By Christy Anyanwu

The 2024 International Women’s Day, which was marked on Friday, March 8, provided a timely opportunity to appreciate Nigerian women. Dating back to the 1929 Aba Women Riot and the exploits of Margaret Ekpo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Hajia Gambo Sawaba, Dora Akunyili (who are all late), World Bank star and World Trade Organisation Director General, Ngozi Okonji-Iweala and many others too numerous to mention, women have always played outstanding roles in shaping the Nigerian political economy in different walks of life.

It goes without question that nations that actively encourage and empower their womenfolk perform much better and rank higher on the global human development index.

One woman who symbolises the progress of women in the Nigerian milieu is Amaka Okeke-Lawal, the Executive Director of Optiva Capital Partners, an investment, immigration and wealth management company.

Okeke-Lawal stands out as a mentor and advocate for nurturing the potential of others, particularly the younger generation. She is passionate about mentoring young men and women, and through her amazing leadership, she has raised exceptional career-driven youths.

As the Executive Director, she provides leadership to over 1000 employees in over 21 branches across major cities in Nigeria. Of this workforce, about 80 per cent centare mainly youths who look up to her for guidance and counsel.

Just like Optiva Capital Partners, Okeke-Lawal is passionate about promoting and empowering women and youths in Nigeria

Her vibrant personality extends to her exquisite fashion taste and passion for writing, travelling, and dancing, making her a force of positivity and creativity.

Her 13-year work experience spans insurance, direct marketing, content marketing, and financial services.

In this interview with Sunday Sun, she bares her mind on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day.

How do you feel about the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day?

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, “Inspire Inclusion” resonates deeply with me. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance every individual has regardless of gender, that they are valued, respected, and included. In a society where women have historically faced discrimination and marginalization, the call to inspire inclusion is more relevant than ever. It is a call to action to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create a more equitable and inclusive world for all. This theme encourages us to celebrate the achievements of women from diverse backgrounds, amplify their voices, and work towards a future where every woman feels empowered and included. As we reflect on this theme on International Women’s Day, let us commit to fostering a culture of inclusivity, diversity, and equality, not just today, but every day. Together, we can inspire change, uplift women around the world, and create a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

In what ways do you think that the theme would trigger efforts that foster the progress of today’s women?

Inspire Inclusion can trigger efforts that foster the progress of today’s women by promoting a culture of support and empowerment. When women feel valued and included in their communities and workplaces, they are more likely to succeed. This theme can also spark initiatives to address inequalities and promote gender equality by raising awareness about the challenges women face. By advocating for equal opportunities and supporting women in leadership roles, efforts driven by this theme can drive meaningful change.

Also, the theme can serve as a source of inspiration for women to pursue their dreams. By showcasing diverse women’s achievements and providing role models, this theme can empower women to overcome obstacles and reach new heights in their lives. Ultimately, it has the potential to create a more inclusive and diverse world where women can thrive and lead with confidence.

Despite the efforts of women and their contribution to development, they remain under-represented in politics, governance, and at the top leadership of large corporate organizations. 

What renewed commitment do you think this year’s theme would have on women?

This year’s International Women’s Day is poised to reignite a renewed commitment towards addressing the under-representation of women in politics, governance, and top leadership roles within large corporate organizations. By highlighting the importance of inclusivity and diversity, this theme has the potential to spark meaningful conversations, drive policy changes, and empower women to break barriers and shatter glass ceilings. It serves as a call to action for increased support, advocacy, and initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality and creating a more inclusive society where women are given equal opportunities to thrive and lead.

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How would you describe women and leadership roles in Nigeria?

In Nigeria, women have made progress in leadership despite challenges. The country’s patriarchal society traditionally limited women’s access to leadership roles. However, there has been a shift towards greater inclusion of women in politics, with female politicians holding key government positions. Women still face barriers like cultural norms and discrimination.

In the corporate sector, Nigerian women have advanced in leadership, but gender stereotypes persist. Challenges such as unequal pay and work-life balance hinder women’s progress. At the grassroots level, Nigerian women lead in sectors like education and healthcare. However, they lack recognition and support. To enhance gender equality in leadership, addressing systemic barriers, promoting inclusive policies, offering mentorship, and challenging stereotypes are essential. Empowering women in leadership can drive sustainable development and progress in Nigeria.

What are some of the other things that occupy your time?

As the Executive Director, I’m in charge of the development and implementation of business development strategies, institutional operations, branch expansion strategies, training and development of the business development team. As a wife, I take care of and manage everything in the home with precision and spend quality time with my husband.

At what point did you become an investment,  immigration and wealth management expert? If you had to change something in the sector, what would it be?

My journey has been one filled with accomplishments and this is evident in my continuous growth. I joined Optiva Capital Partners in September 2013 as a relationship management executive. The chairman didn’t know me from anywhere but he believed in me and he challenged me. The truth is that I love a good challenge. When I set my mind to do something, nothing can stop me. He identified my strengths and weaknesses and began to train me. He built an extreme hunger for success in me and I was recognized consistently as the top salesperson. From there, I grew to become General Manager and right now, I’m the Executive Director of Business Development. I am in charge of building a high-performance organization overseeing 21 branches and my responsibilities include implementing business strategies, work tools for business development, training and development of the team, institutional operations, branch expansion, identifying key results business strategies, and social media marketing.                                        

I wouldn’t change anything in the sector because Optiva Capital Partners provides a gateway to exclusive investment opportunities for our clients across different asset classes, currencies, and geographies globally, to enhance and maximize their wealth. 


What advice do you have for young people on how to deal with current challenges in the economy?

In the dynamic economic landscape of today, young individuals are confronted with a multitude of challenges that may seem overwhelming. They need to arm themselves with the requisite skills and mindset not only to endure but to excel in the face of adversity. My advice to young people is to focus on continuous learning and skill enhancement. Given the ever-evolving nature of the economy, staying updated on current market trends and technologies can provide a competitive advantage in the job market.

Cultivating resilience and adaptability is also crucial, as economic fluctuations are inevitable. By fostering a resilient attitude and the ability to adapt to change, they can navigate economic uncertainties more effectively and emerge stronger. Building relationships with mentors and peers through networking can offer valuable guidance and growth opportunities in times of economic turmoil. Taking a proactive and entrepreneurial approach to career development is key in a competitive job market. Initiating action, exploring new prospects, and being open to calculated risks can distinguish them from their peers. 

Lastly, emphasizing financial literacy and prudent money management is vital. Acquiring knowledge of fundamental financial principles like budgeting, saving, and investing can empower them to make informed decisions and secure their financial well-being in uncertain circumstances.

In what way can Optiva Capital Partners support the entrepreneurial drive of young people, many of whom are beginning to generate income from legitimate sources and enterprises?

As a company, Optiva Capital Partners has a policy to help and enable local entrepreneurs. So many young people are naturally endowed but they don’t have the opportunity to have the right sponsorship that will enable their gift to be actualized. At Optiva Capital Partners, we try to help as much as we can.

Optiva Capital offers mentorship and guidance to young entrepreneurs as we can see in our just concluded sponsorship tagged “Be More” with Chinneylove which was aimed at sponsoring, encouraging and uplifting young women to become better versions of themselves by maximizing their full potential recently sponsored the Doam Foundation Annual Charity Golf Tournament and the goal was to lift 50 less privileged children from the streets and put smiles on their faces.

Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life?

Mr. Franklin Nechi has been and still is a great influence in my life. He is the Chairman of Optiva Capital Partners. He motivated me and redirected my energy and focus to be a person of significance by identifying my strengths and weaknesses and began to train me. He built an extreme hunger for success in me, elevated my trust in God and trained me to be mentally tough, the kind of mental toughness that helped me to glide through the challenges of life unfazed. The chairman is a visionary, we call him the Odogwu of Optiva! According to him, equipping a woman is like equipping a generation and this reflects greatly at Optiva Capital Partners as 70 per cent of our workforce are women. The chairman believes that women as nurturers give in everything when given an opportunity.