WTO DG: A call on President Buhari and African leaders to step up diplomatic offensive, By C. Don Adinuba

Posted by News Express | 30 October 2020 | 893 times

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•C. Don Adinuba


Despite the President Donald Trump Administration’s refusal to support her election as the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in a process which requires consensus from all 161 member countries, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, stands a good chance of heading the organization. All which is needed is a great diplomatic offensive before the formal announcement of the winner on November 9.

The people and government of Anambra State, therefore, call upon President Muhammadu Buhari and other African leaders to immediately set in motion the machinery to get the United States to do the right thing by supporting the most qualified and the most popular candidate. Dr Okonjo-Iweala, former World Bank Managing Director and an alumnae of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who chairs the boards of Twitter and Gavi Alliance Vaccines and Immunization, has the support of 106 countries, both low- and high-income. Earlier this week, the 27-member European Union declared support for her.

The Trump administration wants South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee who has the support of only 55 nations, about 50% of Okonjo-Iweala’s vote. It need not have its way. Earlier this year it opposed the reelection of Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture and African Union’s choice, as the African Development Bank president based on unsubstantiated allegations like nepotism. An independent inquiry led by an international Irish statesman cleared Dr Adesina of the charges. Dr Adesina has since returned to office to popular applause.

It is difficult to understand why the Trump Administration should be on a collision course with Africans on international assignments.  In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in May, the administration announced it was severing relations with the World Health Organization led by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian, accusing the organization of being China’s lackey, the same charge it levels against the WTO. The Trump administration is alone in the criticism against the WHO. Acts like this help fuel criticism that the administration may not free of racism.

One lesson from Dr Adesina’s successful reelection as the AfDB president last August 27, despite America’s opposition, is that Nigeria and indeed Africa should not capitulate easily. So, we need to redouble our diplomatic efforts to have Dr Okonjo-Iweala become the first African and the first woman to head the WTO.

When on October 13 Mrs Okonjo-Iweala visited President Buhari, who nominated her last June, she requested the Nigerian leader to call a number of world leaders to support her as the WTO Director General. The President acceded. The result was the large number of votes she garnered by Wednesday, October 28, from various delegations in Geneva, Switzerland.   The people and government of Anambra State are of the opinion that President Buhari needs to do more urgently to mobilize not just African leaders but also the EU and, indeed, the rest of the world to get the United States to do the right thing. As Governor Willie Obiano stated on August 31 in a letter to President Buhari, Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence as the WTO Director General, coming on the heels of Dr Adesina’s reelection at the AfDB and the Buhari’s commendable stance on Ghana’s mistreatment of Nigerian nationals, will prove that Nigeria, famous for its dynamic foreign policy for decades in the past, is regaining its place in the comity of nations.

Finally, the Government and people of Anambra State would like to point out an important lesson from Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s brilliant performance in the campaign to become the WTO DG: competence or merit has no substitute. Whenever Nigeria brings her best in the international arena, she performs brilliantly. For example, Nigeria’s candidate for the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, was in 1988 able to defeat Malcolm Fraser, an international statesman and former Australian prime minister. It is not in the international arena that merit should count. It also should matter in domestic matters. We should not be in a hurry to develop. As former Vice President Alex Ekwueme once noted, Nigeria is a miracle waiting to happen.

May God bless Nigeria.

  • C. Don Adinuba is Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment, Anambra State.

Source: News Express

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