Yale University, one of United States’ most prestigious institutions of higher learning, awarded Okonjo-Iweala an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
The university, which had in the past honored a number of African leaders, including the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, presented the award to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala during her 2015 Commencement Ceremony in New Haven, Connecticut, on Monday.
The Minister is only the second Nigerian in the university’s 314-year history to receive its highest honour after Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, was conferred with a similar award in 1980.
The President of the University, Peter Salovey, while presenting the award to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, described her as “a brilliant reformer and dedicated public servant, who has spearheaded efforts to stabilize and grow Nigeria’s economy, battling widespread government corruption and creating greater fiscal transparency and discipline”.
Ironically, the award is coming at a time Nigerians are criticizing the Minister for her management of the economy, through policies that have failed in real terms to curb massive corruption and growing poverty.
Former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Chukwuma Soludo, had recently accused Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala of manipulating figures on the country’s economic growth and poverty to create a distorted perception of improved economy.
Last week, the Minister came under a barrage of attack after the National Bureau of Statistics published the country’s new unemployment rate at 6.4 percent, with angry Nigerians pointing accusing fingers at her as the one pressurizing the agency into putting figures that are at variance with the current situation in the country.
Regardless, Yale University said the Minister has done enough to deserve being listed among the institution’s honours recipients populated mostly distinguished scholars, public servants, Nobel Prize winners and heads of states.
Yale honorary degree recipients, the university said, serve as models of excellence and service to its students, graduates, community and the world.
As Finance Minister in 2004, the institution noted Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s achievements to include leading an economic team that helped Nigeria obtain debt relief, wiping out $30 billion of Paris club debts, which led to the growth rates being tripled.
On her return in 2011 in a similar capacity, the institution said the Minister focused on building solid foundations and institutions critical for the survival and sustenance of the economy, apart from bravely fighting corruption in governance.
She was honored alongside the Chair of the Board of Governors of US Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen; world renowned Beninoise singer and songwriter, Angelique Kidjo; University Professor and founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University Gayatari Spivak; Professor and Director of the Starr Center for Human Genetics at Rockefeller University, Jeffrey Friedman, as well as inventors and entrepreneurs, Elon Musk and Dean Kamen, respectively.