WHEN it came to taking the critical decision, it was not just the United States (U.S.) and European Union (EU) nations that blocked the emergence of Nigeria’s Finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as president of the World Bank on Monday, The Guardian can disclose.
Impeccable sources in the U.S. capital, Washington, where the headquarters of the bank is located, told The Guardian that apart from the few African executive directors on the World Bank’s board, others from the so-called developing nations simply played mute when it mattered most.
The Guardian learnt that last Friday when the board of directors met to review the selection process after the interview sessions with each of the three candidates, the board’s discussions had nothing to do with merit, except when African directors spoke.
Even then the contributions of the Africans on the board were easily sidestepped at the meeting.
Besides, out of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, or the BRICS nations, only South Africa backed the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala all the way, according to knowledgeable sources.
This, according to the sources, effectively facilitated the U.S. government official reactions to Dr. Jim Yong Kim triumph – made both by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton- to the effect that its nominee was picked through an open, competitive way and also through consensus.
Last Friday, Russia announced that it would back the U.S. candidate, while China, India and Brazil kept their cards close to their minds. The BRICS nations were earlier believed to be championing the candidacy of both Okonjo-Iweala and Prof Jose Antonia Ocampo of Colombia.
Ocampo’s withdrawal from the race was seen as a response to the need for emerging economies like the BRICS to present a common front through the Nigerian candidate.
But by Monday when the final decision was taken, sources said even other BRICS nations in addition to Russia were already backing the American candidate who was later announced as the new bank president.
The Sources pointed out that all of this was already clear to Okonjo-Iweala by last weekend because she had been briefed at the end of the Friday meeting by one of the African directors at the World Bank, Nigeria’s Mansur Mukthar, an Alternate Executive Director, who left Washington for Abuja to report back, having seen clearly the direction the board had taken.
This explains why Okonjo-Iweala herself was already in Abuja by Monday morning and later told the press that it was clear that Dr. Kim would emerge victorious.
But mixed reactions have trailed the emergence of Kim as the next World Bank president, just as the American winner has offered the olive branch to Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo.
The global agency, Oxfam, while welcoming the selection of Dr. Kim as World Bank president, observed that “the sham appointment process had damaged the institution.”
A statement later on Monday by the head of Oxfam’s office in Washington DC, Elizabeth Stuart, stated: “Dr. Kim is an excellent choice for World Bank president and a true development hero. But we’ll never know if he was the best candidate for the job because there was no true and fair competition.
“The world deserved better than a selection process with a forgone conclusion. Poor and emerging countries are insisting that the Bank be more accountable and open in how it does business. This sham process has damaged the institution, and sullied Dr. Kim’s appointment.”
Speaking in Peru in a reaction to his selection, Kim, said: “I am honored to accept the Executive Directors’ decision to select me as the next President of the World Bank Group.”
Expressing gratitude to the “Bank’s member-countries for the broad support I have received,” Kim disclosed that he had already “spoken with Minister Okonjo-Iweala and Professor Ocampo. They have both made important contributions to economic development, and I look forward to drawing on their expertise in the years to come.”
Kim said as World Bank President, he would seek a new alignment of the World Bank Group with a rapidly changing world.
He added that he would work together with partners old and new.
“We will foster an institution that responds effectively to the needs of its diverse clients and donors; delivers more powerful results to support sustained growth; prioritises evidence-based solutions over ideology; amplifies the voices of developing countries; and draws on the expertise and experience of the people we serve.”