Yemi Ajayi, Davidson Iriekpen, Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Obinna Chima
As part of its series on prognosis of what the new year has in stock for Nigeria and its citizens, THISDAY Board of Editors today presents outstanding women it believes would have significant impact on the political and business environment that would shape events in the country.
Advocate in the Power Chamber
Time was when wives of Nigerian leaders were only seen and not heard. Some of them were in the shadow of their husbands and were considered silent powers behind the throne.
But the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, is a cut from a different cloth. She has pushed back every effort to make her remain in the shadow of her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari.
She remains vocal and critical about national affairs, especially the running of her husband’s administration. It is a testament to her influence that she had made Buhari to rethink his decision not to have a functional office of the first lady. And with her husband still in power, she will continue to shape events in the country.
To say that Nigeria has never had a First Lady like her is an understatement. So, whether one loves or loath her, she will remain a factor this year.
Voice for Transparency in Governance
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Minister of Finance to two presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, is unarguably one of the most influential women in Nigeria as at today.
This economist and international development expert is on the boards of many international organisations and companies such as of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).
With her pedigree and stewardship, her views are sought and respected on many developmental issues concerning Nigeria and Africa at large.
Her views and advocacy for transparency in public financial system and governance as well as some of her legacies as minister will continue to shape events in Nigeria.
Bureaucrat in the Engine Room
As head of the federal bureaucracy, she plays a critical role in policy formulation and implementation. Trained as a dental surgeon and having served in varied positions in her civil service career, she came fully equipped to take over the job of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
With her position, Esan will play critical role in superintending over the implementation of the federal government policies, especially by ensuring that civil servants adhere to rules and regulations, particularly financial guidelines so as not to undermine the anti-graft crusade of the Buhari administration.
Shattering the Glass Ceiling
From relative obscurity, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, catapulted Balarabe into prominence when in 2018 he picked her, despite protests, as his running mate for the 2019 governorship election in the state.
Her final emergence as the state deputy governor gave Balarabe a rare berth as the first woman in the north to occupy such a high political position.
Knowing el-Rufai, his choice of Balarabe despite threat of backlash arising from a Muslim-Muslim ticket that could have cost him his re-election ticket, was a deliberate action to push an agenda that will unfold in future.
Already, with the push that the governor is giving his deputy to take on some critical state assignments, Balarabe has become one of the most prominent and influential female politicians in the North.
Hadiza Bala Usman:
Retooling NPA for Efficiency
Until her appointment as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Usman is more known for her involvement in the #BringBackOurGirls that championed the cause of the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram in their secondary school in Borno State.
She, along with her associates, stirred a global storm with their advocacy which brought the plight of children in Boko Haram enclave to the world.
The passion and single-mindedness, which helped the Chibok girls’ cause she took to the NPA where she has caused a paradigm shift in both operations and management.
With the way she is running the NPA, one of the gateways to the nation’s economy, by blocking leakages and raising revenue for the Consolidated Revenue Account, Usman is in a position to shape national events during the year.
Apostle of MDGs and Climate Change
Mohammed was minister of Environment from November 2015 to December 2016, where she steered the country’s efforts on climate action, protecting the natural environment and conserving resources for sustainable development.
Prior to this, she served as Special Adviser to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Post-2015 Development Planning, where she was instrumental in bringing about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
Before joining the UN, Mohammed worked for three successive administrations in Nigeria, serving as Senior Special Assistant on the Millennium Development Goals, providing advice on issues including poverty, public sector reform and sustainable development, and coordinating programmes worth $1 billion annually for MDG-related interventions.
Even when she is presently saddled with a lot of work as the Deputy Secretary-General at the UN, she is very passionate on issues concerning MDGs and climate change in Nigeria
Championing Gender Equality, Girl-Child Education
Little was known of Oluremi until her husband, Senator Bola Tinubu, was elected as governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007, and she became the First Lady. In that capacity, she established the New Era Foundation, dedicated to establishing centres for all round development of young ones and to promote public awareness on environmental health and community service.
In 2011 she was first elected senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly on the platform of the All Progressives Congress. She was re-elected in 2015 and 2019 respectively. In the Senate, she become a very strong voice championing gender equality, girl-child education, poverty eradication and promoting public awareness on environmental health and community service.
An Indefatigable Female Senator
Olujimi’s exploit in politics started in 2003 when she was appointed the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose. From there she was elected to the House of Representatives. She became the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State with Governor Ayo Fayose in 2005.
Olujimi attained other great heights in politics; from being the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in her state to a Director of Women Affairs.
In 2015, she contested for a senatorial seat and won, thus becoming the highest-ranking female lawmaker ever in Nigeria. However, in the last election in February 2019, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye of APC was declared the winner of the head-to-head between the two of them but she was restored back to Senate after the Court of Appeal sacked Adeyeye.
From 2011 to 2013, Farouq occupied the position of the national treasurer of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the party on which platform President Muhammadu Buhari contested for the 2011 presidential election, which he lost to former President Goodluck Jonathan. When the
CPC merged with three other political parties to form the ruling APC , which eventually ousted Jonathan and the PDP in 2015, Farouq became the national treasurer from 2013 to 2014. She was thereafter appointed as a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council.
She headed the election planning and monitoring, field operations, and fundraising committee making her play a pivotal role in the success of the party in the 2015 general election. To compensate her for her hard work, she headed the National Commission for Refugee, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Currently the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the position puts her on the spotlight as she regularly interfaces with internally displaced persons and disaster management.
Passionate About Women Empowerment
Adesola is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of StanChart African Region. Before now, she was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Limited, Nigeria. She provides leadership for the bank’s business in West Africa to drive the continued strengthening of Standard Chartered Bank’s franchise in the region. Prior to joining the bank in March 2011, she was an Executive Director at First Bank of Nigeria Plc and prior to that Managing Director of Kakawa Discount House, Nigeria.
Bola is passionate about the development and economic empowerment of women and in 2001 co-founded Women in Management, Business and Public Sector (WIMBIZ), Nigeria’s fore-most women-oriented network. She also actively mentors and coaches young people, and she is passionate about reading and travelling.
The Unrepentant Gadfly
When the global social media platform, Twitter, blocked her account last year, it was clear that her strident criticism of the the Buhari administration was scoring a brutal telling blow and a formal report had been made against her to Twitter. However, Twitter could not handle the barrage of enquiries calling for a restoration of Yesufu’s account. Her space on Twitter was promptly reinstated.
Rather than be apologetic or cowed, she pointedly labeled Buhari as heading the worst government ever in Nigeria.
There isn’t a hint yet that Yesufu, who is a co-convener of the Bring-Back-Our’s-Girls campaign, is ready to yield an inch, after all, the circumstances that fired the rebel in her are still with us.
Tracking Nigerians Abroad
Taking into account the likelihood of occurrences; good or bad involving Nigerians living abroad in the New Year, there is no doubt that urgent demands would be placed on Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman and CEO of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission.
Apart from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dabiri-Erewa is the next official of government, who has the capacity to make valid intervention on matters concerning Nigerians in the Diaspora.
She has managed to execute her assignment with utmost discernment, while avoiding areas of potential clash with the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Making it Easier to Do Business in Nigeria?
In the l ast lap of her tenure, there will be a of lot pressure on Sadiku, Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC). Her agency is one of the planks on which the Buhari administration hopes to showcase its achievements.
It would not matter that there are other factors outside her control that may have adverse effects on her work.
Sadiku, a hard-nosed banker would be called to account, for instance, on how well she has improved the ease of doing business since 2016, when she assumed her current designation.
Her Transforming Year
It does not look like she has only been with us for eight years, since Mavin Records signed her in 2012. Owing to her consistency, Savage has grown on a teeming number of Nigerians not only in her career in music, but in her complex reputation.
Savage is inching her way to history as the most consistent female musician in contemporary Nigerian history. Since her debut, no year has passed without a release of, at least, three hit songs from her.
In 2018, she became the first woman to win Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards.
If she finally takes her leave from Mavin Records this year, as it has been rumoured for a long time, 2020 may be a transforming year; in her career and the unabashed relationship with a fellow popular male artiste.
More Honours Trail Her
Having the distinction of her works translated into over 30 languages is a huge achievement. But the best is yet to come for the much decorated Nigerian writer, Adichie.
In 2013, a movie based on her book with the same title, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ was shot.
In the last few weeks of 2019, Chimamanda was accorded more honours, echoes of which will reverberate through 2020.
‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ was named in the BBC’s list of ‘100 Novels That Shaped Our World.’ The list covers English language novels written over the past 300 years.
‘Americanah’, another award-winning book by Chimamanda, is being turned into a mini-series.
The Cable Lady
Ms. Funke Opeke is the founder and CEO of MainOne, formerly Main One Cable Company. MainOne is West Africa’s leading communications services and network solutions provider that built West Africa’s first privately owned, open access 7,000 kilometer undersea high capacity cable submarine, a $240-million-dollar project that was completed in time and on budget in 2010. MainOne also built West Africa’s largest Tier III Data Center, MDX-i’s Lekki Data Center, a $40 million investment with a capacity for 600 racks. Opeke is an experienced telecommunications executive who returned to Nigeria in 2005 as the Chief Technical Officer of MTN after a twenty-year career in the United States.
MainOne, last year announced the extension of its submarine cable to Grand Bassam, Cote d’Iviore, which was the final leg of its expansion to reach Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire. The company’s is going to play a major role in broadband penetration in Nigerian and the West-African region.
Agitator for Good Governance
One of the elements of a working democracy is for the citizens to always hold the government accountable. This certainly is a role Ezekwesili and some other Nigerians have been playing effectively, which makes her one of the persons that would shape events in the country this year.
Ezekwesili is a Public Policy Analyst/Senior Economic Advisor and Co-Founder of #BringBackOurGirls Movement, Nigeria as well as the #RedCardMovement. A Chartered Accountant/Consultant, she holds an MA in International Law and Diplomacy, an MA in Public Policy and Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She is a founding Director of Transparency International. She was Vice President of World Bank (Africa Region) and former Nigerian Minister of Education, Minister of Solid Minerals, head of Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit as well as Chairperson of NEITI.
An Astute Business Woman
Awosika is the Chairman, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria Limited as well as the founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group. She also chairs a number of corporate and not-for-profit boards. This graduate of Chemistry from Obafemi Awolowo University has shown that what a man can do, a woman can do better, with the success she has recorded in the furniture industry that is mainly dominated by men.
She is an alumna of the Chief Executive Programme of Lagos Business School; the Global Executive MBA of IESE Business School, Barcelona-Spain; and Global CEO Programme of Wharton, IESE and China European International Business School (CEIBS).
Anammah is the CEO of Jumia Nigeria, a leading player in e-commerce space in Africa. Last year, she led the listing of the e-commerce company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Jumia made history as the first African tech company to achieve that feat.
She is presently the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Jumia Nigeria, a position she undertook in 2015. She supervised the company’s transition from an online retail to a marketplace, its business expansion as well as expanding its footprint to 15 African countries. The Jumia boss holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree, an MBA in Finance and is an alumnus of Wharton’s Advanced Management Programme.
Outstanding Female Banker
Sola David-Borha is the Chief Executive Officer (Africa Regions) of the Standard Bank Group. Prior to this, she was the Chief Executive Officer, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc. She started out her banking career at the NAL Merchant Bank (now known as Sterling Bank), where she worked in the Credit and Marketing Department from 1984 to 1989, before joining Investment Banking and Trust Company (IBTC), which later merged with two commercial banks to become IBTC Chartered.
She is outstanding female banker who started her career at the bottom of the industry and has risen to the top.