22 November 2018
Oby Ezekwesili, who claims she is running for president under the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) but only seems to be running her mouth, was a guest on Christiane Amanpour’s CNN programme last night.
Ezekwesili, held two ministerial portfolios between 2005 and 2007 under President Olusegun Obasanjo – solid minerals and education, and made the incredible claim that next year’s (s)election was a “contest between the established class of politicians and the rest of us”. This reminded me of a line from Fela Kuti’s “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense”: ”Me and you no dey for the same category”. A former minister in the lootocracy that was Obasanjo’s regime like Ezekwesili can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, belong to the same category as “the rest of us”.
Watch the programme below:
That was just typical nonsense from a woman who has made a career out of bullshitting. She got off lightly this time on Amanpour’s show because she faced “friendly fire”, perhaps because the veteran journalist was overcome by a spirit of sisterhood. Ezekwesili wasn’t so lucky a few years ago when subjected to scrutiny by Mehdi Hasan on Al Jazeera.
Amanpour introduced Ezekwesili as a “co-founder” of Transparency International. But Ezekwesili’s name is conspicuously missing from the Wikipedia list of the NGO’s founders. That list also includes the founding board members, which again fails to mention Ezekwesili even though there is a claim on her own Wikipedia entry that “she was a co-founder of Transparency International”. Both these claims can’t possibly be true.
When questioned about rampant corruption in Nigeria, with no mention of what went on right under her nose in the Obasanjo regime, Ezekwesili went into full pontification mode. She said Nigeria needed to “deregulate the economy” so that public officials don’t have much of a chance to “use it for personal gain”. It appears she had no idea what “corruption” was. It wasn’t just a matter restricted to public officials. Several Nigerian banks were looted by their executives, with many still on the verge of failure due to huge wrongfully acquired loans by wealthy people.
The idea that deregulation was a solution to corruption by public officials is plain daft, considering the process of deregulation is usually managed and will have to be regulated by corrupt public officials, who then rig the process to their own benefit. Where it involves the sale of public assets, those officials create fronts and shell companies to buy those assets at knockdown prices. This was rampant under Obasanjo with Ezekwesili heading the “Due Process Unit”.
It should come as no surprise that Ezekwesili, a former World Bank vice president, was peddling deregulation as a solution to corruption. She doesn’t seem to realise that the ship has sailed and deregulation, which forms part of the “Washington Consensus” is now widely discredited as a failure. The “Washington Consensus” is best described by investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed as involving “a string of interlinked policies requiring reductions in public spending; rampant deregulation to reduce restrictions on banks, corporations and other financial actors; extensive privatisation of social and public services; and liberalisation based on reducing taxes, tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade”.
Joseph Stiglitz, like Ezekwesili, a former World Bank vice president said in a speech at the United Nations University in 2015 that 30 years ago: “the focus was on limiting the role of the government — getting it out of the way… Now we realize that government is essential, and a central part of development policy is improving the performance of the public sector. While the Washington Consensus policies and the theories on which they have been based have been widely discredited, their influence still lingers, often masqueraded using different language.”
Ezekwesili bigged up her imaginary achievements in “fixing public procurement”, but there was precious little evidence that she left any lasting legacy, since public sector corruption is so out of control now – a few years after she left office – that she thinks that she is the best person to improve things as president.
She also claimed that she introduced “reforms” in both procurement and education. What she actually achieved with those “reforms” was left to the viewers’ imagination. Noam Chomsky said: “Reform is a word you always ought to watch out for. Like, when Mao started the Cultural Revolution it wasn’t called a reform. Reform is a change that you’re supposed to like. So as soon as you hear the word reform you can reach for your wallet and see who’s lifting it.”
Ezekwesili and the Obasanjo regime she served in loved to tell Nigerians about their “reforms”. Those “reforms” ended up deforming the country with rising corruption and rising poverty levels. It’s amazing how far Ezekwesili has gone with her packaging of failure with empty words. But informed people should be able to see through her. They should know that her current posturing as a champion for the “rest of us” was only because President Muhammadu Buhari ignored her when ministerial positions were up for grabs. Informed Nigerians should look beyond the aggressive noisemaking, the sound and the fury in which words like “reforms” and “deregulation” are bandied about and reach the reasonable conclusion that Ezekwesili is just peddling nonsense for what she can get out of it.
The active tweeter knows she’s got no chance of being president even if the vote was restricted to just her 811,000 followers on Twitter. Her entire campaign, without a campaign office and staff across the land, is just another exercise in noisy self-promotion in the vain hope that there is another job at the end of it.