Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), has said that Nigerians no longer trust the government, especially those from the Southeastern region of the country.
Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke virtually from Washington at the inauguration of the Transition Council of the Abia State Governor-elect, Dr Alex Otti, in Aba, regretted that the political class in the country had dashed the hopes of the electorate.
Delivering a keynote speech at the event, Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy said “Many Nigerians no longer believe that their government can do anything for them.”
She expressed deep worry over the sad development but noted that it has also triggered the entrepreneurial spirit in many Nigerians.
“Nigerians have lost trust in government, you know that. Many Nigerians, especially on our side in the South East, don’t really believe that government can do anything for them” , the WTO boss said.
”On the one hand, maybe it’s a good thing because everybody then becomes their own government. You dig your own borehole to get water, generate your own electricity, and do everything for yourself.
”That is entrepreneurial but on the other hand maybe that is not the best way to run things”.
Advocating transparency as the panacea, Okonjo-Iweala admonished that for government to regain its lost confidence among the populace, it “must get a tight and better and cleaner governance that must be transparent”.
She advised the Abia Governor-elect to do things differently so as to regain the confidence of Abians and set the pace for a new order in the country.
The former Minister of Finance noted that she lived by example while in office, and challenged Otti to inspire hope in the people by doing things right, saying that the expirations on him is much.
She noted that she, as Minister, decided to publish monthly allocations to states in order to counter the lies of some state governors who excused their poor performance on imaginary zero allocation from the Federal Government.
“We used to publish the finances of every state, what the Federal Government gave each state every month because I found out governors were telling their people, ‘Oh, we didn’t get any allocation from the Federal Government this month that’s why we cannot pay salaries, that is why we cannot pay teachers, that is why we cannot run our health system’.And when I visit a state, they will be so hostile.
“When I was Minister of Finance in 2003 and started asking, ‘Why are people so hostile to the Federal Government’, when I would hold meetings or townhalls people would tell us, ‘Federal Government didn’t give us allocations, therefore, salaries have not been paid, teachers are not paid’ and I found out that they were being told things that were clearly not true.
“Then I went to President Obasanjo and said, can I start publishing what states get each month so their people will know they’re getting this money? He said, yes.
“So we started to publish it in the newspapers every month after the FAAC meeting and then put it on the Internet so you can go to the Ministry of Finance website and see.
”This helped change people’s attitudes. Because people could see and say, oh my state got this 60 million or 100 million this month.”
Okonjo-Iweala charged Otti to be transparent and not copy the ways of bad leaders, insisting that he cannot afford to betray the confidence reposed in him