By OLALEKAN BILESANMI
Hillary Clinton tops the list of most influential women in politics; her influence is felt in Washington as much as it resounds far away in Benghazi, the Libya stronghold of late Moammar Gadhafi. As the US Secretary of State wraps up her assignment at the White House and possibly prepares for the US presidential race in 2016 as its being widely speculated, she has left many women across the world inspired by her daring leadership in very cumbering male-dominant terrain.
One of such Clinton’s inspired leaders is Nigeria’s Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Olejeme. Her dynamism, visionary leadership and style set her on the class of the African women leaders Clinton describes as models for democracy. Olejeme, fondly described as boardroom czar, has played tremendous role in politics to the point of note. Her role in nation building fires through the burning passion to transform lives in homes and communities across Nigeria but more dipped in her native home town in Oshimili South, Delta State, Southern Nigeria.
Touching lives through nation building values are the common philosophy she expresses in the peculiar leadership roles she has played for about two decades. These values are inscribed in the innate expression of her core leadership principles- touching lives one at a time until the entire community is transformed into a prosperous society- This is the guiding philosophy that drives her input in politics and socio-economic development of Nigeria.
Olejeme was instrumental to the political awakening of women in Nigeria; she encouraged and supported equality in government. At a time when politics was a ball for only the male folks she tore down barriers and contested in the governorship primaries of her party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, as governorship candidate in Delta State in 2007. A keenly contested race that humanized election as her campaign was configured on ending poverty and improving quality of life for all in the oil rich state.
Just like Hillary Clinton, who said “that where women are marginalized, where they’re demeaned, where their rights are denied, there is the likelihood you will have less democracy, more poverty, greater extremism, so is Olejeme, by breaking entrenched barriers to open up equal opportunity for women to realize their full potentials.
In 2009, Olejeme was appointed for a four-year term as board chairman of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF. For her transformational leadership at NSITF, she got reappointed for another term in 2011. She is also chair of Pension Trust PLC, a subsidiary of NSITF, which strictly administers pension matters.
She was instrumental to the enhanced services of the NSITF, where she fought for and won the acceptance of Employee Compensation Scheme, ECS, and the passage of the bill into law. The scheme protects all categories of workers both in private and public sectors across Nigeria. The scheme simply makes provision for compensation to employees and their dependents for any injury, disease, disability or death arising in the course of employment.
“The ECS is the realization of the expression of my passion to see Nigerian workers at par with their counterparts in developed countries and I would like to thank Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for accenting to the bill and for giving us support to move Nigerian workers forward, I also want to thank the Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu and the entire members of the National Assembly and ofcourse, the management and staff of NSITF who all worked to ensure that the ECS is operational in Nigeria.”
She and her team in Nigeria are pushing for a functional social security for citizens that are badly hit by harsh economy and those yet unemployed. Quite an ambitious project that Olejeme is optimistic President Jonathan has got the will to improve the living standard of the most populous West African country. Many believe Olejeme has got the experience and compassion to drive a social security program in Nigeria.
Her foundation, Ngozi Olejeme Foundation, shares a few of this experience.
It caters for the widows, it empowers women and the under privileged. And her role in the Country’s Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program, SURE-P, a program derived from the partial removal of subsidy for fuel, speaks of her capacity to care for the poor through adapting poverty ending policy.