Women in Journalism Africa (WiJAfrica) has announced the full list of 25 most powerful female journalists in Nigeria.
WiJAfrica worked with a team of industry leaders and practitioners to rank the “25 Most Powerful” women in the media – particularly journalism.
WiJAfrica measured the most powerful woman journalist in four criteria including the size and effectiveness of influence in national affairs, influence in the media industry, experience and the arc of career and social and cultural influence.
Most of the women journalists on the list often shun the limelight and prefer to work behind the scenes.
Many of them will not be well-known to the public, but their understated approach is often the source of their power and longevity.
While WiJAfrica believes some of the names may be debated, it noted that this does not diminish their impact or the fact that they have clearly helped shape major issues in the polity.
See full list below;
- ANGELA EMUWA ― Angela Emuwa is chairperson of The Punch Newspapers, founded by her late father Chief Olu Aboderin. Ms. Emuwa has since the 1990s been a part of the fabric of this leading paper known for its fierce independence and singleness of purpose (she had been a Non-Executive Director of the company, having joined the board in 1994). The newspaper has been shut down several times and its editors hounded by successive military juntas for refusing to compromise on its integrity. Angela Emuwa chairs the board of the company that today, continues to speak truth to power at all levels, and commands an intimidating media presence that cannot be silenced.
- ADEDOJA ALLEN ― Doja Allen was appointed managing director of City 105.1 FM at a time when the station was facing insolvency. In 7 years, she has steered the station to profitability and moved it from 24th position to the top 10 most preferred by listeners. Part of this success is credited to her being an executive with a finance background. Today, many legacy media are trying to adopt her 360-degree modern approach to the business of journalism which includes leveraging on every asset and exploiting the power of digital media. For one without a journalism background, Ms. Allen’s deep financial acumen and insight has stood her out in an extremely competitive industry.
- RUONA J. MEYER ― Ruona Agbroko Meyer is the first Nigerian journalist to be nominated for an International Emmy Award for her work, Sweet Sweet Codeine, a 2018 documentary on drug abuse, for BBC Africa Eye. The report provoked a general outcry, and the Federal Government announced major steps to address codeine abuse and going after its illegal sale. Ruona has several awards to her name and has her works featured in several local and international press.
- KIKI MORDI ― Kiki Mordi provoked nationwide outrage, stimulated a National Assembly debate, created an iconic Twitter hashtag, and ended up on the global news cycle, from CNN to Sky News – with a single story. Her #sexforgrades report for the BBC is easily one of the top 3 biggest news stories out of Nigeria last year, with impact still reverberating across the academic world today. While some have called Ms. Mordi a one-hit wonder, WiJAfrica recognized her potential 5 years ago when she, a yet unknown newsperson out of Benin, was listed as one of 50 women changing journalism. At just 28, Kiki Mordi is young, hungry, and full of fire.
- STEPHANIE BUSARI ― If one of Nigeria’s biggest problems is its image abroad, there is one person who is helping to tell a different story and shape opinions about us the world over. Stephanie Busari arrived Nigeria four years ago as CNN’s multiplatform bureau chief. And instead of going around brandishing the CNN badge, she focused on building relationships and influencing people. By this means, she secured allies, built soft power, and co-opted Nigerians to tell their stories in a way that made the world see Africa – especially its young people – differently. Ms. Busari is notable for exclusively obtaining the ‘proof of life’ video for the missing Chibok schoolgirls, which led to negotiations with Boko Haram that resulted in the release of over 100 of the kidnapped schoolgirls. She was part of the team that won a Peabody Award for CNN’s coverage of the girls.
- EUGENIA ABU ― Eugenia Abu recently retired from the Nigerian Television Authority after 35 years. In her long career she has interviewed notable world leaders including President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Her portfolio includes literary giants like the Nobel Laureate, Nadine Gordimer and the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki Moon. Today, she is a prolific columnist in two leading dailies and runs the Eugenia Abu Media Centre in Abuja. She is also a member of Council of the National Human Rights Commission and a member of the editorial board of Thisday. Eugenia Abu continues to wield her enormous influence for good, speaking on issues relating to gender and girl child education.
- ADESUWA ONYENOKWE ― Adesuwa Onyenokwe is a Nigerian journalist, television personality and publisher of TW Magazine. She began her TV career 35 years ago at the Bendel Broadcasting Service, then joined the NTA in 1988, presenting several shows including the flagship Newsline on Sundays at 9pm. Her two most notable interviews are one on one with Pope John Paul II and much later, hosting of the Presidential Media Chat with former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Adesuwa was host of Today’s Woman, which then evolved into TW Magazine. The magazine has spurned several digital properties including TW Conversations, a VLOG series and another television show, Seriously Speaking on Channels TV. Adesuwa champions many causes across the country, including rape and other gender-violence related issues. She also hosts high level panel discussions seeking to address issues affecting women in the workplace and gender equality.
- MORAYO AFOLABI BROWN ― #YourViewTVC is a top Nigerian Twitter trend at least 3 days a week. This breakfast show is consistently number 1 by ratings agencies and has so wide a reach that print and radio journalists monitor the show for comments and reactions from newsmakers. Your View with Morayo was created 7 years ago by Morayo Afolabi Brown, who was until last year, Director of Programs at TVC Communications in Lagos. With a daily viewership of around 2 million, Morayo spearheads national conversations and often helps shape the opinions of an audience seeking to make sense of daily news and other subjects. Her subtle power is growing in an industry with many giants, and Ms. Brown has carved a niche for herself. She’s earned a place on the most powerful women journalists list at number 18.
- LINDA IKEJI― People say she is a swashbuckler in the media space; she says she is self-made. Love her or hate her, she is unapologetic, hardy, and very relentless. While many say that Linda Ikeji secures the story before others, the mainstream media does not agree with what they call her underhanded tactics in gathering material and often publishing without the rigor of old journalism. And even though she possesses a news gathering machinery spanning everything from politics to entertainment, Linda has never referred to herself as a journalist. However, her uncanny understanding of how to monetize the news business is a topic of sober reflection among many struggling legacy media establishments – if they will admit it. Linda, and her more conservative counterpart over at Bella Naija, have changed the business of journalism in Nigeria for good.
- UCHE PEDRO ― Most people do not equate blogging with journalism, but Uche Pedro is a different kind of professional. It is fair to say that the vast majority of African blogging does not qualify as journalism. However, Bella Naija in part, serves as a catalyst to Nigerian journalism in the sense that it often brings forward facts about actual events and helps give a modern voice to citizen journalism. If journalism is changing in Nigeria, Ms. Pedro is certainly at the forefront of this change. Most observers say that today’s consumer of news is fickle, even disloyal, but if BN can boast of being on most companies’ media plans, then they must be doing something right.
- IFEYINWA OMOWOLE ― Ifeyinwa Omowole is the President of the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists, with an active membership of more than 5,000 women. She is very vocal about the rights and welfare of women journalists and has been at the forefront of conversations about better working conditions and fair wages. A Senior Editor at the News Agency of Nigeria, where she has been for nearly 30 years, she is a media trainer and has been involved in many forums for crafting policies affecting journalism practice in Nigeria. She has an MA in Media Culture and Technology from the University of Bedfordshire.
- MAUPE OGUN-YUSUF ― It is best to avoid an interview with Maupe Ogun if you’re unprepared. She asks fair, but tough questions. She listens to her guest and responds by asking equally tough follow-up questions. As a matter of fact, Maupe is the queen of follow-ups! When you get the opportunity to speak with her, she is quick to tell you she learned from the best, and references veterans like Olusola Momoh and Stella Din Jacob. However, she brings to the screen a skill and experience that seems beyond her years in journalism. Like Toyosi Ogunseye of the BBC, she is a hard worker and avid reader, who continues to stamp her authority in the journalism space. Maupe Ogun Yusuf is the TV anchor that political leaders know they need but would rather avoid. She is one of the most powerful women journalists in Nigeria, at number 14.
- TOYOSI OGUNSEYE ― Toyosi Ogunseye is one of the most extraordinary young female journalists in Nigeria. The Leicester PhD heads up BBC West Africa and has consistently demonstrated unalloyed professionalism since her days as a rookie journalist. Toyosi is also a woman journalist of many firsts: the first female editor in the 41-year history of The Punch Newspaper and the first Nigerian journalist to win the Knight International Journalism Award. She is the winner of the Presidential Precinct Inaugural Young Leader Award which she received alongside Secretary Madeline Albright. In her present role, Toyosi manages the operations and the five language services of the BBC in Francophone Africa and Anglophone West Africa. Ms. Ogunseye sits on the board of the World Editor’s Forum.
- RUTH OSIME ― For a high-level job in journalism to be successful, power with people is mandatory. Few people wield the influence of Ruth Osime in an industry where relationships are the currency. As the longstanding editor of THISDAY Style, she is often the gateway between politicians and captains of industry trying to burnish their image, and the public they are trying to reach. Her work is equally as important as hard news reporting, since the leaders appearing on her Style cover often must prove that their professional mettle is balanced by a healthy humanity. To date, Ms. Osime has directly sat in interviews with no less than 8 present and former presidents, more than 150 serving and former governors, senators and other political leaders and their wives, and scores of captains of industry and change makers. Ruth Osime is a formidable media power broker coming in at number 12.
- TOUN OKEWALE SONAIYA ― Toun Okewale Sonaiya is the founder of Nigeria’s only radio station focused on women, WFM Lagos and Abuja. In 2016 she established the VOW Conference & Awards, an initiative of Voice of Women Empowerment Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization in partnership with Women Radio 91.7. Her advocacy for women has seen her work with local and international organisations, moderating high level panels and engaging policy makers in pushing for women’s rights. Ms. Sonaiya has engaged in extensive work in Northern Nigeria, focused on girl-child education and early marriage. She has partnered with the Office of the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, and the Ministry of Women affairs in the implementation of interventions for women and girls in the North.
- TOSIN DOKPESI ― Many see AIT as the platform for the opposition in Nigeria; this is debatable. But for the woman calling the shots, she must daily oversee a sprawling operation only second in size to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), while also guaranteeing the safety of journalists working for her, who are often seen as anti-government. Being the managing director of a leading television station with national coverage makes Mrs. Dokpesi powerful enough, but her connection with her husband, party chieftain and leading politician, Raymond Dokpesi makes her influence undeniable. She’s in at number 9.
- FUNKE EGBEMODE ― Funke Egbemode is the managing director of the New Telegraph. She was re-elected President of the all-powerful Nigerian Guild of Editors in 2019. She has worked with The Punch, Post Express, Thisday, Saturday Independent and the Daily Sun in a career spanning 30 years. Ms. Egbemode is vocal about fair wages and the protection of journalists and was the head of secretariat of the International Press Institute (IPI). She is also a board member of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). In 2006, she was nominated by the United States Information Service to cover the U.S. mid-term elections. Ms. Egbemode is in, at number 9.
- MO ABUDU ― Chairman, CEO, executive producer, Forbes Power Woman, media mogul, hospitality magnate, studio executive and more, Ms. Abudu stands as a beacon of African media accomplishment around the world. As a pioneer, Mo commands global respect from LA to London, and continues to push the boundaries, while directly providing employment for literally thousands of people across several fields spanning journalism, movie production, events, and hospitality. Mo Abudu may not be a newswoman in the strict sense, but her commanding influence in media brings her into top 10 at number 8.
- LADY MAIDEN IBRU ― Lady Maiden Ibru MFR., is the Chairman and Publisher of the iconic Guardian Newspaper, founded by her late husband Dr. Alex Ibru. She holds a master’s degree in Communications and Media Studies from the American University of Washington DC (1974!). Since taking over as CEO of the Guardian in 1999, she has maintained its core values: presenting balanced news and promoting the best interests of Nigeria. Under her leadership, the paper has continued to demonstrate its commitment to the best tradition and ideals of democracy, respect for human rights and justice. Mrs. Ibru has continued to mobilize resources to provide support for Nigeria’s democratic progress. At age 70, Lady Ibru has received several honours, including the Golden Cross of Welfare from the Greek Parliament and another award from the University of Manchester. For working to nurture the conscience of the nation, Lady Maiden Ibru is one of the most powerful women in journalism today at number 7.
- STELLA DIN JACOB ― Stella Din Jacob is only one of a handful few women news directors in Nigeria. In an industry where the job can take a heavy toll on one’s personal life and health, Stella has proved her grit in a career spanning more than 25 years. She previously worked as general manager of News 24, head of news at Silverbird News, managing editor at NN 24 and was a group head at MBI. Last year, she took charge of one of the largest newsrooms in Africa as news director for TVC News, with correspondents in more than 30 States. She supervised arguably the most extensive election coverage in the history of Nigeria, beginning during the campaign season and spanning all 36 states and the FCT. With this feat, she put her stamp as a major player in the news industry, coming in 6th most powerful woman in journalism this year.
- BILKISU LABARAN ― She joined the BBC in 1992 and is today a leading expert in African and Nigerian affairs. Ms. Labaran is a woman of many firsts, including first BBC Nigeria editor and first Nigeria country director for the BBC World Service Trust. Later, she was saddled with the enormous responsibility of establishing three new fully digital language services – Pidgin, Yoruba and Igbo – as part of the biggest BBC expansion since the 1940’s. Bilkisu has interviewed many notable people, including heads of state and prime ministers. She has toured Africa twice on reporting trips, covering countries like Libya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and South Africa. As Nigeria Country Director for the BBC World Service Trust, she worked hard to address issues such as poverty eradication, agriculture, good governance, health, and the fight against corruption. Highly respected around the globe, Bilkisu Labaran is in at number 5.
- OLUSOLA T. MOMOH ― Olusola Momoh spurns public attention, but she is undoubtedly one of the most powerful women journalists in Nigeria, at number 4. Part of the fabric and foundation of Channels Television, the 40-year journalism veteran does not make many public appearances, but is credited with directly helping to grow Channels Televisions from its humble beginnings in Maryland, Lagos, to becoming a news juggernaut with bureaus In Johannesburg, Dubai, London and DC. Momoh serves as Vice Chairman of Channels Media Group and continues to provide leadership across a range of divisions including corporate development and commercial operations. Her leadership has brought several awards to Channels Television, including winning NMMA’s Best TV Station award for a record 13 times.
- CHRISTIANA ANYANWU ― Chris Anyanwu MFR won the IWMF Courage in Journalism Award, UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and the CPJ International Press Freedom Award (while imprisoned by Sani Abacha) at a time when it was extremely dangerous to practice journalism in Nigeria. Today, the former publisher of TSM and journalism graduate (Missouri, Florida) is the Chairman of Hot FM Abuja, Hot FM Lagos, and Hot FM Asaba. At 68, the no-nonsense journalist, media chief, and politician is one of the most powerful icons for women in journalism across the world.
- KADARIA AHMED ― Kadaria Ahmed’s distinguished journalism career is enough to earn her a spot in the list of most powerful women journalists, but her hard-hitting questioning during the nationally televised presidential election townhall in 2019 is what has catapulted her among Nigeria’s most powerful women journalists at number 2. With an MA from Goldsmiths, she was a senior producer at the BBC and the editor of NEXT. In 2011, she gained national prominence after she moderated Nigeria’s presidential election debate on live TV. Since then, Kadaria has continued to problematize several national issues in the public space. Never one to shy away from a lively debate, she has bravely questioned leading political figures of the day on touchy subjects like religious fundamentalism, rampant corruption, bad governance, and even Biafra. Offline and online, Kadaria is not a pushover and will not shrink away from a healthy Twitter challenge.
- IJEOMA NWOGWUGWU ― Contrary to what many may think, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu is not the most powerful woman journalist in Nigeria because she is the managing director of Arise TV – even though this in itself, is a big deal. Rather, Ijeoma, through her weekly column in THISDAY and as editor of the paper, helped shape national policy and provide often sharp criticism of government since the days of former President Obasanjo. She is quick witted, highly cerebral, and resolutely holds the government of the day accountable. It is no secret that every leader in the field of business and national politics knows Ms. Nwogwugwu personally, but this has not affected her journalistic responsibility to the public. Ms. Nwogwugwu brings to journalism a wealth of experience across private and public sectors. She held the track record of editing all three titles under the THISDAY stable for the longest unbroken period of 11 years and is the second woman in the history of Nigerian journalism to be appointed Editor of a national newspaper, the first being Dr. Doyinsola Abiola of Concord. Based on her national and industry credence, the trajectory of her career and all-round professionalism, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu is the most powerful woman journalist in Nigeria.
Women in Journalism Africa is the annual gathering of women working in the field of journalism and the media across Africa.
The program is organised by WiJAfrica, supported by local and international partners with the aim of advancing conversations around the practice of journalism in Africa, promoting best practices and supporting innovation in the profession.
The first WiJ Conference held in 2014 at the Civic Centre in Lagos, with the CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, Monique Villa as the Keynote. Since then, notable speeches have been delivered at subsequent Conferences by Rhodes University’s Professor Anthea Garman, Courage in Journalism Winner, Chris Anyanwu and award-winning international journalist, Anna Cunningham in October 2019.
WiJAfrica has also seen extensive collaboration with the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), UNESCO, the School of Media and Communication at the Pan-Atlantic University and the Mass Communications Department of the University of Lagos.
In 2015, WiJAfrica created a list of 50 Women Changing Journalism, which received wide attention. The 2015 Conference also saw leading global affairs journalist, Christiane Amanpour issue a statement of support for WiJ2015 and women journalists operating out of Africa.