...Redifining Journalism for Development

Nigerian Global Image: Celebrating great Nigerians in diaspora, by Prof MK Othman


Deep Thoughts with Othman

The saying “on the same level, half-full is better than half-empty” depicts the global image of Nigeria. The equation, happenings at home; bad governance exacerbated by kleptocracy and massive insecurity, and few dedicated hardworking Nigerians are balanced by few bad ambassadors and multiple dedicated Nigerians abroad.

No matter how bad we feel about our country, we should be comforted by watching and hearing about dedicated and honest Nigerians excelling both at home and abroad. This makes us feel our Nation’s developmental trajectory is trending towards “half-full” rather than “half-empty”. Who are these great Nigerians who make us proud?

In the diaspora, we have every reason to celebrate three among several other great Nigerians who are daily laundering and projecting an admirable image of our motherland. The first among these Nigerians is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who clinched the exalted position of Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Her tenure in the office started on 1st March 2021. Earlier, Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, moved through the ranks to the number two position of managing director, operations from 2007 to 2011. She also served two terms as finance minister of Nigeria (2003–2006, 2011–2015) under President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan, respectively.

She was the first woman to serve as the Minister of Finance minister, the first woman to serve in that office twice, and the only finance minister to have served under two different presidents. In 2005, Euromoney named her global Finance Minister of the year.

Okonjo-Iweala was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria, where her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo a Royal father from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu. She started her educational career at Queen’s School, Enugu, St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan.

Okonjo-Iweala was a teenager when she went to the USA in 1973 for her degree program at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976. By the year, 1981, she was awarded the International Fellowship of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for her PhD program in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The title of PhD thesis is “Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development”. The sound educational career and wealth of experience in the World Bank made her beat eight globally rated other candidates from different continents to the position of DG, World Trade Organization located in Swiss.

Another Nigerian worthy of celebration is Dr Akinwumi “Akin” Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank. Like Okonjo-Iweala, he also served as a cabinet Minister under President Jonathan’s administration as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Until he was appointed Minister in 2010, he was Vice President of Policy and Partnerships for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He was elected as the President of the African Development Bank in 2015 and re-elected for a second term in 2020. He is the first Nigerian to hold the post.

Adesina graduated with a first-class honour in Agricultural Economics from the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile – Ife, Nigeria.

After his service year, Adesina flew to the United State of America for his postgraduate programs. He earned his Masters, (1985) and PhD (1988) in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.

His postgraduate years at Purdue, as a postgraduate student with a family were financially challenging. However, some professors and their families provided mentorship and part-time jobs, which sustained Adesina’s family. 27 years, after graduating from Purdue, the same University (Purdue) accorded Adesina with an honourary doctorate in 2015 as a recognition of an excellent alumnus.

Prof. Mohammed Tijjani Bande is another prominent Nigeria worth being celebrated. He was the president of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. He handed over to 75th President, Volkan Bozkır, the current President.

Prof. Bande is the second Nigerian and ninth African to occupy this pinnacle position of the president of the UN General Assembly. The first Nigerian was Major General Joseph Nanven Garba who served as president of the UN General Assembly from 1989 to 1990.

From 1946 when the UN General Assembly was formed to the year 2021, there were a total of 75 Presidents were elected from different member countries of the UN. Nigeria is one of the only three countries that had their citizens elected as President of the UN General Assembly twice.

The other two countries are Argentina and Ecuador. Prof. Bande was born 62 years ago in Zagga town, Kebbi State, where he started his educational career. Bande is an alumnus of the famous Ahmadu Bello University Zaria where he did his undergraduate program and obtained a B.Sc (Political Science) in 1979 before he proceeded to Boston University, where he graduated with a Master of Arts in Political Science in 1981. Thereafter, Prof. Bande crossed over to Canada where he completed his PhD program in Political Science at the University of Toronto in 1987.

These three high profiled personalities who perhaps received the most coveted global accolades in their careers at home and abroad are exemplary Nigerians from the different parts of Nigeria; east, west, and north. This means that every part of this nation has a catalogue of exemplary Nigerians who are tirelessly serving the nation and humanity.

As the nation trends to “half-full”, we must fast-tract the process by giving chance to this category of people to take the nation out of the woods.

Prof Othman writes from NAERLS, ABU Zaria and can be reached via email: mkothman@gmail.com.

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