Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will go down history lane for several reasons, and her signature head-tie is not one of them. The most recent reason for her dominating the news is her achievement as the First Nigerian, First African and first female ever to be confirmed Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, effective from March 1, 2021.
Since the confirmation was made public via a tweet from WTO, congratulatory messages and encomiums have dominated the media space from the political and the economic space. However, this would not be the first of her firsts.
She definitely has a reputation as not being one to shirk a challenge of competency on the basis of her gender, and this can easily be seen in the trail of firsts which litters her profile. She was the first woman to head Nigeria’s finance ministry (twice), paving the way for Kemi Adeosun and Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, who held the position after her. She was also Nigeria’s first female Minister for Foreign Affairs.
It is necessary to remember some of the things which build an enviable profile for Okonjo-Iweala and made her the most preferred candidate as the 7th DG of the WTO despite earlier oppositions.
Ngozi was born on 13 June 1954 in Ogwashi-uku (now part of Delta state), to Professor Chukwuka Okonjo who was the Obi and a member of the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-uku. She later added the surname, Iweala, when she married Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon from Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria.
She had her early schooling at Queen’s School, Enugu, before moving to Ibadan where she attended St. Anne’s School, Molete, and the International School Ibadan. As a teenager, she travelled to the USA in 1973 to study Economics at Harvard University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with an AB in 1976.
Five years later, she bagged a Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Okonjo-Iweala started out at the World Bank as an intern and returned as a Development Economist after graduation. She worked there for a total of 25 years, spearheading several initiatives to assist low-income countries through financial and food crisis. She held the positions of Corporate Secretary, Vice President and Managing Director Operations at different times.
She was first appointed into the Nigerian federal cabinet under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration as Finance Minister and also Minister of Foreign Affairs, the first female to hold both positions. She was later appointed Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy under President Goodluck Jonathan.
Her efforts to reduce macroeconomic volatility by creating “The Excess Crude Account” to save revenues accruing above a reference benchmark oil price is still considered one of her most notable achievements as Minister. She also built an electronic financial management platform—the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), to help check corruption in the system.
Okonjo-Iweala was instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s in 2006, and her tenure saw Nigeria emerge as the largest economy in Africa.
Afterwards, she joined Lazard, a financial advisory and asset management firm as Senior Advisor. Okonjo-Iweala served as a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015–2016), chaired by Gordon Brown, and the Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, which was established by the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (2017–2018). She has also served and still sits on several boards and organisations.
She founded NOI-Polls, Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization, as well as the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (C-SEA) a development research think tank based in Abuja.
She has delivered and published several speeches and write-ups on sustainable debt strategy, promoting Trade as against Aid in low-income countries. In 2018, she published the book Fighting Corruption is Dangerous : The story behind the headlines – A frontline account from Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of how to fight corruption and lessons learned for governance and development, and many still consider this her most controversial work.
Okonjo-Iweala serves on several boards including Twitter’s board of directors, a special envoy for the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 fight, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) alliance which she chairs since 2016.
She sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank Non-executive member since 2017, the International Advisory Board of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), (since 2017); the International Advisory Panel of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), since 2016; Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Governors of African Development Bank (AfDB), (2003–2006, 2011–2015), and she is a Member of the International Monetary and Finance Committee, International Monetary Fund (IMF), (2003–2006, 2011–2015).
She is also part of several non-profit organisations including Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Member of the Board of Trustees (since 2019), Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Member of the Advisory Board (since 2018), Member of the Board of Directors of Results for Development (R4D) (since 2014); Member of the Advisory Board of Global Business Coalition for Education; Board Chairman of the African Risk Capacity (ARC), Women’s World Banking, Member of the Africa Advisory Council (since 2014), Chair of the Board of Nelson Mandela Institution, and several others.
The WTO DG race
In June 2020, Okonjo-Iweala along with several other candidates indicated their interest to run for the position of Director-General of the Switzerland-based WTO, and the race began. The race is usually one of consensus so when she started to receive the nod from several member-nations, clinching the position seemed like a sealed deal.
The major opposition as at 2020 was South Korea’s Minister for trade, Yoo Myung-hee who had the backing of Donald Trump-led administration of the USA, and this halted what would have been a consensus decision.
Following Joe Biden’s election into the US presidency and predictions that he would declare support for Okonjo-Iweala, Myung Hee withdrew from the race on 5 February. Soon after, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office issued a statement endorsing Okonjo-Iweala and describing her wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy as a critical addition to the office.
Expectedly, Okonjo-Iweala was confirmed into the position on February 15, and is set to succeed Roberto Azevêdo, effective March 1.
It would be near impossible to compute all Okonjo-Iweala’s hundreds of awards and honors in a single article without boring the readers.
However, some interesting awards include the President of the Italian Republic Gold Medal, by Pia Manzu Centre 2011; Global Leadership Award 2011, by Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Finance Minister of the Year 2005 for Africa and the Middle East, by The Banker; Global Finance Minister of the Year 2005, by Euromoney; Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award 2010; and TIME’s European Heroes Award 2004.
In 2017, she received the Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Award, from Aspen Institute; 2017 Vanguard Award, from Howard University. In December 2020, she was named the Forbes African of the Year, 2020, an award previously won by Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina of the AfDB, Muhammad Sanusi II and Aliko Dangote.
She has received honorary degrees from about 14 universities, including the Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica, Brown University, Tel Aviv University and Trinity College, Dublin.
She was listed as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders (Fortune, 2015), the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World (Forbes, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014), the Top 3 Most Powerful Women in Africa (Forbes, 2012), the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World (TIME, 2014), the Top 100 Global Thinkers (Foreign Policy, 2011 and 2012), among others.
Okonjo-Iweala was conferred High National Honours from the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire and the Republic of Liberia, and also holds the honors of Nigeria’s Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR).
Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami: The emergence of a marketing and brand communications guru
Oyefeso-Odusanmi has certainly marked her presence in the corporate world of marketing and brand communications.
Though not everyone can be the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation at the same time, there are women equally etching their names in various industries across the globe. Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC has one of such women.
As Head, Marketing and Communications, Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami is showing that her 22 years of experience in brand strategy, sponsorships, digital marketing and communications have equipped her in ways a Doctoral degree might not have, especially since Integrated Marketing Communications is hardly offered as an independent course in institutions.
Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany from Lagos State University, and a Post Graduate degree from the University of Leicester, UK, before foraying into marketing communications.
She was Marketing Manager of Aero Airlines for 6 months, and was with British Airways for 9 years, serving in several various marketing and sponsorship positions.
Her professional recognition started back from her time managing the British Airways corporate image in Nigeria and other African countries, where she received the highest ratings for creativity, innovation and dedication for functional responsibilities at British Airways Plc, the best of British Airways community volunteering award.
She served as Executive Director at Change-A-Life between September 2009 and June 2010, and was also Head, Sponsorship and Event at First Bank Nigeria Limited for over 6 years.
Oyefeso-Odusami served as Corporate Investment Banking Marketing Manager at Stanbic IBTC for over a year, before assuming the position of Head, Marketing and Communications department in acting capacity. The appointment was confirmed in January 2019.
It was in this position that she emerged winner of the Outstanding Corporate Communications Personality of the Year 2019 at the MARKETING EDGE Marketing and Advertising Awards of Excellence. According to the presiding board, her versatility and inspiring growth in the Corporate Communications sector and performance in the marketing, advertising and brand management environment, had distinguished her among other nominees.
In August 2020, Oyefeso was appointed Non-Executive Director of the Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Limited Part-time.
She is a certified member of professional bodies such as Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), UK, National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, NIMN and an associate member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). She is also a member of Women in Business and Management (WIMBIZ), and has taken part in different global business and economic summits.
Outside the business of marketing and brand communications, Oyefeso-Odusami mentors women and joins missionaries to reach out to widows in Northern Nigeria. She is also actively involved in a couple of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
She attributes much of her successes to constant self-development, worklife balance, and properly apportioning time to work, family and self.
In an interview, she said, “Stay true to your commitments and give no room for excuses. Having the right support system also makes the balancing act easier. I believe they go hand in hand and flow into one another, with one fuelling the other and giving it room to flourish.”
She also noted that she had been fortunate to work in organisations that allowed her to grow and rise as far as her talent and desire could take her, irrespective of gender, and had the privilege of good career mentors.
The story of women shattering the invisible ceiling always seem so rosy and inspiring to others, that the years of sweating it out are almost forgotten. Regardless of this, talent and hardwork will continue to separate the best from the rest.
TY Danjuma: The retired military general who made Forbes richest list
From the barracks to boardrooms, TY Danjuma has built and is leading some of the most notable companies in Nigeria.
It is not every day you come across a retired Military General who remains in the limelight more than four decades after retiring from active service and for reasons totally unconnected to the military service. This is probably the reason why some might consider General TY Danjuma to be one of the most controversial businessmen and retired generals in Nigeria.
Vocal as he is in Nigerian political matters, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma is a force in the business environment, pulling weights in some of the most notable companies. Much of his wealth is attributed to his shipping and petroleum interests.
As at 2015, he was worth $750 million and ranked 30th among the top 50 in Africa’s 50 richest list (as compiled by Forbes), until he dropped off the following year due to weak oil prices. His businesses still continues and he remains on several boards still putting his business acumen to use, even in his eighties. The story of his move from the barracks to the boardroom makes for an interesting read.
Birth and education
Theophilus Yakubu was born on 9 December 1938 to Kuru Danjuma and Rufkatu Asibi in Takum, a farming community in Gongola (now Taraba state). Like many other children born during this time, he joined his father to plant yams, rice, cassava, and benniseed.
When he came of age, he had his primary education at Wusasa, and moved to Benue Provincial Secondary School, Katsina-Ala for his secondary education. Theophilus showed great interest in cricket and became the captain of the school cricket team. This, however, did not detract from his intelligence and he still bagged his Higher School Certificate in 1958, and immediately enrolled at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria (Ahmadu Bello University) to study history on a Northern Nigeria Scholarship. He barely spent a year there, as he left soon after to enrol into the Nigerian Defence Academy.
Danjuma was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as second lieutenant and platoon commander, and commenced his military career in The Congo.
He took part in the UN Peace-keeping force in Sante, Katanga Province in Congo in 1963, was involved in the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966 with the 4th Battalion in Mokola, Ibadan. He commanded the Nigerian Army’s 1st Infantry Brigade, and also led a battalion that freed Jaja Wachuku, first Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives as well as first Ambassador to the United Nations and first Foreign Affairs Minister, from detention by the Ojukwu government.
On several occasions, he was sent as Nigeria’s representative within and outside the country for several diplomatic missions. He served in active military service from 1960 to 1979 where he retired as a Lieutenant General, and in the highest office in the military – Chief of Army Staff under the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo. He later served as Minister of Defence between 1999 and 2003, under the President Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration.
General Danjuma made his first major foray into the shipping business when he founded the Nigeria American Line (NAL) and leased a ship called ‘Hannatu’ to facilitate trade between Lagos and Santos in Brazil. At this time, Nigeria’s bilateral trade agreement had opened the sea routes to economies in the South American markets and so NAL had patronage from Nigeria’s National Supply Company (NNSC) to bring in government goods.
Its client list later grew to include DICON Salt (Nigeria), Iwopin Paper Mill, ANNAMCO and Volkswagen Nigeria. From about 12 staffs in a single location in 1979, NAL grew over the next three decades to almost 300 staffs.
Danjuma also set up COMET Shipping Agencies Nigeria Limited in 1984 to act as an agent for NAL and COMET grew to become one of the largest independent agents operating in Nigeria, handling many types of vessels and cargo at Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri Ports. NAL-COMET acquired a roll-in-roll-out port (RORO) in Lagos in 2005 and became the largest independent port operators in Africa.
He still retains his stakes in NAL-Comet.
After 15 years running the shipping business, Danjuma decided to veer into oil exploration and production and he founded the South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO) in 1995 to serve as a vehicle for this interest.
Three years later, the ministry of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria awarded the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 246 to SAPETRO, with a bloc covering a total area of 2,590 square kilometres (1,000 sq mi). The company brought in Total Upstream Nigeria Ltd (TUPNI) and Brasoil Oil Services Company Nigeria Ltd (Petrobras) as partners in its oil prospecting.
The prospecting led to the discovery of Akpo (a condensate field), the Egina Main, Egina South, Preowei and Kuro. In 2004, SAPETRO won a tender process for an oil exploration contract covering 550 square kilometres offshore from the Republic of Benin and this opened the way for other transnational deals.
In June 2006, SAPETRO divested part of its contractor rights and obligations to China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), but Danjuma still remains Chairman, while his wife is Vice Chairman.
He also owns some real estate and has stakes in Notore Chemical Industries (manufacturer of urea fertilizer).
Other interests and honours
TY Danjuma holds the national honour, General Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). He also has several other national and international awards and titles, as well as honorary doctorate degrees from different universities, within and outside Nigeria.
Besides the companies he founded, General Danjuma has sat on the board of other companies like the NatCom Development & Investment Limited “NatCom”, (trading as ntel) where he assumed position as Board Chairman in 2016. He also served seven years as the chairman of Agip Africa until 1995 when he left to start SAPETRO.
He has also been appointed into several committees and councils by the government, like in 2003 when he served as Chairperson for investigative committee on the Warri conflict. Danjuma also serves as Chairman of the Victims’ Support Fund Committee, supporting the victims of terror such as the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping.
The TY Danjuma Foundation was set up in December 2008 and now partners with several Non-Governmental Organisations across the country to carry philanthropic gestures to the hinter areas and alleviate poverty.
The foundation targets the provision of basic amenities, education for children and young adults, and free medical care for indigent people. Over ₦3 Billion has been awarded as grants to NGOs working related goals in the area. Although the works first started in Taraba, Danjuma’s home state, it has extended to other areas. About 290 projects have been implemented across 31 states and the FCT, with over 8 Million people reached.
Every year since its inception, the foundation calls for concept notes and applications for funds from organisations with projects focused on health and education.
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