With eight eminent personalities contesting for one of the most decorated roles in the world, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala said she was at some point afraid of losing the race to replace the vacant post of the Director General of the World Trade Organisation.
Okonjo- Iweala, a former World Bank Managing Director, who eventually emerged the best choice of 164 member countries to replace former WTO D-G, Roberto Azevedo, revealed her fears on a monitored programme on Arise TV.
Had the former Nigeria’s Minister of Finance lost, it would become the second top role she would lose in nine years. She had contested for the role of the President of the World Bank in 2012.
Barack Obama’s administration had during the race to occupy the top role at the bank favoured South Korea’s Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American physician and anthropologist who became the 12th president of the World Bank from 2012 to 2019.
Okonjo-Iweala who is the current Chair Board of GAVI, contested against Dr Jesus Seade Kuri of Mexico; Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt; ,of Moldova; H.E. Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea; Amb. Amina C. Mohamed of Kenya; Mohammed Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and Dr Liam Fox of the United Kingdom.
But opposition from the United States posed a greater concern for the Nigerian.
She said, “It was a very difficult race I think, you know it took place over five months. When I started it , I was very honoured to be nominated by the country obviously and then by the continent. That was a big honour.
“But I didn’t know it would be so growling, it was a very tough competition, over five months with different stages.
“As old as I am, I have always been taking exams and I have never been afraid of them, but this one was a bit though. So, yes there were times that I had butterflies in my stomach about whether I was going to make it.
“You know you are doing this in front of the whole world, so if you fail you fail in front of every one, if you pass, you pass . So it was a bit tough but thank God we did it.”
The former minister said she became the consensus candidate for the 164 countries who voted for her, because she was “working at the intersection of public health and trade.”
The ex- finance boss said those are topical issues for the trade bloc at the point when the Covid-19 pandemic was affecting the global economy.
“Having trade work together to make public health improve, I think is a very good thing. I have those skills and I thought that one could apply them to help the world particularly to help our continent as well,” she added.
The Nigerian dismissed talks that taking over from Azevedo was her destiny, saying it was the effort of the member countries.