Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, three-time minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, says late president Umar Musa Yar’Adua wanted her to be finance minister in his government.
This revelation was made in her recently released book, fighting corruption is dangerous, a front line account of her role in former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
According to the development economist, she rejected the offer because it would be unprofessional to leave the World Bank at that time.
Narrating how she joined the Jonathan administration, Okonjo-Iweala said: “the request to return home to Nigeria from Washington threw my mind-and, in fact my life-into turmoil. I was truly enjoying my job in the international development arena. Although my first term as Finance Minister had been highly rewarding in terms of the opportunity to give back to my country, working with a strong team, and recording many achievements for the economy,” she wrote.
“It also had been politically and personally difficult, especially toward the end. I resigned when I felt no longer able to serve under adverse conditions, and the resignation was seen as a bold and controversial move on my part. No Nigerian minister resigns; they are only fired. Stepping down from my post had earned me the ire of those at the top
“Would it be Wise to return, given the tough politics? What exactly were the current circumstances in the Ministry of Finance, and would they be conducive to achieving further advances for the economy? I would need to do some homework and a great deal of reflection. If I said no, as I was inclined to do, I would have to back it up with strong arguments as it can be quite difficult refusing your President a request!
Speaking on Yar’Adua, she said: “I remembered just how tough it had been to say no to President Yar’Adua, who had done me the honor of asking me twice to return as Finance Minister. But that had been in 2008 and I had very strong reasons to say no, among them the fact that I had just returned to the World Bank a few months earlier in a very senior position and it would be unprofessional to leave after such a short time”.
“I was relieved when he kindly accepted my regrets the second time and asked me to suggest someone else. He took up my suggestion and appointed as Finance Minister Dr. Mansur Muhtar, an economist, a colleague, and former Director General of Nigeria’s Debt Management Office.
“Although that tricky situation had been resolved relatively well, I had no idea what would happen if I said no again.”
Okonjo-Iweala went on to become minister of finance under the Jonathan administration.