who will be next World Bank President What will they do


What is it about Nigeria? People perusing their NYT Saturday morning over coffee will find five letters to the editor. They're thinking, hmmm, one pro-Paul Wolfowitz letter from Alabama, by Professor Okeowo of Alabama State University. What is it about Nigeria?

Every week, thousands of people are motivated to write heartfelt letters to the editor of newspapers that reach influential international readers. I feel quite sure that three men of free will -- Nigerian lobbyist in Washington Andrew Young, the International Herald Tribune op ed writer from Nigeria who heads up the country's economic and financial crimes commission, and New York Times letter writer Professor Okeowo, who rocks a Nigerian name -- never met.

Each was stirred to write to a major newspaper about this compelling issue confronting the bank. In the same week. While Ruth Wedgewood (who arrived at SAIS just as PW left, and subsequently built her reputation as an advocate for secret military tribunals even before the boots were on the ground in Afghanistan) and others furiously worked the phones in Washington, blogged on conservative sites, and fumed to cameras, etc., on Wolfie's behalf.

What is it about Nigeria? Since he discovered Africa once he arrived at the Bank, Paul Wolfowitz has had a special fondness for one of America's largest suppliers of oil. He was photographed whenever he could manage with "Minister Ngozi", the former World Bank executive who became the Finance Minister, and is now at Brookings. Despite remarkable success at bringing Nigeria's out-of-control public finances into some order, thereby reducing inflation (which has scourged Nigeria's tens of millions of poor, honest farmers and business people for decades), Ngozi was shifted to being Foreign Minister and then dumped after her cabinet colleagues grew tired of her policing of their spending and thieving. Her role in getting back the stolen billions that late President Abacha had squirrelled away abroad may have also troubled their own flights to Europe to check up on their assets. Oh, and Ngozi also negotiated unheard of debt cancellation terms at both the Paris Club and the London Club, which is rare for a country without an IMF program. Meanwhile oil producers beefed up security in the Niger delta, as the impoverished people there demanded a share of the national wealth beneath their feet and off their shores.

Nigeria must have some powerful allies somewhere. Along with all that oil.

As the readers of the Times turn to the crossword, perhaps they first should use their pencils to connect a few more dots about oil and the countries Paul Wolfowitz has been particularly fond of over, say, the last 20 years...

Deep Insider ~ May 05, 2007

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