For the second time this year alone, the United States of America constituted a stumbling block to the aspirations of eminently qualified Nigerians to lead major international organisations. First, it was Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, whose second term bid as President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, was rejected by the US.
America had opposed Adesina on allegations of corruption by unnamed internal whistle-blowers. Adesina went on to win his second term after he was comprehensively exonerated. His first term track record earned him a landslide approval rating by the Bank’s stakeholders.
This time around, the US has also opposed the recommendation by the Nomination Committee of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, for the 164-member countries to appoint our former Finance and Economy Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as Director-General of the global organisation.
It took four months for Okonjo-Iweala to wade through the diplomatic labyrinths murky political waters to get to this threshold only to meet this (hopefully temporary) setback.
The US is sticking with South Korea’s Yoo Myung-Hee, the sole remaining challenger to Okonjo-Iweala. According to the office of the US Trade Representative which advises President Donald Trump, Yoo “has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organisation”.
America also posits that as multilateral tariff negotiations have not taken place in 25 years, it prefers an experienced insider like Yoo to repair the broken dispute settlement system and advance the needed reforms. Above all, President Trump believes the WTO is biased in favour of its bitter trade rival, China. Perhaps he wants someone who will be more disposed to American interests.
On the other hand, Okonjo-Iweala, who packs a rich pedigree in the international finance system, believes that the same problems that the US seeks solutions to can be better handled by someone like her coming with “a new eye”.
She is untainted by the politics of international trade, which tends to create stalemates, especially among the big powers. As a self-acclaimed “reform candidate”, she promises to promote consultation, negotiation and consensus for harmonious global trade.
We throw our full support behind Okonjo-Iweala because she is an achiever as a development economist with 25 years experience at the World Bank.
She has also left enduring footprints on the Nigerian economy and other institutions such as the Board of Twitter, the GAVI vaccine alliance and as the World Health Organisation’s Special Envoy. Already, she has the endorsement of the trade ambassadors, most of Africa, the European Union and others.
We are sure she will stabilise the Organisation, rally consensus for the needed reforms and needfully carry Nigeria and Africa along. We urge the Federal Government to intensify its support for her through the relevant diplomatic channels.
We are confident of her eventual victory come November 9, 2020.