Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Obasanjo: Okonjo Iweala Derailed Under Jonathan

Ex-President speaks on Jonathan, IBB, Halliburton, others
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo hasgiven an insight into why former
Ministerof Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was less effective under
the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s tenure has turned out to be highly controversial, with the
former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Charles Soludo accusing
her of running the economy aground. Besides, Edo State Governor Adams
Oshiomhole insists the former Coordinating Minister for the Economy
should explain how $1.2billion Excess
Crude Account cash was spent.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala maintains that she did her best.
Obasanjo, in an interview with the online publication “Premium Times”
in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, spoke
on some of the key decisions he took while in office, his relationship with some
key political figures, his book My Watch and the Halliburton bribery
scandal. He said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala performed better under him because
he understood
her weaknesses and managed them well. He said the former World Bank
president liked to always have her way, adding: “If I
am the one in charge, then it has to be what I see as what is in the
best interest of the nation”.
Obasanjo added: “Take Ngozi (Okonjo- Iweala), who worked for me. And
who worked competently for me. Because I know Ngozi’s weaknesses, but
I know
her strong points. Her strong point is technical competence. But Ngozi
needs to be led and to be supervised. Now will you
comment on Ngozi who worked for me as the same Ngozi who worked for
Jonathan? Will you? But it’s the same person.
“She derailed because…. when Jonathan even said he wanted her, I said
‘I hope you can manage her.’ And Ngozi herself sent me a text (and) I
told her times have
changed.” On what made him remove Mrs. Okonjo- Iweala as finance
minister, Obasanjo said:  ”I said I’ve touched reform. I’ve
touched almost everywhere except Ministry of Education and Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. So one day, I was in my office and the Head of
Service, Yayale (Ahmed), came in. He said ‘look, you are
looking not happy, what is the matter?’ I said I am worried about two
ministries and the ministers who can do the work I wanted to be done
there in these two
ministries are already doing good work where they are. And he said
‘talk let me see.’ I said education and foreign affairs. And he said
‘who are the ministers that
you think can do the job.’ I said Oby (Ezekwesili), Ngozi, and
El-Rufai. He said ‘what is Oby doing for you now?’ I said Oby is doing
Solid Minerals. He said ‘Sir, in
all sincerity, I know you don’t like to rank ministries, but will you
say Ministry of Solid Minerals is as important as Ministry of
Education?’ I said ‘yes, I don’t rank
ministries, they are all important. He said, ‘Can’t you take any of
these three to do education and then get somebody else to
do solid minerals?’ So I took Oby there. Now in the Ministry of
Finance we had got debt relief, so I could afford to take Ngozi to
Foreign Affairs. That’s all. And
then she had Nenadi (Usman) who was the minister of state. She’s not a buffoon.
And then, which is also part of her
weakness, she came to me and said, ‘look’, since it’s Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, she will like to take International Finance
along with it. I said talk to your sister with whom you are working
and I don’t see anything wrong with that provided you work out a
relationship. But she didn’t accord Nenadi the recognition and
the consideration that was necessary. I then said the International
finance should go back to Finance and that happened. She said she
couldn’t act. She put in a letter of resignation. And she had done
that before, and before she could comeand get people to come and beg,
I announced acceptance (of her resignation).” On why the refineries
are in a bad shape, Obasanjo said: ”Take, for instance, the decision
on privatising all refineries. I explained that what I met were
refineries that were not working, refineries that were given to an
amateur for repairs, for maintenance, what they call turn around
maintenance to the company of Emeka Offor – Chrome Group. Where has
Emeka Offor maintained refineries before? Where has he? That’s what we
met. So, the refineries were not working. I called Shell. I said ‘come
and help us, just run the refinery.’ Shell was frank with me. “It said
that ‘we make our money from upstream, downstream; is more of a
service. Two, your refineries are small. Port Harcourt is 60,000
barrels a day. Refineries now go 300,000 barrels a day. Three, your
refineries have not been maintained well. Four, we don’t want to go
into the corruption that is entailed in all these’. I said ‘ok, come
and help me run it’. They refused. Now when I then saw people who
agreed to take 51 per cent equity in two of the refineries; they did
not promise to pay, they paid $750 million, I was dancing and I said
‘look, this is God-sent.’ My successor came (and)
they cancelled it and paid them the
money back. Those refineries today – you won't get them because they have become scrap"

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