NOI, Twitter's board member and Nigeria's policy titan, a future president?

This week, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI) was announced as a Twitter board member. We took a look at her antecedents and wondered if she could be Nigeria's future President.

NOI, Twitter's board member and Nigeria's policy titan, a future president?

Thursday, July 19, Twitter announced the appointment of Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI) to their Board of Directors.

Aged 64, NOI becomes the first Nigerian to be appointed to the social media company's board.

Harvard Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) and MIT PhD holder – Okonjo-Iweala is the  first female finance minister of her country – Nigeria where she served multiple terms. First, under the former President Olusegun Obasanjo then under Goodluck Jonathan. The former lasted July 2003 to June 2006 and the latter, August 2011 to May 2015.

NOI, the Policy titan

The Executive Chairman of Twitter, Omid Kordestani references her "policy expertise" in his speech.

For Twitter's leadership, activity on Twitter ranks low for choosing board members. And rightly so, since they are not there for "twitter activity reasons" as Twitter user - @Balatic alludes. In fact, they see it as a basis for improvement on their appeal. Hence, critics mentioning her low engagement on the platform might want to "take a pill".

As part of her curriculum vitae, she was the Managing Director of the World Bank in 2007 through to 2011 and has been on many boards to date. All these broadened her outlook on policy and developmental issues.

Thereby, making her a suitable candidate for key leadership appointments like being the President of her nation. Many Nigerians like Imoh Umoren wish so.

It is common knowledge that it takes more than strong policymaking and fiscal management skills to lead a country. Political adeptness is also key.

Speaking on her Twitter appointment, GEJ states that her policies helped pull millions out of poverty.

NOI won for the Nigerian Economy

NOI’s reforms had a positive impact on the economy and this reflected in the macroeconomic stability enjoyed between mid-2003 and 2007. Indeed, her most impressive feat was obtaining a debt relief to the tune of 30 billion dollars from the Paris Club in her first term as Finance Minister. This helped Nigeria save on debt repayments. These savings supported the government's efforts to boost economic growth and eradicate poverty.

With an eye for fiscal sustainability, NOI also started the infamous excess crude account (ECA) [1].

While this was particularly useful in sustaining Federal and State spending, it came with its own problems. In her second term, States rallied against this savings fund choosing to spend all revenues from the ECA. This fiscal [2] indiscipline is partly responsible for the fragile state of sub-national finances today, where states struggle to pay salaries.

NOI was competent in her role as finance minister and despite concerns about her role in GEJ’s government, her legacy is untouched. It is that of supporting reforms which accelerated growth and encouraged fiscal responsibility.

But is Nigeria ready for a female president?

Political analyst, Ugo believes that Nigeria might not be ready for a female President due to the existent patriarchy.

> "I don’t think Nigerians are ready to elect a female president, in part because the patriarchal system that dominates the political parties will not produce a female candidate. You only need to look at the numbers for women in elected offices." Ugochukwu Iwuchukwu

But, he admits that she has proven herself in handling the economy.

While there are several benefits to Nigeria if NOI becomes President, it is unlikely to happen.

Some such benefits include:

  • a stellar global reputation which is necessary for courting investors,
  • a will to put in place structural reforms despite political considerations and
  • support from multilateral agencies

But it is unlikely to happen because of the patriarchal presidential candidate selection process highlighted above. Plus, age is not on her side. With the recent #NotTooYoungToRun bill passed, we look forward to seeing younger adults contest to rule the country. Hence, the chances of someone above the retirement age ruling becomes smaller and more contested. Being sixty-four years old leaves her with less than a decade to rule this country, if at all. Given that the next four years are out of question, it becomes unlikely that she will become the first female President of Nigeria.

Thus, we must look to raise more (female) leaders with the resolve to break the status quo as well as provide a platform for them to perform.

  1. The ECA is a savings account that helps to regularise government spending in times of low crude oil prices. ↩︎

  2. The word "Fiscal" in economics is anything related to the Government's revenue. Fiscal policy is the use of government revenue collection and expenditure to influence the economy. ↩︎

Photo credit: Quartz.

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