On December 6, 1960 two months after Nigeria’s independence, a baby girl was born to the royal family of HRM Frederick Abiye Agama of Yenaka, Yenagoa Local Government area of Bayelsa State by his wife Beatrice and that child was named Diezani Kogbeni Agama. That little baby has grown to become a wife, mother, architect, administrator and a national icon. She spent her early childhood in what is today known as Shell Camp, Rumuomasi, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Her name Diezani means “look before you leap” and she seems to have looked carefully before leaping all the way to where she is now. Her middle name could have been “Beauty” considering her quintessential looks and graceful carriage even at over 53 years. She exudes the kind of confidence and charm that can unsettle the insecure. She is also blessed with a sharp intellect and good diction. She stands out in any crowd by her physique, comportment, pedigree, brilliance and simple but stylish dress sense.
After her early education in Nigeria, she proceeded to the United States of America where she bagged her first degree in Architecture from Howard University, Washington DC in 1988. In 2002 she got the British Foreign and Commonwealth Chevening Scholarship with which she attended Judge Business Institute (formerly Judge Institute of Management), Cambridge University Hughes Hall,United Kingdom to obtain an MBA in 2003.
Her working career began at Charles Szoradi Architects from where she moved to American Interior Builders Inc. as Project Engineer (both based in Washington DC). She worked briefly with Furman construction Management before returning to her alma mater-Howard University as in-house Project Manager where she took part in the design and implementation of a comprehensive master-building and renovation plan for the university.
From 1992 to 2006 she worked with Shell Development Company holding various management positions as follows: Head, Project Unit( Estate Division); Head, Corporate Issues Identification and Management Department; Senior Joint Venture Relations Adviser (Strategy and Planning) and Lead, Ventures Relations Officer. She was appointed to the Board in 2006 as External Affairs Director. Her swift rise to the Board in less than 15 years is a clear testimony to her hard work, dedication to duty, acumen and professionalism.
Diezani has recorded many firsts in her career and public service in addition to being one of the longest serving ministers in the history of Nigeria. She has the record of serving as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for seven unbroken years and still running. In 2007, she became the first female Transport Minister, a position she held for one year before moving in 2008 to the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development for two years. On April 6, 2010, she also became the first female Minister of Petroleum Resources; a position she has retained till date. She is the first female and second African to be honoured as Exemplary Alumnus by her alma mater. She is the first female head of delegation to OPEC summit. She is also the first female recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from the Nigerian Defence Academy. Many firsts, indeed!
Her tenure has been characterised by reforms which have resulted in stable supply of products which has assisted in putting an end to the pain of motorists and commuters especially under the President Jonathan’s administration. She has also had to contend with criticisms and controversies but through it all she has maintained her composure – responding to inquiries and invitations by the National Assembly dutifully. It is on record that over a period of five months in a particular year she honoured the lawmakers’ invitation 83 times which translates to an average of 17 times in a month sometimes to answer questions she had already responded to initially. This has begun to raise questions as to the real motive behind the invitations. There is no doubt that in spite of her current travails, she will yet be celebrated in due course.
Her other awards include: Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON; Rotary International’s Paul Harris Fellow for exceptional contribution to the development of humanity.
Mrs Alison-Madueke is married to Rear Admiral Alison-Madueke (rtd), a former governor of old Imo and Anambra states and former Chief of Naval Staff of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The union is blessed.