BY DAVID EMOCHE
For the past few days, I and, I daresay, other enlightened Nigerians have been watching with unease the unnecessary, unfolding drama Mr Donald Duke created over Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s reference to him in her new book, ‘Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines’. The question that kept bugging me is, why did Duke get so sensitive to the point of over-reacting? Was his swift response to the former finance minister necessary? What if he had waited a little bit to actually read the book itself rather than rely on an excerpt, would he have interpreted it differently?
In Okonjo-Iweala’s new book, she dedicated a few paragraphs to the events that transpired before she took up the job of finance minister in the Jonathan cabinet, one of which was that Donald Duke had approached her with a friendly advice not to work with Goodluck Jonathan. While there is nothing bad with that in itself, it is alarming the way some local press and commentators twisted that excerpt to portray Donald Duke in a negative light. Headlines like ‘Bombshell! Okonjo-Iweala’s Revelation About Donald Duke & Sowore of Sahara Reporters’ are really capable of inciting a ‘cold war’; whereas, there was no ‘bombshell’ in the whole text.
Considering that his presidential ambition is on the line, Donald Duke must have thought it ‘wise’ to hit back in a bid to save face. However, he misfired by reacting in the manner he did which seems precipitated by media hypes. One would have expected a more brilliant action from such an intelligent and visionary leader like Duke, but the rash response is disappointing.
However, setting what he described as a private talk with Mrs Okonjo-Iweala in the right context, it is obvious that the tension which escalated due to exaggerated media reports is unnecessary and uncalled for. Did Okonjo-Iweala really say Duke was among the cynics who bore Goodluck Jonathan ill will? Certainly not. Unlike what Pulse reported that “Okonjo-Iweala wrote that Duke’s cynicism as it related to the Jonathan administration, shocked her,” her statement was in reference to the ‘concerned people’ who wanted her to back down.
Just think about it; if Donald Duke was among those who purposed to wreck the administration of Jonathan, he wouldn’t have given Jonathan the necessary support in his state during the 2015 general elections. Although Duke had been nursing his presidential ambition since 2007, he wanted the best from Jonathan’s administration. Nevertheless, seeing the impending danger for NOI as the ‘concerned Nigerians’ were ready to lynch her the moment she set her foot on the shore of the country to join Jonathan’s leadership, Duke must have wanted to protect a woman whom he also considered a friend by advising her not to join the government.
Duke’s fears and prediction were apparently right from Okonjo-Iweala’s account as her trouble started with gnawing media attacks from Sahara Reporters even before she took the position. The book, summarily, is her account of the battle, not with corruption per se, but with those ‘concerned people’ who were the tenders and custodians of corruption.
Donald Duke’s concern which led to his visiting the former minister over the matter is understandable. Who would watch an innocent and virtuous woman like her walk into the lion’s den called politics in Nigeria? She also understood this, and acknowledged the concern of an old friend, whom she described as an “enlightened governor of the “cleanest State in Nigeria”, who had tried to build a tourism and services base for his State.”
Moreover, following the social media drama, Okonjo-Iweala at an event preceding the signing of the book held at the Politics and Prose, Washington DC, said to an audience which included her family, friends, colleagues among others that it was just to put the story in context. She said, “The thing wasn’t meant to say anything other than just to set the context for the story when I talked about Donald Duke.”
Unfortunately, the 2019 presidential aspirant took the issue out of context resorting into baseless accusations. Who does not know the risks, embarrassments and attacks the former minister endured in her efforts to safeguard the economy? Were those efforts not frustrated by the ‘concerned people’, who nearly usurped the savings in the Excess Crude Account because of their lack of ‘political will to save’?
And was Okonjo-Iweala ‘literally dismissed’ from the finance ministry under President Olusegun Obasanjo? Not at all! She was only moved to the foreign affairs ministry. Obasanjo would not have been bold to boast of bringing her into the government even after years of serving with her if indeed her exit was tainted.
It is disgraceful that all Donald Duke could garner from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s memoir on corruption is that it’s a “self-laundering attempt”. Such a statement from a presidential candidate is worrisome. He has probably confirmed to the world that he was/is one of those ‘concerned’ cynics who were against credibility in the Jonathan’s governance.
David Emoche is a Public Analyst from Makurdi, Benue State. He can be reached on email@example.com