Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: The Relevance of Women in Igbo African World and the Lessons in the Current Global Economic Crisis

The news of the South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee abandoning the race to head the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was on air by February 5, 2021. This singular move paved the way for Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to emerge as the next Director-General of the apex financial organization in the world.

The WTO is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations. It creates forum to open intergovernmental trade negotiations and agreements. It should be recalled that three months ago, at the final phase of this selection, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was preferred by the EU and key WTO ambassadors but the adamant opposition of the United States under the administration of Donald Trump stalled the process since the consensus needed for the selection could not be reached.

Sources revealed that pressure from the same United States now under the administration of Joseph Biden which preferred Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had caused the Korean to back down. Observers suggest that with 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea to defend its borders from the nuclear-armed North Korea, its government knew better than jettison the body language of the Biden administration. Joe Biden once more proves himself as ready to take back US back to the world scene to play its global role by standing with the rest of WTO’s key partners and as more race/gender sensitive than Donald Trump by looking beyond the colour of Iweala’s skin to the strength of her curriculum vitae. Most importantly, Joe Biden has inadvertently played into a very important aspect of the Igbo-African culture crisis management.

The story of Aba women riot of 1929 and “Ahia attack” women trade engagement during the Nigerian civil war are classical examples of the role of women in the Igbo-African world in moments of crisis. For the records, in Olokoro, Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, women took to the streets in protest over oppression and illicit taxation by the unscrupulous colonial government. The peaceful protest which turned bloody lasted for at least two months which saw to the limiting of the powers of the warrant chiefs, who served as tools in the hands of the colonial administration, and sanity in the colonial government’s economic strategies. During the Nigerian civil war, when Biafra was barricaded on all sides without aids and children were starving and dying of kwashiorkor, it was the women who engaged in the dangerous “Ahia attack” which included daring the armed enemy soldiers especially within occupied Biafran territories, to procure food items, bring them into the Biafran hinter lands to ensure the feeding of the soldiers and children. The survival of the Igbo race from that thirty-month genocidal war cannot be chronicled without the story of those amazons. These above instances will not be surprising to anyone abreast with the role of women in the Igbo culture. In the larger African environment, the mass action campaign of the Liberian women during the civil war that ravaged the country in recent history is there to be seen. From the late 1990’s, Liberian women had seen the trajectory of the nation and had begun to make their voices heard both as individuals and groups. When the war broke out in 2000, they, like the Igbo women, stood strong for the wounded and hungry. During the peace accord that held in Accra, Ghana, 2003,even without being invited, they joined forces with Ghanaian and Nigerian women to prevail on the men to resolve the conflict. Back home, they continued the campaign for peace and produced the first African female Head of State, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

In America, the face of Martha Washington appeared on the ten dollar bill simply because she was a president’s wife and after her in close to two centuries, no other woman has so been honoured. As spirits are reawakened as to honouring a woman in the dollar bill, it is Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, two black women who are making the spot because of their achievements. Eleanor Roosevelt who trails them, again because she was a wife to a president. It is not surprising that African women make their marks in the affairs of society and enhancing human life and society much more than their white counterparts.

To be continued…
Author : Chika J.B Gabriel Okpalike

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