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Okonjo-Iweala’s World Bank presidential bid

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Against seeming expectations, the Board of Directors of the World Bank, last week, elected Dr. Jim Yong Kim as the bank’s next president, defeating our very own Finance Minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala to the coveted position. Kim, the nominee of the United States President, Barack Obama, takes over from a fellow American Robert Zoelleck on July 1. The election generated significant interest both here at home and abroad for the obvious reason that the World Bank has become a major global player at efforts to fight poverty and improve the economic well being of nations.
Since its creation after the Second World War, nominees of the United States have without opposition gone on to head the bank partly because of the role the US played in setting it up and the fact that Uncle Sam provides the bulk of its funding. It was therefore against this background that this year's contest generated keen interest with many making the argument that it was high time someone from the developing nations emerged president. The candidacy of Iweala and the former Colombian finance minister, George Ocampo was therefore welcome. However, Ocampo dropped before the election to support Iweala who also got endorsements from African countries and a number of major international media. Iweala, they argued, was the better candidate with her background in economics and having worked at the bank for over 20 years which saw her occupy the position of managing director. Those opposed to her bid however argue that becoming the World Bank president would do Nigeria no good considering the fact that part of the reasons for our economic decline was due to the neo liberal policies of the bank that we have wholly embraced.    
Despite her defeat, Iweala's candidacy was a commendable one. She was the first female and first African to contest the position and that in itself is an achievement and we hope this paves the way for other non American or European candidates who are deserving of the position to put their hats in the ring in future elections. The point has been made severally that the undemocratic nature of the process of choosing the president of not only the World Bank but the International Monetary Fund as well does not reflect well on the two institutions.
There are important lessons to be learnt though from Iweala's defeat. In his first interview on CNN after his election, Kim said he spent the last few months prior to the election by embarking on what he called "a listening tour" which saw him visit member nations to not only lobby them but to also hear their expectations of him. Sadly Iweala did no such thing perhaps because the florry of endorsements she got led her to believe she had sealed the deal. The federal government also left it late before throwing its weight strongly behind its candidate. In an election like this, winning the diplomacy battle is just as important as the credentials the candidates possess. We believe if the Jonathan government had swung into action in good time perhaps Iweala's bid would not have ended in a whimper as it did.
We however salute her courage in putting herself forward. Her bid has helped to shine the spotlight on Nigeria and for a brief moment projected a positive image of our country which has of late taken a bad hit by the worrying spate of insecurity spearheaded by the Boko Haram sect and the militants in the Niger Delta. We urge the federal government to capitalize on this by delivering on its promise of transformation so that the rest of the world can begin to see us as the good people that we are. Nigeria is blessed by enormous human and material resources, which, if effectively harnessed, will see it take its rightful place on the global stage.

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