On 22 October 2020, Big Ideas attended a Coventry University International Office event to mark the launch of the university’s Africa Centre and to celebrate the winners of Nigeria60 – an ambitious programme celebrating 60 Nigerian and Nigerian-diaspora alumni to mark 60 years of Nigerian independence.

The event was chaired by Tony-Okeke Uchenna, and the Keynote Speaker was Taiwo Owatemi, Member of Parliament for Coventry North West. Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor (Commissioner of Human Resource, Science & Technology, African Union) gave a speech on Transforming Learners, which was followed by a panel discussion and a Q&A on the topic: ‘Tomorrow’s Africa’.

As well as looking to the future, the event celebrated past students by spotlighting Coventry University alumni. The Nigeria60 programme shared 60 alumni stories, further strengthening the strong connections between the University and Nigerian and Nigerian-diaspora students. Big Ideas ran this competition in collaboration with the university to find the amazing stories, the entrepreneurs, the academics, the artists, the recently graduated and those more established – to paint a picture of the wealth of talent Coventry University has produced.

The Competition

Coventry University alumni were required to nominate themselves for a Nigeria60 Alumni Award in one of three categories:

  • One to Watch; a recent graduate at the start of a promising career
  • Rising Star; an early to mid career graduate who has just begun to make an impact on their field and within their wider community
  • Lifetime Achievement; an alumni who has made a considerable and lasting positive contribution to their field and to the wider community

The award nominees were then uploaded to a public voting portal where the general public were asked to rate their applications. In total, the public voting platform received 2,877 public votes in one week. The top scoring alumni were then shortlisted for judging by an expert panel. The judging panel included our Creative Partner on the project Dr Yewande Okuleye, Historian and Public Engagement Strategist, as well as an esteemed panel from Coventry University which included:


  • Adaora Nwankwo-Onyiuke, Senior Lecturer
  • George Okata, Internationalisation and Culture Officer
  • Gideon Maas, Executive Director
  • Ikechukwu Maduka, Tutor
  • Jaliyyah Ahmadu-Bello, Assistant Professor

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.”

African Proverb

Dr Yewande Okuleye shared her experience of the judging process:
“Going through the entries I saw moving stories of talent, perseverance and hard work. For example, one entry really stuck out in my mind – a story of being rejected by so many universities and then Coventry took a chance on her. I was pleased to read that the universities that rejected her are inviting her back for talks. That is impact.

The entries reminded me of my younger self, ambitious and hard working but lacking the awareness of my potential.

An African proverb comes to mind. “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.”

I saw so much potential in the entries and I think this competition is a good starting point to help talented alumni recognise their greatness.”

Dr Yewande Okuleye

Dr Yewande Okuleye

The Winners

The winners of Nigeria60 2020 are as follows:

One to Watch:

The One to Watch Award winner is Ngozi Nancy Ibe, a Petroleum Engineer who studied Petroleum and Environmental Technology and graduated in 2020. Of her time at Coventry University she said;

“ Studying at Coventry University was a life changing experience for me”

Rising Star:

The Rising Star Award winner is Ife Durisinmi – Etti who graduated with a Global Business MBA in 2012. She said:

“Coventry University opened me to the world of the world of business and entrepreneurship through my MBA and I’m forever thankful for that experience”.

Lifetime Achievement:

The Lifetime Achievement Award winner is Olumide Ogunbanjo, who studied Sustainable Agriculture at Coventry, graduating in 2008. Since graduating he has been working in the sustainable agriculture sector, and in May 2017, founded the multi award winning agritech startup AGRODATA.

Although the competition required a substantial commitment from participants, Nigeria60 received so many amazing entries. Here is a short film showing the Nigeria60 alumni in full.

Thank you to everyone who participated, voted, and supported Nigeria60.