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Uche Ajulu-Okeke: Brilliant diplomat, promoter of Igbo course

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QUINTESSENTIAL Diplomat, Ambassador  Uche Ajulu-Okeke is one of Nigeria’s finest known to have worked in this capacity as a square peg in a square hole. Over the years as an employee in the Foreign Service, she had shown excellent meticulous attention to details, coupled with an analytical temperament as a tough and effective negotiator whose firm policy – resilience was majorly contributory to the success in the formulation of key policies in the administration of the Nigerian- International relations.

In her book, Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat, Helen McCarthy traces the often agonizing rise of women in the foreign office and further dissects the resistance they encountered. Just as all success stories come with challenges, Mrs Okeke surmounted the daunting task which saw her rise to becoming ambassador, serving in various countries like Switzerland, Belgium, South Africa, among others.

Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke, happily married, responsible wife and mother, is a widely travelled veteran Diplomat and Development Studies Expert with four Masters Degrees and 35 years of progressively responsible experience and cognate exposure in the Nigerian Foreign Service.

Upon graduation in the core humanities discipline of Political Science/Sociology/Anthropology at the University of Nigeria in 1981, she served under the National Youth Service Corps ( NYSC) at the Plateau State House of Assembly, after which she joined the Foreign Service in 1982, where she distinguished herself as a brilliant and committed Officer.

Rising through the ranks, she headed several departments at Directorate Cadre without blemish before being appointed Under Secretary, African Affairs, a position she held until her appointment as Ambassador and Nigeria’s first female Consul General.

As Consul General, she showed exemplary diligence in dedicated service to the Nigerian Community in South Africa and the SADC region, the Nigerian Immigration Service, Corporate South Africa and the Public at large. She brought a sense of pride to Nigeria and Nigerians in her embellishment of the consulate building in Johannesburg and enhanced value added to its service delivery, earning her several accolades and awards.

Verbally fluent and concise, Ambassador Okeke undertook national assignments unreservedly. She courageously and consistently emplaced and demonstrated positive policy initiatives; she established OIS Services, the Nigerian Visa Centre in Sub-Saharan Africa and expunged the obnoxious repatriation deposit, a long-standing irritant in Nigeria-South Africa relations.

Beating the odds to challenge the status quo in South Africa, she tirelessly worked for the attainment of mutually beneficial investment in-flows and integration, as well as migration issues, earning her the press-tag ”Madam Xenophobia” as she maintained a high sense of maternal patriotism in identifying with the plight of Nigerians in her countries of accreditation; many of whose remains and earnings she ensured, were brought safely home.

A successful diplomat, a tactician who possesses an abiding interest in and passion for the art and craft of diplomacy and international relations thus widely known for her open and humane nature and dedication to the promotion of competences, performances, motivation and positive mentorship of junior colleagues, probity, and public accountability in government.

On her retirement from the Foreign Service in 2017, the effervescence Mrs Okeke, journeyed from South Africa (SA) to Anambra State (AS), relocating directly to the state where she presently serves the state government in various capacities and joined All Progressives Grand alliance (APGA), the ruling political party; exuding an ideology which is compatible with that of the state government.

The Executive Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, in his wisdom, appointed her Senior Special Assistant, Human Economy and International Contacts in the office of the Secretary to the State Government.

She also serves on the board of the Anambra Investment Promotion and protection Agency (ANSIPPA) and Awka Capital Development Authority (ACTDA).

For the Albino Foundation of Nigeria, Uche Ajulu-Okeke is a distinguished role model, board member of the African and National Foundations on Albinism. A national patron and beacon of hope, who excelled and rose to the zenith of her career despite the disability and stereotype associated with albinism.

Ambassador Okeke is culturally accomplished in her community of birth and marriage where she has also been honoured with traditional titles: Anyanwu Abacha and Ada Mazi respectively. Belonging to several pan Igbo organizations, she is widely known to look out for the Igbo cause and ife gbasalu ndi banyi.

She is a recipient of numerous awards culminating from various institutions within and outside the country. For instance, in 2017, for her meritorious services to the welfare and uplifting of Nigerians in South Africa, the Nigerian Union in South Africa honoured her as a distinguished ambassador, among other awards.

Recently added to her kitty of laurels for her exemplary services to community services, was the title, Ada Ezumezu ( O zulu ezu n’Igbo, zuo n’Oyibo) by the institution of all traditional prime ministers in Anambra State, Obi Ndi Onowu in the 177 communities in the state as an affirmation of her western and cultural accomplishments.

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