Biafra Nigeria World Weblogs


BNW: Biafra Nigeria World Magazine



BNW: Insight, Features, and Analysis

BNW Writer's Block 

BNW News and Archives

 BNW News Archive

BNW: Biafra Nigeria World


BNW Forums and Message Board


Biafra Net

 Igbo Net: The Igbo Network

BNW Africa and AfricaWorld 

BNW: Icon

BNW: Icon


Flag of Biafra Nigeria

BNW News Archives

BNW News Archive 2002-January 2005

BNW News Archive 2005

BNW News Archive 2005 and Later

« June 12 Protest: Gambari not Worried | Main | Reflections of the Warrior of the Light VI: The Correct Vibration, Discipline, Compassion, and Accepting Destiny »

June 19, 2005

Obianuju Arinze: A Promising Igbo Woman

by Uche Nworah --- Call her a woman on a mission, and you won’t be far wrong, still in her 20s,Obianuju’s career track record is already amazing and if she carries on in this manner, it won’t be long before we start seeing her face and name tag in the boardrooms of giant corporations. In the countdown to her Harvard graduation, she agreed to open up her life in this e-interview. An inspirational story for Nigerian and African women from one of their own.

Uche Nworah: Tell us about yourself?

Obianuju Arinze: My name is Obianuju Arinze and I am somewhere in my twenties! I grew up mostly in Nigeria. Growing up in Nigeria was possibly the best thing that happened to me and was fun and enjoyable. I grew up as the youngest of 5 children and definitely was not spoilt at least not by my siblings. My parents from a very young age taught me that I had the ability to achieve anything that I wanted and I just had to keep working on it and praying to God. Growing up as the youngest thought me at a very young age to learn to give as well as I got, to stand up for myself and find ways to make my voice heard. My family environment was a very happy and loving home to grow up and I credit them with helping me become who I am today.

For me, the belief that anything is possible with the grace of God and hard work is very important. As an adult, I often remember this saying that my grandmother used often “chin-chi si umu ya, fa rapusia na ife di oku ga eme si jua oyi” (the bedbug said to her children, don’t worry every hot thing will get cold in the end). This is important because apparently only very hot things can kill a bedbug. As a result, whatever I was doing, I just prayed and kept at it till it worked out if I really wanted it bad enough. If not, I let go and moved on, incorporating the key learnings into my next project.

Uche Nworah: What about your educational background?

Obianuju Arinze: I went to Federal Government Girls College, Potiskum now in Yobe State, Nigeria, and then to the University of North London where I graduated with a 1st class degree in Accounting & Finance. I graduated from the Harvard Business School with an MBA in June 2005.

Uche Nworah: What was it like living in London?

Obianuju Arinze: When I first got to London, living there was quite difficult, all of a sudden all the things I took for granted in Nigeria weren’t there anymore. I was working and going to school and it was difficult. But I am an adaptable person and I quickly adapted and decided to make the best of everything. On the other hand, London wasn’t as difficult as it could have been since I had lived in London as a child before my family moved to Nigeria and had almost all my siblings there and loads and loads of other relatives. Career-wise, I joined Merrill Lynch as an analyst after graduation from the university. I moved to another Investment Bank, also in London about two years later. I definitely have been very blessed in my career to date and gained tremendous experience from these two roles.

Uche Nworah: At what point did you decide to go to Harvard, and what motivated you?

Obianuju Arinze: I enjoyed investment banking but could not see myself doing it for the rest of my life. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to be when I grew up so to speak. I have a thirst for knowledge and enjoy being in business but I knew that to be the best that I could be in that arena; I needed to increase the tools in my professional tool kit. While there are surely other avenues to further one’s education, after much research and analysis, I decided that an MBA was the best route for me. I applied to Harvard Business School (HBS) because of the following: - a) the 100% case study method of teaching which I believe is the best simulation of real life events that one would face as a business person; b) the Harvard brand which cannot be underestimated c) the collegial atmosphere of the school as about 70% of the student body live in this really beautiful campus.

Harvard Class of 2005

Uche Nworah: Who funded your Harvard studies? And what does it cost to get a Harvard MBA?

Obianuju Arinze: HBS has this policy that if an applicant is accepted, he or she should not be unable to attend just because of money. As a result, the school (like many other business schools) has an arrangement with Citibank to provide all students that apply with a student loan up to the student’s budget as decided by the school. For 2004/2005, I think it was $62,000 a year for a single student and slightly higher for married students and covers basically everything from tuition to living expenses. Irrespective of your nationality and without any American co-signer required (unlike many other business schools), any student is able to borrow from Citibank any amount up to that $62,000 for the year. The Citibank loan like any other loans has to be repaid over a maximum 15 years commencing 6 months after graduation but there are many fellowships and scholarships available that you don’t have to repay, that students can also apply for.

Uche Nworah: Would you say that the Harvard MBA opens doors?

Obianuju Arinze: Yes, I believe the Harvard MBA does open many doors for many reasons including a) the brand which gives the graduates a certain amount of credibility; b) with thousands of alumni around the world, the power of the network is obviously overwhelming; c) most importantly, the knowledge gained from fellow students and professors is unbelievable, that with a Harvard MBA you should be able to perform very well in your chosen career as the brand and network can only do so much and you have to actually perform once you get that job.

Uche Nworah: What was it like at Harvard, In terms of the academic rigours and challenges, did the Harvard myth live up to your expectations?

Obianuju Arinze: The first year especially was very difficult with reading and preparing for three cases a day/5 days a week, being involved in section and club related activities, making new friends and trying to stay in touch with old ones and family. There just seemed to be insufficient hours in any day to complete all your tasks. Also in the first year, most students who were used to be being the best in their class at college or high school are suddenly faced with others who you think are a lot smarter and all the insecurity that comes with that. To make matters worse, we are graded on a forced curve where only a certain number could get a particular grade so unlike other places where if you deserved an “A” grade you got it, here. You only got that grade as long as someone else did not deserve it more by performing better and once the maximum number of people that can get that grade is reached, you automatically go to the next grade.

Second year for most was very different as by then we had learnt how to navigate the complicated intricacies of school life, prioritise our schedules and actually choose the classes you wanted to take unlike in the first year where all the classes are compulsory. First year was likened to a planned economy and second year a perfect capitalist economy

All in all, HBS has far exceeded any expectation I ever had or could have thought of and definitely a lot more difficult than I expected.

Uche Nworah: Where do you see the Nigerian woman today, in terms of their rising career profile?

Obianuju Arinze: I believe every Nigerian woman is unique in her own right but to generalise, I would say that she can be who she wants to be. Although it’s now common and somewhat accepted for her to concentrate on her career over marriage and family, most Nigerian women I know today would prefer to have both the career and the family.

Uche Nworah: Any advice for the millions of Nigerian women who obviously would like to be in your shoes?

Obianuju Arinze: Always be true to yourself and try to do things because it is the right thing for you and not because your friends are doing it. While I am a great believer in people finding what they are passionate about and then pursuing it, be practical – if you, like most of us in this world do not wake up with one thing you are passionate about popping into your head, please my sister, find something you at least like and be doing it till you figure out the passion stuff because I believe that not doing anything because you are looking for your calling is a waste of that great potential.

Dare to dream – believe that you can be anything you want, then have a plan to achieve, do your research, network (you won’t believe the power of networking) and most importantly pray. If you want to be a doctor and you are worried about funding, do your research and you’d be surprised the amount of scholarships out there, talk to people who may have gone through similar things or who may know of such people and they will give you information. If you want to go to Oxford, Harvard etc, find out how all those people got admitted. Honestly, I was thinking of HBS more than 5 years ago and for the life of me, did not know how I would get there. I talked to people (didn’t know many that had gone there), read books and any other research to find out how the people that were admitted got in and then created the package that I believed they were looking for.

Don’t be afraid of failure – You are definitely going to fail in some things and it can be a positive if you feedback the lessons into your life. Everyone fails sometimes, but true failure in my view is when you let that one failure dictate the rest of your life and yes I know it’s often easier said than done but you have to persevere.

Uche Nworah: Would you say that as a woman, in a male dominated world, you always have to work extra hard to prove your self?

Obianuju Arinze: Sure you have to work harder to prove your self and that is also true for a black person in a majority white country. However I believe that since you can’t change the fact that you are a black woman, the only practical thing to do is to ensure that you are very good in what you do, perform well and let the people around you know that you are performing well. Talking about how well we are performing is often the hardest thing to talk to managers and colleagues about for me and many other professional Nigerian women that I know but the sad part is that it is often not enough to be doing well, you also have to be seen to be doing well and in most cases, no one but yourself is going to let others see that.

Uche Nworah: Now that you have the esteemed Harvard MBA, what’s next?

Obianuju Arinze: Ultimately I would like to set up my own businesses but for now I plan on gaining more professional experience and learning more about running a successful company. I will be joining The Boston Consulting Group as a consultant later this year, but first I want to chill out for a couple of weeks, maybe travel around for a while, and refresh my mind for the coming challenges with Boston consulting group.

Uche Nworah: Were there other Nigerians in your Harvard class?

Obianuju Arinze: Yes, there were other Nigerians in my class and we all have gotten to know each other very well over the last 2 years and are now all quite close to each other.

Uche Nworah: Have you ever thought about taking your skills back to Nigeria, to work either for the Nigerian government just like the Finance Minister (Mrs Okonji - Iweala)?

Obianuju Arinze: Sure, I have often thought about it and would seriously consider any interesting offers. But I don’t have any job offers in Nigeria for now and would really not consider moving back to Nigeria without any concrete plans.

Uche Nworah: What would it take to get you to come back to Nigeria to work?

Obianuju Arinze: The right opportunity both from a personal perspective as well as a professional one!!

Uche Nworah: Now, this is personal, Are you married or single? And do you think that men get intimated by career conscious women like you?

Obianuju Arinze: I am single and I believe that the right man for me would not necessarily be intimidated by a professional woman. The woman on the other hand, doesn’t have to flaunt her professional success. As forward looking as I am, I am still a product of my upbringing and believe that women just as men have a role to play and while these roles are dynamic in their definitions, as a woman, you can’t be disrespecting your man just because you are successful and the man too needs to be successful in his own right. I don’t believe that success is all about money so when I say the man has to be successful; it’s not about him being rich and what not, but about him fulfilling his potential in whatever area.

Uche Nworah: What do you do in your free time?

Obianuju Arinze: My friends are very important to be both old and new ones so I try to hang out with them as often as possible. We go out to restaurants, movies or just hang out at home. I love watching movies and recently discovered that one of my cousins has loads of Nigerian movies and so have been watching a lot of those. I love to travel so I try to go somewhere new as often as possible even if it’s just a city close by that I’d never been to before. I love meeting new people and learning new things and currently trying to learn Spanish to add to my English, Igbo, Hausa and formerly passable French (mostly forgotten now). I go to the gym (though it’s definitely not a hobby) and trying to pick up running (who knows I may just run a marathon in 1 million years time). Lastly I read a lot – mostly fiction and read about 5 books a week and if money wasn’t an object would probably read more. The downside is that since I’ve read for a large part of my life, practice did make perfect and I read so fast now that I finish the book faster than I thought that I have to go look for another one. Thank God for libraries and online free books.

Uche Nworah: Please describe your ideal man for us

Obianuju Arinze: A man that knows who he is and what he wants in life and would intellectually challenge me. He has to share my moral values, be God fearing with a strong moral compass and will stand up for what he believes in. A man who understands that our relationship is of utmost importance and would work with me to sustain the relationship. Someone who has ambition and purpose in life and working towards fulfilling his potential in whatever area. I also like a man who is family oriented and would go that extra mile for his family as my family is very important to me. He has to believe that romance is not a foreign language and be willing to show it through words and deeds. Sense of humour and the ability to laugh at oneself is also important as well as the ability to communicate.

Ultimately, my ideal man has to understand the value of compromise while still being strong enough to tell me to “sit down and shut up’ when deserved. He has to understand that he cannot be violent and that dialogue should solve most problems.

Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and would wish to interview Nigerians who are excelling in their professions either in Nigeria or in the Diaspora, their stories may be an inspiration for us all. Do you know of anybody? Please email their details to

Posted by Administrator at June 19, 2005 10:48 PM


quite an inspirational story. i am a first class graduate from the university of lagos presently in the uk looking forward to commencing my pg in september. tho been largely hindered by finance, ur story has encouraged me.
i leave you with this quote that sums up ur story "the way to keep a bicycle balance is to keep on moving"


Posted by: Gabriel at July 12, 2005 06:08 PM

BNW Writers A-M

BNW Writers N-Z



BiafraNigeria Banner

BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer


BiafraNigeria Spacer

BiafraNigeria Spacer


BNW Forums


The Voice of a New Generation