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February 13, 2012

Bill Clinton And Cherie Blair In Nigeria For This Day Awards

The wife of former British Prime Minister and distinguished Queen’s Counsel, Cherie Blair, arrived on Sunday (Feb 12) from the United Kingdom, as the special guest speaker at the 17th THISDAY Annual Awards, scheduled to take place on Monday evening, at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Mrs. Blair arrived ahead of former United States President, Bill Clinton, who is expected to arrive today (Feb 13) to headline the awards ceremony, deliver the keynote lecture and hand out awards to this year’s recipients, alongside Mrs. Blair.

Mrs. Blair arrived on board a British Airways flight from London, which landed in Lagos at 6.23pm and after security formalities, faced a barrage of photographers at the departure hall at 7.15 pm, accompanied by a retinue of aides.

Clad in a simple striped black turtle neck sweatshirt and white pants, Mrs. Blair looked relaxed and walked casually like one very familiar with her environment.

Before she boarded a Land Cruiser sports utility vehicle in a motorcade that whisked her away from the airport, the wife of the former British PM, took time to exchange pleasantries with everyone that facilitated her arrival at the airport.

Bill Clinton and Cherie Blair will feature prominently in this year’s awards, which will honour 55 Nigerian women of distinction and 25 other Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in their various spheres of endeavour as Lifetime Achievement honorees.

Cherie Blair is a leading human rights lawyer and a passionate campaigner for women's equality across the world. Her determination to help women overcome prejudice has seen her visit and speak in many countries.

She also actively promotes work-life balance policies, having herself experienced the pressures of combining a demanding career with being the wife of Tony Blair and a mother of four.

There was nothing in Cherie Blair’s background to suggest such a distinguished career. Having being brought up by a single mother in a modest home in Liverpool, she was the first member of her family to attend university. But having won a place at the London School of Economics, she graduated with first class honours in law and went on to top her class in her Bar examinations.

She met and married Tony Blair in 1980 when they were both lawyers. They have four children and their  youngest, Leo, is the first child born to a serving prime minister for over a century.

Cherie Blair combined her legal career with raising her family and in 1995, was appointed Queen’s Counsel (post-nominal QC). This particular appointment is highly respected, as only barristers in the UK who, having practised law for at least ten years, are given the honour on the recommendation of the lord chancellor, to earn the right to wear silk gown ('takes silk' as it is called) and take precedence over other barristers in the court. A similar honour makes an attorney 'senior counsel' in British commonwealth countries. In the US, no such distinction is made or honour bestowed. She specialises in employment and human rights law and is regularly asked to appear in courts abroad. She also serves as a part-time judge.

William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton was the first president on the platform of the Democratic Party, in six decades, to be elected twice – first in 1992 and then in 1996. Under his leadership, the country enjoyed the strongest economy in a generation and the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, including the creation of more than 22 million jobs.

After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation, with the mission to strengthen the capacity of people in the US and throughout the world, to meet the challenges of global interdependence. Today the Foundation has staff and volunteers around the world working to improve lives through several initiatives, including the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (now the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a separate non-profit organisation) which is helping two million people living with HIV/AIDS access life saving drugs.

Other initiatives, including the Clinton Climate Initiative, the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative and the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, are applying a business-oriented approach worldwide, to fight climate change and develop sustainable economic growth in Africa and Latin America.

Meanwhile, the 80s funk and R&B U.S. based group, Earth Wind and Fire, which was supposed to perform at the awards, will no longer be performing as planned. Their performance, according to their handlers, has been postponed due to logistics and scheduling issues.

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