Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Nigeria’s crusader-in-chief fights for the country’s soul

By:
Sid Verma
Published on:

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is convinced she can diversify the economy. But fears are growing that the end of the commodities super-cycle will imperil the growth model.

In a flash, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s smile becomes a look of fierce determination. "Vested interests are trying to block the greater good," she tells Euromoney.

Those vested interests had better prepare to lose. Okonjo-Iweala is no stranger to battles, and never one to give up the fight. She’s always been this way.

In the middle of the 1967-70 Biafran war, a 15-year-old Okonjo-Iweala confronted the personal horrors of the bloody civil conflict, which sent Nigeria’s post-independence ideals into a tailspin.

At the height of the war, her father served as a brigadier in the army and her mother was incapacitated by illness, leaving Okonjo-Iweala to shoulder responsibility for her three-year-old sister, who suddenly fell critically ill with malaria. The future fiscal commander-in-chief, informed that medical assistance could be found some 10 kilometres away, strapped her sister on her back and, in the searing heat, trudged...