Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Former Minister for Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, has punctured claims by former Vice President and the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, that as Head of Economic Management Team while in office as Vice President, Nigeria’s economy witnessed a tremendous boom.
Ezekwesili who took to her verified Twitter handle @obyezeks to dismantle the claims by Atiku, said that the former Vice President was never the Head of the Economic Management Team but only the Chairman of National Economic Council, which is entirely a different body.
She asked Atiku to tell his Twitter handlers to delete the misleading tweet, and to also stop laying false claims to a feat he never achieved.
Atiku had earlier tweeted: “As head of the Economic Management Team while I was Vice President, I was instrumental in designing a private sector revival strategy and advocated for the opening of the economy for private sector investments in several sectors. And we made tremendous progress. #AtikuAtNESG”
But irked by the PDP presidential flag bearer’s false claims and misleading tweet, Ezekwesili who was a member of President Obasanjo’s Economic Management Team chaired by the then Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, fired a barrage of tweets to counter Atiku’s claims.
Below are the series of counter tweets by Ezekwesili: “Dear former Vice President Atiku, please ask the handlers of your @Twitter account to stop misleading the public. You were never the Head of the Economic Management Team.
“This absurd lie does you no good at all. Please ask your Team to stop it.
Happy New Year. Wish you well.
“There is no sincere basis for confusing the work of the Presidential Economic Management Team that I described in the previous tweets with the National Economic Council, provided for in the Constitution and chaired by a Vice President. The functions are not the same at all. None.
“There is a difference between the Economic Management Team set up for the 1st time ever in 2003 by President Obasanjo and the National Economic Council established by the 1999 Constitution as amended; Section 153(1) and Paragraphs 18 & 19 of Part I of the Third Schedule.
“National Economic Council consists of: (a) Vice-President as the Chairman; (b) the Governor of each State of the Federation; and (c) the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria established under the Central Bank of Nigeria Decree 1991 or any enactment replacing that Decree.
“As Chair of the Technical Level Leadership, the then Minister of Finance was the Head of our Technocratic Team of 12 persons which met in her office at the Ministry statutorily weekly and as often as necessary daily as we designed and began implementing the Economic Reforms.
“The National Economic Council which former Vice President Atiku constitutionally chaired and now by Professor Osinbajo is really an advisory organ that provides opportunity for the Federal Government and States of the Federation to discuss our Economy for coordination purpose.
“Constitutionally, National Economic Council advises the President concerning the economic affairs of the Federation, and in particular on measures necessary for the coordination of the economic planning efforts or economic programmes of the various Governments of the Federation.
“The 1999 Constitution also has the Vice President as the Chairperson of the National Council on Privatization. In that capacity, it is the duty of the Vice President to supervise the work of the Bureau for Public Enterprise BPE on behalf of the President.
“Let me end on the note that former Vice President @atiku and his supporters should appreciate this elucidation and sincere clarification of the distinction between the Presidential Economic Management Team on the one hand, and the National Economic Council on the other.
“Former Vice President @atiku can delete the tweet I reacted to and duly lay claim to having chaired the National Economic Council at which he and State Governors met monthly.
“Do not confuse this anymore with the Economic Management Team. I hope others also learned something.”
But peeved by the explanations by the Harvard-trained Economic Policy expert, Atiku’s Media Aide, Paul Ibe, accused Ezekwesili of de-marketing the former Vice President for political reasons.
Ibe in a counter tweet, insisted that Nigeria’s economy blossomed under Atiku as the Chairman of the National Economic Council which headed the nation’s Economic Management Team.
“Dear @obyezeks, I know it’s political season and people resort to all sorts of antics in support of their preferred candidates. But some things should be considered too low.
“It is established history that @atiku as Chairman, National Economic Council headed the nation’s Economic Management Team between 1999-2007, during which Nigeria had some of her best economic growth,” Ibe tweeted.
Mrs Obiageli popularly known as Oby Ezekwesili is an Economic Policy expert, and an advocate of transparency, accountability, good governance and human capital development.
The humanitarian and activist was one those instrumental to the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 when she led a campaign against corruption perpetrated under the watch of former President Goodluck Jonathan who was then seeking re-election.
She later fell out with Buhari as she expressed her disappointment over most of the policies and programmes of the Buhari administration especially his poor handling of the economy, bias in anti-graft war, levity in fighting terrorism, among others.
Ezekwesili has remained at the vanguard of a new Nigeria through the emergence of credible and competent leadership.