Garlands for WIJ 2023 Most Powerful Women in Journalism

Annually, the Women in Journalism Africa, WIJAFRICA, honours the most powerful women journalists in Nigeria, who have not just left an indelible mark on the industry but also made significant contributions to the advancement of women in journalism. WiJAfrica, a respected gathering of leading women journalists across the African continent, and their annual list serves as a recognition and celebration of the exceptional achievements of women in the field of journalism. This year’s list of 25 amazons, was particularly significant as it partly highlighted women who made substantial impact on coverage of the 2023 elections in Nigeria, as well as other growing crop of young women journalists making impact in their field. Sunday Ehigiator reports that they also honoured seven female veterans for mentoring a new generation of women journalists who are continuing their legacy

Being a woman journalist in Africa is not without its challenges. In many parts of the continent, women face significant barriers to entry into the field of journalism, including limited access to education and training, cultural biases and stereotypes, and the threat of violence and harassment, Women in Journalism Africa, a respected gathering of leading women journalists across the African continent, opined. 

Therefore, to honour some of these women, who despite these obstacles, continue to push the boundaries and make their voices heard, Women in Journalism Africa (WIJAFRICA) the global body of leading women journalists across the African continent, on May 1, 2023, unveiled 25 of such outstanding female journos. 

According to the body, these crop of women journalists had across board

reported on some of the most pressing issues of our time, from political corruption to social inequality, often putting them in harm’s way to get the story, adding that they were also at the forefront of exposing human rights abuses, promoting accountability and transparency, and shaping public opinion on critical issues.

This year was no different. But aside the 25 women that made the list, it also listed seven other phenomenal women who got honourable mentions for their outstanding work and impact over the years. 

They include veterans like Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, Ruth Osime, Adesuwa Onyenokwe,   Betty Irabor,     Doja Allen,  Joke Rogers and    Veronica Dan Ikpoyi. 

According to WIJAFRICA, their impact on the industry has been significant, and they have mentored a new generation of women journalists who are continuing their legacy. “These women have not only broken barriers and shattered stereotypes, but they have also helped to create a more diverse and inclusive journalism profession in Nigeria,” they added. 

But beyond the awards, WIJAfrica holds annual conferences that bring together the most powerful and influential women in journalism to share their expertise, insights, and experiences, which then proceeds to build a list of women journalists, considered to be the most powerful journalists in Africa.

Speaking on the award, the Coordinator of WIJ Africa, Nseabasi Phil Ebosie said, “These women have not only broken barriers and shattered stereotypes, but have also helped to create a more diverse and inclusive journalism profession in Nigeria.

“In the past, we have had the privilege of hosting some of the most accomplished and inspiring women in journalism, including Monique Villa, Chris Anyanwu, Anthea Garman, Anna Cunningham, Mayeni Jones, Adesuwa Onyenokwe, Stephanie Busari, Mo Abudu, Siene Allwell Brown, Ruth Benamasia Opia, Abike Dabiri, and more.

“These women have shared their stories of overcoming adversity and breaking down barriers in the field of journalism, inspiring our attendees to strive for excellence in their careers.

“At Women in Journalism Africa, we believe that we must support and empower these courageous women.

“Through our conferences, most powerful women in journalism list, and training and mentorship programs, we recognise the outstanding contributions of African women journalists and provide them with the resources, support, and network they need to succeed in their careers.”

Here are the list of the 25 women who made the WIJAFRICA list for the year.  

Stella Din Jacob: #1

Topping the list is Stella Din Jacob. According to WIJ, “An election year in any country can be tough for journalists. In Nigeria, where the past two months have seen one of its most consequential elections, one woman stepped up and delivered coverage like no other.

“Meet Stella Din Jacob, the powerhouse behind the unparalleled election coverage during the 2023 Nigerian elections. Leading a team of over 100 researchers, anchors, correspondents, producers, cameramen and others, Stella’s reporters delivered real-time reports from all 36 states of the federation and the FCT.

“From Benin to Birnin Kebbi, Owerri to Oshogbo, they were on the ground, providing unmatched quality of reportage driven by technology. Going live from Friday, February 24, and continuing for five days straight till Wednesday the 29th, Stella’s team seamlessly merged digital and traditional media to create a synergy that was quite simply unmatched.

“Stella’s coverage led to the broadening of Nigerian election analytics, voter education, and international observer participation. Her contributions to journalism over the last 30 years have been so significant that she was recently awarded the Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence from the prestigious Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism. In 2023, Stella Din Jacob rose to the top, becoming the most powerful woman in journalism in Nigeria. Her story is one of passion, perseverance, and a commitment to delivering the truth to the people. Stella Din Jacob is the most powerful woman journalist in Nigeria.”

Kadaria Ahmed: #2

In second place is Kadaria Ahmed, a journalist who embodies the true spirit of speaking truth to power.

“Her unwavering commitment to journalism is a shining example to both men and women. As the CEO of Radio Now and one of the most influential women journalists in Nigeria, Kadaria is a force to be reckoned with. Her fearless approach to tackling issues and holding leaders accountable is second to none. In the past year, Kadaria has been at the forefront of promoting citizenship, good governance, responsibility, and religious tolerance in Nigeria.

“Her role in convening the Presidential Election Townhall and interviewing candidates of leading political parties demonstrates her commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s political space. Kadaria is not afraid to take on unpopular positions in debates, and she uses different fora and online platforms to discuss tricky national issues that many people would rather avoid.

“Her unwavering dedication to journalism has earned her the respect of colleagues and the public alike. As the second most powerful woman journalist in Nigeria, Kadaria Ahmed is an inspiration to young women who aspire to take on leadership roles in the media industry.”

Bilkisu Labaran: #3

Listed as number three on the list is Bilkisu Labaran. Labaran has dedicated over three decades of her career to reshaping the African media landscape, leaving an indelible mark as a journalist, editor, and newsroom leader at the BBC.

“As a Senior News Editor for Africa TV and film commissioner, Labaran is an expert analyst on African affairs and has been instrumental in setting up digital language services in Africa, including Pidgin, Yoruba, and Igbo. She is also the News Editor for Africa English, where she launched The Comb podcast aimed at African youth. Her expertise in communication for development and rights issues makes her a respected and influential voice in the Nigerian media landscape.”

Grace Alheri Abdu: #4

At number four is Grace Alheri Abdu. “She is an accomplished journalist with over 35 years of experience in broadcasting. As the managing editor of VOA’s Hausa service, she has a Hausa-speaking audience of tens of millions. Abdu has covered several significant events throughout her career, including the kidnapping of the 276 female students of Chibok by Boko Haram in 2014, the Nigerian presidential elections in 2011 and 2019, during which she had exclusive interviews with the main opposition leaders, presidential candidates, and political leaders, including the Nigerian Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Olusegun Obasanjo.

“Her radio broadcasts during the elections were unparalleled, and her coverage was of great importance to a Hausa-speaking audience of tens of millions. She is also a multi-talented individual, hosting two radio and a TV weekly show, including a popular family-oriented radio program for young women. Her research and writing focus on family, early marriage, gender violence, women, and child development issues.”

Toun Okewale Sonaiya: #5

At number five is Toun Okewale Sonaiya. “Sonaiya’s impressive achievements have established her as a trailblazer for women’s empowerment and gender equality in Nigeria. As the visionary founder of WFM Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria’s first and only women’s radio, she has elevated the voices of women and shed light on the challenges they face in the professional world and politics.

“Her unwavering commitment to promoting women’s rights and amplifying their voices was on full display during the 2023 elections, as her organization played a pivotal role in providing unbiased and comprehensive coverage while supporting women candidates regardless of party affiliation.

“Through her tireless efforts, Toun Okewale Sonaiya has become one of the most powerful women in journalism in Nigeria, inspiring countless others to follow in her footsteps and advocate for gender equality in all spheres of life. Her pioneering work has earned her a place among the most distinguished nominees for this list.”

Maupe Ogun Yusuf: #6

Listed number six is, Maupe Ogun Yusuf. “Her rise to the top of Nigeria’s journalism ranks has been nothing short of remarkable. As an anchor on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, she has proven herself to be a formidable interviewer, never shying away from asking tough questions and holding those in power accountable. But it’s not just her interviewing skills that have propelled her to the forefront of Nigerian journalism; Maupe was a near-permanent fixture on our screens during the nerve-wracking vote count of the 2023 elections.

“Some of her interviews have become viral sensations, generating buzz and engagement across social media platforms. With her razor-sharp intellect and unyielding commitment to journalistic excellence, Maupe Ogun Yusuf is a force to be reckoned with in the world of Nigerian journalism.”

Sharon Ijasan: #7

Listed number seven is Sharon Ijasan. “Sharon Ijasan is undoubtedly one of the most powerful women journalists in Nigeria today, with a reputation for fearless and impactful reporting. Her recent investigative series on human trafficking in Libya and West Africa exposed the cruel reality of modern-day slavery and the complex network of traffickers that prey on vulnerable Nigerians.

“Sharon’s reporting shed light on the horrifying conditions that trafficking victims endure and the staggering sums of money traffickers charge to smuggle them across borders. What sets Sharon apart is her unwavering commitment to exposing the truth, no matter the personal risk or professional challenge.

“Her investigations have led to real-world impact, as seen in her groundbreaking coverage of organized kidnapping and the rise of professional kidnappers in Nigeria, which prompted swift action from law enforcement authorities. As a Report Women: Female Reporters Leadership Program Fellow, Sharon has honed her skills as a leader and advocate for gender-sensitive reporting.”

Tessy Igomu: #8

“Tessy Igomu, who ranked among the 25 most powerful women in journalism last year, has once again raised the bar in investigative journalism in Nigeria. This year, she takes the 8th spot on the list. Igomu continues to lead Punch Investigations, the desk responsible for delivering some of the most comprehensive reports in Nigerian newspapers.

“Her unwavering commitment to “uncover the story behind the story” is evident in her extensive reporting, which has sparked policy changes and garnered responses from government officials. Igomu’s reports are a testament to her dedication, often requiring weeks-long expeditions across the country to cover various social issues, including health and development. Her exceptional work has earned her numerous awards in the field.”

Amarachi Ubani: #9

Listed number nine, “Amarachi Ubani is the woman who stands at the forefront of global affairs reporting in Nigeria. Amarachi Ubani, Head of the Foreign Desk at Channels Television, has spent years cultivating relationships with world leaders and diplomats, giving her unprecedented access to the world’s biggest stories.

“Her groundbreaking coverage of the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008 set the stage for a career defined by excellence in journalism. With three concurrent programs on foreign affairs running under her supervision, Ubani is the standard-bearer for foreign affairs reporting in Nigeria.”

Chiemelie Ezeobi: #10

From an initial honourary mention in 2022 to being rated the 10th most powerful woman in journalism, Chiemelie Ezeobi, is the Group Features Editor of THISDAY Newspaper. 

According to WIJ Africa, “Very few women journalists in Nigeria cover defence, security and conflict as Chiemelie Ezeobi. She is an alumna of the US State Department International Visitor Leadership Program on Counterinsurgency, a member of the Jury of the Africa Security Watch Awards Initiative and a Fellow of, the Centre for Peace and Security Studies.

“She was a Crime and Defence Correspondent before her appointment as Group Features Editor at THISDAY. Today, she oversees the Defence, Crime and Health Sub desks in addition to the Weekly Pull-out Magazine, ‘This Weekend’.

“For 13 years, Chiemelie has investigated and written on the most significant security and insurgency issues affecting Nigeria and possesses strong influence within the security and defence community.

“For her work, she has, for two consecutive years, won the Security Watch Awards Best Nigerian Investigative Journalist and later, the Best African Investigative Journalist. Chiemelie received an honourable mention in last year’s list and comes in at number 10 this year.”

Siju Alabi: #11

Currently placed 11, “Siju Alabi made her debut on this list at number 12. She is a multi-award-winning broadcaster and trainer with more than 35 years of experience in the business (NTA, Channels, MINAJ, Superscreen). As General Manager at Lagos Television, she has been credited for the sweeping transformation of the antiquated LTV-8 station into a modern institution run by young professionals.

“Today, the station serves 20 million Lagosians on terrestrial and cable and, according to rating agencies, is consistently on the list of top ten most watched TV stations in Lagos. The two-time NMMA Best Newscaster award winner was Director of News at LTV before she was appointed General Manager in 2018.”

Stella Iyaji: #12

Placed number 12 on the WIJ list is Stella Iyaji. She “is a trailblazer in Nigerian journalism, holding the distinction of being the only woman managing editor of a leading national newspaper, the Daily Trust. With over 17 years of experience in journalism, she quickly climbed the ranks, thanks to her keen eye for detail and unwavering commitment to very high standards.

“Through the years Stella has covered several beats including the police, judiciary, foreign affairs, and the Senate. As Deputy Editor of the Daily Trust, and later as the Managing Editor, she introduced data journalism to the paper, using infographics and numbers on the front page to explain complex data and making it more accessible to the average reader. This innovation has set the Daily Trust apart from other papers in Nigeria. Iyaji is a true force in Nigerian journalism, and her impact on the industry will be felt for years to come.”

Morayo Afolabi: #13

Placed 13 is Morayo Afolabi Brown. “She is undoubtedly one of the most powerful women in Nigerian journalism, with a decade of dominance on her show, Your View with Morayo. As a strong voice for women and women’s issues, Morayo has become an icon in the media landscape, tackling controversial and sensitive topics with skill and finesse. Her unwavering stance on important issues and politics has earned her a loyal and dedicated following, making her the go-to person for analysis and commentary.

“A gifted moderator and panellist, Morayo is in high demand from government institutions and private organizations who recognize her insight and expertise. In a field where many struggle to maintain relevance, Morayo Afolabi Brown has remained a shining light, a trailblazer, and a powerful voice for change.”

Stephanie Busari: #14

Stephanie Busari ranks as number 14 on the most powerful women journalists’ list. “She was part of the team that won a Peabody Award for CNN’s extensive coverage of the Chibok girls in 2015, with Peabody calling their work comprehensive and indispensable. In 2021, her team earned two Emmy nominations for groundbreaking reporting in Nigeria. But Stephanie’s impact goes beyond accolades and awards.

“Her reporting strongly influences Western views of Nigeria’s people and politics. She led CNN’s coverage of Nigeria’s 2023 elections, beginning with party primaries, and had one-on-one engagements with several candidates running for office. Her team also felt the pulse of young people and reported on the growing political consciousness of Nigeria’s youth, especially those voting for the first time.”

Kikelomo Atanda-Owo: #15

“Kikelomo Atanda-Owo is an accomplished media personality with an extensive career of over 19 years. In the past year, she has conducted several interviews on current events and politics, demonstrating her in-depth knowledge of the political landscape in Nigeria. Kikelomo interviewed almost all of the presidential candidates for the 2023 elections, a feat in record time. Additionally, excerpts from her “Real Talk with Kike” on TV and radio are often released immediately after airing live.

“Her show has helped bring back Silverbird Television as a contender in news and current events. Her extensive relationships with powerbrokers have enabled her to conduct interviews with senior government officials, politicians, elder statesmen, and industry experts. She has interviewed five federal ministers in the past year. Apart from presidential and down-ballot candidates, her impressive list of interviewees also includes former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Oba of Lagos, the Ooni of Ife, and the Alake of Egbaland, labour leaders, captains of industry, newsmakers, controversial figures and celebrities. Kikelomo Atanda Owo makes a strong entry at number 15.”

Konye Nwabogor: #16

From getting an honourary mention in 2022, Konye Nwabogor has now been rated the 16th most powerful woman in journalism in 2023.

According to WIJ Africa, “Konye Nwabogor is a force to be reckoned with in Nigerian journalism.

“As the Executive Editor of the prestigious THISDAY STYLE Magazine, she has taken the publication to new heights, with an unbroken run of more than 60 print and digital issues under her leadership. Nwabogor is one of the top 25 most powerful women in journalism in Nigeria and for good reason.

“Since taking over as Executive Editor a year ago, Nwabogor has interviewed newsmakers, leading politicians, and celebrities, cementing her reputation as a skilled journalist, interviewer and manager.

“Under her guidance, Thisday Style has grown in influence with the younger generation, tackling topical issues around inclusion and political consciousness. Her work has not gone unnoticed, with the magazine receiving accolades for its coverage of issues affecting Nigerian youth.

“In addition to her print work, Nwabogor also oversees the online edition of Thisday Style, which has a reach beyond Nigeria.”

Tolu Adeleru Balogun: #17

“Tolu Adeleru Balogun, the Head of Programs at News Central, has been recognized as one of the most powerful women in journalism for two consecutive years. Last year she was ranked 24th, and this year she has climbed up to the 17th position. Under her leadership, Balogun has played a pivotal role in helping News Central become the only Nigerian news channel with an Africa-wide outlook, a feat in itself.

“With an outstanding track record as a broadcast journalist and interviewer, Balogun’s dedication to her craft and her commitment to promoting African perspectives in journalism has made her a trailblazer in the industry. Her contributions have been instrumental in positioning News Central as a leader in African journalism, and her well-deserved place on this list is a testament to her accomplishments.”

Azuka Ogujiuba: #18

Rated 18th is Azuka Ogujiuba. “She has made a name for herself as one of the most powerful women journalists in Nigeria, and rightfully so. With a remarkable 25-year track record of high-profile interviews with Nigeria’s elite and celebrities, Azuka’s media career is a testament to her exceptional abilities as an entertainment journalist and media entrepreneur.

“As the founder of MediaRoomHub, Azuka was able to carve a niche for herself in the online journalism space with her live online interviews with several Nigerian newsmakers and politicians. MediaRoomHub has since pivoted into mainstream interviews, live event coverage, and more, commanding wide audiences and a loyal fan base. Azuka’s extensive contact list and deep relationships have cemented her place as one of the most powerful women journalists in Nigeria.”

Amaka Okoye: #19

On number 19 is Amaka Okoye. “In a world of conflict and chaos, one journalist fearlessly stands on the front lines. Amaka Okoye, an award-winning crisis correspondent, shapes global conversations with her unrelenting commitment to the truth. Her unparalleled expertise and unwavering determination make her a force to be reckoned with in the field of journalism. If there is a story to be told, Amaka Okoye is the one to tell it.”

Neya Kalu: #20

“Neya Kalu, the Chairwoman and Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, has earned the 20th spot on the list of most powerful women in journalism. As an outsider and entrepreneur, Kalu brings a fresh perspective to the industry and is just what the paper needs in the digital age. Apart from being a national newspaper, The Sun is the most influential newspaper in the Southeastern part of Nigeria, a testament to its long-standing reputation of putting national issues and those affecting Ndigbo on the front burner.

“Kalu holds a degree in Law and an MSc. in Finance from the University of Buckingham. Her leadership of The Sun Nigeria’s board on strategic matters, the establishment of high governance, and oversight of the company’s business have positioned the paper as a leader in the industry. Kalu’s stated dedication to the profession and her commitment to making a positive impact in journalism has earned her a well-deserved place on this list.”

Nancy Iloh: #21

Nancy Iloh, rated number 21 on the list, is a distinguished business journalist, renowned for her insightful reporting, analysis, and interviews on the MoneyShow, a business program on AIT.

“With over 15 years of experience in the industry, she has set a high standard in business reporting, particularly for women in Nigeria. Nancy is an accomplished moderator, adept at steering discussions on critical business issues. Her expertise and experience have earned her a reputation as one of Nigeria’s most respected business journalists.

“Over the past decade, she has had the privilege of interviewing numerous CEOs, captains of industry, and global newsmakers, cementing her position as a leading voice in the Nigerian business landscape. Her dedication to her craft has not gone unnoticed. Nancy has been recognized as one of the most powerful women in journalism, ranking 24th on the prestigious list. She is a true inspiration to aspiring journalists, particularly women, and has set the bar high for ethical, professional, and impactful journalism in Nigeria.”

Fati Abubakar: #22

Taking the 22nd spot is Fati Abubakar. “Fati Abubakar is a talented documentary photographer and photojournalist based in Nigeria but known around the world. Her passion for storytelling through photography has taken her on a journey to document cities and towns in Nigeria. Fati’s unique perspective on the lives of women and children has enabled her to use photography as a powerful medium to highlight problems at the community level.

“She also has a keen interest in documenting cultures, conflicts, urban poverty, rural development, and humanitarian issues, all to create counter-narratives for underrepresented communities. In a recent project, Fati focuses on showcasing her hometown in Borno State during the time of the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Her work has gained critical acclaim, capturing the attention of media outlets such as the New York Times, BBC, Reuters, CNN, Voice of America and Newsweek. Fati’s exceptional talent has not gone unnoticed, as she has been commissioned to work with top organizations such as UNICEF, International Alert, Action Aid, and NPR.”

Juliet Bumah: #23

“Juliet Bumah, a highly accomplished journalist with over two decades of experience in the Nigerian print media, has been ranked as the 23rd most powerful woman journalist in Nigeria. As the current Editor of the New Telegraph, Bumah has demonstrated exceptional leadership, creativity and journalistic prowess in a highly competitive industry.

“Notably, under her leadership, the New Telegraph has thrived at a time when print newspapers are thought to be struggling. Additionally, since Bumah became editor, the New Telegraph’s online following has grown considerably, cementing its position as a leading news source in Nigeria.”

Adenike Adebowale Tambe: #24

“Adenike Adebowale Tambe, a senior health reporter with Premium Times, is ranked 24th on the list of most powerful women journalists in Nigeria. Tambe’s dedication to journalism has been exemplified by her exceptional reporting on health-related issues in Nigeria.

“Her recent victory in the print/online news category at the prestigious Nigeria Media Merit Award, with her story titled: “2022 World TB Day: Stigma, poor funding, other factors threaten disease elimination in Nigeria,” further underscores her journalistic excellence.

“Tambe’s insightful reportage on health issues has received the attention of the authorities, thereby stimulating action towards disease prevention, cancer, coronavirus, primary healthcare, and more. She has won numerous accolades for her outstanding work in the field of journalism, making her an exceptional role model for aspiring journalists in Nigeria.”

Ayo Mairo-Ese: #25

New on the list, Ayo Mairo-Ese has not only made her mark as a media personality but has also taken the Nigerian media landscape by storm.

According to WIJ Africa, “Her outstanding abilities as a journalist and presenter have earned her a place on the list of most powerful women journalists in Nigeria at number.

“A graduate of International Relations from Swansea University UK, Ayo’s media career began with Cool TV in 2014. She has since continued to rise through the ranks and has become a force to reckon with since joining Arise TV’s Morning Show in the past year.

“Ayo’s exceptional communication skills, engaging personality, and journalistic prowess have made her stand out as an interviewer of newsmakers, captains of industry, and even presidential candidates. Her contributions to the Nigerian media industry have not gone unnoticed, as her profile continues to rise.”

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