and demonstrated his dexterity in funds management with the creation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund in 2010 while he was the Minister of finance to manage better Nigeria’s oil wealth.Aganga’s expertise in fund management is not in doubt. The former Goldman Sachs manger has been able to demonstrate this in Nigeria by attracting much needed investments for different sectors. With his “connections” and promise of a Saudi funded building, he was able to convince his ministry staff to be patient with his administration while they called for his sack. You can say Aganga knows how to press the right buttons to get what he needs. Be it investments in Nigeria’s aligning sectors or resolving the issue of his state of origin. Attributes likened to a true politician with Nigeria’s interest at heart.
In all truthfulness, with the paper they called certificate and the experience which is their heads; these reform champions have in about three years achieved something for Nigeria. With resistance and political labyrinth in front of them, what are these achievements? I will turn to this next.


Austine Okere (FF @Wales_C) lectures in the Department of History and International Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State, Nigeria. His research interest boarders on International Economic Relations and Sustainable Development; and he has presented numerous papers on these areas. Austine also is a research fellow at the Center for Policy Research and Development Solutions (CPRDS), a think-tank established to address policy gaps in Nigeria.