Working with several industry watchers, publishers and journalism instructors, WiJAfrica ranked the top 25 women journalists using four (4) criteria.
These criteria include the impact of her work on national affairs in the past year, influence in the media industry in the past year, efforts in holding leaders to account in the past year and contribution to advancing social and political consciousness among Nigerian youth in the past year
The 2021 list includes:
25. SANDRA EZEKWESILI
There were a number of social issues driving activism in Nigeria in 2020 and Sandra Ezekwesili was front and centre, driving the conversation on several platforms. A powerful advocate against all forms of violence against women, the young Sandra is never afraid to draw critical attention to issues surrounding the culture of harassment and assault in Nigeria. Her show, “Hard Facts,” is a journalistic case study on how to converge live audiences on traditional and digital media. Public officials with something to hide, should do well to avoid the show if they do not want to end up as the top trend on Twitter!
24. TOLU ADELERU BALOGUN
With an outstanding track record as a broadcast journalist and interviewer, Tolu Adeleru Balogun has helped raise the brand of the fledgling media house, News Central – online and off – as the station’s Head of Programs. Her work has seen her attract top talent to the channel, with commendable coverage of national issues, including the #endsars and the 2021 June 12 protests.
23. ARIT OKPO
Arit Okpo shot into the limelight when she was announced as the face of CNN’s African Voices Changemakers in 2019. This young journalist is today commanding continent-wide attention with her authentic delivery and penchant for highlighting the lives of everyday Africans doing extraordinary things.
22. AZUKA OGUJIUBA
Azuka Ogujiuba boasts of a 20-year track record of high-profile interviews with Nigeria’s elite and celebrities at THISDAY. As a media entrepreneur, Azuka was able to make a mark in the online journalism space with the launch of her MediaRoomHub, which saw some success with her live interviews with several newsmakers and politicians.
Azuka and her MediaRoomHub were also the conveners of the highly publicized House of Representatives debates in 2019, a partnership with the BBC. Now back as a contributor to Thisday Style, she has produced some of this year’s most talked-about covers. She makes her entry at No. 22
21. AMARACHI UBANI
No Nigerian journalist (man or woman) has interfaced with as many diplomats and leaders as Amarachi Ubani. Her power is understated, even though she supervises and produces three global affairs programs running concurrently on television.
Her first notable work was back in 2008, when she covered the historic election of Barack Obama as US president, a role she reprised in 2012 from the US.
Since then, Ms. Ubani’s consistent output as Head of the Foreign Desk at Channels Television remains unmatched by any other station and is the undeniable standard that others follow. She debuts this year’s list at number 21.
20. ADESUWA ONYENOKWE
Adesuwa Onyenokwe is one of the more recognizable names in Nigerian journalism. Her 35-year career has seen her evolve from television to print to digital journalism, while keeping her relevance with different generation across several genres.
Owner of several media properties, she runs a VLOG series and a television show where she continues to champion women issues. An excellent moderator and interviewer, Adesuwa is at number 20 this year.
19. IJEOMA ONYEATOR
Ijeoma Onyeator PhD is the queen of broadcast news in Nigeria. An accomplished broadcast journalist and media scholar, she is the perfect mentor for young news anchors trying to make their mark in an industry full of upstarts.
She holds a PhD from the Pan Atlantic University and has received a recognition award for mentoring on The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
18. TESSY IGOMU
Tessy Igomu heads up Punch Investigations (Punch Newspapers), the desk responsible for some of the most in-depth reports found in Nigerian newspapers.
Her personal mandate is to “uncover the story behind the story.” Many of Igomu’s extensive reporting have brought about policy changes and responses from government.
Her reports often seem to be the product of weeks-long expeditions across the country, covering health, development and other social issues, for which she has won several awards.
17. ADEOLA FAYEHUN
As a political satirist and commentator, Adeola Fayehun is in a class by herself. She entered the limelight in 2015 when, as a reporter for Sahara Reporters TV, she asked the former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe when he would step down from office.
Two years before, the young Adeola interviewed former President Goodluck Jonathan in New York about Boko Haram and other national issues.
Today, she hosts the popular “Keeping it Real with Adeola,” a humorous, satirical delivery guaranteed to receive more than a few laughs on often serious national issues.
Her weekly engagement on YouTube and other online platforms run into hundreds of thousands, with no other Nigerian digital news content creator coming even close. Adeola has received awards from the Foreign Press Association and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She debuts on our list at number 17
16. NGOZI ALAEGBU
Ngozi Alaegbu’s national profile has risen considerably in the past year on Arise News’ “Newsnight.” Before then, she was known as a prolific TV anchor and moderator of the 2019 Presidential debates on TVC.
Ngozi’s career on television spans 25 years, and this experience shines through on Newsnight where she has quizzed several serving and past governors, several minister and heads of government agencies and other newsmakers on the national stage.
Most notable among her interviews was her recent very rare and exclusive sit-down with former Nigerian Head-of-State, General Ibrahim Babangida, which received national attention and wide reportage for several days on every major news platform. That’s power. Her entry into our most-powerful list is at number 16.
15. MORAYO AFOLABI BROWN
Since making the list of most powerful women journalists at number 18 last year, Morayo Afolabi Brown has only grown in prominence on the national stage.
Her show, Your View with Morayo, remains number 1 on its time belt, according to ratings agencies, and continues to command viewership of around 2 million people on cable, terrestrial and online. The show is the perfect bridge between domestic, national and even controversial topics, and is a darling of advertisers.
14. MAUPE OGUN YUSUF
Maupe Ogun Yusuf is probably the finest example of what homegrown professional journalism can look like. She is an anchor on Channels TV’s flagship program, “Sunrise Daily.” Maupe is a hard-hitting questioner; it’s no wonder she is also saddled with the task of hosting “Hard Copy”, where tough national issues are litigated weekly.
Maupe Ogun can hold her own any day with even the most skillful politician or profound intellectual. Clips of her conversations often find their way to the Twittersphere, where she also has high engagement. She maintains her most powerful woman journalist position at number 14.
13. 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. At 71, much of her work is now behind the scenes, where she continues to maintain the core values of this bastion Nigerian journalism. Lady Maiden Ibru is still nurturing the conscience of the nation at number 13.
12. TOUN OKEWALE SONAIYA
Toun Okewale Sonaiya is the founder of Nigeria’s only radio station focused exclusively on women, WFM Lagos and Abuja. The Voice of Women is the leading radio platform for reporting on gender violence, child abuse and issues relating to sexual and reproductive health. Ms Sonaiya’s work has seen her partner with international agencies and government to bring many gender issues to the front burner, while helping to shape policy as the decision-making level.
11. BETTY IRABOR & SONIA IRABOR
Veteran journalist and publisher Betty Irabor has overseen the first successful transition of a leading fashion and lifestyle magazine from print to digital. Not only that, her Genevieve Magazine has also transitioned from one generation to the next, with the ascent of daughter Sonia as the editor of the magazine. Genevieve continues to lead conversations on women issues, having some of the most influential Nigerians on its digital cover.
10. STEPHANIE BUSARI
Ms. Busari was part of the team that won a Peabody Award for CNN’s extensive coverage of the Chibok girls in 2015, with Peabody calling their work, comprehensive and indispensable.
This year, she has received two Emmy nominations for her team’s groundbreaking investigative reporting of the Lekki Tollgate shooting during the #endsars protests. A fearless advocate for truth and probity, Stephanie Busari makes a huge leap to No. 10 from 21st last year.
9. RUTH OSIME
At a time when all fashion events were cancelled, Ruth was Style Director at the only major fashion show held in Africa in 2020, overseeing Arise Fashion Week which saw the emergence of 30 young designers of global standing.
She continues to wield strong influence in Nigerian journalism, rolling out some of the most talked-about covers of the past year. This formidable power broker maintains her position at number 9.
8. OYOSI OGUNSEYE
Toyosi Ogunseye is the 8th most powerful woman journalist in Nigeria. Winner of several international awards, she sits at the head of BBC West Africa, overseeing the operation of the five language services in the region.
The ancient BBC service in West Africa has continued to innovate under her leadership, especially in the digital space, with millions of followers on several platforms and in all major Nigerian languages and pidgin.
7. BILKISU LABARAN
Bilkisu’s 29-year journey at the BBC has put her in a league by herself as a woman of many firsts. She is the Editor, BBC Africa News and Current Affairs.
A highly accomplished multimedia journalist, she has edited, produced and presented high profile programmes across tv, radio and online.
Bilkisu played a vital role in the creation of BBC Pidgin, arguably Nigeria’s most influential digital news platform exclusively in pidgin. She continues to mentor the next generation, giving lectures to student of journalism around the world.
6. OLUSOLA T. MOMOH
Olusola Momoh sits at the top of a news media organization that changed news reporting in Nigeria for good. Momoh serves as Vice Chairman of Channels Media Group and has been instrumental in helping to shape many of Nigeria’s most influential journalists and media chiefs today.
She continues to actively lead the team at Channels across a range of divisions including corporate development and commercial operations.
5. MERCY ABANG
Mercy Abang is one of the most widely syndicated Nigerian journalists working today. She has been a freelance journalist and producer with Al-Jazeera, and has been a stringer with the BBC, Sunday Times of London, and the Associated Press (AP).
She has gone on several election observation missions across West Africa. However, Mercy’s main superpower stems from her founding of NewsWireNGR, a platform known for productive investigative reporting and thorough research.
Never in a hurry to break the news – Mercy’s team, to the chagrin of those in authority, will pull out all the stops to inform the public and go deeper with the story.
Two of the biggest investigative reports from this year were conducted by NewsWireNGR – “Who Killed Iniobong Umoren?” and “Isa Ali Pantami: The Inside Story of Nigeria’s Minister of Communications,” both written by David Hundeyin. Mercy Abang enters the most powerful women journalists list on a very high note, at number 5.
4. GRACE ALHERI ABDU
Last December, Nigerian security forces detained a reporter little known to them. Grace Alheri Abdu was covering the violence in Oyingbo, Ricers State, during the aftermath of the #endsars protests, which she also covered.
It took the intervention of the US Embassy and the Nigerian Military hierarchy to secure her release. Ms. Abdu’s name does not command instant recognition for the average person, but she is far from being a rookie in the business.
With a journalism career spanning 35 years, she has reported extensively on terrorism in the northeast and conducted exclusive presidential interviews since the days of former President Obasanjo.
In 2019, she became the Managing Editor for the VOA Hausa Service operating out of Washington DC. She debuts this year’s list at number 4.
3. KADARIA AHMED
Since making the list at number 2 last year, Kadaria Ahmed has acquired a license and launched RadioNow on terrestrial radio.
As one of the most outstanding women journalists in Nigeria, Kadaria is never afraid to call leaders to account.
She often takes unpopular positions online and in different fora, debating tricky national issues that most people would rather avoid.
A single comment from Kadaria Ahmed can spark a 24-hour Twitter war. Knowing this, she has always called on Nigerian media to understand that their responsibility is to the people, and to diligently verify reports before publishing.
2. STELLA DIN JACOB
Stella Din Jacob’s leadership as Director of News at TVC was feared to have suffered some serious setback after the station was looted and set ablaze by marauding crowds, in the aftermath of the Lekki Tollgate shooting last year.
However, she proved her detractors wrong by going back on air within 72-hours, using a makeshift studio and continuing reportage from the 36 states and the FCT.
This singular feat saved hundreds of jobs in the news division and ensured that Nigerians continued to receive critical news and information during the tense period following the #endsars protests.
TVC News also strengthened its digital operations, commanding huge numbers on their streaming platforms and social media. Stella Din Jacob moves up four places this year and is the second most powerful woman journalist in Nigeria.
1. IJEOMA NWOGWUGWU
Nwogwugwu’s Arise News is the undisputed champion of #endsars reportage in the year 2020. She was one of a few media chiefs who quickly noted that the growing movement of young people against police brutality would become a global campaign for change.
She rallied her organization to provide uninterrupted coverage of history in the making, as most major cities in Nigeria were at a standstill.
Arise News moved from a middle-of-the-road player into a news juggernaut, with its digital news gathering generating tens of millions of views and comments from young Nigerians becoming politically conscious for the first time.
Nwogwugwu brings to journalism something that is rare but not impossible – a combination of traditional journalistic pedigree on the one hand, and strong appeal to Generation Z on the other.
For the second year running, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu is the most powerful woman journalist in Nigeria.
Apart from the Top 25 list, a number of outstanding female journalists were nominated by industry veterans as worthy of mentions.
They are: Nike Sotade (Veteran journalist), Jemi Ekunkunbor (Editor, Vanguard Allure), Sharon Ijasan (TVC), Konye Nwabogor (Editor ThisdayStyleOnline), Onah Nwachukwu (Acting Editor, The Will Downtown), Adesola Ayo-Adenrele (Editor, PUNCH Online/New Media), Chiemelie Ezeobi (Group Features Editor, THISDAY)