Being a successful woman in a male-dominated sector is hard enough, but Diezani Alison-Madueke endured almost epic underdog status as Nigeria’s oil minister. She was accused of mismanagement, corruption, and lack of transparency, ThisDayLive reported. Nothing ever came of these accusations.
In November 2014, Alison-Madueke blazed a new trail, going where no woman has been before. She was elected the first female president of OPEC, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
These are some of the controversies that embroiled Alison-Madueke, according to Wikipedia.
In 2008 she was investigated by the Nigerian Senate for paying $263 million to contractors while she was Transport Minister. She was never charged. Then she was accused of spending $20 billion dollars that went missing from oil coffers. In September 2008 there was an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap her and her son. In October 2009, the Nigerian Senate indicted Alison-Madueke and recommended prosecution for the alleged transfer of 1.2 billion naira into the private account of a toll company. That went nowhere. She is accused of leaving Nigeria before her term as oil minister was up, allegedly to escape the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari with his anti-corruption ticket.
There is no evidence she did any of these things, but just in case her accusers missed something, she was deemed aloof, inaccessible and an absentee minister who was hardly at her desk, according to a report in ThisDayLive. “She was reviled and blamed for much of the ills – real and imagined – of the oil and gas sector,” the report said.
Not everyone was buying in to the attacks on Diezani Alison-Madueke’s character. She was featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine’s April-May edition.
As the new president of OPEC, Alison-Madueke took over from Abdourhman Atahar Al-Ahirish, Libya’s vice prime minister of corporations.
In her acceptance speech, she said, “U.S. shale oil and gas had a lot of impacts on all major oil and gas-producing economies. It is a major game changer for all stakeholders in the energy mix across the globe,” Vanguard reported.
Alison-Madueke talked to CNBCAfrica about what it’s like to break into new frontiers.
“When you realize the glass ceilings you’re breaking open a door or window for other women all over the world to enter, it brings with it great responsibility,” she said. “The gravity and burden of the responsibility is always on me as I break into new frontiers.
“As women, no matter how adept we may appear to be, there are many women around the world who have been shut out. We work probably more than our male counterparts to make sure we are fitting mentors for the women who come behind us — because they will come.”
Nigeria’s oil sector has been rife with theft and vandalism. It has been challenging, Alison-Madueke said, but the sector is a challenging one all over the world — not just in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, “we are trying to diversity through agriculture,” Alison-Madueke said. “We are trying to be more competitive and have a more enabling environment. We have already started to implement a number of reforms in the sector.”
She cites the Nigerian Content Act of 2010 which she said has vastly changed the face of the downstream oil and gas sector. “Well over 300,000 jobs have been created because of the trickle-down effect,” she said.
Her hopes for the future of Nigerian leadership in the oil and gas sector? “We can leave this place better than we met it and better for all Nigerians,” she said. “We can open up oil and gas and allow so many more Nigerians to benefit from the oil that runs under their feet. The lives of communities can be changed completely.”
So how did she handle the viciousness of her attackers?
“This is a challenging sector for a woman in a man’s world and I’m not feeble about it or shaken by the vagaries and viciousness that surrounds the politics of Nigeria,” she told CNBC. “Instead of turning around and being equally vicious, I put my energy in turning around the sector.”
She cited subsidy fraud. “In 2011 I cut off 92 marketers who we believed were carrying out illegal acts. Immediately the level of subsidies dropped by almost 50 percent. We went for complete deregulation shortly after that…to improve transparency,” she said.