Nigeria is no doubt blessed with influential women who have affected the country and its image in one way or the other. They cut across all spheres in the country, from the political arena to the business sectors. These are women who stand out in their fields or by virtue of the position they occupy.
In this piece, Street Journal presents a list of some of Nigeria’s women of influence as the country celebrates her 51st independence anniversary.
She holds the record of being the first woman to serve as the Managing Director of the World Bank as well those of Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs and Finance Minister. She served as Finance Minister under President Obasanjo and was later moved to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
In October 2005, she led the Nigerian team that struck a deal with the Paris Club, a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a portion of Nigeria’s external debt of $12 billion in return for an $18 billion debt write-off. Prior to the partial debt payment and write-off, Nigeria spent roughly US $1 billion every year on debt servicing, without making a dent in the principal owed.
She has been appointed as the Finance Minister by President Goodluck Jonathan and she has embarked on a project of helping to reduce re-current expenditure and concentrate on on capital projects.
A recent international publication rated her as the 87th most powerful woman in the world.
She is Nigeria’s first female Petroleum Resources Minister. Before her latest appointment, she had served as Minister in two other Ministries, namely Transport and Solid Minerals. Like her parents, she was on the payroll of Shell Petroleum Development Company where she rose to become a Director.
She holds a degree in Architecture and an MBA which she obtained in Cambridge University.
She oversees the Ministry many refer to as “Nigeria’s pot of oil” since the country generates most of its revenue from oil.
Dame Patience Jonathan
Nigeria’s First Lady obviously wields enormous influence in and out of political circles. With her project, “Women For Change Initiative”, she is seeking to make life better for women in the country and totally restore the dignity of womanhood. Many politicians believe she is one of those who determine who gets what in the political circles.
She has lent her voice to the actualization of the 35% affirmative action for women in Nigeria thus advocating for more women in governance.
Oby, a trained Chartered Accountant was a co-founder of Transparency International, a global anti-corruption body. She has served as Nigeria’s Minister of Solid Minerals and later Education.
Prior to that time, she had been appointed as the pioneer head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit which was often referred to as the Due Process Unit. She earned herself the name “Madam Due Process” while serving in that office.
After her exit from the Federal Executive Council, she moved to the World Bank where she serves as the Vice President of the Africa division.
Stella Okoli is the foremost woman when matters of pharmacy are spoken of in Nigeria. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, a company she floated way back in 1977. She undertook the venture armed with a first degree in Pharmacy from Bradford University in 1969 and a Master’s degree in Bio-Pharmaceutics from the University of London in 1971.
She worked in various capacities at Middlesex Hospital, London; Boots Chemists London and Part Davis Nigeria before opening a retail outlet, Emzor Chemists Ltd in 1977. The manufacturing plant of the company was commissioned ten years later. It has since introduced over 50 successful products in Nigeria and the West African coast.
Ever since was appointed to occupy the office of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mrs. Waziri has not stopped being in the news. The organisation is Nigeria’s main anti-corruption agency. Her organisation should normally spell dread in some places, especially among politicians. She has come under criticisms concerning her approach to corruption fighting in the country. That notwithstanding however, a good number of people would do anything to be in her good books.
Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar
She is the first female judge to be elevated to the Supreme Court. Many tipped her to replace the immediate past Chief Judge. Though that was not to be, people are already looking beyond that and there are feelings that she might just be the first woman to occupy the office. Justice Mukhtar who was born in 1994 was elevated to Nigeria’s highest court in 2005.
Stella Oduah Ogiemwonyi
She showed what she was capable of doing during the electioneering campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan when she served as the President’s campaign organisation’s Director of Administration and Finance. The American-trained Anambra princess holds degrees in Accounting and Business Administration. After working with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for nine years, she left and delved into the independent marketing of petroleum products.
She is Nigeria’s current Aviation Minister.
Senator Chris Anyanwu
Christiana Anyanwu is a woman of many sides. She is highly regarded in the media industry as one of the female pioneers in journalism and broadcasting. After her degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Missouri and Florida State University respectively, she returned to Nigeria and worked as a Newscaster for the Nigerian Television Authority and Imo State Broadcasting Corporation. She also served as the Commissioner for Information, Youths, Sports, Culture and Social Welfare in Imo State.
She was imprisoned by the Sani Abacha administration in 1995 after being accused of being an “accessory to facts of treason”. She was released after the death of General Sani Abacha. Her radio station, Hot 93.8 started operations in Abuja in 2005.
She has been the Senator representing the Imo East Senatorial district since 2007.
Florence Ita Giwa
Take it or leave it, Mama Bakassi is one of the most influential women in Nigeria. She has a wealth of political experience having been in active politics since the days of the National Republican Convention. She was a member of the House of Reps in 1992. In 1999, she was elected as the Senator representing Cross River South Senatorial District after which she became the President’s Special Adviser on the National Assembly. One thing about the former wife of the late founding Editor of Newswatch Magazine is that she is always well positioned politically and she is never far from where the action is.
Nigeria’s Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development represents Adamawa State in the Federal Executive Council. She reaches out to the society through the Women for Peace Initiative which she founded.
Abike Dabiri Erewa
She distinguished herself as a top grade media practitioner in all the fifteen years she put in at the Nigerian Television Authority. Millions gathered to watch Newsline, a magazine programme she anchored with dexterity. By the time she yielded to calls from her constituency to run for a seat in the House of Representatives, she enjoyed overwhelming support from the people.
In the House, she has served as the Chairman of the House Committee on Information and also the Committee on Diaspora Affairs.
Justice Binta Murtala Nyako
Justice Murtala Nyako is the wife of the Governor of Adamawa State, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd.) She has carved a niche for herself and she ranks as one of the top female justices in Nigeria. Many Nigerians see her as a woman who has remained untainted by the political affiliation of her husband. She has presided over many high profile cases and it has been widely agreed that she does things with high regard for integrity.
Hon. Mulikat Akande Akande Adeola
Hon. Adeola Akande is the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives and the highest ranking woman in the current House of Reps. She aspired for the position of the Speaker but lost to the current Speaker.
Justice Mary Odili
She is one of the female justices in Nigeria’s Supreme Court. Her lordship is the wife of the former Governor of Rivers State, She was formerly in the Court of Appeal but was elevated after the retirement of Justice Niki Tobi.
Folurunso Alakija made her debut into the fashion world in late 80s with her label, Supreme Stitches. She had been in the banking industry before then. She is a philanthropist with focus on orpohans and widows while she also serves as the Vice chairman at Famfa Oil, an indigenous oil prospecting company.
Erelu Abiola Dosunmu
Call her a crusader for culture and tradition and you won’t be wrong. A Lagos Princess and the Erelu Kuti of Lagos, she serves as Regent In the event of the Oba’s stool being vacant.
Erelu is also a big time businesswoman and she made her first million at the age of 24. She was made the Erelu of Lagos in 1974.
It is an open secret that Hajiya Bola Shagaya is one of the richest Nigerian business women. Her interests cut across oil, banking, communication and photography. She is also a forcein the real estate business. She is known to own properties in Europe and America. Over the years, she has been well connected with people at the helms of affairs as far as Nigeria is concerned. She is also very close to a number of First Ladies, past and present.
She maintains a collection of jewelry said to be worth millions in terms of dollars.
Bukola Elemide, better known as Aṣa was born in Paris, France to Nigerian parents. She was two years old when her family returned to live in Nigeria. Aṣa grew up in Lagos, in the south-western part of Nigeria.
She however returned to Paris twenty years later and it was there that her musical career blossomed. She was a student of the Peter King’s School of Music where she learned to play the guitar in 6 months. Bukola sings Yoruba songs differently and these attracted more Yorubas to her music. Her abilities to sing in many languages helped her to reach more audience
Her hits Eye Adaba, Jailer and Be My Man have confirmed her as one of Nigeria’s biggest exports to the music world.
Nenadi has been in public life from a rather young age, having served as a Commissioner in Kaduna State at the age of 25. She holds a Doctorate degree in Economics. She also served in Nigeria’s Finance Ministry. She commands a lot of respect in Kaduna and most parts of the north.