These are 5 things Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wants you to know about fighting corruption in Nigeria.
Okonjo-Iweala recently sat down with the BBC to discuss fighting corruption in Nigeria’s governance circles.
This is what she said:
In December of 2012, Madam Kamene Okonjo, the 82-year-old mother of Okonjo-Iweala, was kidnapped in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State.
Okonjo-Iweala recalls what the kidnappers said to her mother. “She was held for 5 days. I got a call. They didn’t ask for money, contrary to what people think. They said I should go to the television and radio, announce my resignation and leave the country and go back to the US from where I came. This was shocking.
“The key thing is, when my mother asked the 4 young men who took her, why did you take me, they said because your daughter did not pay oil marketers their money. And that’s how we found out it had to do with oil marketers”.
In the words of the former economy minister: “Oil marketers who held a meeting in Lagos said I was going to leave office on a wheelchair. It was by the grace of God that one of the people who participated happened to have been a friend of my brother’s; and thought that he was part of the meeting and what was being planned was not fair and so he called my brother and said you have to tell your sister that she has to be careful.
“I confronted one of the marketers in whose house this meeting took place just to let them know we knew about it and that was how that was averted”.
“I would not say that fighting corruption in Nigeria is impossible and that was another point of the book. It was actually to give hope and show that you can win some battles. Have we won the war? Probably not. But you have to win some battles to show it can be won.
“The issue is, how do you weave all this into a bigger picture? Almost every government in the country has been accused of corruption. And you see, you’ve given up hope and said you can’t win the battle. There’s one thing you need to remember and I say it in the book. The majority of Nigerians are honest, hardworking people but Nigeria is held hostage by a small minority of people. Why should we give up? That’s what they want.
“They want everybody to give up. When you try to fight corruption, they attack you viciously and then they get away with it.
“And I’m to say in the book that we mustn’t do that and to give people examples of where you could actually block it, even with threats to your life, to your relatives. I’m not saying everybody should take that risk but people have to stand up too.
“And actually, they are other people standing up every day”.
Some have said Okonjo-Iweala's book is nothing but a hagiography--an attempt by the author to use her book to clean up an image that took a beating during the Jonathan years.
But Okonjo-Iweala told the BBC that was far from her goal.
“The word exoneration doesn’t come to mind because when you didn’t commit any crime, what are you exonerating yourself from?”, Okonjo-Iweala asked her interviewer.
“I don’t need to exonerate myself from anything but I wanted to tell my story and I have a right to do that! Everyone who wants to tell their story can do that”.
“You see, there’s something. When people make you a victim, they victimize you all over again. So, what they would like to do and what they have succeeded in doing is that those people who are corrupt, intimidate people. They say all kinds of things so you keep quiet. And I have said I’m not keeping quiet!”, Okonjo-Iweala said.