JOY Uche Ogwu, former Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs is a trailblazer. She was the first Nigerian woman to hold the post of Nigeria’s Permanent Representative and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at the United Nations.
She was also the first Nigerian woman to serve as the President of the United Nations Security Council. Her first score came with her appointment as the first female Director-General of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), an institute that aims to provide a nursery of ideas on what direction Nigeria should take on international affairs.
She stood out in international relations and diplomacy, a field where few women threads. Besides being a distinguished patriot, Ambassador Ogwu is a woman of substance, an administrator, a woman of virtue who distinguished herself as a public servant, an accomplished academic; a devoted mother and wife.
She is not garrulous, yet outspoken and shrewd in a terrain that requires enormous political sagacity. Ogwu is not the flamboyant type but sophisticated at the same time. Her conviviality is undeniable and her flair for non-belligerent diplomacy has received praise and commendations.
She possesses an abiding interest and passion for the art and craft of diplomacy and international relations. Besides, she demonstrated great integrity and dedication to promoting Nigeria’s interest, yet passionate about international cooperation.
Peace to Ogwu lies more in preventing conflict than waiting for intervention after the conflict has erupted and this has remained one of her cardinal themes as a diplomat. “If we can promote greater dialogue and cooperation, encouraging mutual respect and appreciation,
then there can be greater harmony not only among people but among nations as well. With increasing mutual understanding and respect, there is greater harmony among nations. Even religions are then less vulnerable to manipulation by narrow sectarians and criminal agents.
“Furthermore, religions can become our greatest allies in effort to mediate, resolve all kinds of conflict, and promote peace and development. We need to teach our young people to become a new ‘generation of peace,’ not war, not conflict,
a generation that practices peace and selfless service to others. We must show our young people that diversity can be embraced, not feared and that our differences of race, religion, ethnicity, and indeed culture can make the tapestry of mankind more beautiful and even more meaningful.”
Professor Ogwu may not fit into your stereotype women rights activist but has become a voice for women’s development advocating for women participation in issues that dwells on peace and security. The former envoy is unhappy that women do not participate in pace mediation.
As an expert on security issues, Ogwu, in her address at a Security Council session she observed the troubling gap between regional and global commitments and actual practice from the contribution made during the debate that the challenge and the experience inherent in women must be tapped and called for paradigm shift from states and regions that would integrate women in process of peace making, peace building and mediation, besides appointment of more women as peace envoys.
Born in August 1946, Ogwu earned Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Political Science from Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, and received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in political science from the University of Lagos. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Lagos.
Professor Ogwu began her professional career as an Assistant Lecturer at the Nigerian National War College, Jaji, Kaduna State and the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Jos, Plateau State. She joined the services of the Institute of International Affairs while obtaining her Ph.D. at the University of Lagos in 1977.
She headed the Research Department in International Politics of NIIA, until her appointment as the institute’s Director-General. Her tenure as DG was distinct in its additional focus on the developing countries of Latin America,
enabling an investigation into the possibilities of a proficient South-South relationship between Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. In this capacity, she held a visiting fellowship at the University of London’s Institute for Latin American Studies.
Her post as Nigerian Institute of International Affairs helms person and member of the Presidential Advisory Council on International Relations enabled positive contribution to practical government policy,
such as the construct of the Nigeria-South America relationship on a macro level and the United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) funded program for teaching human rights in Nigerian Schools on a micro level.
In 2006, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed her as Foreign Minister and became Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 2008 until May 2017. During her tenure as Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, Nigeria was nominated twice to serve at the Security Council.
She was the President of the Council in July 2010 and in October 2011. She also presided over the Executive Board of the United Nations Women Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
She was the former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and also served on the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.
Delta State born Ogwu is an accomplished scholar with several publications to her credit, Prof. Ogwu’s first boo,k Nigerian Foreign Policy: Alternative Futures, published by the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in co-operation with Macmillan Nigeria Publishers, became a classic for foreign policy studies in tertiary institutions across the country.
In 2010, she was decorated with Quintessential Award for her outstanding contributions to the history and heritage of the African people by the African Writers Endowment (AWE) presented to African-American leaders for distinguished accomplishment in their fields of endeavour.
The quintessential diplomat was the pioneer President, Executive Board of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women; A Trustee of the UN Institute for Training & Research [UNITAR]; First African President of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms & Light Weapons.
She is the recipient of the 2002 Diplomatic Excellence Award presented by the Society of International Law and Diplomacy. In 2014, she was honoured with the United Nations Ambassador’s Biblical Values Award, the first time this award was given. The award honours a United Nations ambassador who demonstrates commitment to promoting religious and biblical spiritual values in their position as an Ambassador at the UN.
For her meritorious service to the fatherland, she was conferred an Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 2004
A mother of five children, she was married to late Dr. Aloysius Ogwu, an accomplished surgeon who retired as Chief Consultant Surgeon at the Military Hospital, Ikoyi, Lagos and passed on in 2014.