AN EXPOSE ON THE PERSONAL BRAND OF DR NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA; NIGERIAN MINISTER OF FINANCE AND COORDINATING MINISTER FOR THE ECONOMY. Introduction The future of any nation is determined by the quality of her people, the strength of her human resources and the force of committed leadership. Leadership skills purposely acquired and directed towards a dream destination can result in the transformation of a nation. One person who has consistently demonstrated such leadership skills over a considerable length of time is the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy (CME), Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. An amazon and a woman of many parts, Okonjo-Iweala has established herself as a colossus on the African socioeconomic landscape and a force to reckon with in the global community. In a society where mediocrity is not only tolerated but also explained away, this world renowned economist and celebrated achiever has risen through the ranks in her career and left indelible marks of performance and result- driven leadership. Public Appraisal According to The Independent (UK), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a heroine not just of Nigeria, but of the entire continent. Her global acclaim notwithstanding, Okonjo- Iweala has not lost touch with her roots. Her unassuming style belies her imperial pedigree, impressive portfolios and celebrity status. In fact, Iweala does not see herself as a celebrity. On the contrary, she is an all-inclusive public servant who will stop at nothing to ensure maximum compliance with established codes in her bid to achieve a vibrant economy while reducing poverty level to the barest minimum. A trailblazer in many ways, Okonjo-Iweala is Nigeria’s first female Minister of Finance and first female Minister of Foreign Affairs. She is one woman who does not excuse laxity on the basis of gender differences. She said in an interview, “I think being a woman makes you able to deal with a lot of things – and still keep sane. I also think women have less ego. When I became finance minister they called me Okonjo- Wahala – or ‘Trouble Woman’ but I don't care what names they call me. I’m very focused on what I'm doing, and relentless in what I want to achieve. If someone's saying things to make me feel bad, I don't care as long as I get the job done. When it comes to doing my job, I keep my ego in my handbag." Influence and Moral Fibre More importantly, Okonjo-Iweala is a woman of integrity. Her numerous achievements are undergirded by a strong fabric of character. In Nigeria, she is remembered for the new fiscal discipline she brought to the nation's finances and her role in the cancellation of 18 billion US Dollars of Nigeria's debt to the Paris Club in 2005. The remaining 12 billion US Dollars of debt was paid the following year with money saved in budget reforms she enacted. On the foreign scene, her work at the World Bank culminated in her nomination as one of three candidates for the World Bank Presidency in the historic elections conducted in April 2012. Undaunted by the outcome, she renewed her commitment to work for the benefit of the poor people of the world. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a high performer and recipient of several awards. Listed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes, a leading source of reliable international business news and financial information, her position on the list recently changed from 87th to 81st in the most recent edition of the list which was published in August 2012. Private Life Apart from being a celebrated public figure, Okonjo-Iweala also has a rich family life. In today’s fast-paced world where success in the public arena is almost always synonymous with failure on the home front, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stands out as a remarkable reference point. Beyond her several responsibilities as a leader and policy maker on the global scene, she fulfils her roles as a wife and a mother. She is married to Ikemba Iweala from Umuahia, Abia State. Ikemba is a graduate of Medicine and Surgery from Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan, and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. They have a daughter, Onyi Iweala, and three sons: Uzodinma Iweala, Okechukwu Iweala and Uchechi Iweala. Uzodinma Iweala is the celebrated young author of the widely acclaimed novel, Beasts of No Nation. Okonjo-Iweala enjoys writing poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her extra-curricular activities also include reading and swimming. In addition to these, she devotes her spare time to mentoring younger professional men and women. A Classic Nigerian Brand With her trademark traditional attire of printed cotton (popularly called Ankara), head gear and matching accessories, her identity as a Nigerian brand is unmistakable. Born in Delta state, Nigeria, on 13 June 1954, Okonjo-Iweala is like Saul of Tarsus, who has weathered contrasting seasons of life and consequently, has learnt how to abound and how to be abased. Commenting on her childhood experience, she described it as ‘magical’ and ‘happy.’ But her family’s life was disrupted by the Biafran war in 1967 as they were forced to move from one place to another surviving on a maintenance ration of one meal per day or less. "We had one meal a day. We sometimes had to sleep on the floor, in a bunker, different places. One really saw what it meant to suffer hardship. I saw children dying around me. I can take hardship. I can sleep on the cold floor anytime. I can also sleep on a feather bed," she said in a recent interview, laughing out loud. At the end of the Biafran war in 1970, they had lost everything. Okonjo-Iweala's father asked his seven children: "Look around you. What do you have?" Okonjo-Iweala replied: "Nothing." He corrected: "You have a head on your shoulders and you have a brain. Use it. Even if you lost everything, you can start again."