Obiageli Ezekwesili was born on the 28th of April, 1963 in Lagos, Nigeria. More popularly known as Oby Ezekwesili,she is a former vice president of the World Bank (African Region), co-founder and founding director of Transparency International, co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls movement and has also served twice as Federal Minister in Nigeria.
She is also a chartered accountant/consultant, public analyst, and senior economic advisor from Anambra state.
OBY EZEKWESILI: EARLY LIFE & BACKGROUND
She was born in Lagos state to Benjamin Ujubuonu who died in 1988 and mother Cecilia Nwayiaka Ujubuonu.
Oby Ezekwesili holds a Bachelor degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Master degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, as well as a Master of Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She trained with the firm of Deloitte and Touche and qualified as a chartered accountant.
OBY EZEKWESILI: CAREER
Ezekwesili served as Federal Minister of Solid Minerals and later as Federal Minister of Education. Subsequently, she served as the Vice-President of the World Bank‘s Africa division from May 2007 to May 2012; later replaced by Makhtar Diop.
Ezekwesili started off in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration as the pioneer head of the Budget Monitoring and Price intelligence Unit (aka Due Process Unit). It was in this position that she earned the sobriquet of “Madam Due Process” for her outstanding work of leading a team of professionals to sanitize the public procurement and contracting processes at the Federal level in Nigeria.
She was the architect of the Bureau for Public Procurement legislation, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) legislation, and the new Minerals and Mining legislation during her six and a half years stint in government.
In June 2005, she was appointed Minister of Solid Minerals (Mines and Steel) during which time she led a vibrant reform program that led to Nigeria’s global recognition as a credible mining investment destination. She was also the Chairperson of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), and led the first ever national implementation of the global standards and principles of transparency in the oil, gas and mining sector.
In June 2006, Ezekwesili was appointed the Federal Minister of Education, a post she held until she took up a World Bank appointment in May 2007.
In 2012, she successfully completed her stint as the World Bank Vice-President (Africa Division). As Vice President, she was in charge of the bank’s operations of 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and supervised a lending portfolio of over $40 billion.
As a senior economic advisor for Open Society, a group founded by George Soros, she advises nine reform-committed African heads of state including Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia.
On 1 October 2012, one of the world’s leading telecommunications firms, Bharti Airtel, with operations in 20 countries, named Ezekwesili as a director on its board. She is also on the boards of World Wildlife Fund, the School of Public Policy of Central European University, the Harold Hartog School of Government and Policy, New African magazine, and the Center for Global Leadership at Tufts University.
In April 2020, she was appointed to the Board of Trustees of International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation where she contributes to overseeing their expansion in developing economies.
In January 2019, Oby Ezekwesili was appointed on the advisory board of Nexford University, in Washibgton DC and subsequently launched a scholarship program dedicated to women in Nigeria.
Oby Ezekwesili: Advocacy and #BringBackOurGirls Campaign
In March 2014, she delivered a keynote speech at the national summit of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the leading opposition party in Nigeria. She criticized the many cross-carpeting governors and urged the party to have “a conversation deeper than how you’re going to chase (the ruling) PDP out of power”.
In the aftermath of the abduction of schoolgirls from Chibok by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Oby Ezekwesili used the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) advocacy group to draw global attention to the plight of all persons who have been abducted by terrorists from Nigeria’s war ravaged northeast region. Ezekwesili was instrumental to the start of the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media, which trended internationally. On 23 April, at the opening ceremony for a UNESCO event honoring the city of Port Harcourt as the 2014 World Book Capital city, She urged Nigerians to not just tweet but actively participate in efforts to “bring back our girls”.
As she prepared to board a British Airways flight to London to appear on the BBC programme Hard Talk in July 2014, she was detained by Nigeria’s secret service, the SSS, who also seized her passport. She was later released the same morning.
She is the Founder and Convener of the #RedCardMovement.
Oby Ezekwesili also contested the office of President of Nigeria in 2019, a race she eventually backed out of as a result in conflict of ideals with her party.
She continues her advocacy as well as public speaking engagements from time to time.