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‘The President’s women’

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By Josephine Agbonkhese

Although they constitute only 16 per cent of the team to drive the Next Level agenda, one thing common to the seven women who made President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial list is their doggedness and sterling achievements as politicians, public office holders and professionals. From Sharon Ikeazor to Zainab Ahmed, Gbemisola Saraki, Ramatu Tijani-Aliyu, Sadiya Farouk, Mariam Katagun and Pauline Tallen, these women have succeeded where men struggled. While we hope they are assigned portfolios in which their capabilities are optimally utilised, we bring you these amazons, in no order of preference:

President’s women


A seasoned politician, philanthropist and an astute administrator called to the Nigerian bar in 1985, Sharon Ikeazor’s feat at the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, where she has served since September 2016 as Executive Secretary, is massively touted. This includes the elimination of the hardship suffered by pensioners across the country during verification, as well as irregular payment.

In less than nine years of delving into partisan politics, Ikeazor has re-written women’s role in contemporary history and changed their perceived role as ushers, backbenchers and professional praise singers at political events. The same year she joined politics, she contested and won the post of the national women leader of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. After the merger in 2013, she emerged the interim national woman leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Ikeazor brings to the ‘Next Level’ table over 30 years of experience as a solicitor with vast knowledge in business development, project management, administration, as well as national and international government liaison, having worked with notable multinational organisations.


An accountant with a Master’s in Business Administration, Zainab Ahmed, served as Minister of Finance in Buhari’s former cabinet. Initially, she was Minister of State for Budget and National Planning but was later reassigned to head the Ministry of Finance upon the resignation of its minister, Kemi Adeosun, in September 2018.

From a humble career as Accountant II which she began at the Kaduna State Ministry of Finance in 1982, Ahmed has worked at the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd, NITEL, where she rose to become Deputy General Manager, Corporate Treasury in 2002, and the Nigeria Mobile Telecommunications, MTEL, where she was Chief Finance Officer. In 2009, she was appointed the Managing Director of the Kaduna Industrial and Finance Co. Ltd, KIFC. The 59-year-old is a member of the international board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI, representing eleven Anglophone and Lusophone countries.


Aged 54, Gbemisola Saraki brings to the ‘Next Level’ train a degree in Economics from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom, plus a huge private and public sector experience. Bold, fluent and intelligent, she is blessed with an extraordinary drive, stamina and a daunting work-ethic as evident in her legislative track-record. She made waves as a legislator, having once represented her constituency in Kwara State as a member of the House of Representatives and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

READ ALSO: The return of Gbemi Saraki in Kwara politics(Opens in a new browser tab)

After her service at the National Assembly, she emerged Nigeria’s Best Female Legislator, with the highest number of bills presented and got passed into law by any female in the political history of Nigeria. She is a sister to former Senate President, Bukola Saraki.


Aged 65, Ambassador Mariam Katagun holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Post Graduate Certification in Education from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; a Masters in Administration and Planning from the University of Lagos, and a Certificate in Social Development Policy, Planning and Practice from the University College, London.

She has since 2009 served as Nigeria’s ambassador and permanent delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO. Prior to that, she had served in various capacities at the Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO, National Primary Education Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education.


Aged 60, former Minister of State for Science and Technology, Pauline Tallen, brings to the train an appreciable years of public service experience. In 2007, she was elected Deputy Governor of Plateau State and later contested governorship election in 2011 but lost to Jonah Jang. Tallen who holds a degree in Sociology from the University of Jos, is currently the Board Chairman of the National Agency for Control of AIDS, NACA. The politician who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, before the 2015 election, is currently a member of the board of trustees of the APC.


Sadiya Umar Farouq is a politician and an administrator. Aged 45, she holds a B.Sc. in Business Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy and another in Business Administration (MBA). She is the Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons.


Aged 49, Ramatu Tijani-Aliyu studied Urban and Regional Planning at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Nasarawa State University, Keffi, and recently earned a Ph.D. in Security and Strategic Studies from the Institute for Governance and Development Studies.

She was the first female National Vice-Chairman (north-central zone) of the then leading opposition political party, the All Peoples Party, APP. In 2010, she became the National Woman Leader of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and in June 2014, she became the National Woman Leader of the APC.

She had served as Special Adviser on Women Affairs, Youth and Social Development to the Chairman of Gwagwalada Area Council, Federal Capital Territory.


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