If you’ve been sleeping on a bicycle in the last couple of days, never mind, weve got you—former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke and former Minister of the Nigerian economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, have been having a go at each other.
And it all has to do with whether Okonjo-Iweala made the right call when she accepted to return as minister in the Goodluck Jonathan years of 2011 to 2015.
In Okonjo-Iweala’s new book titled: ‘Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous’: The Story Behind The Headlines’, she dedicated a few paragraphs to how she took up the job of finance minister in the Jonathan cabinet.
“By now, it was mid-May and I was mulling over these issues when I got a call from another old friend, Governor Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State. An enlightened governor of the “cleanest State in Nigeria” who had tried to build a tourism and services base for his State”, Okonjo Iweala wrote in her book.
“He (Duke) told me he was in Washington DC and would like to see me. I invited him to my office. Governor Duke told me there were rumours that I was being asked to return as Finance Minister. He asked if there was any truth to these rumours. I confirmed that I had been asked and was reflecting on it”.
Rejecting Jonathan's job offer
Okonjo-Iweala said Duke advised her to reject Jonathan’s job offer.
“He then told me that he brought a message from a group of “concerned” people whose advice was that I should turn down the offer. I asked him who the concerned people were and what would be their reason for this advice. He would not give me their names but mentioned that I would know some of them and some even said they were my friends.
“As to the reason, he said that these people felt that my acceptance would “give Jonathan and his government credibility and he did not deserve that. If I turned down the offer, the administration would be weak and would likely not succeed”.
Okonjo-Iweala wrote that Duke’s cynicism as it related to the Jonathan administration, shocked her.
“I was shocked at the cynicism and pointed out that Nigerians had just elected President Jonathan to office with 58.89 percent of the vote, which meant that they had faith in his ability to steer the country. I also mentioned that Jonathan had asked me to join his administration not to support him but to help improve the country’s finances and steer the economy in the right direction to create jobs and improve living standards, especially for the youth.
“What about all the people who elected Jonathan? Didn’t they deserve qualified people to serve them? He said he was just transmitting friendly advice to me and would counsel me to take it. He left without obtaining my commitment to turn down the offer”, Okonjo-Iweala wrote.
Donald Duke responds
Duke didn’t like that Okonjo-Iweala had gone public with details of what was a private meeting, so he released the following statement by way of a push back.
“It is true I met with Ngozi when the rumors were swirling about her being considered for appointment. As “friends”, she having been literally dismissed from an earlier appointment as finance minister, I urged caution.
“I made no mention of adding or subtracting credibility to anyone or government. It was “two friends” discussing careers. It ended there and she subsequently made her choice which I respected".
According to Duke, Okonjo-Iweala used him as fodder for her image laundering scheme.
“However, I think it is in poor taste and demeaning of her to report a private conversation in whatever self laundering attempt she may be up to. With hindsight, I was vindicated. Ngozi, as Minister of Finance and Economy, despite massive revenue receipts, left Nigeria poorer than she met it”, Duke wrote.
Duke, Okonjo-Iweala served Nigeria in different capacities
Donald Duke was Governor of Cross River Statefrom May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007.
Suave, urbane and often looking the part, Duke has been nursing a presidential dream since 2007
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala served as Minister in the administrations of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.
Okonjo-Iweala served as Minister of Finance under Obasanjo from July 15, 2003 to June 21, 2006.
Okonjo-Iweala 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 blamespowerful State governorsfor 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.