Nigeria's former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says she was bounced from Aso Villa under Goodluck Jonathan for not yielding to corruption.
Okonjo-Iweala disclosed this in her new book titled: ‘Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous’: The Story Behind The Headlines’.
After serving as finance minister during the Olusegun Obasanjo years, Okonjo-Iweala returned as Coordinating Minister of the Economy under Jonathan; a position she held from August 17, 2011 to May 29, 2015.
However, in her book, Okonjo-Iweala says it wasn’t always smooth sailing in the power corridors.
In one instance, an unnamed presidential aide who didn’t want a policy to take off because of vested interests, told her to back off.
When she didn’t heed his warning, she was barred from saying prayers with Jonathan and his family inside Aso Rock, like she had always done.
“The presidential aide told me that he wanted to convey a message to me that there were people not happy with the port reforms especially the abolishment of the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN). And he asked me, indeed advised me to reinstate it. I was dismayed”, Okonjo-Iweala writes.
She continued: “The fact that the matter has been brought to his attention meant that whoever the unhappy people were, they were influential. I explained the genesis of the port reforms, the situation of the presidential task force and the approvals for action given by the president.
“By implementing the reforms measures, we were just carrying out the presidential approvals. He said he understood but that I should nevertheless find a way to reinstate the CTN. I left his office very troubled. Being on the wrong side of (these kind of) people made me uneasy.
“I knew they could be consequences but I also knew that there was no going back on these important reforms. Clearly the $6 million from the Nigerian Ports Authority from the Cargo Tracking Note not being remitted to the treasury must be going into some influential pockets.
“The morning after meeting with the presidential aide, the consequences began to become clear. I was privileged that part of my daily routine was to join the president and his family and his few close friends in fellowship and morning prayers in the residential complex”.
Okonjo-Iweala says the villa gates were slammed against her after the conversation with Jonathan’s aide.
“That morning the gates remained firmly shut as I was told I could not go in. Taken aback I asked why, all I could get as a response was that they had received instructions not to let me in for morning prayers. I began to argue but realizing that it was fruitless, I returned home.
“By the third day, the security officers at the gate all of whom knew me well told me, ‘Honourable Minister Ma, I think you need to talk to the presidential aide, ‘they gave me the name of the aide and it was the same person who had asked me to restore the CTN”.
Okonjo-Iweala details that she was embarrassed when the villa gates were again shut against her when IMF boss Christine Lagarde came visiting.
“After going to the gate and not allowed in for the fourth time, I pushed the situation to the back of my mind and turned to the preparations for the upcoming visit to Nigeria of the MD of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Madame Christine Lagarde, on Dec 18-20, 2011.
“She was scheduled to meet with the president on the final day of her visit December 20. There are usually many protocols and conventions to observe on high level visits especially when the visitor is accorded head of state’s status as Christine Lagarde was.
"One of these is for such dignitaries to enter the Villa for a meeting with the president through a gate designated for Heads of State only. Because Madame Lagarde was to use this gate, I had asked my staff to double check and ensure all was in order and I was reassured.
“But when the motorcade reached this gate it was denied entry. Embarrassed, I tried to find out from the security guards what was going on; they said they had no instructions for her to use that gate. And we should proceed to the entrance reserved for state governors.
“So I apologised to Madame Lagarde and told her there must be a mix up and asked the drivers to proceed to the other gate. When we got there, we were again denied entry. By this time it was clear to me that there was no misunderstanding but that this was deliberate.
“We were told to go back to the regular entrance used by everybody, park our car there and we'll have to walk, 5 min down the villa corridors which were long and leading to the president’s meeting room. Such treatment of such dignitary at the level of head of state was unheard of.
“Christine, clever as she is had figured out something was wrong but she didn’t know what. She handled it all with gaits and elegance telling me she didn’t really care which gate she went through or how far she had to walk as long as we met with the president.
“When the president enquired if everything was alright, she replied wittily, Mr. President there was a bit of a mix up about gates and we had to walk here. But it gives me the chance to see your beautiful Villa and its lovely gardens. The President looked puzzled but smiled”, Okonjo-Iweala wrote.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala served as Minister of Finance under Obasanjo from July 15, 2003 to June 21, 2006.
She also had a brief spell as Foreign Affairs Minister under Obasanjo from June 21, 2006 to August 30, 2006.
She is credited with achieving debt forgiveness for Nigeria under Obasanjo.
Okonjo-Iweala returned as Coordinating Minister of the Economy under Jonathan; a position she held from August 17, 2011 to May 29, 2015.
Nigeria frittered its oil wealth in Okonjo-Iweala’s second coming under Jonathan.
The former minister blames powerful State governors for her country’s inability to save; at a time when the price of oil in the global market hovered above the $100 mark.
Nigeria slipped into a recession a year after Okonjo-Iweala and Jonathan involuntarily left their jobs, thanks in large part to depleted reserves and plunging price of crude oil in the international market.