Isibor Aigbe Oaikhinan

Legal Officer – Central Bank of Nigeria

Isibor holds the position of commissioner with the IBA Professional Wellbeing Commission, as well as being a Climate Reality Leader passionate about sustainability and DEIB. He is also proud to serve as Vice Chair of the International Refugee Law Committee of the American Bar Association International Law section, contributing to the development of international law and policy for refugees and displaced persons. Isibor’s focus over the past decade has been on mental wellbeing, civic activism, promoting access to justice, and raising awareness for mental health and wellbeing.

1. In a nutshell, please tell us a little about your career journey until this point.

I am originally from the oil rich Niger Delta region; this is the wealthiest district in West Africa, but I have intentionally lived in 6 different regions of Nigeria. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have experienced the length and breadth of Nigeria because it is a beautiful country.

I studied Law and currently working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as a Legal Officer. My current role at the CBN has harnessed my legal drafting and research skillsets. This role has improved my knowledge of multilateral institutions, policies, and procedures. This position improved my knowledge on legal foundations, and independent oversight mechanisms. More importantly, it gave me the privilege to interface with a variety of federal agencies and external organizations.

I am also a Climate Reality Leader and a Commissioner with the International Bar Association Professional Wellbeing Commission. The latter aims to identify, coordinate, and organize various global stakeholders in changing the culture and mindset of the legal profession by raising awareness of the challenges and stigma surrounding discussions of wellbeing.

2. Who is your role model and why?

My role model is Malala Yousafzai. Malala is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. Despite facing extreme adversity, including a Taliban assassination attempt, she has continued to advocate for the right to education for all girls. Her unwavering commitment to this cause, even in the face of danger, is truly inspiring.

Malala’s story highlights the power of education and the importance of standing up for what you believe in, even when it is difficult. She is a reminder that individuals have the power to create positive change in the world, and that it is never too early or too late to start making a difference.

“Her unwavering commitment to this cause, even in the face of danger, is truly inspiring.”

3. What would you tell your 18-year-old self if they could see you now?

When I was young I wanted to be a Medical Doctor to save lives. As I got older, my intent was to pursue a legal career that I enjoyed as it is also a way for me to give back to society. It’s important to follow your passions and interests, and to find a career that you can find fulfilment and enjoyment in. Pursuing a career that aligns with your passions and interests can lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

Find your voice. I spent years walking out of meetings with regrets for not speaking my mind when I had the chance. Pursuing a career in law can be rewarding, but it also requires hard work, dedication, and a commitment to lifelong learning. By developing strong communication and critical thinking skills, gaining practical experience, staying informed and adaptable, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, you can excel in your career and achieve your goals.

4. How has your personal journey informed the way you navigate your career?

I have strong sense of responsibility and a caring nature that I bring to my work and personal life. Being a caretaker for a team can be an asset, as it can help create a positive and supportive work environment, which can lead to better productivity and job satisfaction for all involved.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that being a caretaker can also have its challenges, such as taking on too much responsibility and potentially neglecting your own needs. It’s important to strike a balance between caring for others and caring for yourself. In terms of my personal success, my approach is to focus on what is best for the team. When I prioritize the well-being and success of those around me, it can create a positive feedback loop where others are motivated to support and help me in return. My inherent nature as a caretaker can be a strength in my career and personal life if I also prioritize my own well-being and balance my responsibilities appropriately.

Over the 7 years that I have been a part of the Banking industry, I have seen many changes, in terms of  adaptation to technology. Flexibility and creativity are essential skills in any industry, especially in a field like banking that is constantly evolving. It’s also important to remember that despite the advances in technology, banking is still a people-based business. Building effective relationships and working with people to develop solutions remains a critical aspect of success in the industry. I have been able to leverage skills in this area to further my career development.

In essence, I have a strong foundation of skills and experiences that have allowed me to navigate the changing landscape of the banking industry successfully. As technology continues to evolve and shape the industry, it will be important to continue to develop both my technical and people skills to remain competitive and effective in my role.

5. How has connecting globally with people in other countries influenced your thinking or approach?

Connecting with people from other countries can broaden one’s perspective and deepen one’s understanding of different cultures, values, and beliefs. This can, in turn, lead to a more nuanced and informed approach to problem-solving and decision-making. By engaging with individuals from different backgrounds, one may also become more attuned to the complexities and interdependencies of global issues. This can help to build empathy and collaboration skills that are essential for effective leadership in a globalized world.

Furthermore, global connections can provide opportunities for knowledge sharing, learning, and collaboration across borders. By tapping into diverse perspectives and experiences, one may gain new insights and innovative ideas that can enhance one’s professional and personal growth.

Connecting with people from other countries can broaden one’s horizons, deepen one’s understanding of global issues, and enhance one’s leadership and collaboration skills. As a lawyer and Raisina fellow, this can be particularly valuable in navigating complex legal and policy challenges in an increasingly interconnected world.

“By engaging with individuals from different backgrounds, one may also become more attuned to the complexities and interdependencies of global issues.”

6. How do you think driving inclusion in your country or region differs from other parts of the world? Are there unique challenges or opportunities?

Nigeria is a very ethnically diverse country with 371 ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Yoruba, Hausa and the Igbo. These ethnic groups consist of multiple tribes enumerating up to 371. Nigeria, like other regions, faces unique challenges and opportunities in driving inclusion. Some of the challenges include inadequate infrastructure, limited access to quality education, cultural norms, and political instability. However, the region’s large youth population, rich natural resources, diversity, and sense of community can provide a basis for driving innovation, entrepreneurship, and social change. To promote inclusion, tailored and innovative solutions that address the local context and factors influencing inclusion in the region are necessary.

To drive inclusiveness in Nigeria, it is important to address these challenges and leverage the unique opportunities. This may require innovative solutions that are tailored to the local context, and a deep understanding of the cultural, social, and economic factors that influence inclusion in the region. In summary, driving inclusion in Nigeria presents both unique challenges and opportunities.

7. What is some advice that you would give business leaders and allies to drive inclusion for mental health in business?

The statement “you can’t be what you can’t see” resonates deeply with me and my experiences. Growing up, I had limited exposure to individuals who looked like me in positions of leadership, particularly in the legal profession. This lack of representation made it challenging for me to envision myself pursuing a career as a lawyer. It was only through meeting and learning from successful lawyers who looked like me that I was able to believe it was possible for me to achieve my goals.

As a result, I believe representation and visibility are critical in inspiring future generations and encouraging individuals from diverse backgrounds to pursue their dreams. It is essential to have diverse role models who individuals can relate to and who can demonstrate that success is achievable regardless of one’s background or identity. Ultimately, seeing individuals who look like me succeed in various fields can have a profound impact on our aspirations and sense of possibility.