Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in an interview recently, said many people were surprised when they asked her what her biggest accomplishment was and answered that they were her four children. This great woman of rare feats is married to a neurosurgeon and they are blessed with four children who are all graduates of Harvard University just as she is. Let’s give you a quick read of Okonjo-Iweala’s background and intimidating CV before letting you in on the interview.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria where her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo is the Eze (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu. She was educated at Queen’s School, Enugu, St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan. She arrived in the US in 1973 in her teens to study at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976. In 1981, she earned her Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a thesis titled Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development. Ngozi received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), that supported her doctoral studies.
She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon as earlier mentioned. They have four children – one daughter, Onyinye Iweala (AB, MD, Ph.D., Harvard) and three sons, Uzodinma Iweala (AB, Harvard, MD, Columbia), Okechukwu Iweala (AB, Harvard) and Uchechi Iweala (AB, MD, MBA, Harvard). In a recent webinar interview organised by the Emmanuel Chapel, themed, ‘Economic sustainability beyond COVID-19’, the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stated that her greatest accomplishment was her four children.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, husband & four children (Credit: Africa Facts Zone)
“It’s not about going to Harvard University (as they are all graduates of Harvard University); it’s about what type of a human being are you; they are nice children, they still like to hang out with us and I like to hang out with them.”
She was also asked what had been her most difficult task so far. She responded, “That’s a tough question, but I will answer it this way; being finance minister was a tough job because nobody likes finance ministers; your colleagues don’t like you, your boss may not even like you because you are in the business of saying no.
“You have to say no to your colleagues and sometimes to your boss. So, it’s a very difficult position all over the world. Former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, once told me he calculated the average tenure of finance minister and we rechecked what he said some time ago, it’s two years.
“They don’t last very long because it’s such a tough job. So, I’m very proud I was able to do seven years in Abuja and the longest finance minister in our history if you combine the two terms. So, that’s huge for me.”
You may want to recall that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala served as finance minister for three years and one year as Foreign Affairs Minister under Obasanjo, while she was reappointed as Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy for four years under Jonathan. Apart from rising to the number 2 position of Managing Director in her 25-year career at the World Bank, she is currently the Chair, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and Special African Union Envoy of COVID-19 Rehabilitation and has also been nominated for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.). Other panelists at the webinar were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and a former President of the African Development Bank and Rwandan economist, Dr. Donald Kaberuka; with Dr. Chinny Ogunro as a co-moderator.