Okonjo Iweala: Is she the best candidate for WTO job?
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian/American born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, on the 13th of June, 1954. She had her secondary education at International School, Ibadan, Oyo State and St. Anne’s School, Molete, in the same city of Ibadan. Madam Okonjo-Iweala proceeded to Harvard University where she graduated with an AB honours in Economics in 1977.
She holds a PhD in Regional Economics and Development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a retired neurosurgeon and emergency physician and they are blessed with four wonderful children.
Sister Ngozi was a former Managing Director of the World Bank Group. She was the ex-Minister of Finance under Goodluck Jonathan. She performed above average in a country ravaged by ubiquitous graft and executive tomfoolery.
Under ‘Babacracy’ she was appointed again as Nigeria’s Finance Minister under the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. Controversy followed her appointment after it was revealed that she collected her salary in Dollars! In a nation whose national currency had suffered (and still suffers) devaluation and re-evaluation she could have decided to go for a stable international currency of repute.
Our dear Ngozi, a combination of brain and beauty Africana, is presently gunning for a plum job as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Also running for the same position is another woman of immense value, the South-Korean Yoo Myung-hee, born on the 5th of June 1967 and the current Minister for Trade of her asian country. She has 25 years of trade experience!
The global organisation is currently without an interim Director-General after China vetoed a US suggestion that the American Alan Wolff, one of the deputy directors-general, should take over in an acting capacity. Talk of super power politics!
The WTO’s members would be meeting next on November 9 following the first botched meeting that could have led to the emergence of the DG to replace the Brazilian Roberto Azevedo whose unexpected (early) resignation earlier this year paved the way for another candidate. Azevedo had led the WTO since 2013.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala may be the ‘best’ from Nigeria and Africa but the question remains unanswered as her professional capacity to lead the WTO in a crucial moment of global crisis. America thinks she is not the ‘best’ for the job compared to the South Korean Yoo Myung-hee, the current Minister for Trade of her country.
The US had rejected the front-running African candidate to head the World Trade Organization, defying the body’s other 160 member nations and leaving the outcome of the race uncertain. America ‘vetoed’ Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination on the ground that her opponent was a better candidate for the job!
The Americans argued that Mrs Myung-hee is a “bona-fide trade expert” needed at this time the WTO was facing a “difficult time” and should, therefore, be “led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field”. Sounds great an argument.
Any of the two illustrious women that succeeds in clinching the top job would be the first woman (and additionally for Ngozi the first African) to lead the institution. But there was an unexpected glitch in the process given the American strong opposition.
The stakes are high in this great opportunity to be the boss of the world trade organization. Ngozi and her campaign handlers must have thought that victory was nigh and suddenly came the ‘nay’ submission from Washington DC.
What is clear here is that America’s position of opposition to Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence has its merit. Analysed objectively one could come to the conclusion that while it is true that both candidates possess great credentials for the job the South-Korean woman could make a better candidate given her experience and negotiation skills.
When another round of political or diplomatic horse-trading would be at play America may have its way by ‘imposing’ Yoo. The ‘consensus’ candidate could be Ngozi but Yoo may carry the day if the American diplomatic offensive is deployed to woo member nations to ‘vote’ for Yoo.
And when Yoo trumps Ngozi her American citizenship could be considered to be ‘worthless’ in a critical moment of a challenge.
Let the best candidate win!