By OLUWAKEMI MAKINDE
In recent times, both traditional and digital media spheres have been awash with news about the Nigerian economist who overcame tremendous odds to achieve the incredible – the incredible being becoming the first woman and African to hold the coveted office of Director-General of the foremost global trade organization, the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is no stranger to firsts and landmarks. Prior to being appointed the DG of the WTO, she had completed a cumulative seven-year tenure as the Nigerian Finance Minister under the Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations.
She also, at a time, served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs; the first woman in her country to occupy these two demanding roles. In addition to this, she had completed a 25-year stint as a development economist at the World Bank. She combines these milestone achievements as a career woman with a happy marriage, blessed with four wonderful children.
We have read about how she has risen through the ranks and surmounted obstacles posed by the very nature of her society, profession and gender. With all the information readily available on the internet, it is easy to think that you know all there is to know about this Ankara-wearing economist. Well, this may not be the case.
The tenacious spirit that helped her to shatter many glass ceilings, emerge top in all her endeavors, despite the odds, and even earned her the nickname “Okonjo-wahala” in her later years, turned out to be what made a difference and saved the life of a certain 3-year-old girl many years ago during the Nigerian Civil War.
The then 15-year old Ngozi Okonjo carried her dying baby sister on her little back and travelled 16 kilometers to the nearest health post to see a doctor, defying the blistering sun, an empty stomach and a war-ravaged clime to do this. When she got there, she still had to demonstrate raw determination and grit by crawling through the legs of several patients also in need of urgent medical attention to climb through a window to get her little sister to see the doctor.
Today, that dying little girl is none other than Njideka Udochi who is now a licensed and practicing medical practitioner in the United States, and who recently won the Family Physician of the Year 2021 Award by the Maryland Academy of Family Physicians [MAFP] in Maryland, United States.
It is worthy of note that she is the first black female winner of this prestigious award. Having once been a patient in the throes of death, but for the timely intervention of a loving sister, Dr. Njideka Udochi reportedly treats her patients with empathy, regardless of their nationality.