“I’m the best woman for the job” Okonjo-Iweala begs for WTO campaign volunteers

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s candidate for the World Trade Organisation director-general election, says she is in need of volunteers for her campaign.

In an interview with Arise TV, Okonjo-Iweala said some of her friends have been helping with media work pro-bono.

If elected, Okonjo-Iweala would be the first African to occupy the position.

“So far things are going well and I’m grateful for the support of the government and Nigerians. I don’t have any PR firm working for me. I have some friends who are helping with media work pro-bono because I cannot afford to pay them. It would be nice to have some volunteers,” she said.

Her nomination had triggered slight controversy as President Muhammadu Buhari approved her candidature as a replacement for Yonov Frederick Agah, WTO deputy director-general and Nigeria’s former candidate for the election.

Egypt and the AU’s office of legal counsel had opined that Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination violated the candidature guidelines provided by the AU.

However, the WTO told TheCable that the former World Bank managing director is eligible to run for the office.

The two-time minister of finance also described WTO’s acceptance of her nomination as a testament of the faulty premise on which opposition calls were made.

Okonjo-Iweala described herself as “the best woman for the job”, saying the WTO needs a fresh pair of eyes to take on its leadership.

She expressed gratitude to the federal government, the ministries of foreign affairs and trade, among others for their support.

The development economist described WTO as a critical global organisation that needs to be reformed in key areas like dispute resolution, adding that its effectiveness will be enhanced if it becomes more inclusive by supporting women, MSMEs, among others.

She has received the endorsement of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and seeks to get the support of the African Union (AU).

Six candidates are vying to become the next head the WTO, an institution which faced mammoth challenges even before the pandemic-driven global economic crisis struck.

The six candidates are former Nigerian foreign and finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; South Korean Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee; Kenya’s former Foreign Minister, Amina Mohamed; Mexico’s former WTO deputy Director-General, Jesus Seade Kuri; Egyptian former diplomat, Hamid Mamdouh; and former Moldovan foreign minister, Tudor Ulianovschi.

The new chief must revive stalled trade talks, lay the ground for the 2021 ministerial conference – one of the WTO’s major events – and thaw relations with Washington.

The window to enter the race slams shut on Wednesday, in a speeded-up contest to replace the outgoing WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo – the Brazilian career diplomat who is stepping down one year early at the end of August.

In a surprise move in mid-May, Azevedo, 62, announced that he would end his second four-year term early for personal reasons, forcing the Geneva-based WTO’s 164 member states to come up with a successor in just three months instead of the usual nine.

Rather than an election, the procedure for selecting the next WTO boss relies on finding consensus, with candidates gradually being eliminated in turn.

A vote is possible as a measure of last resort, but that scenario has never occurred.

In 1999, when countries could not decide between two runners, both candidates each served a three-year term.

The next incumbent faces a tough task, with the WTO caught in the middle of rising tensions between the United States and China.

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