Nigeria's former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

A former Nigerian Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has disowned a viral quote purportedly contained in her new book, ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous.’

The former minister said that she never wrote about “Yesterday’s scavengers” being “Today’s saints” at any point in her new book.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala was reacting to quotes making the rounds across social media in which she allegedly threw shots at some officials of the present administration who held political offices in the last administration.

The quote, which is being spread across social platforms as an excerpt from the former minister’s new book, specifically cast aspersions on two officials of the Muhammadu Buhari administration – former governors Rotimi Amaechi and Babatunde Fashola of Rivers and Lagos states respectively. 

Mr Fashola – now Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing – and Mr Amaechi (Transport Minister) served as governors when Mrs Okonjo-Iweala served as finance minister under the Goodluck Jonathan administration  between 2011 and 2015.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who was also a former minister of finance during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was quoted in the viral excerpt as saying that “Yesterday’s scavengers are today’s saints”.

The two-time Minister of Finance was said to have stated this in her book – ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous’ – while commenting on how the governors allegedly scuttled efforts of the Jonathan government to save for the rainy days during the season of oil boom. 

However, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who was also the Coordinating Minister of the Economy at the time, said she never wrote those words.

Reacting on her verified twitter page Sunday morning,  she wrote: “At no point in my book, ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous’, did I say ‘yesterday’s scavengers are today’s saints’.

“While I appreciate all the reviews and discourse the book is generating at home and abroad; mischief-makers who wish to add their comments should get their own copy of the book so that they can make intelligent contributions, rather than putting words in my mouth.”

The subject of why the nation never saved during the administration of Mr Jonathan has always been a source of controversies, with Mrs Okonjo-Iweala putting the blame on governors who served during the period.

In 2016, the former minister of finance said  lack of political will to save funds under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan was responsible for the challenges facing the country. 

Speaking on the Chilean saving example at the George Washington University during a World Bank/IMF Programme, the former minister  said there was “zero political will to save in the last administration.”

She said, “In my second time as a finance minister, from 2011 to 2015, we had the instrument, we had the means, we had done it before, but zero political will.

“So we were not able to save when we should have. That is why you find that Nigeria is now in the situation it is in. Along with so many other countries.”

In a subsequent statement released after the report caused ripples on the internet, the minister said she was referring to the opposition of some governors to the efforts of the Jonathan administration to save in the excess crude account (ECA) and in sovereign wealth fund (SWF).

While Mr Fashola belonged to the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, at the time, Mr Amaechi was the chairman of the Governors’ Forum. They both played important roles in the formation and electoral victory of the then opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2015 general elections. 

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