The Senate and Council of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) on Saturday, 25 November 2023, conferred honorary doctorate degrees on seven distinguished Nigerians.

The event was the 48th Convocation and 53rd Founders Day ceremony of the institution located in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

Of the seven honorees, there was only one female – Wife of Edo State Governor, Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, who was conferred with Doctor of Business Administration, Honoris Causa.

Other honorees are former Lagos State governor and immediate past Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa), the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Mr. Gbenga Komolafe (Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa), Chairman, New Heights Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Paul Enebeli (Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa), the Chief Operating Officer, Green Energy International Limited, Mr. Olukayode Dorun-Adegbulugbe (Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa); Chief Charles Edosomwan (SAN), Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa; and Mr. Osaro Isokpan, Doctor of Business Administration.

The Chancellor of the university and Chairman, Benue State Council of Traditional Rulers, His Royal Majesty, Prof. James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse, Tor Tiv, while conferring the degrees on the recipients, thanked the awardees for making the university proud with their services and philanthropic gestures not only to their communities but their respective states, Nigeria, and the entire humanity.

Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lilian Imuetinyan Salami, said the award of honorary degrees to the seven eminent personalities was in appreciation of their unique and outstanding contributions to the progress of the university and national development.

Undoubtedly, this accolade sits well with the First Lady of Edo State, Mrs Besty Obaseki, who has over the years devoted her time, talent and treasure in the fight for a better society.

One way she has demonstrated this passion is through the introduction of the annual Betsy Obaseki Women Football Tournament (BOWFT), which kicked off in 2021 not only as a pre-season women’s football championship to sharpen and prepare teams for the Nigeria Women’s League but also as a way to galvanise support for the fight against social vices.

In that wise, the first edition of the competition focused on human trafficking, while the second edition, tagged “Say No to Drugs”, urged people, especially youths, to lend their voices and take a stance against drug abuse.

The 2023 edition, which held from Oct 23 to Nov 1 in Benin City, came under the theme “End Gender-Based Violence”.

Speaking at a ceremony to unveil the mascot and theme of this year’s competition in October, Mrs Obaseki said the annual tournament would continue to serve as a platform to emancipate the girl-child.

“Edo used to be number one in trafficking worldwide but now we are nowhere near the top 10,” the First Lady said.

“So, we continue to empower young girls, we want to ensure we help them out. The theme of the first edition was ‘Girl Child Education’, while the second edition was ‘Fight Against Drug Abuse’, which has become a pandemic.

“For the third year we are tackling gender-based violence. It’s a problem so rife in our state and across the country. Every year, we’ll take up one problem and fight it with the tournament until we move the rock out of the way so that our young people can realise their destinies,” she said.

Indeed, the First Lady has never relented in her fight against Gender-Based Violence, which led to the founding of a Gender-Based Domestic Violence (GBDV) centre in the state, popularly known as Vivian Centre. The centre’s major task is to help both men and women of Edo State who are being abused by their partners physically, emotionally and otherwise. It also helps to save and rehabilitate victims of sexual harassment.

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Earlier this year, she paid an unexpected visit to a woman, Mrs. Tina Okhiria, who was shot by her husband leading to the amputation of her left hand.

Apart from paying the medical bills of Mrs Okhiria, the First Lady also issued a stern warning against any form of harassment targeted at her. She urged Mrs Okhiria to report any interference, intimidation, or harassment from any source, assuring her that such incidents would be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law.

Also, at the Edo Women Summit which was held as part of activities marking the 2023 Alaghodaro Summit in November, Mrs Obaseki challenged the continued marginalisation of women in politics in the country, particularly at the local government level, urging for more strengthened legislation to encourage women’s participation in politics at all levels. She also vowed to take those who marginalise women in politics to court for gender-based violence.

Thankfully, people have been paying attention, not the least the University of Benin.

While receiving the honorary doctorate award, Mrs Obaseki described it as an incredible honour and “a culmination of years of dedication and hard work”, saying “to be recognized with such a distinguished degree is a source of great pride for me”.

“As I reflect on this achievement, I am grateful for the guidance and support of mentors, colleagues, and the academic community at the University of Benin. The opportunity to contribute to the body of knowledge in Business Administration is both humbling and inspiring.

“This Doctorate opens new doors for me—whether in academia, research, or the business world. It is not just a recognition of my academic prowess but a licence to continue making meaningful contributions to my field. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, armed with the knowledge and expertise gained during this transformative academic journey,” she said.

This comes as an additional feather to the cap of Mrs Obaseki, who earlier emerged as the Most Prolific First Lady of 2023. In an online voting, she floored 21 other First Ladies nominated in this category in the Democracy Heroes Award. The award, being spearheaded by Face of Democracy Nigeria (FDN), was organized to recognize entrepreneurs, business and political leaders who have made outstanding contributions in the development of the society in the areas of employment creation, excellent governance, corporate social responsibility and others.

In 2022, Mrs Obaseki received the Sheroes Pre-Season Cup Merit Award, with a promise to continue to contribute to girl-child education and development in the country. She also promised to continue the war against child abuse in Nigeria.

Born into the family Mr. and Mrs. Ayibo Amachree of Buguma, Kalabari Kingdom of Rivers State, Mrs Betsy Obaseki attended Township Primary Schools at Jos and Port Harcourt, from where she went on to study at the Benin City Federal Government Girls College. She attended the University of Lagos, where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Accounting. She also studied International Law and Diplomacy, and she has a Master’s degree to show for it.

Betsy Obaseki is an alumnus of the Kellogg’s School of Business Executive Management Program from the North Western University in Illinois, United States.

She has previously worked at LECON Financial Services Ltd as the Head of Business Development and Senior Manager. LECON, otherwise known as Leasing Company of Nigeria, is a subsidiary of Bank of Industry Ltd.

After that, she rose through the ranks at the Bank of Industry, where she worked as the Head of Strategy and Corporate Transformation, as well as the Assistant General Manager.

While working at the Bank of Industry, Betsy Obaseki achieved quite a lot. She was the first woman to become Assistant General Manager at the company. When she worked as the Head of Agribusiness Division, her responsibilities lay in the sphere of risk assets of the agro-allied sector. During her work as the Head of Strategy, she was responsible for developing the first Customer Service Charter of Bank of Industry.

A fellow of ICA (Institute of Credit Administrators), member of IOD (Institute of Directors), NIM (Nigeria Institute of Management), and AIPM (Association of Investment and Pension Managers), Betsy Obaseki worked as a merchant banker, investment banker and development banker. She worked with International Merchant Bank Nigeria Ltd., IMB Securities Ltd. and Messrs Akintola Williams & Co.