by Daniel Essien
Nigerians have always had something of an issue with our Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, who before this was commissioner of finance in Ogun State, with no credential on a national or international platform.
Last week those lingering resentments or doubts burst into the open as she made a gaffe she had no business making in a time when her government has lost credibility on the economy. These are five takeaways from that slow, steady march to ignominy.
- Her antecedents: Prior to being named Finance Minister, Adeosun was Commissioner for Finance in Ogun State. Given the national profile of past finance ministers, most recently Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and their strong CVs, many wondered whether there weren’t more qualified people for the job. There was the sense that the job of being Finance Minister in Africa’s largest economy would prove too big for her. That perception has not yet gone away.
- Visibility: Ms Adeosun has been largely in the background since assuming office in November, as the country eventually slipped into recession. It has not helped that while major economic debates were ongoing – like what to do about the Naira’s value – she stayed largely silent, while Buhari, Osinbajo and Emefiele dominated the discourse.
- She does not inspire confidence: Her antecedents, along with her lack of visibility, means that her statements, even when she makes them, do not carry the weight that they are supposed to. As finance minister, she should be the main driver of economic policy, harmonising the fiscal and monetary imperatives of a country that has been hit by a decline in oil prices. It is not clear at all that this is the case. Perhaps a person with more prominent antecedents
- ‘Recession is a word’: The comments which were made via a Twitter account associated with her (and confirmed by a corroborating video) upset people even more, making her out to be tone deaf and out of touch with the sufferings of Nigerians. The statement itself was taken very much out of context, but it is a sign of how little slack she currently enjoys with the public.
- Her predecessor: People didn’t like NOI, but they respected her, they questioned her character not her competence. Dino Melaye has called on President Buhari to sack Adeosun, saying: “The finance minister has not only displayed gross incompetence on the job, she also lacks the basic and rudimentary grasp of economic fundamentals necessary to run a critical sector of the Nigerian economy like the finance ministry. It is time for her to go now and pave way for a qualified and experienced person to steer the Nigerian economy away from the dark woods it has sunk presently under her stewardship.”
Contrast this with what he said about NOI back in 2012: “With all her over bloated and rated economic prowess, unemployment, value of Naira, per capita income, standard of living, FDI, manufacturing, etc. all on the decline.”
The language there is instructive. Okonjo-Iweala came with strong credentials, and this is duly acknowledged even by those who criticised her.
Adeosun? Not so much. Not so much at the beginning. And even worse today.
Incompetence, or the perception thereof, can be more damaging than actual corruption.