Last week, Fortune, a part of the TIME network released a list of 34 World Leaders who are changing health care globally, and surprise! surprise! Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Chair of Gavi as well as CEO Seth Berkley, made the list.
While receiving awards and recognition may seem like second nature to Dr Okonjo-Iweala, one is forced to admit that she is the recipient of countless awards because of her contributions to humanity, particularly to Africans where she has shown, time and again, her heart truly lies.
The African continent has fewer voices who remain consistent and constant in their advocacy than Mrs Iweala. In her pursuit for a better life for the African people, she has maintained a consistent stand whether as Gavi Chair, or as a member of the Asian Advisory Board, or as Finance Minister, or in any of the other capacities she has served or continues to serve. Small wonder, the world stops to listen when she speaks. Her achievements, no matter which side of the divide you fall, are evident to all and only a mind that is so totally biased would say that Okonjo-Iweala is not an Ace performer.
Small wonder former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his memoirs acknowledges that one of the high points of his administration would not have been achieved without the hard work of Okonjo-Iweala. And just as the Paris Club 30-billion-dollar debt relief has gone down in Nigeria’s history, no attempt to rewrite history can wipe her name off the page that she led the team that secured and delivered that relief to our dear country.
But that was not the only achievement that earned her the name “Mama Naija”. As minister under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Okonjo-Iweala advocated and set up the Sovereign Wealth Fund against the backlash of opposition from state governors. Thankfully, she achieved her aim. If she did not, would we have been able to read that Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Investment almost doubled in 2016, thus encouraging the present government to infuse more funds into the account?
Following on the heels of the Sovereign Wealth Fund came other phenomenal and laudable achievements such as the institutionalisation of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the Treasury Single Account (TSA). A strong advocate for system as a means to achieving sustainable development, madam Iweala also started the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC), Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), and pushed Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS).
Interestingly, Chief Obasanjo was not the only president she worked with who lavished her with exuberant praise. After her service to Nigeria as Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Chair of GAVI and Senior Adviser, Lazard. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, in his congratulatory message, described her as an achiever whose leadership, as the head of his economic management team, brought about the successful implementation of far-reaching reforms in many sectors including power, telecoms, agriculture, financial services and infrastructural development.
The saying goes, “The reward for hard work is more work”, so it came as no surprise when almost immediately her term as minister ended, she was snapped up by leading global orgnisations like Gavi, Lazard, African Risk Capacity and then the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Even before she had warmed her seat in those positions, more appointments came calling, followed closely by more awards. And like the phenomenal woman, mother and leader that she is, she takes on each appointment, each assignment, each accolade with humility and a sense of responsibility towards the people who have always held her heart, whose battles she has fought, and whose victories she relishes, Africans.
Dan Osofisan writes from University of Jos where he works and resides.
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