The Nigerian woman has definitely come into her own, having broken barriers in various fields over the years, both locally and internationally. Still, it is not how good or competent the individual; but how consistent.
It is no wonder then that the United Nations, UN coined as the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day and Women History Month: “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow .” It is also no longer news that inclusion and sustainability are the buzzwords in future-oriented organisations today, with the full recognition that the future of our world will be much kinder when its women, alongside men, explore their natural abilities to be resilient, consistent and passionate in whatever field they find themselves in.
In line with this, the Vanguard’s women team has carefully curated in commemoration of the 2022 IWD, a list of 22 lady bosses who have quietly but consistently, continually and tirelessly pursued their passions and vocations, while remaining a beacon of hope and sustainability for the next generation to follow. This list is by no means exhaustive but represents every Nigerian woman striving to make our lives better.
Olori Atuwatse III
Olori Atuwatse III, Her Royal Highness, Ivie Uhunoma Emiko (nee Okunbo) is wife and Queen to the recently installed Olu of Warri. She is a graduate of Law from the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science and since her installment, her passion for the development of the people of Warri has been on display through the establishment of several health and education initiatives in such a short time. With her adoption of two indigenous schools, offer of scholarship to 100 indigent students and organisation of a free medical outreach amongst others, this Queen is certainly one with a difference.
Habiba Ali is the Founder, Managing Director and CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies Company, one of the largest distributors of renewable energy in Nigeria. For 10 years, her organisation has provided renewable energy products to Nigerian communities while bringing clean and renewable energy to facilitate community and economic development. She co-founded the Developmental Association for Renewable Energies, DARE and is a member of the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air and the Nigerian Energy Network.
Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe is the Managing Director/CEO of Fidelity Bank, armed with a rich 30-year experience across various banks including Standard Chartered Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Citizens International Bank Limited. She was formerly Executive Director, Lagos and South-West, overseeing the bank’s business in the six states that make up the South-West region of the bank. She led the transformation of the Directorate to profitability and sustained its impressive year-on-year growth, across key performance metrics, including contributing over 28% of the bank’s PBT, Deposits and Loans.
Adesuwa Okunbor- Rhodes
Adesuwa Okunbo-Rhodes is an entrepreneur, CEO, investor and women’s empowerment advocate. She is the Founder and Managing Partner of Aruwa Capital Management, one of the few women-owned and led private equity funds in Africa, investing into untapped investment opportunities in West Africa in the small to lower mid-market. Since inception, Aruwa Capital Management has successfully made six investments across multiple sectors. Her accomplishments are proof that women and people of colour can own and run their own private equity funds successfully.
Adesuwa is playing a huge part in bridging the $42 billion funding gap that exists between male and female entrepreneurs in Africa.
Oluwaseyi Adewumi emerged as a First Class Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate from the University of Lagos with a 4.84 CGPA. She broke a 59-year record to become the best graduating female in two engineering courses and overall best female in the entire Faculty of Engineering at the University of Lagos.
Senator (Dr.) Uche Ekwunife (Iyom)
Dr. Uche Ekwunife fondly known as ‘Iyom’, is a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Anambra Central Senatorial District. Uche Ekwunife started out as a distinguished banker in the private sector and then delved into a rather eventful political career in 2007. She is popularly referred to as The New Face of Nigerian Environment by her colleagues in the House of Representatives and ran for the governorship seat of Anambra State in 2010 and 2013, coming close to victory both times. She is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology and has delivered excellently on her role. She remains a bold and proactive voice on the floor of the Senate.
Huddaya Fadoul Abacha
Huddaya Fadoul Abacha is the Creative Director and Founder of Hudayya Couture Limited and Hudayya Bridal Emporium operating out of Abuja. Hudayya is best known for her luxurious, yet modest fashion pieces and serves a variety of high-profile clients including the first lady, President Buhari’s daughter, Zahra, and several celebrities. Her uniqueness, resilience and passion for excellence in business have led her into several successful partnerships with high-end fabric brands such as Vlisco, as well as across several notable runways. She now inspires the next generation of fashion entrepreneurs through her newly established design school, Hudayya Academy of Fashion.
Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, and the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian American global finance expert, fair trade leader, environmental sustainability advocate, human welfare champion and sustainable finance maven with over 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.
She was previously on the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc. She was recently appointed as African Union, AU Special Envoy to mobilise international financial support for the fight against COVID-19 and WHO Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. She also served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and briefly acted as Foreign Minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions. She distinguished herself by carrying out major reforms which improved the effectiveness of these two ministries and the functioning of the government machinery. She had a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations. She sits on several national and international boards.
Olajumoke Adenowo is an outstanding architect, author, mentor, speaker and philanthropist and the principal partner at AD Consulting, an architectural and interior design solutions company out of Nigeria. Among her many architectural exploits are the designs of buildings for prestigious multi-national and Nigerian clients such as Coca Cola, L’Oreal, The Nigerian Stock Exchange, Guaranty Trust Bank, to mention a few.
Widely regarded as architecture’s ‘stargirl’ in Africa, Olajumoke has received several international awards and recognitions for her sterling work and unique eye for architectural designs, some which are the International Property Awards (Best Public Service Architecture, 2012), the International Alliance for Women World of Difference 100 Award, IDEA Awards for Best Commercial Designer in 2012, Best Interior Architect in 2013, and Best Institutional Architect in 2014, winner of Forbes Woman Africa Entrepreneur Award for 2020 and Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA recognition as one of the most inspirational women in Architecture today, to mention a few.
She is also the author of at least 11 books available worldwide.
H.E.Mrs. Aisha Buhari, First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Mrs. Aisha Buhari is the sitting First lady of Nigeria, author, accomplished beauty entrepreneur as well as a passionate advocate for the rights of women and children in West Africa.
Through her foundation, Future Assured, she has continued to strengthen her advocacy for health and well-being of women and children through community mobilisation and health promotion. She is a member of the United Kingdom Vocational Training and Charitable Trust and the International Health and Beauty Council; and serves as a resource person to the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE on beauty therapy and cosmetology and has participated in the curriculum development of small medium enterprises for NBTE.
She has consistently been outspoken about the need for good governance, and the preservation of the rights of women and children across Nigeria.
Mrs Ibukun Awosika
Ibukun Awosika is a businesswoman, author, founder, corporate executive, actor, and the immediate past chairman of First Bank of Nigeria. She was the only woman amongst five Nigerian entrepreneurs to feature in the first African version of Dragon’s Den, where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas in the hope of getting investment finance.
Mrs. Ibukun Awosika is the CEO of The Chair Centre Group, an umbrella for several other successful companies. She is a member of IESE’s International Advisory Board and sits on the board of Digital Jewel Limited and Cadbury Nig. Plc, Convention on Business Integrity and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. She was Chairman, FBN Life Assurance Limited, FBN Capital Limited, and Kakawa Discount House Limited. As a mentor for women in business, Mrs. Awosika is also the convener of The International Woman Leadership Conference set to hold this month in Dubai.
Kadaria Ahmed is a journalist, media entrepreneur, television host, the Chief Executive Officer of RadioNow 95.3FM, as well as founder of Daria Media Ltd, a company designed to promote public service journalism. Kadaria has served in several roles with award-winning programs, across notable media platforms some of which include Focus on Africa and Network Africa at BBC and Editor of Next (Nigeria). She also co-created, produced and presented Straight Talk, an interview programme designed to probe and confront Nigeria’s decision-makers on matters of relevance, with over four million global viewers.
With a penchant for political conversations, she moderated Nigeria’s presidential election debate on live television in 2011, as well as town hall meetings for presidential candidates and their deputies towards the 2019 elections, specifically that of President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Ahmed is currently a member of the judging panel of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism and sits on the Board of Trustees of Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism and the Promasidor Quill awards.
Deola ‘Ade-Ojo’ Sagoe is a foremost fashion entrepreneur and founder of Deola, a luxury fashion brand that has graced several runways along with the world’s leading fashion brands in several international shows.
Deola has been at the cutting edge of high fashion since 1989 and became the first black woman to present a collection at AltaRoma in 2004. Her uniquely appealing style has earned her a premium range of clients such as African first ladies, top model Alek Wek, and famous personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith. She created the Komole line, a range of exquisite fashion pieces designed specifically for the plush Nigerian bride.
Aisha Yesufu is a Nigerian activist and businesswoman who co-founded the #BringBackOurGirls movement, bringing attention to the abduction of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram in 2014. She was also prominently involved in the ‘EndSARS’ movement against police brutality in Nigeria. Aisha has been recognised for her bold criticism of bad governance and relentless advocacy, as one of BBC’s 100 Women, and as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Africans by New African magazine.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Transcorp Hotels Plc, Mrs. Dupe Olusola, is spearheading exciting and innovative moves in the Hospitality industry with the Aura by Transcorp digital platform designed to facilitate wider access to the signature Transcorp experience. Prior to her current role, she was the Group Head, Marketing for United Bank for Africa, one of Africa’s leading financial services providers.
Her professional experience spans various sectors locally and internationally in capacities that encompass private equity from African Capital Alliance, investments and SME experience from Growing Business Foundation, Bloomberg Financial Markets UK, SecTrust (now Afriinvest), Transcorp Corporation and Northern Trust Corporation of Chicago, UK.
Amanda Obidike is a seasoned technologist, multi-award-winning social innovator, and scientist. She is the Founding Curator of the WEF Global Shapers, Ozubulu Hub and Executive Director of STEMi Makers Africa, where she provides leadership, strategy management and oversees the design and implementation of sustainable community projects and STEM Education across 19 Sub-Saharan Africa countries by preparing the next generation of Africans with STEM lucrative skills for Africa’s workforce. Forbes Science marked her as the African changing the culture fabric for young talents to embrace opportunities in STEM.
She is a fellow of the MIT Global Community Bio, Yunus & Youth Fellowship; Brazil, Goldman Sachs, Falling Walls Berlin Engage, Michael Jordan Youth Fellowship, Nigeria Global Affairs Council, Youth Center for Research, SIP LEAP Africa, Kectil and YALI RLC.
Toyosi Etim-Effiong is a seasoned storyteller and multi-talented media executive with a wealth of experience and education acquired across three continents over the past nine years. She is an author, television host, writer, and producer with an outstanding track record producing for film, TV, radio, and digital publishing platforms. Her production prowess shines through in popular television shows such as Sahara TV’s foremost flagship show, The Gist; As Toyo Sees, Linda Ikeji Studios’ Life Lessons with Betty Irabor, Adeolu Adefarasin’s Shop Talk and Ndani TV’s acclaimed series, Gidi Up (Season 3).
She is currently the Global Director for Media content, as well as Head of Films and series production at MIPAD, Most Influential People of African Descent and leads media strategy at her boutique media company, That Good Media, which specialises in offering excellent media and public relations services to entrepreneurs and public figures around Africa.
Feyikemi Abudu and Jola Ayeye
Feyikemi Abudu, CEO at Unpacked Ltd and Jola Ayeye, a writer, storyteller and Head of Development at Salt & Truth joined creative forces as co-hosts of what has now become one of Africa’s biggest podcasts, I said what I said, listened to by a diverse audience of over a million young people across Africa. Jola was also on the script writing team for Arese Ugwu’s Netflix hit series, The Smart Money Woman. They were on the forefront of last year’s groundbreaking EndSARS movement.
Dr. Ola Brown
Olamide (Orekunrin) Brown is a British-Nigerian medical doctor, healthcare entrepreneur and founder of the Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group and a director of Greentree Investment Company. Flying Doctors Healthcare Group is active in air ambulance services, consulting/healthcare technology, hospital/clinic construction, diagnostics and equipment, health facility management and pharmaceutical retail
Dr. Ola as she is widely known, is currently the Head of healthcare at the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce. As a venture capitalist, she has led in addition, Instantrad, a teleradiology company, Payhippo, a fintech startup, Nestcoin and Infiuss Health to the list of startups that her group has invested in.
Dr. Jumoke Oduwole
Dr. Jumoke Oduwole is an academic, government advisor, and advocate. She is Special Adviser to the President of Nigeria on Ease of Doing Business. Until her appointment to this role in August 2019, Jumoke was Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade & Investment in the Office of the Vice-President. Her team is responsible for Nigeria moving up an unprecedented 39 places in the World Bank’s flagship Doing Business Report over the last three years, among other notable achievements.
She was the only African nominated onto the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Trade and Investment in 2016 and is a highly sought-after speaker.
Yemi Keri is one of the leading women in technology in Nigeria. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Heckerbella Limited, a digital transformation company, and a Partner at Holmen Consulting, an information technology consulting firm.
With over 22 years experience in Information and Communications Technology sector at top management levels, Yemi Keri is the co-founder of Rising Tide Africa, a women’s movement with a vision to increase women’s participation in angel investing, and promoting education, cross-border investing and investor-mentoring across Africa. She also serves as a mentor to various digital and technology-enabled start-ups.
Kafayat Sanni, in 2019 broke a 55-year-old history of the Nigerian Air Force to become the first female fighter pilot decorated by the Nigerian Air Force.