By Stephen Ubanna
Barely six years after Adams Oshiomhole, a former National Chairman of the All progressive Congress, APC, hadvilified Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy under former president Goodluck Jonathan of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, she has suddenly become a close ally of President , ,Muhammadu Buhar, a retired army General, in her capacity as the Director General of the World Trade Organistaion, WTO.
Oshiomhole had stopped short at saying that the Havard trained Economist who rose to become the World Bank Vice President had destroyed the country’s economy during Jonathan’s regime. He had said that the former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy, had received N2.92 trillion excess crude oil money between 2011 and 2014 with little or nothing to show for it.
Both not for the fact that the former APC , National Chairman had been removed from his exalted office in March 2020, on the orders of the Court based on Application filed by one Oluwale Afolabi, on January 16, 2020, that he had been suspended by the Edo Chapter of the party, and therefore, could not continue to enjoy the benefits from the party, he could have been one of the top APC Chieftains that would have accompanied Ibrahim Gambari , a Professor, and Chief of Staff to the President , Geofrey Omyeama, minister of Foreign Affairs and Niyi Adebayo, a former governor of Ekiti state and now minister of Industry, Investment and Trade to usher her into the Presidential Villa, for a closed door meeting with the Katsina state born Nigeria President.
She may have been given a red carpet treatment because the Nigerian government needs her assistance in this trying times where nothing appears to be working out with the spiraling inflation. Given the importance attached to the meeting between the WTO, Director general and the Nigerian president, he was said to have ensured that Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigerian, CBN, was present.
It is on record that Nigeria, the WTO Director General, home country, was the first that she had visited since she assumed office on March 1, 2021, to oversee the Affairs of the1 64-member Organisation. Okonjo-Iweala , the WTO, Director General has every reason to pay an official visit to Buhari, because of the role played by his administration to her emergence as the WTO, helmsman.
Recall that the Nigerian President had initially presented Yonov Frederick Agaha, one-time Ambassador, for election to the position of the Director General of the WTO. The Nigerian President may have seen forced to change his mind when Okonjo –Iweala , declared her interest for the WTO top position. He may have seen the former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy as having brighter brighter chances for winning the WTO Director General ship election than the Ambassador.
It was not surprising why he approved her Candidacy.By endorsing the Candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala, a global economics expert for the WTO, Director General, position, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the Permanent Missions to the African Union, AU, including the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA, were said to have informed all the other Embassies and Permanent Missions in Addis Ababa, Capital of Ethiopia, that the Nigerian government has withdrawn the Candidacy of Ambassador Agah for the WTO top rank position and has nominated Okonjo-Ieala, a global economist and who had served two Administrations in the country at the ministerial level to replace him.
This may have prepared the ground for the former Nigerian minister of Finance and Coordinator of the economy to beat Yoo Myung –hee, the South Korea minister of Trade and her closest rival, who was supported by Donald Trump, a former President of the North American country of the United States, US. The Nigerian born WTO, Director General, may have alluded to this when she met with the retired army General on Monday, March15, 2021.
‘’You nominated me. You wrote hundreds of letters, called up hundreds of world Leaders to support her Candidcy’’. She may have gladened Buhari’s heart by stating that ‘’without his personal and direct intervention, she could not have won the keenly contested election for the WTO Director General position. The Delta state world –class bureaucrat who could not hide her feelings had thanked the Nigerian President for the pulsating support she had received from the country in the race for the WTO position.’’Mr, President, the world recgnises what you have done’’, she had said.
In apparent response to the WTO Director General speech, the Nigerian President had said that ‘’despite the robust support given to her by the government for the WTO topmost position, she also earned it because of her superlative performance both at home and abroad. He may have hit the nail on the head when s he said, ‘ I know you will represent us well’’, stressing that she has been putting the country more on the world map than any other Nigerian.
As a prelude to the meeting between the duo, on Monday, March15, 2021, she was said to have held separate discussions with Onyeama , the minister of Foreign Affairs and Adebayo , his Counterpart in the ministry of Industry, Investment and Trade. The former Ekiti state governor may have given an insight to th WTO Director General discussions with the President when he disclosed that the WTO Director General , would give an insight to’’ the role of the United Nation’s , UN, Trade agency in Africa’s trade agenda’’.
The WTO Director General, may not have disappointed the Nigerian government for the heroic welcome accorded her at the Presidential Villa, when she promised that ‘’ the Organisation would support Nigeria with capacity building and entrepreneurial products as a way to rejig the economy as the government intensifies its efforts to shift away from theover dependence on oil in order to diversify the economy to the non-oil sector thus, and earn more revenue to provide basic infrastructural facilities in the country.
She has made it clear to those that cares to listen in government circles that the UN, trade agency, would strive to deliver technical assistance, training and quality upgrade of personnel to unlock some bottleneck confronting Nigerian development.
The WTO Director General , may have given the Nigerian President a working agenda when she told him that trade Negotiations on Agricultural issues was very important, as the country appears to be active in Agriculture and also in the Joint Statement initiatives, and the ongoing bilateral Negotiations with other African countries.
She had said that the UN Trade agency would work with other international Organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, ‘’ to help the country solve its deficits which had been affecting its infrastructure over the years’’.
Excited by her home coming, the WTO Director General, had said that the Organisation is already negotiating several agreements on e-Commerce which would benefit Nigeria and the African Continent on long run. She was said to have given an insight of the Opportunities for Nigeria in the global Organisation as well as the Challenges, assuring the Nigerian President that WTO, under her Leadership would do more to help the country but with a caveat hat ‘’we need to add value to our products to sell more’’.
She has a good news for the teeming unemployed Nigeria youths and the women. This is evident going by her Statement that the WTO would ‘’support job creation among the youths and encourage women entrepreneurs’’.
In spite of the fact that the WTO , boss has good plans to help Nigeria, she may be forestalled from doing so by the Challenges of the Organisation which has to do with its reforms in order to deliver results. The situation may have been made worse as the UN Trade agency has not concluded the Multilateral round of Negotiations in quite a number of years, noting that it has the unique opportunity of delivering the fishery subsidy Negotiations for a start.
Although , achieving these goals may occupy much of his time that she may not give Nigeria the necessary attention as other nations may be on his neck including the Asian country of China and the US. To attend to their demands
This is where Mariam Katagun, the minister of state, ministry of Industry, Investment and Trade, who was her Campaign Manager in the race for the WTO, Director General, position, may have to keep a close contact with her by exploiting every available opportunity to ensure that that the country benefit from the WTO, trade policies.She was even emphatic on this that ‘’We should exploit all the Opportunities in front of us’’, to benefit for the UN trade agency.
There is no gain saying the fact that Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy, is the first woman and the first African to occupy the position of the WTO Director General since it was founded in 1949. On assumption of office on March1, 2021, she had said that her key priority would be to work with members to quickly address the economic and health Consequences brought about by the Asian country of China emerged coronavirys, popular, COVID 19 Pandemic.
She had said that a ‘’strong WTO, is vital if the world is to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation brought about by the deadly COVID 19 Pandemic.