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Race for WTO DG: Buhari assures Okonjo-Iweala of support, says “I did it for Akinwunmi Adesina, I will do it for you.”

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has assured the country’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that he will deploy the might and resources of the federal government to ensure she secures the top job at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The president made the promise on Monday when the former World Bank executive paid him a visit at the presidential villa in Abuja.

Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee, the South Korean minister of trade, are the two final candidates for the top position at the WTO.

Whoever emerges between the duo will become the first female WTO DG since the organisation was set up 25 years ago.

Buhari said Okonjo-Iweala is deserving of the job because of her profile and diligence in serving the country and the world in various capacities.

“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,’’ Buhari said.

Buhari assured Okonjo-Iweala that he would make some 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. Both of you served the country under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). You are both highly qualified,” he said.

“We will continue to support you. I will immediately make those calls.”

Commenting on the president’s support, Okonjo-Iweala said she is proud to be a Nigerian.

She also appreciated Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders for their endorsement.

She asked 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”.

“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,’’ Okonjo-Iweala said.

“Mr President, put a smile on my face. I am very proud of the country.’’

Okonjo-Iweala served as the country’s finance minister between 2003 and 2006. In 2011, she was brought back to continue her reforms in the finance ministry in addition to serving as the coordinating minister of the economy under the Goodluck Jonathan presidency.