Nigeria’s aspiration to greatness is taking concrete shape through the audacious achievements of her citizens especially those in the diaspora. The country, adjudged by the size of population as the largest concentration of black people in the world, is playing very significant roles in all spheres of human development across the globe.
The list of Nigerian men and women below, which is by no means exhaustive, points to the fact that Nigerians have the capacity and capability to hold their own on the world stage. Their contributions to world affairs cover all spheres of human development- from diplomacy, business, banking, economics to science, inventions, agriculture, oil and gas as well as religion and International Law.
Amina Jane Mohammed is the current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and a former Minister of Environment in Nigeria. Before this high profile appointment, she was the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) during which period she was charged with the coordination of Nigeria’s debt relief funds toward the achievement of the MDGs. Her mandate included designing a Virtual Poverty Fund with innovative approaches to poverty reduction, budget coordination and monitoring, as well as providing advice on pertinent issues regarding poverty, public sector reform and sustainable development. Before her present job, she was the Special Adviser to the former United Nations Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon.
Amina also served on numerous international advisory boards and panels, including the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. She also chaired the Advisory Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Monitoring Report on Education.
Prof Benedict Okey Oramah
Prof Benedict Okey Oramah is another high flying Nigerian plying his trade in banking. He has been the Chairman and President of African Export-Import Bank and also the Executive Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Banking at African Export-Import Bank. He served as Executive Vice President of African Export-Import Bank. He is also a member of the Consultative Board on World Cocoa Economy of the International Cocoa Organization.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and international development expert. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).
Previously, Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising through the ranks to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations. As Managing Director, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolios in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia. She also served two terms as Finance Minister under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively.
Ngozi was educated at Queen’s School, Enugu, St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan. She arrived in the USA in 1973 as a teenager to study at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976. In 1981, she earned her PhD in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a thesis titled: Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development. She received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that supported her doctoral studies.
In 2015 when Akinwumi Adesina, a cerebral Agricultural Economist, was elected as the President of the African Development Bank, he was the first Nigerian to hold the post. He previously served as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. Adesina was named as Forbes African Man of the Year for his reform of Nigerian agriculture. He introduced more transparency into the fertiliser supply chain. In 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed him as one of 17 global leaders to spearhead the Millennium Development Goals. In September 2016, Adesina was also appointed by Ban Ki-moon to serve as member of the Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement. Until his appointment as Minister in 2010, he was Vice President of Policy and Partnerships for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Adesina was born to a Nigerian farmer in Ibadan, Oyo State. He graduated with a Bachelors in Agricultural Economics with First Class Honours from the University of Ife, Nigeria where he was the first student to be awarded this distinction by the university. He pursued his studies at Purdue University in Indiana where he obtained his PhD (Agricultural Economics) in 1988 and won the Outstanding PhD Thesis for his research work.
He worked at the Rockefeller Foundation since winning a fellowship from the Foundation as a senior scientist in 1988. From 1999 to 2003 he was the representative of the Foundation for the southern African area. From 2003 until 2008 he was an associate director for food security.
Bukar Tijani assumed office as Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on December 1, 2013. He started his professional career in 1978 as a Rural Agricultural Extension Worker. He held senior positions in a number of institutions at both State and national levels. These included General Manager of Fertilizer Blending Company, Director in an EC-assisted Programme, North-East Arid Zone Development Programme (NEAZDP), National Programme Coordinator for IFAD-assisted Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development Programme (IFAD-CBARDP) and National Project Coordinator for Third Fadama Development Project assisted by the World Bank in Nigeria, among others. He also coordinated all donor-assisted AfDB, IsDB, BADEA, IFAD and World Bank programmes and projects including the National Programme for Food Security (NPFS) and the FAO-China-Nigeria tripartite agreement on South-South Cooperation.
From July 2011 to September 2013, Tijani was a Cabinet Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where he served as the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development.
Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo
Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo is the 28th Secretary General of the international oil cartel- Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Sanusi Barkindo, born on April 20, 1959 in Yola, Nigeria, has been appointed to a three-year term as Secretary General of OPEC with effect from 1 August 2016. He previously served as Acting Secretary General in 2006, represented Nigeria on OPEC’s Economic Commission Board during 1993–2008, led the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation from 2009–2010, and has headed Nigeria’s technical delegation to the United Nations (UN) climate negotiations since 1991.
Barkindo completed academic degrees from Ahmadu Bello University (Zaria, Nigeria) and South Eastern University (Washington, D.C., USA). He earned a postgraduate diploma from Oxford University, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Federal University of Technology Yola.
Ms. Bola Adesola
Ms. Bola Adesola was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as the Vice Chairman of the Board of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. At the time she received this appointment, Bola Adesola was Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Standard Chartered Nigeria. Ms. Adesola succeeded out-going United Nations Global Compact Board Vice-Chair, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. Ms. Adesola had served on the Board of the United Nations Global Compact previously. She is expected to bring to the position a wealth of experience in the private sector, in the corporate sustainability space and specifically with the United Nations Global Compact itself.
Ms. Adesola has over 25 years of banking experience, including at First Bank of Nigeria and at Citibank. She holds degrees from Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School, as well as a law degree from the University of Buckingham.
Chile Eboe-Osuji is a judge of the International Criminal Court, The Hague since March 2012 and was elected as its President on March 11, 2018. His election into the Presidency of the International Criminal Court is for a three-year term. He was the Legal Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Judge Eboe-Osuji was born in Anara, Isiala Mbano, Imo State, Nigeria, on 2 September 1962. He obtained his bachelor of laws degree from the University of Calabar, Nigeria, master of laws degree from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and doctor of laws degree from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Eboe-Osuji was called to Bar in 1986. After obtaining his master of laws degree from McGill in 1991, he worked as a barrister in Canada, having been called to the Bar in Ontario and in British Columbia in 1993.
From 1997 to 2005, Eboe-Osuji worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as prosecution counsel and senior legal officer to the judges of the tribunal. From 2005 to 2007, he worked in Canada as a barrister and law lecturer. Working for the Special Court for Sierra Leone as senior prosecution appeals counsel in 2007/08 and returning to the ICTR from 2008 to 2010 as Head of Chambers, he became the Legal Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in 2010, and held a cross-appointment as the principal prosecution appeals counsel at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, in the case of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia.
Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon
April 2015, Archbishop Idowu-Fearon was appointed as the seventh Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council, in London, UK, taking the role in July 2015. From this prestigious position, he oversees the affairs of the Anglican Communion worldwide. Before this appointment, he had also received the Cross of St Augustine presented to him by Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Lambeth Palace in London. (The Cross of St. Augustine award is presented to people who have given long and exceptionally distinguished service to the Anglican Communion). He also served on the International Anglican Conversations on Human Sexuality appointed by former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey following the 1998 Lambeth Conference of bishops.
He was at various times the Anglican Bishop of Sokoto and Kaduna. Idowu-Fearon was unanimously elected for a seven-year term as the first archbishop of the newly created Ecclesiastical province of Kaduna. He was educated at the Immanuel Theological College, Ibadan, Nigeria; St John’s College, Durham University, UK; Birmingham University, UK; Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria; Hartford Seminary, USA; University of Jordan, Jordan
Adebayo is a Nigerian lawyer and investment banker who, in December 2016, was announced, among other business leaders, as part of Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. Ogunlesi who is currently Chairman and Managing Partner at the private equity firm, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) was the former head of Global Investment Banking at Credit Suisse First Boston before being promoted to Chief Client Officer and Executive Vice Chairman. In October 2012, Ogunlesi was appointed to the Board of Directors at Goldman Sachs and was named Lead Director.
In 2006, GIP bought London City Airport. In 2009, GIP also acquired the majority share in London Gatwick Airport in a deal worth £1.455 billion. GIP also owns Edinburgh Airport, which they bought in 2012 and Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, which they bought in February 2018.
Ogunlesi attended King’s College, Lagos, received a B.A. with first class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University in England. In 1979, he received a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School, which he pursued at the same time. During his time at Harvard, he was on the Harvard Law Review.
From 1980 to 1981, Ogunlesi served as a law clerk to the legendary Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. From 1997 to 2002, he was the Head of the Global Energy Group of Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). In 2002, Ogunlesi was appointed Global Head of CSFB’s Investment Banking Division. Also in 2002, he served as a member of Credit Suisse’s Executive Board and Management Committee. From 2004 to 2006, Ogunlesi was Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Client Officer of CSFB.
Ike is the Managing Director and Head, sub-Saharan Africa (Ex-RSA), Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Prior to joining Bank of America Merrill Lynch in September 2014, Yvonne was a chief executive officer, West Africa at Renaissance Capital, where she was responsible for the firm’s West Africa franchise covering Investment Banking and Securities Trading. From 1984 to 2009, Yvonne was a managing director at JP Morgan. She also worked as a partner at Africapital Management Limited from 2009 to 2011. Yvonne started her career as an auditor with Ernst and Young International and has been an FSA registered representative since 1994. It must be noted that Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan are among the biggest investment banks in the world.
While the world at large has been affected immensely by the excellence of Africans, stories still resound of the many exploits of Nigerians scattered across the globe in their different endeavours.
It is a known fact that some Nigerian women are doing extraordinary and remarkable things abroad. The special mention of Sandie Okoro’s exploits, however, exposes the brilliance of Nigerian women in diaspora.
Sandie Okoro was born in Fulham, London, in 1964. She grew up in nearby Balham. Her father was a teacher from Nigeria, and her mother a nurse from Trinidad. Influenced by a television programme ‘Crown Court’, Sandie Okoro at the age of nine decided she wanted to become a judge.
Despite being flattered by her school teacher who once told her that little black girls from Balham don’t become judges, undeterred Okoro worked hard to achieve her dream.
Sandie was appointed Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the World Bank Group in February 2017. Prior to joining the World Bank Group, she had been General Counsel of HSBC Global Asset Management and Deputy General Counsel of HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management since 2014, prior to which she was Global General Counsel at Barings.
She has received several accolades and awards in the United Kingdom and Europe for her work and volunteer efforts. Sandie received the 2014 Chambers Europe Award for Excellence in the category for Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession.
A leader in her field, Sandie was appointed in July 2011 to the Management Board and the Panel of Experts of The Hague-based Panel of International Market Experts in Finance (P.R.I.M.E.), which assists with the settlement of international disputes on complex financial transactions. In late 2013, Sandie became a council member of the Human Rights organization, JUSTICE.
From 2010 to 2016, Sandie was an ambassador for the Law Society of England and Wales Diversity Access Scheme. From January to June 2014, she was President of International Lawyers of Africa (ILFA), having previously been an ILFA director for many years.