Educating future Okonjo-Iweala’s: a potrait of Nigeria’s Another Ngozi

most of the information below was provided by Echezona and Ben Etiaba

International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde with Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as they discuss the future of Nigeria at a roundtable in Lagos in 2011 (Photo courtesy IMF Staff Photograph/Stephen Jaffe)

If you remember a couple months ago when a new President of the World Bank was being elected, Western media was abuzz with the name of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian stateswoman with many years of World Bank experience in her purse, as a possible candidate. There was in fact an official bid. And the bid had a website called Team Ngozi. (In Igbo Ngozi means ‘blessing.’)

Back at home in Nigeria, and beyond the Western media machine, a local blogger going by the name Amebonews put Madam Ngozi on the 10 Most Powerful Nigerian Women 2011 list. How profound was the research for the listing? It would be hard to assess this due to the lack of reliable data-gathering agencies for Africa. (See The debut list “40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa”: dominated by musicians+overwhelming number has a very small social media presence+some did very little to support social causes and On 2 African innovation challenges – in news and architecture)

Amebonews overlooked Nigeria’s first female governor. When Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was getting her BA  degree magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1977, another ‘Blessing,’ Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba had been already busy for 17 yearseducating more ‘Okonjo-Iwealas’ for Nigeria and the world. Having mastered  Igbo, Hausa and English, this first Nigerian woman to become a governor of Anambra State  (home to Chinua Achebe and UNESCO-listed Ogbunike Caves) in 2006, at various times taught in and headed various schools in Kafanchan (north-central Nigeria), Aba, Port Harcourt and her native Nnewi. (See Making sure that Zimbabwe Reads and Making sure that Zimbabwe reads II: from Boston via Beira to HarareWhat the world’s only active Somali archaeologist has in common with the Iraqi-British winner of the Pritzker Architecture PrizeBiosphere Connections by Star Alliance+UNESCO+National Geographic and UNESCO partners with NHK to produce World Heritage videos)

On her retirement as a teacher, Dame Etiaba founded one of the best private schools in Nigeria, Bennet Etiaba Memorial School, in memory of her late husband Barrister B.M.C Etiaba, an accomplished legal expert.  Having been healed from cancer and prompted by her faith, she organized the Dame Virgy Etiaba Foundation in the 2000’s.

De-tribalised role model for Nigerian women, Dame Etiaba’s major strength lies in her organisational and grassroots mobilisation skills, as well as her very obvious passion for education. While serving as a governor, her motherly disposition towards her state has led to people calling her ‘Mama Anambra.’

Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba (left) with fellow statespeople at the Golden Jubilee Nigerian Woman Award in Abuja (Photo courtesy of the News Agency of Nigeria)

In recognition of her charity work, excellence and professional commitment to the upliftment of educational standards in Nigeria, she has received several awards and honours including a Rotary International Award for excellent vocational service and an award for being a Prime Motivator of Sickle Cell Programs in the South-East by the Orient Sickle Cell Foundation. According to Africans in America Inc., her “application of superior and rare intellect has kept the ‘vultures and locusts’ at the federal and state levels out of the treasury of Anambra State government.”  In January 2008, Nigeria’s National Daily newspaper named Dame Etiaba Nigeria’s ‘Heroine of Democracy.’

Born in 1942, Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba is to celebrate her 70th anniversary this coming December.


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