Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Breaking Barriers for Nigerians in the Diaspora

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As someone from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria who was born in Enugu (the capital of the short-lived state of Biafra) about 19 years after the Nigerian Civil War, it is a big deal for me to see Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Harvard- and MIT-trained economist and Igbo woman, being seriously considered for the post of president of the World Bank. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is a conservative economist who used privatization as a way to help Nigeria’s economy, particularly by opening up the telecommunications market for investment. If she wins, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman, the first black, and the first African to head the World Bank! She’s been backed by The Economist (ahead of Obama’s left-wing pick) and by Forbes magazine!

Her family members are no intellectual slouches, either. Her husband is a brain surgeon; her eldest daughter has a Ph.D. in experimental pathology from Harvard University, and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School; and her son is a critically acclaimed novelist with a B.A., magna cum laude, from Harvard, and an M.D. from Columbia Medical School.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s presence on the world stage is needed to help rectify the ignorant image that many Westerners have of Nigerians. When they see “Nigerian” they instantly think: “Internet scam artist.” (The amount of times I have received this insult from people who don’t like my arguments is incalculable.) It’s rare that people see “Nigerian” and instantly think “the most educated group of people in the United States”—even though it is a fact.

Interestingly, 37 percent of Nigerian Americans have bachelor’s degrees, 17 percent have master’s degrees, and 4 percent have doctorates. By contrast, only 19 percent of white Americans have bachelor’s degrees (almost half of the percentage for Nigerians), 8 percent have master’s degrees (less than half of the percentage for Nigerians), and only 1 percent of whites have doctorates. Nigerians are also more educated than every other immigrant group to the United States. Yet, curiously, when speaking of model minorities, people are quick to talk about Chinese, Swedes, and Russians. We (Nigerians) are never recognized for our intellectual achievements.

The statistics are similar wherever Nigerians migrate to in the Western world. British Nigerian children are also more academically successful on a percentage basis than white British children. In fact, the record holders for A-Level Mathematics in Britain are Nigerian children who passed Cambridge University tests at age 8.

I wonder where racists like John Derbyshire and his sympathizers are to explain away Nigerian academic dominance. Their theories of black intellectual inferiority completely fail when Nigerians are analyzed.

In any event, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala should be the president of the World Bank not because she is a Nigerian like me, but because she is manifestly the most qualified candidate to hold the post.