How My Father Groomed Me For Leadership – Anyika

By Kenneth Jukpor
How My Father Groomed Me For Leadership - Anyika
Anyika

Mrs. Chizoba Anyika is an Assistant Director with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) attached to the Agency’s Apapa Port Office Lagos. She is also the Secretary of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria. In September 2020, she was elected as the National Publicity Secretary of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration (CIoTA) Nigeria, where she astutely manages the publicity affairs of the Institute.
As she celebrated her birthday on September 4th, our team caught up with her to share her thoughts on subjects of interest. Please enjoy the interview.

You have come a long way in a male-dominated career; what are you doing personally to improve the proportion of women working in the maritime sector?

I lend my voice on gender parity matters and use every single platform I get to work towards increasing the representation of women in leadership positions in the transportation domain especially maritime and shipping trade.
I have a couple of mentees who range from girl-child to women in career and business. I have learnt over the years that in carrying other women along, they are empowered and encouraged to ask the right questions because they trust in me. At the end of the day, their support magnifies my capabilities and minimizes my flaws. I am currently the National Publicity Secretary of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria (CIOTA) where I play my role in creating visibility for all the modes in transportation and I use my spare time to work on the girl-child, increasing the number of working women significantly for social and economic benefits.

Over the years, I have been invited to educate groups of women where I share my work experience, opportunities and the evolving culture in the maritime sector. I maximize every opportunity to encourage them to ignore the prejudices they must encounter so as to channel their efforts on engaging in ventures that will yield successful results.

We must understand that the maritime sector is increasingly diverse, especially when you participate in professional associations that are international in nature. I am currently the Secretary of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria which is a network of professional industry women from over 54 countries.
I serve in international diversity sub-committee with women from other countries which was created to significantly bridge cultural barriers in the participation of women in maritime and integrate talents for global maritime growth. I co-lead in the Mentorship sub group.

In my opinion, I think there is absolutely no excuse for the exclusion of women, or for failing to support the many women who have pushed past gender norms and made great strides in improving the sector.

In CIOTA, we have other women in the Executive Board working with the men to develop a professional transportation industry. So, women are partners for development.

What mistakes do women make in their careers that keep them down the ladder?

Women cannot continue to cry of marginalisation if they do not acquire the basic skills and competences required to stand at par with their male counterparts. I believe that human capacity development and deliberate continuous personal development in terms of adding value to oneself is key to addressing gender gaps at work and remaining relevant. If you are analogue, you cannot work in an automated society.

It is good to see an encouraging number of women acquiring education, skills and training required for various maritime careers and this is quite gladdening to the heart.

We must therefore sustain training of women in maritime education with a clear goal of transforming the industry.
It has not been all rosy in my career path, but my personal challenges have strengthened my resolve to work smarter and support any woman that needs my assistance for career advancement. It doesn’t matter that I face hitches here and there, I thrive.
It will interest you to know that in recent times, women’s role in maritime activities have become a subject of unprecedented awareness and interest and for good reasons too.

Women in leadership positions will continue to increase with deliberate steps taken by other women to enhance opportunities and mentor the less opportuned or will I say the ones who need the skills.
All over the world women are achieving giant strides.

Looking back, what attributes would you say helped to launch you into management position?

Firstly, I will say grace of the infinite creator and secondly is earning my bosses trust. It has not been all rosy in my career path and my personal challenges have strengthened my resolve to do everything possible in support of any woman that needs my assistance for career advancement. It will interest you to know that in recent times, women’s role in maritime activities have become a subject of unprecedented awareness and interest and for good reasons too.

Women in leadership positions will continue to increase with deliberate steps taken by other women to enhance opportunities and mentor the less opportuned or will I say the ones who need the skills. I have over time been invited to educate groups of women where I share my work experience, opportunities and the evolving culture in the maritime sector. I take every chance to encourage them to ignore the prejudices they must encounter so as to channel their efforts on engaging in ventures that will yield successful results.

I work smart and I’m a hundred percent loyal to my leaders who eventually turn to friends. I have had a couple of them who created the right environment for me to thrive. I have been blessed with female leaders who coached me and struck the balance as more of a coach than a leader. I learnt to be genuine learning under them.

When I have opportunities to induct newly employed officers, I do it passionately and they return to ask me to be their mentor. This has encouraged me greatly because I am sure they must have seen some leadership qualities in me to have come back like the biblical Nichodemus at night. In addition to this, I am genuine in my relationships with colleagues. Those who are not competitors have been able to work seamlessly with me infusing their own talents for greater productivity.
I find ways to support, motivate, encourage and openly endorse others in my interest groups for their efforts. Most of all, I carry other women along in career growth and will not waste any opportunity to offer my support to other women when I get a chance.

Unfortunately, some whom I have lifted turned and stabbed me but I believe in the law of seed sowing and reaping, so I overlook the distractions and trust in the natural law that surely I will get good in return from other quarters and it works for me. So, I don’t mind haters. They propel me to achieve more. Without them, I may not dig deeper to explore and exploit my potentials. I recommend challenges as manure for growth. Challenges are welcome.

In what specific ways would you say WISTA is changing the narratives for women in the maritime workforce?

I serve as Secretary in the current Executive Board of WISTA Nigeria led by Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke.

WISTA Nigeria has always been and shall continue to seek opportunities to partner with relevant organisations and individuals for the development of the sector. WISTA International has a memorandum of understanding with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for a consultative status at IMO. WISTA formally contributes to strategic decisions in developing capacity in the maritime industry, a critical component of which is promoting women in the sector to take up leadership positions both on shoreside and onboard vessels. It is a platform to showcase the various technical and leadership skills that women bring to the industry. Therefore, as an active participant at IMO’s Technical Cooperation Committee, we are playing increasing roles at technical committee meetings advocating for effective implementation of policies ranging from maritime environmental protection to maritime safety, where applicable.

WISTA Nigeria is increasing its tempo in advocacy for efficient and effective industry towards repositioning the sector back into the international maritime space within the IMO. We are leveraging on our existing memorandum of understanding with this apex global maritime body to ensure that skilled and qualified women get appropriate placement to work with relevant male counterparts towards a sustainable maritime sector. In addition to this, the idea of one woman one girl mentorship is critical to achieving women empowerment goals and WISTA Nigeria is one place that your career growth and guidance is assured as you cannot be lost in the midst of lively, experienced and accomplished women with a heart of gold to support. WISTA women are exceptionally distinguished from other women associations because we are dedicated to building one another and that is why there is a steady progress with innovations in the way we execute our programmes.

It is pertinent at this time in our nation’s economic life and can be rightly infered that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) offers a plausible solution towards a timely intervention in the fast dwindling revenue of the nation, therefore WISTA Nigeria is urging women to take up the investment opportunities therein.

On 8th July 2021, the Association hosted an empowerment programme for women in trade through the Annual Business Summit and Magazine Launcheon. It discussed the AfCFTA and Investment Opportunities for Women in Trade where I moderated the plenary. Entrepreneurial women were there on ground to discuss opportunities that have been presented by AfCFTA as well as hurdles exporters still need to surmount to effectively participate in the trade.

In addition, the Association carries out her corporate social responsibility by empowering women in the riverine areas. We have over the years been providing fishing boats and nets to rural women in addition to granting scholarship to the best female graduating student in Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Akwa Ibom State..

In terms of policies, what policy change has been initiated and achieved in favour of women so far?

Women are raised with gender specific roles and responsibilities in their families and communities, therefore adopting gender-responsive approach is a great strategy for any organisation. Maritime policies should consider gender dimensions in policy drafting.
There are great opportunities sustainable growth when policies consider gender perso demonstrate the values of an organization. It is time maritime organisation start turning their lens internally to check, monitor, access, how many women are placed in leadership positions. This is because organizational diversity and inclusion encourages gender perspectives for sustainable success. So, there is no doubt that the issue of women’s empowerment are at the front burner of many discourse.

What personal principles do you strive to live by daily?

Honesty, integrity and accountability are my tripod.

I have over the years cultivated a winning attitude and so I do not relent even if the chances of winning are very slim. I accept my challenges and daily commit to my goals. I am very creative and so let my work speak for itself while I push myself up committing to a cause and sticking to it. I have faced many life’s challenges and look them in squarely in the face. I am not afraid to step out of my comfort zone when the need arises. I realized early in life that growth and comfort do not coexist.

I am a people-centric manager who is involved and I can say that I am a committed leader. I formed this opinion of myself because always I find myself offering support and opportunities to people around me thereby helping them to reinvent themselves and be creative. I have been able to counsel women who were hitherto lost on financial challenges by giving them advise and room to explore themselves nurturing some in that transformation process. Many found their feet back under my guidance.

You’re studying for a PhD; why is this necessary when you’re already at the peak of your career?

Continous professional development is key to every career minded individual and learning is a continuous process. I like to add value to myself.

We are growing older and there is always room to acquire fresh knowledge where we can use to give back to the society when the opportunity calls. I love to be impactful and always seek ways to improve the quality of my life and my environment. It gives me a sense of fulfillment that I am a channel of blessing to others through sharing my knowledge.

If you could change one thing about life in general, what will that be?

This is a difficult one. Well, personally I like to stay connected with who I am. If I can’t change me then only the creator can make the necessary changes.
I love to stay connected with what I am obsessed about, what defines me as a person because I am unique. I do not have the supernatural power to change anything about life but I have the power to stay who I am and not to lose that connection. I do not forget to stay connected with what I am obsessed about, I mean what defines me as a person and that is my link with my creator. I pray the Almighty God gives me the grace.

Who inspires you the most?

My mother, Ojiugo Florence Nwamaka Nwolisa-Nwosu inspires me. She is a great entrepreneur, full of contentment and drive to be her best. I have a praying mother who impacted the act of tenacity and patience in me. My late father gave her all the room and supported her to thrive. I am who my mother raised me to be.

It is simple, if the society can replicate and embrace the same women’s role in coordinating homes by increasing the percentage of female players in leadership, society will be better off.

Women’s participation and even-distribution of socio-political and economic opportunities is crucial to the continuous progress of any society because women are natural builders.
In recent times, women’s search for peace and progress is evident from the growing number who are assuming and clamouring for leadership roles in public offices. I take time given my background to reorientate people to change the old and parochial patriarchal views and embrace more progressive socio-cultural attitudes. Women should take the opportunities around and not sob in self-pity.

What was growing up like for you?

I grew up as an only daughter in the midst of five boys in a closely knitted home. I realized early in life how to check the terror that comes from man’s ego and the critical role that women can play in conflict resolution and community building.

My beautiful mother as my role model is an entrepreneur par excellence. You can call her a typical Anambra mother who will not hesitate to leave a slap on your face if you misbehave. My vacations were spent with her mother while on some school holidays, my brothers and I will go through a dangerous railway short-cut to the then Enugu State Library to get tickets for sitting position to study.

As early as 5:00am, we were already on our way to get the tickets then come back home to dress up and go for research and study when the library officially opens at 8:00AM. There was a healthy competition amongst us who could score the highest in all the subjects, who had the best handwriting or widest vocabulary etc. Of course my elder brother would always beat all of us to it as he was a bookworm scoring even an A in Further Mathematics. My immediate younger brother chews English language and would hide novels like James Hardly Chase until he was done with all the series.

My late father, God rest his soul, included me in key decision making processes and gave me room to thrive and explore my role as a daughter. Of course, this positively impacted my growing up. I was never made to feel less human because I am a girl. I mediated in and often resolved all the conflicts amongst the boys. In recognition that women’s potential expertise can reverse the tidal waves of societal conflict and insecurity, one may likely ask why are women excluded from playing their innate role. I feel that it is important to engage women’s expertise in critical decision making for societal progress.
In other words, if we must reverse the waves of conflict and insecurity in our nation, we urgently need to incorporate women in leadership at all levels.

What do you miss most about your childhood?

I grew up in a closely knitted family with a lot of love. My parents were so much in love and this was naturally transmitted to us, the children.

Sometimes, I miss the pranks we played. Recently two of my brothers who visited from overseas went to our former neighbourhood, took pictures and made videos of our street which they shared on our group platform. You can imagine the gist for over two days on that platform to the extent that their wives felt the impact and could relate with all the stories which their sweethearts have gisted them in time past.

We must begin to change the ways we raise our children so that we can have gender equity and justice.

We must begin to balance the roles of the genders. The monopoly of governance by men must give room to the global trends that are seeing women as presidents, prime ministers and Heads of Governments across all continents. There can only be development if there is gender parity as that is the root of economic and social empowerment.

After work, how do you relax. What are your hobbies?

I love to enjoy quality time with my family. I am blessed to have a supportive spouse and enjoy a stable work-life balance. My husband is my spiritual director and upholds me in many ways. I take time out from work to spend quality time with my family and friends, exercise and get involved in other social activities.

I take actions that create peace in my personal life like visiting the spa to rejuvenate and exercise to generate power. I love dancing, meditating and listening to classic music. All these give me a peaceful mind and ultimately I deliver my best at work. I am a member of many associations of interest where I use the platform to support causes that I believe in, get inspired and be involved. I am intentional about my relationships and have cultivated friendships that are still very active since childhood to secondary through my university years.

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