FG intensifies campaign to deliver Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy for WTO DG

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Amid the drab suits of international finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s colourful and vibrant traditional African attire always guarantees she will stand out in a crowd. But that is just on the outside. The daughter of two university professors has a reputation for no-nonsense straight talk and tough action that has won her the nickname Okonjo-Wahala from both critics and politicians back home because of her zeal for reform.

What’s more, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is currently gunning for the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Director General, and a formidable campaign strategy team to drive success for her candidacy has been inaugurated by the Nigerian government.

The campaign team was recently inaugurated in Abuja by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Richard Adebayo, who described the action as vital in ensuring that the Nigerian candidate emerged as the DG of the WTO.

The team led by Minister of State, Mariam Katagum, comprised of officials of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and representatives of the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President. Other members of the team include representatives from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance, Nigerian Ambassador to ECOWAS and African Union, as well as Geneva-based officials.

This disclosure was contained in a statement titled “Adebayo inaugurates campaign strategy team for Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s post for DG WTO” and signed by Assistant Director of Information, Oluwakemi Ogunmakinwa.

Adebayo said the decision of the President Muhammadu Buhari to nominate Okonjo-Iweala as Nigeria’s candidate for the position was taken in good faith and was based on the overriding consideration of the need to boost Africa’s chance as well as promote gender mainstreaming at the world’s top trade post.

Expectedly, the group would strengthen the efforts of Okonjo-Iweala’s influential global friends and volunteers who had already launched a global campaign to canvass for support for their preferred candidate.

Nigeria’s optimism on Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence as the next WTO DG is anchored on intimidating demonstration of capabilities and wealth of experience at the highest level of governance, including World Bank, as a development economist, diplomat and one of Africa’s most trusted technocrats, proven leadership, bold reformer, skillful negotiator with abilities to broker agreements among other eminent qualifications.

Ngozi graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1976 and holds a Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1982 she joined the World Bank, where she worked until July 2011 (except during 2003–07, when she was first in Nigeria and later a consultant), rising through the ranks and eventually becoming a managing director.

A global personality brand per excellence and development economist for more than two decades, Okonjo-Iweala has been responsible at various times for programs in countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

A combination of these qualifications and experiences has no doubt endeared her candidacy to ECOWAS and Africa Union in general, thereby strengthening her chances.

Though there is no regional rotation principle at the global trade body, Africa fancies its chances this time by throwing its weight behind Okonjo Iweala, and Nigeria has expressed confidence in Dr. Okonjo-Iweala clinching the position.

Should this happen, the corporate Amazon would make history as the first African and first woman to lead the .years global trade organisation.

For that to happen, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has six formidable hurdles to cross to clinch the highly coveted seat. They are the candidatures of Britain’s first post-Brexit international trade secretary, Liam Fox; Kenya’s former WTO general council chair Amina Mohamed; South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee; Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri; Egyptian former diplomat Hamid Mamdouh and the youngest contestant, the 37 year-old former Moldovan foreign minister, Tudor Ulianovschi.

Whoever wins the race would replace next month outgoing director-general Roberto Azevedo, a Brazilian career diplomat who will step down in August from the 164 member Geneva-based WTO. The new leader will be taking on an institution that was beset with mammoth challenges even before the pandemic-driven global economic crisis struck.


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