The calls for more women to be appointed into public offices have continued to grow over the years. While there is a huge room for improvement, the situation is far better than it was years ago. The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s regime has some women occupying different positions in the cabinet. We take a look at the seven female ministers in the country
Zainab Ahmed (Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning)
A trained accountant from Kaduna State, Zainab Ahmed, was initially appointed as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning in September 2018. Prior to that, she was the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning in 2015.
Smart and articulate, Ahmed, has brought a distinct touch to her unique position. Shortly after assuming office, she had said she was seeking to boost government revenue, with plans underway to raise Value Added Tax while taming public debt. She is also known for championing the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiatives. Before becoming a minister, she had had a rewarding career in public service. She once worked as the Executive Secretary and National Coordinator of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. While at NEITI, she got a lot of commendation for the work she did in improving the organisation.
A graduate of Accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Ahmed started her career as an accountant with the Ministry of Finance in Kaduna State, before she went on to join the defunct Nigerian Telecommunications Limited.
At different times, she has worked as the Managing Director of the Kaduna Industrial and Finance Company Limited, and Acting Chief Finance Officer at the Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited.
She is married to Shamsuna Ahmed.
Sadiya Umar-Farouq (Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management)
Born in Zurmi, Zamfara State, Sadiya Umar-Farouq has always been one who knows what she wants and does not hesitate to go after it.
For her secondary education, she attended Federal Government Girls’ College Gusau, Zamfara. She went on to study Business Administration at the Ahmadu Bello University, Kaduna. She later obtained Master degrees in International Affairs and Diplomacy (2008), and in Business Administration (2011) from the same institution.
Prior to her current appointment as the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Umar-Farouq was a former Federal Commissioner of National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons. While at the commission, she was said to have developed a Strategic Roadmap of Action to reposition the commission as the lead government agency responsible for coordination, protection and assistance of persons of concern.
She was also the National Treasurer of the All Progressives Congress from June 2013 to June 2014.
She also has experience in presidential campaigns as she was a member of the APC’s Presidential Campaign Council, where she served as the head of the election planning and monitoring, field operations and fund raising committee in 2015.
Before joining the APC, Umar-Farouq was the National Treasurer of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, where she is believed to have worked closely with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who was a former presidential candidate of the party.
Maryam Katagum (Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment)
An accomplished educationist, Maryam Katagum started her career with the Water Board in Jos during her National Youth Service Corps programme. Prior to that, she had obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Graduate Certificate in Education from the Ahmadu Bello University, Kaduna. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in Administration and Planning from the University of Lagos.
In 1999, she was awarded a UNESCO Fellowship, even as she obtained a Certificate in Social Development Policy, Planning and Practice at the University College, London.
Katagum has also worked as a Senior Education Officer at the Federal Government College, Azare’, Bauchi State. After that, she worked at the Federal Scholarship Board, Lagos.
A go-getter, the minister also worked with Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO for 15 years (1985-2000). She then went on to become the Director for Special Projects at the National Primary Education Commission in Abuja.
In the course of her career, she has served on several national and international committees, including the Board of Trustees of the African World Heritage Fund.
Katagum was nominated as a minister by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) in June 2019, and in her current position, she advocates for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Senator Gbemisola Saraki (Minister of State for Transportation)
Senator Gbemisola Saraki’s name is not strange to people familiar with politics, especially in Kwara State. Her father, Olusola, was a wealthy and influential politician who was revered and feared in his native Kwara State. Her brother, Bukola, was also a two-term governor of the state, as well as the immediate past President of the Senate.
However, Gbemisola, has also had an interesting career of her own. Born into a politically savvy family, she was exposed to a lot of tutelage from her father as regards building a formidable political career. Upon the country’s return to democratic rule in 1999 after a long military interregnum, she was elected on the platform of the All People’s Party into the House of Representatives in 1999 representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency, Kwara State. Four years later, she was elected under the umbrella of the People’s Democratic Party into the Senate to represent Kwara Central Senatorial District.
While in the National Assembly, Gbemi was a member of several committees and she contributed to quite a number of bills. She was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Planning, Poverty Alleviation and Economic Affairs, as well as the Vice-Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.
She later contested the governorship position of Kwara State in 2011 on the platform of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria but lost to PDP’s Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Gbemi obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. Upon graduation, she underwent the National Youth Service Corps scheme at the Lagos-based Nigeria Bank for Commerce and Industry. She later worked with Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria as the Head of Money Markets and later as Head of Domiciliary Accounts.
Needles to say, Gbemi has had quite an impressive political career. On her Wikipedia page, she is described as ‘an idealist and advocate of youth engagement and participation in social development’.
Sharon Ikeazor (Minister of State for Environment)
A lawyer and management consultant, Sharon Ikeazor, is one woman who has made a mark for herself in public service.
As the Executive Secretary of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, Ikeazor was said to have discharged her duties well.
Ikeazor had her elementary education at St. Mary’s Convent School in Lagos. She went on to Queen of the Rosary College, Onitsha, Anambra State, for her secondary education before proceeding to Godolphin School, Salisbury, England, for her A levels. She completed her Higher Studies at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1981, and studied Law at the University of Benin.
In the early days of her career, she worked as a counsel at a couple of banks, including Nigerian Merchant Bank, Nerderlansce Middenstandbank and Midas Merchant Bank. She later worked as the company lawyer for Shell Petroleum, before establishing her legal practice.
In 2011, Ikeazor became the National Women Leader of the Congress for Progressive Change. During her tenure, she reportedly partnered with the International Republican Institute and the United Nations Development Programme to train women for leadership and political roles. After the CPC merged with the APC in 2015, she became the interim National Women Leader of the new party. In 2016, the lawyer contested the election for Anambra Central Senatorial Zone on the platform of the APC but was unsuccessful.
Ikeazor is also a philanthropist of note and is the founder of the a non-governmental organisation, Free Legal Aid for the Poor in Nigeria, through which she has provided free legal services to ‘under-served people living below the poverty line’. She is also the brain behind the Wakiliyan Mata Empowerment Initiative, an NGO for internally displaced women.
Pauline Tallen (Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development)
Pauline Tallen made history when she became the first female deputy governor in northern Nigeria as the Deputy Governor of Plateau State in 2007. She went on to contest the governorship position of the state in 2011 but lost to Jonah Jang.
Prior to that, Tallen had been appointed as the Minister of State for Science and Technology by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
She started her political career in 1976 as a clerical officer at Shendam Local Government Council, Plateau State. She went on to become a two-time commissioner in the state under a military administration— Commissioner of Health (1995-1996), and Commissioner of Social Development, Youth, Sports and Culture (1994-1995).
Over the years, she has been active in party politics. In 2015, she reportedly turned down a ministerial appointment, saying she would not accept the offer for equal distribution of power among the three senatorial districts of her native Plateau State because she is from same local government as the incumbent governor, Simon Lalong.
In a 2019 interview, Tallen stated that she was passionate about educating the girl child. She said, “Violence against women mostly affects illiterate and vulnerable women, who don’t know their rights. But, if you educate the girl-child, she will know her rights. She can protect and defend herself anywhere. So, the girl-child education is key, because once you educate the girl-child, you are equipping her for life. You are equipping her to bring up good citizens, to bring up good sons that are the future leaders.”
Tallen studied Sociology at the University of Jos.
Rahmatu Tijjani (Minister of State for FCT)
Kogi State-born Rahmatu Tijjani is undoubtedly a pretty woman. However, she has a lot more going for her than just her looks.
She used to be the National Women Leader of the All Nigeria Peoples Party and All Progressives Congress and she was said to have touched the lives of many women in both parties.
Tijjani started her career over two decades ago. In 2004, she was appointed as the Special Adviser on Women Affairs, Youth and Social Development to the Chairman of the Gwagwalada Area Council, FCT. In 2007, she ran for the Kwali/Abaji Federal Constituency seat in the National Assembly but was unsuccessful. She went on to become the Vice National Chairman of the ANPP.
She had her elementary education at Dawaki Primary School, Suleja, Niger State; while her secondary education was at Federal Government College, Minna, also in Niger State. She went on to study Urban and Regional Planning at the Ahmadu Bello University. She also obtained a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Nasarawa State University.
She is the founder of a non-governmental organisation called, Global Women and Youth Empowerment Strategy, through which she empowers young people and women.