From the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala came a damning verdict that Nigerians have lost confidence in government.
Okonjo-Iweala spoke Friday from Washington, capital of the United States, at the inauguration of the Transition Council of the Abia State Governor-Elect Dr. Alex Otti in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia.
This was just as the incoming governor, Dr. Otti, said that the time for good leadership in Abia is now.
Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, who gave the keynote speech virtually said many Nigerians no longer believe that their government can do anything for them.
“Nigerians have lost trust in government, you know that. Many Nigerians, especially on our side in the South East, don’t really believe that government can do anything for them. On the one hand, maybe it’s a good thing because everybody then becomes their own government. You dig your own borehole to get water, generate your own electricity, do everything for yourself. That is entrepreneurial but on the other hand maybe that is not the best way to run things,” the world’s number one trader said.
Consequently, she admonished that for government to regain its lost confidence among the populace, it “must get a tight and better and cleaner governance that must be transparent”.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala pleaded with the Abia Governor-Elect to lead the way in instituting transparency in governance and running of government in Nigeria, saying that she did the same when she was the finance minister,.
According to her, “We used to publish the finances of every state, what the federal government gave each state every month because I found out governors were telling their people, ‘oh, we didn’t get any allocation from the federal government this month that’s why we cannot pay salaries, that is why we cannot pay teachers, that is why we cannot run our health system’.And when I visit a state, they will be so hostile.
“When I was minister of finance in 2003 and started asking, why are people so hostile to the Federal government, when I would hold meetings or townhalls people would tell us, federal government didn’t give us allocations, therefore salaries have not been paid, teachers are not paid and I found out that they were being told things that were clearly not true.
“Then I went to President Obasanjo and said, can I start publishing what states get each month so their people will know they’re getting this money. He said, yes.
“So we started to publish it in the newspapers of every month after the FAAC meeting and then put it on the Internet so you can go to the ministry of finance website and see. This helped change people’s attitude. Because people could see and say, oh my state got this 60 million or 100 million this month.
“We want our state government to set an example by being transparent about its finances. This is a governor that everybody is looking up to. His Excellency is educated, knows how to manage cost because he’s been a bank manager, he’s done so many things.
“So, can we set an example in Abia for good governance, transparency… because he has what it takes.
Otti expressed his gratitude to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for accepting the invitation to present the keynote speech, saying he had taken note of her wise counsel.
He said: “I have listened to our sister, Ngozi. Every time I speak to her, she says, ‘congratulations, but I don’t envy you. In fact, I sympathise with you because the expectations are high. You can’t afford to disappoint us because at least let’s have one good thing happening in Abia State’.
“The truth is that there are lots of good things happening from Abia people but not in Abia State. What we never had was great leadership and this is the time.”
On cost of governance, the Abia Governor-Elect said he had been an advocate of slimming the cost of running government as he had written extensively about that.
“I believe very strongly that part of the problems for this country is the cost of governance. I’ve written extensively about it, I’ve condemned it and I can’t be caught dead doing the same thing that I have condemned,” Otti declared.
He acknowledged that there is a lot of work to be done in the effort to rebuild Abia, promising that “the good news is that we’re prepared to do that work”.
Also, speaking shortly before the inauguration of the Council, the Chairman of the Transition Council, Victor Onyenkpa and Co-chairman, Ifueko Omogui Okauru expressed confidence in the leadership qualities of Dr. Otti and his ability to deliver on his mandate.
They promised that the transition team would produce a work that will take the state forward going into the future.
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