National Commissioner & Chair Legal Services
Independence National Electoral Commission, Nigeria

Editor, Thisday Lawyer

Managing Partner, Norfolk Partners

May Agbamuche-Mbu

My father, a former Attorney-General of Nigeria, was my greatest professional and personal influence. When I was living in England he would always passionately remind me about pursuing my legal career. That was a source of encouragement and I went on to acquire my LL.M and also become a UK qualified solicitor. My 35 year career has taken me from my chambers, to being a frontline newspaper’s legal editor and onto public service initially as a member of the Presidential Project Assessment Committee, where I was the sole lawyer as we reviewed abandoned projects running into billions of Naira. I was dismayed at the way the public sector operated with total impunity and lack of patriotism, and felt more from the private sector must join public service to offer a different perspective and add value thereto. Today I am back in public service as a National Commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission, heading Legal Services. It has been a challenging yet rewarding experience. As a woman in a male dominated environment you need to have certain key values, professionalism, integrity, high ethical standards, self-respect, a sense of fearlessness and the strength of character to handle all forms of persecution.

To be accomplished as a woman in the world that we live in today you need humility, the ability to laugh at yourself, to brush off slights quickly, to be courageous, to respect yourself and others, especially those who are at the bottom of the ladder, as they will rally around you when you least expect it. One should also possess the precious ability to show gratitude and appreciate kind help; as well as always trying to be a role model to younger lawyers and being one who celebrates the successes of others. Seeking out a suitable mentor, that is to say a phenomenal woman you look up to who has the values you most treasure, can also be very important in helping develop your drive, determination and ‘can do’ spirit. Finally, you cannot underestimate the benefit of strong family support. With that there is nothing you cannot achieve.

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Institute for African Women in Law (c) All rights reserved.