Amb. Dr. Kema Chikwe
Founder, Women Leadership Institute
To her admirers, associates and her people, she is a quintessential political Amazon of Nigerian politics and women empowerment. That description aptly captures the larger than life political stature of Amb. Dr. Kema Chikwe who is currently the Chairperson of The Women Leadership Institute. Established in 2017, WLI is an international leadership development organization that provides a professional and non-partisan platform for women in Nigeria and across Africa to develop their leadership capacity. By training and equipping African women with the leadership knowledge, skills, competences, confidence and values that will enhance their capacity, WLI is empowering them to make meaningful contributions to the socioeconomic and political transformation of Africa. First of its kind in Africa, WLI is the first women-focused academic institute totally committed to promoting gender equality through skills and leadership capacity training.
Dr. Chikwe is also a dynamic politician, distinguished public administrator, educationist, gender and social engineer and activist, writer and diplomat. What is however constant is that with all her positions or roles she has held, she has not failed to display the sterling qualities of dynamism, commitment and purposeful leadership with which she has become associated with over the years.
Dr. Chikwe’s dynamism especially came to the fore when she was appointed as the Minister of Transport in the cabinet of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo following Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. As Minister of Transport, Dr. Chikwe presided over 20 Federal Government parastatals, including the Nigerian Ports Authority, National Maritime Authority, and Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority and so on. Thus, Dr. Chikwe significantly became the first woman to be appointed as the head of a major infrastructure ministry.
Her achievements in the office include the dredging Nigeria’s waterways, and introduction of series of initiatives designed to radically reduce turnaround time at the country’s port. She was later moved to the Ministry of Aviation as the first female Minister of Aviation. There she recorded no less sterling achievements between 2000 and 2003 when she was entrusted with the portfolio.
Some of her achievements include reviews of Nigerian Aviation policy, creating Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), the realization of the Murtala Mohammed Airport Terminal 2 (MM2), the initiation of code sharing agreement with South African Airline, signing of multiple designation agreement with foreign airlines that allowed leading international airlines like KLM, Lufthansa and other airlines to land in more than one airport in Nigeria. She also initiated the dual designation that allowed Virgin Airlines and British Airways to fly UK-Nigeria routes. She also signed the Open Skies agreement with the United States Government, which was also signed at the presidential level when President Bill Clinton visited in 2002, thus enhancing air transportation between the two countries. Dr. Chikwe also contributed to the development of local airports and under her tenure, Imo State Airport and other local airports received special attention from the Federal Government; Today Imo Airport is one of the busiest domestic airports in Nigeria as she strategically revived the airport after years of dormancy.
Between 2005 and 2006, Dr. Chikwe was Chairman of the Joint Admission and Matriculations Board, JAMB. The indelible marks she left during her tenure at the examination body include ensuring release of results within one week of exam and the automation of JAMB operations, which led to eradication of manual manipulation of results. She also established a mechanism for the reinforcement of security during JAMB exams.
A very versatile and resourceful politician, Dr. Chikwe was in 2008 appointed Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ireland and Iceland. Between 2008 and 2011 when she served as an Ambassador, she initiated economic diplomacy through the International Gateway Economic Partnership Summit Programme and also led economic teams with the Irish Minister of Integration to Nigeria to help promote investment in Nigeria. Today, there are many Irish firms operating in Nigeria.
Dr. Chikwe had earlier served as Imo State representative in ECOWAS First Ladies Meeting on Peace Mission in Africa in 1996. She was also nominated by UNIFEM and National Council of Women’s Societies to join the Nigeria’s delegation to the 1995 Beijing International Women Conference in China. Dr. Chikwe also represented Imo State in the National Political Reform Conference in 2005. She served on the NPRC Committee on Power Sharing.
As the PDP National Woman Leader, she embarked on effective mobilization of PDP women. She initiated the E-Women Program for young women in politics, also the disaggregated gender audit of PDP women. During her tenure, she celebrated at all levels, the International Day of the Child and the International Day of the disabled. For the first time, she also launched the PDP Women in Power calendar for 2013. She also organized series of empowerment workshops and seminars including re-orientation/strategizing workshop themed “Be the Change you want to see” for PDP Women and Youth leaders.
Dr. Chikwe started primary school in Aba. She then attended Queen’s College, Lagos for her secondary education and Advanced Teachers Training College, Owerri before she proceeded to Queens College, City University of New York where she obtained Bachelors and Masters degrees in French. She bagged her Doctorate Degree in Curriculum Education in 1995 from University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Dr. Chikwe is a renowned writer; her books are included in both the Nigerian and American curriculum. The books include Kema Chikwe: Across Boarders, Women of My Era, Village Boys, First School Day for Adaze, Kame Chameleon tours the garden, My Precious Book and other publications. Her NGO-Women and A New Orientation continues to empower women across the country. Her goal is to relentlessly work towards tireless change most especially as it concerns women in Nigeria. Dr. Kema Chikwe, a life member of NCWS, once served as the Secretary of Imo State NCWS and also in other capacities on the State and National levels. Currently, she is a member of the board of trustees on the National level.