By Adedayo Akinwale
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja assured Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that the country would deploy its entire energy to ensure that she becomes the Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO).
This was contained in a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu.
Okonjo-Iweala is one of two candidates contesting for the top position of the multilateral institution.
Buhari, who received the former Managing Director (Operations) of the World Bank at the Presidential Villa, Abuja said she deserved more support to get the top job because of her profile and diligence in serving the country, and the world.
“I assure you that we will do all that we can to ensure that you emerge as the Director-General of WTO, not only because you are a Nigerian, but because you are a hardworking Nigerian. You deserve this,’’ he said.
Buhari assured Okonjo-Iweala that he will make more phone calls, and send letters to some world leaders for more support.
“I did the same for Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina for President of the African Development Bank. Both of you served the country under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). You are both highly qualified. We will continue to support you. I will immediately make those calls,’’ the president told the former minister.
In her remarks, Okonjo-Iweala, a renowned development economist, thanked the Buhari and his ministers, particularly the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment for supporting her staunchly.
“I feel very proud of Nigeria. I am getting so much support from you, Mr. President, Chief of Staff, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investments. The ministers have been working around the clock to ensure that I succeed,’’ she said.
The former Minister of Finance also appreciated ECOWAS leaders for their endorsement, mentioning, in particular, the outstanding contributions of President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic and immediate past Chairman of ECOWAS as well as President Alhassan Quattara of Cote d’Ivoire.
She asked the president to “make one final push within the week to beat the Koreans and bring this to Nigeria by sending a few letters and placing telephone calls to some world leaders, and also thank others for their support.’’
“Mr. President put a smile on my face,’’ she said, “I am very proud of the country.’’
Okonjo-Iweala, 66, served as her country’s first female finance and foreign minister, and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank, eventually becoming its number two.
She is also on Twitter’s board of directors and is a special envoy for the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 fight.
According to analysts, Okonjo-Iweala’s high professional/personal qualities, international contacts and impeccable records as Nigeria’s former Finance minister/Foreign Affairs minister and as former managing director of the World Bank, stand her high above the other contestant.
She is a renowned global finance expert, an economist and international development professional with over 30 years of experience, having worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America.
She is presently the Chair of the Board of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. Since its creation in 2000, GAVI has immunised over 760 million children across the globe. 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, recently appointed Okonjo-Iweala to serve as a member of her newly-established External Advisory Group.
In addition, Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance minister, from 2003-2006 and 2011-2015 and briefly as Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions.
As Finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala steered Nigeria through the varying degree of reforms, particularly on macroeconomic, trade, financial and real sector issues.
As Managing Director (Operations) of the World Bank, her several portfolios included oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.
Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008-2009 food crises and later in the trying period of the global financial crisis.