Toast to Ambassador Joy Ogwu’s distinctions. By Chido Nwangwu
Toast to Ambassador Joy Ogwu’s many distinctions.
By Dr. Chido Nwangwu
USAfrica, Houston, August 22, 2011: Uche Joy Ogwu, distinguished Professor of international relations, diplomat, extraordinary daughter, wife, mother, grand-mother, role model, community builder and active global citizen is leaving, daily, marks of a productive life.
I think that Prof. Ogwu reflects the organic marriage of intellection and practicality; idealism and commonsense. Today is her birthday, as she was born August 22, 1946 — hence, my privilege as Publisher of USAfrica to make a comment or two about this pace-setting woman of uncommon substance and, yes, of effortless, graceful beauty.
First, the body of work and records of Ambassador Ogwu’s stellar achievements and pioneering distinctions in Nigeria’s foreign service and currently at the United Nations in New York have set her on a path of deserving recognition.
USAfricaonline.com notes, currently, that for the first time in the history of the Security Council of the United Nations, there are three women permanent representatives/ambassadors, namely: for the United States of America is Prof. Susan Rice, Brazil’s Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti and Nigeria’s Ogwu.
Second, she represents and embodies the fact that our women and girls are capable of high achievements in their areas of interests, no matter the odds.
This is a very relevant angle to her value especially to this age/generation where there are more young girls trying to be like Lady Gaga, Desperate Chicks and Beyonce than professors of mathematical sciences and international relations. Prof. Ogwu has grown in stature and dedication as a role model for millions of younger Nigerians and persons of African heritage, and others who have read and encountered her scholarship and diplomats. In my view, she’s a diplomatic superstar who shines with other leaders of the world like U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Third, I believe that Prof. Ogwu, a savvy and seasoned woman of significant intellectual and practical substance, is a history maker. She’s Nigeria’s first female Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the United Nations (her current job), announced in April 2008.
Ogwu became the second woman in Nigeria to be appointed as External/Foreign Affairs Minister on August 30, 2006 to May 2007. Long before that, in January 2001, she became the first woman to be appointed the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA). On her steady and sure-footed path to history, this mother of 5 children was the chosen as President of the UN Security Council in July 2010. She’s also the President of the Executive Board of the UN Women Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
Fourth, her achievements as a person and as a woman, are, in my opinion, worthy of study as inspiration for those who seek to achieve and break through gender “glass ceiling” in any country or community in the world.
She reflects the possibilities of striving; a counter-influence to those who feebly think their daughters cannot almost have it all, as wives and professionals in the board rooms and the ornate walls where the comity of nations converge for what the great scholar Hans J. Morgenthau called as his authoritative 1948 book, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace.
A thumbnail sketch of her impressive and substance driven work shows that she joined Nigeria’s international relations service via the routes of the Nigerian National War College, the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA). She joined the NIIA in 1977. Previously, she got her BA and MA in Political Science from Rutgers University, in New Jersey, USA. In 1986, Prof. Ogwu’s first book titled Nigerian Foreign Policy: Alternative Futures was published by Macmillan.
I had the privilege of meeting Her Excellency Ambassador Ogwu for the first time, only 2 days ago -on Saturday August 20, 2011 in College Park in Maryland at the Umuada Igbo Washington DC metro area inauguration — but I had followed her work and read about her since the 1980s when I was a very young staff of the Nigerian Television and later at Platform magazine, Africa & The World journal; and in 1990 at the editorial board of the Daily Times of Nigeria.
On this significant evening, she recalled an important story by Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about the value of being role models for young girls. Ogwu cited Sirleaf’s pre-election campaign experiences in some of the west African country’s rural districts. When Sirleaf asked a young nine year old girl what she would like to be when she grew up, the girl answered, “I want to be a nurse”. Eight months later, after winning the elections and becoming Liberia’s first female president, she visited the same district and put forward the same question to many of the young girls who had gathered at a primary school to welcome her. To her amazement, a young, ten-year-old girl answered, “I want to be a president”.
In Ogwu’s insightful reflection of Sirleaf’s triumph at the elections: “This is the power of ‘role models’. This is the power of strong women mentors. This is the power of visible women leaders.”
On the same issue, Prof. Ogwu made the case that “for decades – if not centuries – most societies have operated based on patriarchal stereotypes that tend to relegate women to servitude and subjugate women and girls to second class citizens. Such patriarchal beliefs are so entrenched in society that families, including women, socialize girls to believe that their place is in the kitchen. While young girls are forced to spend time doing house chores, boys are often left to play, read and do nothing to contribute to running the house.”
She argues that the battle for women rights and empowerment draws from a rich legacy of dedicated women leaders. Arguing and presenting her case to her fellow Igbo women and daughters same evening, Ogwu stated: “To these women, we must pay a special tribute for breaking the chains and making it possible for us to engage in this dialogue – a dialogue that must be continued, a battle that must be won. Women such as Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Indira Ghandi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Funmilayo Anikulakpo Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Queen Amina, Adanma Okpara and Oyibo Odinammadu, to mention a few, have opened the door for women and girls to believe that they too can be leaders and achieve great successes.” see my January 2, 2007 tribute to the grand dame Oyibo http://www.usafricaonline.com/chido.oyibo79thbday.html
Fifth, even as Prof. Ogwu makes the case for empowering women, she is not, in my assessment, a radical feminist who is seeking a gender war of women versus men, girls versus men. No; she seeks fairness, equity and empowerment. She’s a credible and influential voice for empowerment, human rights, security/intelligence and disarmament issues.
Without a doubt, Uche Joy Ogwu has given Nigeria her best; and her utmost in personal and professional sacrifices. Great commendation must go to her husband Dr. Aloysius Ogwu.
For almost 35 years of dedication to the difficult, necessary but sometimes dispiriting tasks of working the Nigerian project as a diplomat and scholar; for a very fruitful and blessed 65 years of sojourning with purpose on this earth; and especially for making a worthy difference in the lives and aspirations of many, here, to a technocrat and one of the pillars of Nigeria’s diplomatic world: may your exemplary distinctions and dedication endure! •Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; and recipient of several journalism and public policy awards, was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn
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