•Alleges plot to sabotage her campaign
By Obinna Chima
Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and the country’s candidate for the position of Director General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), is expected to make a presentation to the General Council of the organisation on July 15.
According to the WTO’s timelines for the selection of a successor to its departing Director-General, Roberto Azevêdo, Okonjo-Iweala will be the second candidate to face the General Council, after Mexico’s candidate, Jesus Seade Kuri.
There are eight candidates jostling for the plum job, and they will all make presentations to WTO’s General Council between July 15 and 17.
The global trade body said in a statement yesterday that in recent weeks its General Council Chair, David Walker of New Zealand, had been consulting with members on the next stages of the process.
The statement explained that under normal circumstances, the second phase of the process in which the candidates “make themselves known to members,” would take three months.
“But following his discussions with members, it has been agreed that the phase two of campaigning will be shortened by one month and will expire on September 7.
“On that date, the third and final phase of the process will begin. Under this phase, Amb.
Walker, together with the Chairs of the Dispute Settlement Body (Dacio Castillo of Honduras) and Trade Policy Review Body (Harald Aspelund of Iceland), will consult with all WTO members to assess their preferences and seek to determine which candidate is best placed to attract consensus support.
“This phase may involve more than one stage of consultations as members seek to narrow the field of candidates. Walker informed members that, as spelled out in the guidelines, the third Phase would last no more than two months,” the statement explained.
Walker was also quoted to have said: “In order to provide clarity for both the candidates and the membership regarding these timelines, we will therefore proceed with Phase Two and Phase Three of the appointment process following the expedited deadlines.”
On May 14, Azevêdo had informed the 164 WTO members that he would be stepping down from his post on August 31, 2020, one year before the expiry of his mandate.
Following consultations with members, Walker had announced on 20 May that a one-month timeframe had been agreed during which members would submit their candidate nominees. That deadline expired on Wednesday.
Okonjo-Iweala, former Managing Director (Operations) of the World Bank, is a renowned global finance expert, an economist and international development professional with over 30 years experience, having worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America.
She is at present the Chair of the Board of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. She also sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Plc and Twitter Inc. She was recently appointed African Union Special Envoy to mobilise international financial support in the fight against COVID-19, as well as Envoy for the World Health Organisation’s access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, also recently appointed Okonjo-Iweala, to serve as a member of her newly-established External Advisory Group.
She had a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the number two position of Managing Director (Operations).
Plot to Sabotage Okonjo-Iweala’s Campaign Uncovered
Meanwhile, Okonjo-Iweala yesterday said she had uncovered an ongoing effort by, “some well-connected Nigerians to sabotage her campaign as the country’s candidate for the WTO Director General.
In a statement by her Media Adviser, Paul C. Nwabuikwu, she pointed out that as part of the campaign, the persons and their cohorts are peddling outright lies and distortions designed to invent a non-existent “scandal” in order to paint her campaign in negative light.
“An example of this is the effort to misrepresent the campaign’s relationship with Mercury Communications, one of the organisations and individuals that have done voluntary, pro bono work for the campaign.
“Mercury was never formally engaged by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and its work for the campaign was done strictly on volunteer basis.
“Against this background, the attempt by these elements to manufacture a controversy in the local and international media by distorting the facts and creating falsehoods to link the campaign with some of Mercury’s current or past clients to push a false impression is contemptible.
“It is sad that the elements behind this campaign are placing their squalid concerns above the interests of the country.”
According to the statement, Okonjo-Iweala is humbled that her campaign is progressing in the right direction, adding that her candidacy has been embraced by many Nigerians, including a growing number of spirited volunteers.
“She deeply appreciates the strong show of support by both the Presidency and Nigerians, despite the efforts of the persons engaged in this pull her down (PhD) exercise. She will continue to do her best to make her candidacy count for the country,” the statement added.
In a related development, Mercury, in a separate statement, revealed that the organisation “does not and has never had a contract to represent Okonjo-Iweala’s campaign for WTO,” stressing that her campaign is comprised of volunteers.
“A small number of Mercury employees are volunteering to help Dr. Ngozi in her campaign for WTO Director General. She is not a client of our firm and the campaign has never had a contract with Mercury.
“An administrative error was made when the staff volunteered, leading to a precautionary LDA registration. This was cancelled because it was unnecessary,” the statement added.