I still remember, as if it was yesterday while walking on the street of New York, as I was trying to cross Madison Avenue by 5th, heading west, I saw who looked like a familiar face, as I looked closely, I could not believe my eyes. I was seeing Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, face to face. Though she did not respond to my attempt to give her a hug, as she was in a hurry to cross the same street heading east, but the few seconds that we spoke made my day that day.
That was during the last United Nations General Assembly in New York, before Corona Virus put paid to movements and social interactions. This is a woman I have come to appreciate her success and the pride of place she has bestowed on Nigeria with her professionalism, in periods when Nigeria’s image needs a makeover.
When the World Bank presidency became vacant, I did a piece on “Time for a Nigerian To Preside Over the World Bank” which appeared on Nairametrics on January 22nd, 2019, asking the president to nominate Mrs. Okonjo Iweala, for that post. That enviable position eluded Nigeria, but there are always opportunities. Another of such opportunity has come. It is the opportunity for a Nigerian to oversee the World Trade Organization, WTO. This time, the president has nominated Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (disregard the initial controversy that originated from Egypt about the nomination).
Nigeria’s nominee in the person of Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has all it takes to preside over the WTO. She has been Independent Director of Twitter, Inc. since July 19, 2018, and Senior Advisor of Lazard Ltd since September 21, 2015. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has worked with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and she is also an Adviser to World Bank on the Stolen Assets Recovery initiative. She served as Managing Director at The World Bank Group from December 1, 2007 to August 2011.
Before serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria from 2003 to 2006 and Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Honourable Minister of Finance of Nigeria until 2015, she served in a number of important positions at the World Bank such as Vice President and Corporate Secretary, Director of Operations in the Middle East and North Africa region and Country Director for Southeast Asia and Mongolia Country unit. Not too long ago, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa appoints Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a member of the Economic Advisory Council of South Africa. With over 30 years of economic development and financial expertise and as an internationally renowned economist and a prominent African leader, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala more than qualifies to do Nigeria proud, once again.
It will not be Easy
Nothing good comes easy as we all know. And for Mrs. Okonjo Iweala, the assumption of the highest office of the World Trade Organization will not be easy, given the caliber of people being nominated by other countries. Those are the people that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala will go head to head with when the nomination closes in August and the selection process begins. Here they are:
Ms. Yoo Myung-hee from the Republic of Korea, the first female trade minister for the Republic, she has over 25 years of career experience in trade. She is described as being a skilled negotiator and strategist
Another nominee is Mr. Jesús Seade Kuri from Mexico. He is said to have a unique experience in global trade negotiation and policy. He had worked at the WTO, IMF and World Bank in the past. He was once a deputy director of GATT and founding deputy director-general of WTO. He is currently Mexico’s under-secretary for North America.
Mr. Tudor Ulianovschi from Moldova (never heard of that country before). Mr. Tudor Ulianovschi served as the minister of foreign affairs for his country as well as representing his country in various international fora like the World Economic Forum in Devos in 2019.
Mr. Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh from Egypt, another nominee, has played an important role in trade policy and diplomacy for 35 years on half of Egypt. He had worked for the WTO as a senior official and he counts on his supposed long WTO senior management experience to take him through the selection process.
Fight of the Titans
As can be seen from the biography and success of the various nominees, they are all qualified, crème de la crème of their countries. It is indeed going to be a fight of the titans and I am confident that our flag bearer, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, will come up victoriously. Nigeria and Nigerians have done it in the past and the selection of our own Ngozi will not be different. When, in Atlanta 1996, Nigeria went against Brazil, as the underdog, history of Olympic soccer was rewritten with the overpowering success of the Eagles. Be it in the field of sports, engineering, or even in pioneering the internet, Nigeria never carries last, so Go Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Nigerians are with you, Sub Saharan Africa supports you, and God is with you. You will do us proud, like you have always done.