Ngozi at the World Bank? It is Nigeria that needs her moreBy MWENDA wa MICHENI | Friday, April 27 2012 at 10:55
The optimists were confident that Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was going to clinch the World Bank presidency. After all, she was the most qualified on the shortlist, some argued as others lobbied for Africa’s turn at the institution.
Who told them it works like that? Had they forgotten that the World Bank is one of the strategic institutions to take care of interests, especially at a crunch time like this when economies were in pain?
Whatever the case, Nigeria should be the last country willing to share this kind of talent with others, especially now. Apart from the paper qualifications, this is a woman with brains of several men, if her achievements were anything to go by.
Anyway, can’t blame the optimistic, particularly those who have never had a chance to travel to Nigeria because until last weekend, I didn’t mind her candidature; in as much as I knew it was not going to happen that easily, unless there was a good reason like was in the case of the International Criminal Court. That has somewhat changed after a visit to Lagos city.
At the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, I got my first impression of Nigeria. It is one of the main airports in the West African country, still ranking highly on the list of most powerful states in Africa, despite the security challenges it has continued to face over the years.
Some mangled aircraft lying idly at the facility once infamous for criminals that would stop taxiing planes and rob them of the cargo; greying buildings and some interesting workers.
At the immigration were hard working officers who seemed to know their stuff. Unlike other international airports, this one has very few computers, most of which are on a sleep mode: everything is done manually, including processing of a visa.
Officer: Do you have an idea how much the visa costs?
I: Twenty five Dollars only.
Officer: Okay. It also takes a bit long to process, you need plenty of patience.
Two hours later, are were still waiting for the visa. The officer keeps calling the other end, nothing much of a progress.
Officer: We are waiting for the guy with the visa. As I told you, you need a bit of patience here.
At some point, we are asked to pay for the visa, no receipts or anything, but we are fine.
When they finally arrive, our officer has disappeared; the visas are delivered minus our change, a few dollars.
A few beggars at the exit, flowing traffic and several okadas (motorcycles); Nigeria is here.
For some of us who have only visited Nigeria through the Nollywood movies, here is another world: rusty roads that seem to have been constructed pre-independence and not maintained for decades.
In the next day’s Guardian newspaper, it is high ethic speak with this professor rooting for his community’s presidential candidate, the other with their own. Interestingly, everything is plain, and charged, don’t mind the fact that the elections are way ahead.
At a social scale, Lagos seems fun-filled, with classy cars lining up for the show. There is plenty on the music stage, just as in the case of on the television scene where entertainment journalism is serious business; red carpet here, fashion statements there.
A few days later, I am at the airport again, this time bidding farewell to the country. The routine checks are done manually, again. The immigration officers won’t mind a gift, in fact they ask for it openly.
As I aboard the plane on the aircraft back to Nairobi, images of Nigeria are running through my mind. They are generations, but they have convinced me that it is Nigeria that needs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala more than the World Bank, especially if the country intends to mend the patches.
Despite the few potholes and rusty rooftops, still want to step back to Lagos and savour the sweetness what could be Africa’s leading economy.
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