Claim: Media reports and social media users claimed that Dr Okonjo-Iweala has emerged as the first female DG of WTO.
Verdict: Although, there are all indications that the former Finance Minister of Nigeria may be declared the winner as she currently enjoys massive votes edge, she is yet to be confirmed and officially announced by the General Council in charge of the appointment.
There was a breaking news by an online news website, THE NEW DIPLOMAT, in the early hours of Tuesday, October 27, 2020, that Nigeria’s former Finance Minister and a former Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has emerged as the first female Director-General of the World Trade Organization(WTO)”
The online media categorically stated that Dr Okonjo-Iweala has emerged as the first African and the first female to attain the position of Director General of WTO by emerging as the finalist after eliminating South Korea’s current Trade Minister, Dr Yoo Myung-hee, in a fierce battle for the coveted job on Monday night, October 26, 2020,
“It added that the decision among some of the key, and influential Nations within the global power bloc to move in Nigeria’s direction followed very tough, rigorous and high-level negotiations with China reportedly tilting the dynamics.”
The New Diplomat, Europe’s outpost office, gathered that with the EU nations and the United States moving in opposite direction, a move that triggered a deadlock between the two powerful geo-political allies for the first time in many years, it was the decisive and quiet support of China that finally tipped the scales in Okonjo-Iweala’s favour.
It added that “The WTO’s Ambassador Walker’s led General Council, the overall organ responsible for picking the organization’s next DG, would officially announce the choice of Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Dr Okonjo-Iweala today, October 27, barring any any unforeseen changes in the organization’s schedule….an official announcement to this effect would be formally made today by New Zealand’s Ambassador Walker’s led WTO General Council.”
Latching on this, a former member of the Nigerian Senate, Shehu Sani, congratulated Dr. Okonjo-Iweala on the said appointment through his Twitter handle, @ShehuSani, on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Senator Sani said “Congratulations to @NOIweala for the @wto job.”
The tweet already garnered close to 800 likes and many comments.
Aside from the Senator, many people on their Twitter handles had gone to congratulate the Nigerian contestant with so much enthusiasm. Publisher, Dele Momodu Ovation also tweeted, “Breaking news: Okonjo Iweala named DG of WTO. Wow! Excellent choice. Congratulations 🎈🎉🍾🎊 to her and to Nigeria and our great people!!!!!” With so many responses, over 700 retweets and over 3100 likes.”
Also on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, TheCable reported that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has emerged winner of the highly competitive race, adding that Dr Okonjo-Iweala was chosen as the final candidate for the much-coveted role as she polled 104 votes from 164 member countries to defeat the South Korea’s Trade Minister at the final stage of the race.
TheCable also reported that “She has broken many records, including becoming the first African to occupy that office at the WTO.” But noted that “The official announcement is expected to be made by the WTO at 3pm Nigerian time.”
The Vanguard also reported on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, that “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s ex-finance minister and nominee for the office of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, is set to emerge winner in the highly competitive race.”
Likewise, The Nation in Nigeria Tweeted:
And Rhythm FM also tweeted:
Earlier in October, Dubawa debunked similar social media and news websites’ posts claiming she had been appointed.
World Trade Organisation (WTO) is a permanent international organisation dealing with global rules of trade between nations. It is the successor of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), established in the aftermath of the Second World War. The last 1986-94 Uruguay round led to creation of the WTO in 1995. At the heart of the WTO is a multilateral trading system consisting of WTO agreements negotiated and signed by majority world’s trading Nations and their Parliaments.
WTO has about 160 members which account for 95 percent of world trade, and there are 25 other negotiating members. The decisions at WTO are made by the entire membership by consensus and these decisions are ratified in member nations’ parliaments as well.
Findings by Dubawa show that the General Council of the WTO in charge of the selection is yet to make a declaration on the appointment.
Secondly, although the selection of the WTO Director General is already in the final stage, there are indications that the General Council Chair, David Walker, and his co-facilitators in the DG selection process will, at their meeting today, give their assessment of the candidate most likely to attain a consensus of the members to become the Director-General. But, the world needs to wait for the official declaration which is yet to be announced because the scheduled date for the declaration of the winner is scheduled for between the 27th October and the 6th of November, 2020.
Also, theafricareport noted that “Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was slated to be the new Director-General of the World Trade Organization. She will be the first woman and the first African, to lead the institution. But there was an unexpected glitch in the process.”
An update from allafricareport earlier posted, stated, “In a last ditch move, the United States representative at World Trade Organization took to the floor to insist that South Korea’s candidate remained a contender, and that Washington will not recognise Okonjo-Iweala as the consensus candidate for appointment as director-general.
“In response to this, the General Counsel has postponed its announcement of the new Director-General until a further meeting, which is scheduled for 9 November; after the US presidential elections.”
The report added that “Today’s announcement that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is to be the new director-general of the World Trade Organization would have been a tremendous boost for Africa and lines her up for one of the toughest jobs in the international system. Our sources in Geneva say that she had won the support from the vast majority of member states, including the EU, Japan and China, but not the United States.”
Dubawa sent two electronic mails to the WTO, through its enquiry desk. In response, WTO’s Director of Information and External Relations Division, Keith Rockwell, replied that “there has not yet been a decision.”
“There will be a heads of delegation meeting today at 15:00. At this meeting General Council Chair David Walker and his co-facilitators in the DG selection process will give their assessment of the candidate most likely to attain a consensus of the Membership and become the Director-General,” the email further reads.
Keith noted that “it is very important to keep in mind that the meeting is for assessment of the Troika and that it is the members who would eventually and formally decide in the General Council who becomes the next DG.”
“I expect the General Council will take place in the coming days but don’t yet know when that will be. It’s likely that Amb. Walker will inform the Members on this at today’s meeting,” the email added.
She said a news item will be issued and posted on the WTO website shortly after the meeting is concluded, adding that more information on the DG selection process can be found on the WTO website.”
After the WTO General Council meeting held on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, the Chair, David Walker, tweeted on the results of the consultations to appoint the next #WTODG.
Summing up the announcement by GC Chair Walker, the WTO spokesperson, Keith Rockwel said: “The candidate that had the best chance of attaining a consensus of the membership is Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria; adding that consultations on the way forward will start immediately.”
The race to succeed the Brazilian Robert Azevedo as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), has been a keen contest, which started with an array of eminently qualified contestants from across the world and it has reached the decisive stage when the 164 member states of the organisation begin the process of deciding who between the two remaining contestants, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung Hee, deserves the position.
Alhough the race for the coveted job of DG WTO has been fierce with Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s serving Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, and the WTO General Council has disclosed that Dr Okonjo-Iweala has the best chance of attaining a consensus of the membership, the council is yet to officially and publicly declare Dr Okonjo-Iweala as the next DG of WTO.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with the Broadcastings Corporation of Oyo State, to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in Journalism and enhance Media Literacy in the Country.