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Okonjo-Iweala to Buhari: Put a smile on my face


  • President: I’ll lobby to ensure your victory as WTO DG


Former Minister of Finance and Coordinator for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday, emotionally told President Muhammadu  Buhari to put a smile on her face in the race for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee had advanced to  final round in the race to be WTO’s Director-General, setting the stage for the first woman to lead the 25-yearold organisation.


The former Managing Director (Operations) of the World Bank asked President Buhari to “make one final push within the week to beat the Koreans and bring this to Nigeria by sending a few letters and placing telephone calls to some world leaders and also thank others for their support.”


“Mr. President, put a smile on my face,” she said. “I am very proud of the  country.” In his response, Buhari assured Okonjo-Iweala that he would personally lobby other world leaders to ensure that she wins the contest for the position of the Director-General of WTO.


The President gave this assurance yesterday after a private meeting with the former minister at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Okonjo-Iweala is one of two finalists contesting for the top position of the multilateral institution.


The President said Okonjo-Iweala deserves more support to get the top job because of her profile and diligence in serving the country, and the world. “I assure you that we will do all that we can to ensure that you emerge as the Director- General of WTO, not only because you are a Nigerian, but because you are a hardworking Nigerian. You deserve this,” he added.


The President assured Okonjo-Iweala that he will make more phone calls and send letters to some world leaders for more support. “I did the same for Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina for President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).


Both of you served the country under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). You are both highly qualified. We will continue to support you.


I will immediately make those calls,” the President told Okonjo-Iweala. In her remarks earlier, the former minister thanked the President and his ministers, particularly the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment for supporting her staunchly.


“I feel very proud of Nigeria. I am getting so much support from you, Mr. President, Chief of Staff, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investments. The ministers have been working around the clock to ensure that I succeed,” she said.


The former Minister of Finance also appreciated ECOWAS leaders for their endorsement, mentioning in particular the outstanding contributions of President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic and immediate past Chairman of ECOWAS as well as President Alhassan Quattara of Cote d’Ivoire.


On October 7, 2020, the WTO announced that Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myunghee had advanced to the final round in the race to be its Director-General.


The former minister was accompanied to the Villa by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubair Dada and Minister of State, Industry Trade and Investment, Maryam Katagun.




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