Imagine a world without women. I close my eyes to imagine it but it is unimaginable. How will the world be where there is no gender diversity, where it is men, men all the way? Or women, women all the way! Can you imagine it?
God in His infinite wisdom decided to populate the world with both sexes. God in His divine omniscience decided to be inclusive, to be diverse and to create the human race in rainbow colours. God created us as one big rainbow but human beings invented racism—a plague that has continued to blight the world. Buckingham Palace is not spared!
Monday was the International Women’s Day. A day set aside to celebrate women. My mind is filled with images of women global achievers. I am thinking of a woman like Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. I am thinking of Amanda Gorman, the young African-American lady poet who stole the show as she proudly read her poem at the Inauguration of President Biden. I am thinking of Oprah Winfrey, the globally celebrated TV journalist with the talent for coming up with earthshaking scoops, the latest being Meghan Markle’s shocking revelations about her suicidal thoughts and speculative royal gossips about “how dark” her unborn baby would be. So sad that we still live in the Dark Ages of slavery and racism. So sad we still have journalists like Piers Morgan. I like how a Nigerian, London-based activist lady Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu tore Piers Morgan into pieces on air which went viral. She told Morgan on live TV: “You are such a disappointment. I wish to God one day you even surprise me. You constantly use your platform as a wealthy, white, privileged man with power and influence to aggravate and escalate the bigoted sexist, racist, and misogynist attacks on Meghan Markle. And you do it shamelessly.”
Oh, I celebrate this Nigerian lady whom I have tried to interview and she has agreed to give me an interview. It’s a story for another day.
Today, I celebrate three other Nigerian women whose stories I picked in the media. Let me salute Adepeju Adebajo, the CEO of Lumos Nigeria, the woman in the vanguard of bringing renewable solar energy electricity to the doorsteps of the poorest Nigerians at the base of the business pyramid: barbers, tailors, hairdressers, shopkeepers and so on, as part of the strategy for jumpstarting our economic recovery. I love the strategy of making the poor to pay within a 48-month period at the end of which “the customers own their systems completely. They also have a four-year warranty during the 48 months.”
Let me also salute Ifeayinwa Ugochukwu, the CEO of Tony Elumelu Foundation that also caters for young, upcoming entrepreneurs “at the bottom of the pyramid which is where we play.” I was watching her interview on the BBC television programme “Talking Business with Aaron Heslehurst” one Sunday morning where she said: “We are not looking for unicorns. We know that is not where you will see the Microsoft and the Mark Zuckerberg but we do know that in Africa, we keep recycling the same entrepreneurs because not enough numbers are coming up through the pyramids. And so we focus at the bottom of the pyramid by helping everyone that has a business idea and makes it to our programme to start their entrepreneurial journey. We are looking for resilience and grit which is what an entrepreneur is. We want to see that your business idea has market opportunity, is feasible, is saleable and when you go through the selection process, we help you with $5,000 which is what we commit.”
The Tony Elumelu Foundation, she explains emphasizes job creation mentality as opposed to job-seeking mentality. “Young people should create jobs not just for themselves but for the people around them,” she said. “It has to be the only way Africa can move forward.”
The fourth woman on my list is Ireti Samuel Ogbu, the first female CEO of Citibank Nigeria Limited whose story I read in BusinessDay. According to her, “Men regularly put themselves forward more not necessarily because they’re more competent but because they’re willing to take more risk. So women are losing out on opportunities not because anybody has held them back, but because they have held themselves back.” I found her definition of leadership so poetic: “My definition of leadership is a metaphor derived from a flock of geese who fly thousands of miles in perfect V formation. Leadership is about inspiring a shared common vision, travelling together, complementing, and positively reinforcing one another. I would describe my leadership style as threefold: a combination of Affiliative (people come first), Democratic (ask people what they think) and Pacesetting (leading by example). When you take a leadership position, it’s not about you, how good you are or how well you execute. It’s about bringing an entire organisation along with you. My natural style is one of collaboration and I have found that it drives momentum because the more people buy in, the more they not only deliver vision, but they are empowered, and inspired to take it to the next level.”