A former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, on Saturday berated members of the House of Representatives for their rude treatment of the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Mrs. Ezekwesili, a former World Bank Vice President (Africa), accused the lawmakers of not being ‘decorous’ when the House Committee on Finance walked out Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala out of their meeting on Thursday.
The finance minister, who had presented the 2014 Appropriation Bill before the House earlier on Thursday, however, turned round to say she was not feeling too well to withstand the rigors of responding to questions from the committee members regarding the state of the Nigerian economy.
Her response seemed to irk the lawmakers, who dismissed her but not before the chairman of the committee, Abdulmumini Jibrin, handed her a document containing 50 questions which they asked her to respond to in writing within two weeks.
But Mrs. Ezekwesili, who tweets via the handle @obyezeks, on Saturday said: “Gosh! Our National Assembly & lawmakers URGENTLY need SERIOUS TRAINING on Respectful Workplace Practices”.
According to her, more is expected of lawmakers as the only reason Nigeria is called a democracy is because of the National Assembly.
“These lawmakers need know this and be decorous! That fellow that was blatantly disrespectful to Okonjo-Iweala may not in the real world qualify to be her Research Assistant. Let’s face facts”, she said.
However, Mrs. Ezekwesili, who was the finance minister’s colleague during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, withdrew her tweet and apologized for her seeming remark about the educational qualification of one of the lawmakers.
“Ok, I agree. I was hard on him to compare his academic credentials with that of O-Iweala and so I take that tweet back. Forgive angry me!” she said.
Mrs. Ezekwesili, who was also a former minister of solid minerals, said when she was in government, whenever the National Assembly summoned her, she always turned up.
“I knew Okonjo-Iweala to be same. Surely, if the Committee Chairman was angry at her for having said she was slightly indisposed, she still deserved fair hearing. I expect our lawmakers to ask the toughest of questions in the discharge of their oversight role. But, do so with plenty of grace- with decorum”, she said.
According to her, disagreements are bound to occur but the language and tone matters a great deal in nurturing the culture of public debate which is core to democracies.
“Let’s get it right! I am huge on that language of disagreement. Disagree all you like but keep it clean of abuse and I will stay engaged. Abusers? Not on my TL [Timeline]!
“I keep coming back to the issue of the language of disagreement in our Democracy. We can’t afford to keep it as base and militaristic as it is.
“On the substance of the ‘50 Questions for Okonjo-Iweala”, It is a MIXED GRILL that could have benefited from deeper knowledge of Basic Economics,” she said.