Meet ‘your excellencies’, the women Ambasadors
• Women Groups Kick Over Low Number
The President, Muhammadu Buhari, recently assigned portfolios to 52 non-career and 43 career ambassadors screened last year by the Senate. A cursory look at the postings released showed that 11 envoys were re-appointed with eight retaining their places of primary assignment, while the other three were redeployed to other countries.
But that is not all the list revealed; it also showed that of the 52 non-career ambassadors, Only 12 are women with three career ambassadors and heads of mission, bringing the grand total number of women to15 out of 95 slots.
Reacting to this development, the president of the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund (NWTF) Mufuliat Fijabi said the dismal number of women appointed as ambassadors further demonstrates the lack of political will to include women in critical positions and in the governance process at all levels.
Speaking further, she said it is important that women’s inclusion in governance, whether in elective or appointive position, is backed up by clear legal framework to guarantee the equal participation of women and men in elective positions.
“This is because the campaigns and advocacy over the years has not yielded the quick result of having gender balance and we need to correct this sooner rather than later.”
Ola Olaniyi, of HEIR woman development said it is embarrassing and shocking that the women appointees remain so low despite increased advocacy over the years and the number of qualified women that could surely excel at the job.
“There are so many brilliant, talented women that are ready to do the work, but look at the poor number of women that were appointed out of almost a hundred people. We have been talking about derivative action for years and giving women the opportunity to serve. Yet, nothing has come out of it. How long will this continue,” she quizzed.
For the non-career ambassadors, Dr Uzoma Emenike is a very welcome development as she is Nigeria’s first female ambassador to the United States. She was Nigeria’s last envoy to Ireland. She joined the Nigeria Foreign Service over 30 years ago, serving in the Protocol and the Africa Departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Subsequently, she was posted to the Nigerian Embassy in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire in 1992, where she served for six years.
Upon her return to Nigeria, she was variously deployed to other departments of the Ministry, during which she represented Nigeria in numerous bilateral and multilateral missions both at home and abroad. In 2002, Emenike left the Foreign Service for the private sector where, amongst others, she worked as a management consultant. She holds two bachelor’s degrees, in Sociology and Anthropology and in Law from the University of Maiduguri and the University of Reading, UK respectively; two master’s degrees in International Law and Diplomacy and in International Management from the University of Lagos and the University of Reading respectively; and a doctorate in International Relations from the University of Reading. A published author, she is expected to address the perennial problems plaguing the Nigerian mission in the US, from passport administration to wobbly bilateral relations.
Modupe Irele now posted to Hungary was the former ambassador to France. At the time she was posted to France, she was the first woman to hold the role since the diplomatic mission appointed its first representative in 1966. She began her career in banking, spending 15 years as a retail banker, before venturing into education consulting. She runs her own educational consulting practice in Nigeria and served in the Faculty of Department and Learning and Performance Systems at the Penn State University.
Formerly envoy to Hungary, Eniola Ajayi has now been posted to the Netherlands. An Optometrist/Ocular Pathologist by profession, she graduated from the University of Benin, in 1986, before bagging a Master of Philosophy in Ocular Pathology in 1994 from the University of London and Doctor of Optometry from the University of Benin in 2002. She served as the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology between 2010 and 2013 and as the Commissioner for Environment between 2013 and 2015 in her home state, Ekiti. She is also concurrently accredited to the Republic of Croatia, Republic of Serbia and to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
All the above-mentioned areas are in the forefront of her activity as an Ambassador, she is striving to bring Nigeria and the countries she is accredited to as close to each other as possible by developing cooperation in these areas and more. In addition to the above priorities, she considers Agriculture, Solid Minerals and Steel, the Oil and Gas Sector, as well as Information Technology as the key areas where the development of bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and other countries of concurrent accreditation have really great potentials. The main priorities of her journey into the world of diplomacy are citizen’s diplomacy; economic diplomacy and social diplomacy, these areas constituting the focus of her philosophy of 3I’s, Inclusion, Investment and Image Building.
Monique Ekpong from Cross River State was appointed as envoy to Angola, while Hajara Salim from Gombe State will be resuming as envoy to Malaysia. Retired as a Director at the National Assembly, she is a career civil servant and a politician as well before her appointment.
Meanwhile, Imo State native, Obiezu Ijeoma Chinyerem has been posted to Ireland and would be taking over from Emenike at the embassy in Dublin.
Also, Sadiya Nuhu would take over in Romania as her counterpart from Kwara, Zara Umar would assume as envoy in Malawi. Umar was former Head of Service in Kwara before her appointment and was the first ever woman to hold that position in the state.
Also, Opunimi Akinkugbe would resume as envoy in Greece despite all odds, as criticism and resistance plagued her appointment. Akinkugbe spent over two decades in the banking and financial world before leaving that to focus on consulting. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and an MBA from Lagos Business School.
Folakemi Akinyele was appointed as envoy to Philippines, while former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly from Bolo in Ogu/Bolo Local Council, Maureen Tamuno was appointed ambassador to Jamaica. Tamuno, a member of the state’s sixth house was also an immediate past board member of the Nigerian Railway Corporation and will replace Oji Ngofa as Rivers non-career ambassador who has been the Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands since 2016.
Deborah Nana Iliya from Kaduna State is envoy to Congo. She holds a Certificate in Administration and Government Procedures and a Diploma in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. Starting her career as a primary school teacher, she worked as sales staff with the Nigerian Modern Bookshop, before working with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives. After retiring from there, she ventured into business and became chairman and chief executive officer of Global Needs Nigeria Limited. She is also the Chairman, Governing Council of the Center for Policy Study and Resource Development. Former National Adviser on Disciplinary Matters, Nigeria Army Officers’ Wives Association, (NAOWA), she was also a National Vice President and National Provost of the Defence and Police Officers’ Wives Association (DEPOWA) and former Divisional President of NAOWA at the 81 Division, Nigerian Army. She is one-time President-General of the Nigerian Army Christian Women Fellowship (Protestants), associate member and patron, Nigerian Red Cross Society and is a patron to several youth and women associations before her appointment.
Leading the career ambassadors is Ingekem Regina Ocheni, Deputy Ambassador to Germany. Ocheni’s appointment wasn’t without its own share of controversy as some sections were agitating for her to be replaced. The Kogi born diplomat, however, emerged unscathed and would serve as Germany’s deputy ambassador.
L. S. Ahmed-Remawa would serve as Deputy ambassador to Cameroun while W. A. Adedeji would resume as career diplomat to Gabon.