By Josfyn Uba
The rise of women is not about the fall of men. Many societies are fast moving on from women having to succeed in a man’s world. In that wise, stereotypes are being challenged and diverse representation of women is more evident. Now, the saying that women run the world is becoming a reality with every passing year. Women, globally, are challenging the status quo by contributing immensely, working hard and breaking the glass ceilings around the world. They are self-confident and not afraid to push all the boundaries required to breast the tape in whatever field they choose.
According to President Ursula von der Leyen at the EP FEMM interparliamentary committee meeting during the 2021 International Women’s Day celebration, “Having women in leadership position should become the norm, not the exception” And slowly but steadily that is happening globally and Nigeria is taking its pride of place in that regard.
For the first time in history, the World Trade Organization is being led by an African, Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It was not easy, but she made it. And it shows that everything can change, with tireless perseverance.
Daily Sun chronicles 10 top Nigerian women who have excelled in 2021, locally and on the global stage.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala opened the floodgates of achievements this year with her new job at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). With an intimidating profile, the 66-year-old is the first woman, first African, to occupy the position.
The former number two woman at the World Bank hails from Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State. Despite recently taking out United States citizenship, she revels in being Nigerian and is fiercely patriotic, flaunting her African identity in her African-print outfits.
The Harvard-trained economist spent 25 years at the World Bank, where she was credited with spearheading several initiatives to assist low-income countries, in particular raising nearly $50 billion in 2010 from donors for the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries.
Okonjo-Iweala takes pride in her home country, where she served two times as the finance minister, under Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.
She is also on Twitter’s board of directors, chair of the Gavi vaccine alliance and as a special envoy for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 fight
Just as the euphoria of excitement was calming down on Okonjo-Iweala’s rise to the WTO, the womenfolk scored another first in the oil and gas sector with Elohor Aiboni’s appointment by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) as its first female managing director.
Elohor was also the first female asset operations manager, Bonga, a deepwater floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) facility operated by Shell in Nigeria. She is a master’s degree holder in Integrated Environmental Management from the University of Bath, United Kingdom, with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Benin.
After her National Youth Service programme, she joined Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited in Port Harcourt as a trainee production engineer and has held several roles in production operations, project/asset management, business adviser to the executive vice president, sub-Saharan Africa, operations readiness/assurance in Kazakhstan. She worked to become the asset manager for Sea Eagle FPSO, which is in the shallow waters of Nigeria, until her appointment in 2018 as the asset operations manager for Bonga FPSO facility.
Before her appointment, Elohor Aiboni was the company’s first Bonga asset operations manager, with over 13 years of experience in the oil and gas sector.
Nigeria’s banking sector witnessed an astronomical rise in the appointment of female chief executive officers in the year under review, which analysts and stakeholders describe as a good development that would impact positively on the industry.
Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, again, broke down stereotypes when she took over the helm as the managing director of Fidelity Bank Plc on January 1, 2021. She has spent over 30 years working across various banks.
She holds a bachelor of law (LLB) degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; a master of law (LLM) degree from Kings College, London, and has attended executive training programmes at notable global institutions, including Harvard Business School, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, INSEAD School of Business, Chicago Booth School of Business, London Business School and IMD.
Onyeali-Ikpe, who had functioned as the executive director of the Lagos and South West directorate of the bank and has been an integral part of management in the last six years, joined the bank in 2015.
Yemisi Edun, who took over the leadership of FCMB as the acting managing director, replacing Adam Nuru, parades a robust resume with an experience of over three decades in the financial space.
Edun joined FCMB from Akintola Williams Deloitte in 2000 and, until her appointment, was the immediate past chief financial officer of the bank, a role she held after serving in various capacities. She is an alumna of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and University of Liverpool, UK, where she bagged a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in chemistry and accounting, respectively.
She is the fourth female CEO of a commercial bank, following Fidelity Bank, Unity Bank and Citi Bank
Another milestone was gained in the international community, especially for the Nigerian women, as the glass ceiling was yet broken with the appointment of Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo by United States President Joe Biden into his cabinet
Badejo, a lawyer and an alumna of Berkeley Law College in the US, became one of the 20 members of the office of the White House counsel.
Nigerian-born Badejo, married to Tunde Badejo, hails from Kogi State. Now one of Biden’s legal advisers at the White House, she was the general counsel of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.
Funmi’s legal career started as an associate with the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, and was counsel at Palantir Technologies Inc. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the University of Florida.
The office of White House counsel advises the President, the executive office of the President, and the White House staff on legal issues pertaining to the President and the White House.
Funmi also served as ethics counsel in the same office toward the end of the Barack Obama administration. She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and son.
Ms Titilayo Ebong is another proud Nigerian woman who has helped to rewrite the narratives about the country overseas. Ebong grew up in Lagos. Her father, Ime James Ebong, was a civil servant who served as permanent secretary. She is among the three Nigerian female ‘musketeers’ in the Biden administration
Ebong was appointed acting director of the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) in the year under review. Having earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School, a master of arts in communication from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and a MA in history, with honors, from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is a member of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bar.
With her latest appointment, Ebong would return to USTDA where, from 2004 to 2019, she served in a variety of roles, most recently as the general counsel, deputy director and chief operating officer.
The daughter of another set of Nigerian immigrants in the US, Osaremen is well grounded and is flying Nigeria’s flag high in Capitol Hill. Okolo, who is a product of the prestigious Harvard College in May 2017 has undoubtedly proved that nothing is difficult to achieve if you put your mind it. Okolo is among the “Biden women from Nigeria” and one of the many outstanding Nigerians who have broken stereotypes.
In her field of study, Okolo concentrated primarily on the history of science (medicine and society focus) with an allied, joint concentration in African-American studies and equally obtained a secondary in global health and health policy. With her rich resume, it was not a tall order for the Biden-Harris team to pick her as one of the members of the cabinet
Okolo prides in her rich African cultural heritage and loves Nigerian food. In her spare time she spends doe creative writing.
Prof. Lilian Orogbu
Nigerian women also soared like the eagle in the academia. They have shattered not just the ceiling but are incredibly proving with every second that there’s enough space for anyone who dares to dream. Prof. Lilian O. Orogbu is a model in that regard.
Orogbu, a professor of strategic human resource management, an astute administrator, recently emerged as the dean, Faculty of Management Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, in a keenly contested election where onlookers had given her no chance at all, but she proved them completely wrong.
She rose meritoriously through the ranks as a trainer of business administrators to become a professor of business administration at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
Having served the university in many capacities, including head, Department of Business Administration for five years, successfully supervised 19 postgraduate students, including our PhDs, and held editorial position of several journals, including Journal of Business and Finance Management Research and Journal of Social Development, she undeniably belongs to the achievers’ list with her numerous awards.
As the dean of a faculty, she is chairman, Board of Faculty of Management Sciences, chairman, Postgraduate Studies Committee, and chief administrative/academic officer of the Faculty of Management Sciences, UNIZIK.
Prof. Nnenna Oti
Prof. Nnenna Oti will go down in the annals of Nigeria as one the women who helped to shape the academic sector. With her recent appointment by the governing council of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) as the vice-chancellor of the institution, she sure knows her onions.
Before her appointment, Prof. Oti, who was the deputy vice-chancellor, academic, also showed the stuff she was made of. This great woman from Ebonyi State coasted to victory with 75.5 points, beating six other candidates. In her case, too, it wasn’t a tea party. There were a total of 29 applicants at the initial stage but only seven emerged after final selection. With her sweet victory, Prof. Oti succeeds the former vice-chancellor, Prof. Francis Eze.