The Voice of Transparent Advocacy For Accountability And Good Governance

Obiageli Ezekwesili is an economic policy expert, advocate for transparency, accountability, good governance, and human capital development, as well as a humanitarian and activist.

BACKGROUND

Obiageli (Oby) Ezekwesili is a former Vice President of the World Bank for Africa, a former Nigerian Education Minister, and co-founder of Transparency International. She holds a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. In 2012, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Agriculture in Abeokuta.

A chartered accountant by profession, Oby Ezekwesili first served the Nigerian government as the Head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit, where she led reforms to public procurement. She was later appointed Minister of Solid Minerals in 2005 and chaired the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. In 2006, she became Minister of Education, and in 2007, she took up her World Bank post.

Prior to working for the Government of Nigeria, Dr. Ezekwesili was associated with the Center for International Development at Harvard University. She co-founded Transparency International and directed its work in Africa. She is also a Senior Economic Advisor to Open Society, which aims to build vibrant and tolerant societies with democratically accountable governments.

Obiageli Ezekwesili was a co-founder of Transparency International and served as one of the pioneer directors of the global anti-corruption body based in Berlin, Germany. She also served as Federal Minister of Solid Minerals and Federal Minister of Education during the second-term presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. From May 2007 to May 2012, she served as Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa division and was succeeded by Makhtar Diop.

Ezekwesili holds a Master’s 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 in Nigeria.

Before working for the Government of Nigeria, Ezekwesiili was associated with Professor Jeffrey Sachs at the Center for International Development at Harvard. In 2006, she was honoured with the national award of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR). She is married to Pastor Chinedu Ezekwesili and has three sons.

WORLD BANK

In March 2007, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz appointed Ezekwesili as Vice-President for the Africa Region starting on 1 May 2007. In this role, she oversaw the bank’s operations in 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and supervised a lending portfolio of over $40 billion with more than 1600 staff responsible for project delivery in the region.

Since leaving the World Bank, she has established herself in the Nigerian and international speaking circuits.

She was a co-founder of Transparency International and served as one of its pioneer directors. As a senior economic advisor for Open Society, a group founded by billionaire 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 also serves on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 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 @ Tufts University.

In May 2012, Ezekwesili was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science (DSC) degree by the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta in Nigeria.

THE GUARDIAN DEC 2014

“I couldn’t wrap my head around it,” says Oby Ezekwesili. “More than two hundred schoolgirls!” Eight months on, she still sounds incredulous as she recalls the moment she heard Boko Haram had kidnapped more than 300 students in north-eastern Nigeria.

The mass abduction, during which extremists stormed the girls’ dorm around midnight and forced the terrified teenagers onto trucks at gunpoint, propelled the remote village of Chibok into the global spotlight in April. The fact that it has stayed there is in large part due to the Bring Back Our Girls movement co-founded by Ezekwesili and three other Nigerian women. In the face of personal threats, they have remained driven by an abiding sense of outrage.

Ezekwesili, a former minister and co-founder of the anti-corruption group Transparency International, doubted the news at first. “I couldn’t believe it was true. I was tweeting to all the government handles, presidential aides, TV stations. Nobody replied. Everybody just went under,” she says.

In the early aftermath, the official response – or lack of it – only compounded the horror. A presidential statement was more than two weeks in coming. The president’s wife weighed in, personally interrogating some protest leaders and dismissing the abduction as a plot to bring down her husband. The army, meanwhile, was forced to backtrack on a bewildering claim it had rescued all of the girls. In fact, around 50 of the girls had escaped by jumping out as they were driven towards Boko Haram’s forest training camps. The others, however, remained missing.

Enraged by this apparent indifference, Ezekwesili and others organized a march to the national assembly in the capital, Abuja. Phalanxes of policemen barred the crowd of red-shirted protesters from approaching any official buildings, but the Bring Back Our Girls campaign was born. A Twitter hashtag of the same name caught the world’s attention, with Ezekwesili leading the online movement.

“Since the beginning, they have tried to make us shut up,” says Ezekwesili, who in July tweeted to say that security operatives had tried to prevent her from boarding a flight to London, where she was appearing on a BBC program.

GOVERNMENT

Ezekwesili started off in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration as the Pioneer head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit (aka Due Process Unit). In this position, she earned the sobriquet of “Madam Due Process” for the outstanding work she led a team of professionals to do in sanitizing public procurement or contracting at the Federal level in Nigeria. She was the architect of the Bureau for Public Procurement legislation, the NEITI legislation, and the new Minerals and Mining legislation during her six and a half years stint in government.

She was appointed Minister of Solid Minerals (Mines and Steel) in June 2005 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 sectors.

In June 2006, Ezekwesili was appointed the Federal Minister of Education, holding this post until she took up her World Bank appointment in May 2007.

AWARDS

  • In 2006, Ezekwesili was given the national award of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR).
  • In May 2012, Ezekwesili was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science (DSC) degree by the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta in Nigeria. She was selected as one of the BBC’s 100 Women in 2013 and 2014.
  • In December 2012, Ezekwesili was named by the New African magazine as one of the 100 Most influential Africans.
  • In December 2014, Ezekwesili was named again among the 2014 most influential Africans – Civil Society and Activism by the New African magazine.
  • In March 2016, Ezekwesili won the 2016 New Africa women award.
  • In July 2016, Ezekwesili was awarded an honorary graduate degree by the University of Essex, United Kingdom, where she presented an inspiring and impassioned speech to the graduating students.
  • In March 2019, Ezekwesili won the Forbes Woman Africa Social Influencer Award for her efforts on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media.
  • In 2019, she was awarded a Richard Von Weizsäcker Fellowship at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.
  • She was selected as a 2020 Global Leadership Awards honoree. Also named as one of 100 visionaries featured in the 3D book “Genius:100 Visionary Thinkers launched in Montreal, Canada in 2017 by Albert Einstein’s Foundations.
  • In 2020, she was invested as a global leader by the Vital Voices Global leadership awards.
  • She was recognized by Time magazine as one of its 100 Most Influential People and by the New York Times as one of the 25 Women of Impact for 2015.
  • She holds the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Public Service of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Tuft University EPIIC Jean Meyer Award. She is a Democracy Ambassador -International IDEA, and a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
  • She is one of the 100 Genius Visionaries inducted by the Genius 100 Foundation.
  • In August 2021, Ezekwesili joined Yale University’s Jackson School of Global Affairs as a senior fellow.
  • On May 20, 2022, Dr. Oby received the most impactful woman of the year Award. It was hosted by The Women of Inestimable Values foundation impact makers award to celebrate impact makers across the world.

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