For their efforts in bringing change into the government, public service and to inspire young women for excellent public service, the thirteen serving female ministers have become the cynosure of all eyes.
You can tell from their records. They are not ordinary. Depending on the angle from which you are staring at each of them, you could be seeing passionate women or technocrats per excellence. They are 13 who work directly with President Goodluck Jonathan as cabinet ministers, but they are more than that who give orders to men in the government. They do it with zeal and authority that can't be questioned and several men have learnt to bow to them because their works stand out. Indeed, the Jonathan's women are perhaps more visible than the men in the cabinet. They run the government's key sector from finance to aviation, security to petroleum and many more. And they do it with the charisma of a man without the usual sentiments. They are all the president's women!
So to showcase them as examples, the government profiled them in a book of remembrance for inspiration to young women with aspiration for leadership. And in a resplendent night that appeared like an Oscar night with who-is-who in Nigeria from varied sector, the president held a dinner in their honour. With simple elegance, on 26th June, 2013, they filed out for presidential handshake that was unusual and unprecedented. They had their day with destiny to become first set of female ministers in Nigeria whose records of achievements are documented and profiled by the government.
"With action rather than rhetoric, President Jonathan has indeed given Nigerian women more prospects for inclusive and proactive leadership, it is therefore not surprising that out of the 188 countries recently studied, Nigeria ranked 23rd in terms of mobilisation and appointment of women into political positions.
President Jonathan has also given Nigerian women, strategic tasks that are often reserved for the men and this provides prospects for the transformation of women leadership," said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia who attended the event where she unveiled the book of chronicle on the works of the female ministers titled: "Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Champion for Women,"
The book as unveiled at a dinner organised in Abuja for President Jonathan's 13 serving female ministers and other female functionaries in his government chronicled the fulfillment of the campaign pledge of Jonathan in 2011 to nominate a considerable number of Nigerian women into challenging cabinet portfolios as well as the acclaimed faithful delivery of these womenfolk to the overall goal of Jonathan in the last two years that he has been in charge of Nigeria's national affairs.
While reflecting on the appointment of 13 women into strategic ministerial roles within his government to the ratification of a female Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, and top female diplomatic corps representing Nigeria's interests at global affairs as well as other female special advisers, these female office holders who were majorly present at the dinner that also had Malawian President, Joyce Banda in attendance, affirmed that Jonathan has indeed granted them a rare break to justify their lingering yearnings for practical gender equality as well as a platform to contribute to national development.
The president's women, in a very clear message, indicated at the dinner to appreciate the gestures of their champion, Jonathan, that they have the temerity to walk on paths that were hitherto, solely reserved for the men and come out with heart-warming results; but more importantly, these women by their testimonies told the president and indeed Nigerians that they all possess two common attributes; dedication and determination to make a difference in an atmosphere that perhaps, constantly await their slips.
"The future is very near for African women and Nigeria in particular because we see evident here tonight, the number and calibre of women my brother and friend has appointed in joining him to transform Nigeria. I commend the president for the revolution he is creating today by recognising the innate powers of the Nigerian women...Mr. President, I salute you," Sirleaf said while insisting that the number and character of women in the president's cabinet sets a welcome trend with a range of inherent potential benefits to governance and national development in Nigeria and Africa.
Breaking the Barriers
Reckoning with the accomplishments of ministers such as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in charge of Nigeria's quest for economic transformation, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria's first female petroleum minister, Ms. Stella Oduah in aviation, Dr. Olusola Obada in defence and of course CJN Mukhtar, Malawian president, Banda stated that Jonathan was giving Nigerian women opportunities to break barriers which will help him accomplish his governance plans for the country.
She said while narrating her political struggles back in Malawi that: "President Jonathan has demonstrated that he is willing to break down barriers with the female appointments he has made in the military, diplomatic circle and ministries. You have made a statement that for Africa to prosper, we must begin to put our women on the center stages of development."
Also reiterating Banda's observation, Sirleaf added: "It has been all about talks in Africa in getting women at the top echelon of governments; results are often slow because of the traditional notion that women take care while men take charge. Without question, President Jonathan is addressing the gender stereotypes that potentially undermine the capacity of women in Africa."
Speaking of the determination of the president's women to push on with their respective contributions to nation building, Alison-Madueke who was singled out as the force behind the over 300-page glossy book in celebration of Jonathan's promotion of gender equality which has also seen him approve that female cadets be admitted as regular combatants to the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) for the first time to allow the Nigerian military formations the full benefits women's participation across all ranks in the years to come, stated that their positions in the government have not been in any way "jobs for the girls."
Alison-Madueke explained that there was much more than just making up the numbers in the federal cabinet, adding that accomplishments in the job profile and character of all the female functionaries of Jonathan's government are bare for everyone to see.
"Are these women and President Jonathan's appointees out to prove something? The truth is that, for the most part, they simply want to do a great job and to change things for the better.
They are not unique in that. Having been given the chance by a visionary president to assist in our country's development, we have been confronted with an amazing opportunity, that makes us incredibly fortunate, whilst at the same time placing on us a heavy burden and let me at this point restate for the record what I have said to women severally; we need to support our fellow women all across the spectrum, creating networks to engender and mentor women, collectively and individually," she said.
Alison-Madueke further added of the revolution in gender equality in governance that: "The positions that we as female ministers fill are not minor portfolios, but portfolios crucial to the country's future-education, aviation, environment, finance, water resources, defence, and land, housing and urban development amongst them.
There are mould-breaking positions: a woman as Chief Justice of the Federation, for example, the first female Rear Admiral, the admission of the first-ever female regular combatant recruits to the NDA and the first ever female minister of petroleum resources. Let it be noted that the glass ceilings that for centuries kept African women "in their place" are being shattered and it should soon be as natural to see a woman in the executive cabinet or the boardroom as it used to be in the kitchen or behind a market stall. President Jonathan's appointments are a major step in this critical evolutionary transition; he is creating a national mindset where women in high positions of leadership are becoming much more commonplace."
To all the president's women, the stage on which to stake a claim in the development of Nigeria has been provided by Jonathan whose faith in their inherent capacities is evidenced in their portfolios; their management off this rare stage will in time to come dictate the how many more of their will be allowed on board and like Sirleaf described herself and Banda as pacesetters for Africa's womenfolk in leadership, the President Jonathan has equally advised all his women to set good examples that will foster the lots of Nigerian women.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Minister of Finance)
Okojo-Iweala is Nigeria's minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy. Globally adjudged to be a seasoned a technocrat and of strong will, the minister who galvanises President Goodluck Jonathan's economic transformation agenda, holds a doctorate degree in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.
Once Nigeria's Finance and Foreign Affairs Minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo, Okonjo-Iweala left her previous job as Managing Director at the World Bank to head President Jonathan's economic management team which is saddled with such jobs as managing economic issues like oil subsidy, minimum wage, deregulation, and Sovereign Wealth Fund amongst others.
As a Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala is seen as working towards a stable macroeconomic environment through strong and prudent fiscal policies that will sustain economic growth across board. She has consistently canvassed for reduction in recurrent expenditure to provide more funds for capital projects that would guarantee the desires economic growth.
Since her appointment, she has worked to institute economic measures to reduce Nigeria's high inflation rate at the same time, setting up the country's first Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke (Minister of Petroleum Resources)
Nigeria's minister of petroleum resources is Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke who assumed the office in 2010 as the first female to ever take up the position of superintending over Nigeria's oil and gas resources.
Born on December 6, 1960, to Chief Fredrick Abiye Agama in Port Harcourt, Alison-Madueke was schooled at the Howard University, U.S before joining Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) when she got back to Nigeria; she rose to become the first female executive director at SPDC in Nigeria in 2006 before coming into public service in 2007. She had previously served as minister of transport and later mines and steel development before her current portfolio where she amongst other measures to reposition Nigeria's hydrocarbon industry, set up such committees like the special taskforce on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) headed by Senator Udo Udoma as well as a taskforce of petroleum revenue headed by Nuhu Ribadu.
As part of her pledge to reform operations in Nigeria's hydrocarbon industry, Alison-Madueke in 2010 got President Jonathan to sign into law the Nigerian Content Act, which aims to increase the ratio of jobs and contracts awarded to credible indigenous operators in the country's oil and gas sector. She has also strengthened the capacity of indigenous subsidiary of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) to gradually but effectively take charge of exploration and production of oil and gas amongst others.
The minister has often favoured the total deregulation of Nigeria's downstream petroleum sector, thus, removing subsidy on petrol in view of its huge financial burden on the national treasure and discouragement of investment in the downstream sector.
Princess Stella Oduah (Minister of Aviation)
The current minister of aviation, Stella Oduah has bachelors and masters degrees in accounting and business management respectively and was very instrumental in mobilising funds for President Jonathan's re-election in 2010 as the director of finance and administration in his campaign organisation.
She worked at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) before establishing Sea Petroleum and Gas Company Limited (SPG) as an independent petroleum marketing firm in the country.
Upon her assumption of office as the country's Aviation Minister, Oduah initiated such steps that include the sacking of top managers in the country's aviation parastatals to give fresh breath to her quest to reposition air transport business in the country. Her short, medium and long terms strategic plans for the sector has seen remodelling works at 11 airports across the country in progress, while airfield lightings, navigational aids, meteorological instruments and other safety measures are been provided in accordance with standard practice requested of member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has also witnessed her touch since she assumed while her interventions in the cost of aviation fuel to minimise operational costs of operators and prices of air tickets have also been effective. On the longer term, Oduah plans to bequeath to Nigeria a formidable national carrier to be floated by the government in alliance with private aviation operators. In all, Oduah is pushing beyond the boundary of limits to give Nigeria the best aviation sector, the country has ever experienced since 1960.
Prof. Ruqqayatu Ahmed Rufa'I (Minister of Education)
Prof. Rufa'I was a two-time commissioner in home state, Jigawa before picking up her current portfolio. She has about 28 years of public service as a lecturer and administrator under her belt and has since her appointment steered plans to reposition the education sector of Nigeria.
Within her supervision, the government has established nine federal universities in Kogi, Bayelsa, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Jigawa, Katsina, Taraba, Gombe and Ebonyi states to boost access to tertiary education. Also, the training of teachers have received priority attention while construction of schools for Almajiri children in the north have also been boosted.
Hajia Zainab Kuchi (Minister of State for Power)
Kuchi is a trained lawyer and has a master in business administration from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). Her work experience spans through various positions in the judiciary of her home state, Niger state where she rose as a senior higher registrar, judiciary headquarters and state counsel, ministry of justice, Minna. She also worked with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where she held positions that include assistant manager and senior manager respectively.
Before crossing over to the ministry of power, she had served as minister of state, Niger Delta Affairs.
As the minister in charge of hydro dam development in the power ministry amongst others, Kuchi is working so hard to ensure that planned works on the 750 megawatts Zungeru hydro power dam as well as the 1050 megawatts Mambilla dam progress as soon as possible to boost nationwide power generation capacity.
Prof. Viola Onwuliri (Minister of State for Foreign Affairs)
She is an educationist, author and professor of biochemistry who also served in the administration of Governor Ikedi Ohakim as the deputy governor of Imo state.
Onwuliri has degrees from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), University of Jos, Howard University, U.S, and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, U.S. As an educationist of many paths, she has 57 academic publications to her credit and has since her appointment, propagated Nigeria's thoughts alongside the minister of foreign affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru to the international community.
Collectively, they have projected Nigeria to the international community while protecting the diplomatic assertion of Nigeria in global discussions. Under their watch, Nigeria's strong commitment to democratic values have been effectively conveyed to countries such as Mali, Liberia, Libya, Cote d'Ivoire Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea Conakry who have been distressed at some point.
Ms. Amma Pepple (Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development)
Pepple has a wide experience in public service management; she is a former head of service of the federation, director in the federal civil service, director economic affairs office and presidency and clerk of the senate.
A first class graduate of political science of the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Pepple also has a master degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. As the minister in charge of government's policy on decent housing and urban development, she is working to ensure that decent, safe and affordable houses are accessible to Nigerians through the national housing policy and urban development policy.
Prototype housing schemes for 1,932 beneficiaries is been developed in Asaba, Kuje, and Lagos while estate development loans from the federal mortgage bank for 30,930 beneficiaries is also on.
She has also initiated a public private partnership framework to address the housing gaps, at the same time, upgrading the school of architectural and building technicians' scheme in Kuje to meet up with future demand of Nigeria's construction industry.
Sarah Reng Ochekpe (Minister of Water Resources)
Ochekpe as Nigeria's minister of water resources is working to ensure that the country benefits from her inherent water resources. From dam irrigation projects to boost agricultural practice to hydro power generation through the dams, the minister is seen to be very active in ensuring that planned projects like the Mambilla dam amongst others are successfully completed.
She graduated from the University of Jos with a bachelor and master degrees in political science, and has so far within her responsibilities ensured coordinated and sustainable management of Nigeria's water resources for national development through the formulation and implementation of a national water resources master plan.
Omobola Johnson Olubusola (Minister of Communication Technology)
It would appear that the ministry of communication technology was created solely for Omobola Johnson who came with an admirable experience in communication technology as the managing director of Accenture Nigeria, to first, consolidate on Nigeria's gains from the GSM revolution and then, aggregate government's plans for the sector into tangible policies.
The minister has a bachelor degree in electrical and electronic engineering from the University of Manchester, as well as a master degree in digital electronics from Kings College, London. She joined Dublin based multinational management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, Accenture and then Andersen Consulting in 1985 and was the managing director of Accenture Nigeria until her appointment by President Jonathan.
The ministry under her care launched the NigComSat-IR Satelite to compliment fibre connectivity and provide greater internet bandwidth, deployed private computers to 766 secondary schools in the School Access Programme (SAP) as well as PCs and internet access to 193 tertiary institutions in the Tertiary Institution Access Programme (TIAP) and 146 community communication centres.
She recently signed a MoU with Nokia Corporation to establish a laboratory in Nigeria to support the growth of the domestic mobile software industry.
Erelu Olusola Bada (Minister of State for Defence)
Bada is the immediate past deputy governor of Osun state. A trained lawyer and administrator, she currently holds forth as Nigeria's defence minister responsible with the support of the country's security formations for keeping the country safe from threats.
She is addressing the current security threat from insurgent Boko Haram, at the same time keeping the Niger Delta safe and calm for crude oil production in the region to continue with minimal disturbance.
In view of contemporary security challenges in the country, the Nigerian military has been reformed to meet up with such challenges; the construction of a Counter Terrorist/Counter Insurgency (COT/COIN) building in Jaji by engineers of the Nigerian Army amongst others are some of the recent results of such reform efforts.
Under her watch, the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) opened its doors to the first-ever set of female regular combatant recruits who will eventually go on to become commissioned officers of the Nigerian military, replicating the milestone achievements of the likes of Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu.
Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafa (Minister of Environment)
Mailafa has impacted on raising awareness for issues of sustainable environmental management while interfacing with the global community on best practices to foster good use of the environment for poverty reduction, food security and of course economic development.
Through her, the ministry has been able to complete the first phase of the national forest programme for biodiversity conservation, tackled deforestation in seven states in northern Nigeria by raising six million tree seedlings, provided erosion control measures in 62 locations across the nation and continued management of the presidential initiative on afforestation nationwide.
Other efforts exerted by the minister include the signing of a MoU with the Malaysia Forestry Research and Development Board for international cooperation in forestry research and climate change.
Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide (Minister of State for FCT)
She is the daughter of former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide, and has a bachelor degree in law from Kings College London as well as a master degree in law from Harvard University.
She has had an untainted legal career as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria as well as a solicitor of England and Wales. Akinjide is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK amongst other professional associations and has served in President Jonathan's cabinet as the minister of state for the federal capital territory.
Akinjide has provided purposeful leadership in the agricultural reform efforts of the FCT, youth development and sustainable employment generation.
Hajia Zainab Maina (Minister of Women Affairs)
Since her appointment, Maina has stepped up activism on economic empowerment of women and elimination of harmful societal practices against women and children.
Maina is from Mubi North in Adamawa state and was until her appointment a female member of the board of trustees of PDP. She has equally brought to fore issues like human trafficking, prostitution and child labour amongst several others that affect women and children of the Nigerian society. Under her watch, the ministry has raised the bar on commitment to health challenges such as the Vesico Varginal Fistula disease, women entrepreneurship through micro credit schemes and skills acquisition.