She is a Nigerian chartered accountant and co-founder of Transparency International, TI, serving as one of the pioneer directors of the global anti-corruption body based in Berlin, Germany.
She served as Minister of Solid Minerals and later as Minister of Education during the second-term presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. She later served as the vice president of the World Bank’s Africa division from May 2007 to May 2012 before she was replaced.
Educationally, Wikipedia records that she 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 also trained with the firm of Deloitte and Touche and qualified as a chartered accountant. Her name is Obiageli, (Oby for short) Ezekwesili.
Inside Obasanjo’s rule
Ezekwesili started off in the Obasanjo administration as the pioneer head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit otherwise known as Due Process Unit in the presidency. It was in this position that she earned the sobriquet of Madam Due Process for her contributions in ensuring transparent public procurement or contracting system in the government at the centre. She has the credit for being the brain behind the Bureau for Public Procurement legislation, the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, NEITI, legislation and the new Minerals and Mining legislation during her almost seven years in government.
In June 2006, Ezekwesili was appointed the Minister of Education, holding this post until she took up her World Bank appointment in May 2007. Since leaving the World Bank she veered into the uncertain terrain of public commentary; a gambit many argue has become her undoing.
Ostensibly propped by forces or reasons that were undoubtedly questionable, Ezekwesili rode on the back of the global outcry that followed the alleged abduction of over 200 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by insurgents of the Boko Haram sect on June 14, 2014 to constitute a pressure group, #BringBackOurGirls, with the sole objective of calling for the rescue of the innocent young girls from the grasp of their abductors.
To rub it in, Ezekwesili rallied a handful of Nigerians in Abuja using the famous Unity Fountain on the busy Shehu Shagari Highway, a stone throw from Aso Rock Presidential Villa, where immediate past first citizen, Goodluck Jonathan, administered the country’s affairs from, as their meeting point for all the propaganda the #BringBackOurGirls group ran against the Jonathan administration and the country’s military often painting them as incompetent of dealing with the insurgency question.
There were times too that the group staged questionable road shows along the busy Shehu Shagari highway close the seat of government, ostensibly testing the will of the government of the day. In the social media too, Ezekwesili led a rigorous campaign against the same government calling the sitting president then all kinds of unprintable names. Not even clarifications by relevant agencies of government as to efforts being made towards fighting insurgency and consequently securing the release of the Chibok girls meant anything to her.
As many were to later observe, it was as if Ezekwesili had morbid hatred for anything, be it statement, broadcast or policy that had Jonathan’s imprimatur. She simply was impossible. An instance was when she tweeted to the world that Nigerian security officials stopped her from travelling out of the country for an international event she had to attend. Even when within minutes Ezekwesili was aboard her flight to Europe, she did not see any reason to retract that embarrassment she gave to the government of her country.
She was to carry her crusade further when she somewhat abandoned the #BringBackOurGirls forum and started commenting on political matters. The focus also was the outgoing Jonathan administration. And to underscore this, one month after the former president left office, Ezekwesili still will not let him enjoy his retirement in peace.
An example was Wednesday last week when obviously for want of relevance in the emerging President Muhammadu Buhari administration, she declared that the current situation in the country was not better than what the nation was in the years former President Shehu Shagari held sway.
She made this remark at the annual Public Service Celebration, which held at Ikeja, Lagos.
Hear her: “We have found ourselves in a situation where every sector is in a precarious situation. We are operating on uncertainty and it is most difficult. Our economy has taken a nose dive, and I ask how it is possible for Nigeria to find itself in this embarrassing situation.
“We were faced with similar economic conditions like that between 1981 and 1982 during the regime of former President Shehu Shagari.”
Ezekwesili’s current venture into political commentary has since raised many questions as to what she really wants. Nigerians now wonder why she suddenly is not making comments on the abducted Chibok girls. Some too are curious about her sudden closeness to the Buhari administration, even as more query her relationship with Obasanjo.
On the #BringBackOurGirls forum which she obviously no longer associates with, the questions on most lips these days as captured in social media include the following, which have prompted questions from local and offshore commentators asking if the Chibok girls issue was not a scam designed to embarrass the then Jonathan administration out of power:
* How come all of a sudden we are no longer hearing Oby Ezekwesili campaign for their release? Did something get mixed up along the line? Because it is on record that the army said the Chibok girls were NOT among the rescued girls.
* The wife of the president on Thursday evening held a dinner with the mothers of the missing girls; so if indeed they have not been found, why is All Progressives Congress, APC, backtracking?
* Maiduguri Airport which had been closed for over two years on account of Boko Haram violence was reopened yesterday amidst the violence which has been upbeat since PMB took over. Is there something Shettima isn’t telling us?
* I am not aware of any school even in the educated south where there is close to 300 students enrolment for physics exams. How much more in the village of Chibok? Does that add up?
* What mode of conveyance was used to move over 200 students? Does it sound even plausible? Considering that if they were using buses, they would need about 15 to do so
* Does it make sense to assume that some girls escaped from BH camp running faster than bloodthirsty insurgents who have shown no qualms in killing? Especially when they are armed and know the terrain against little girls who have no idea where they are or where they are headed? With no supplies or direction!
* WAEC has a duplicate of exam photocards of their candidates; how come these photo cards have never been made public?
* Has anyone imagined the logistics of keeping over 200 prisoners talk less female prisoners without the knowledge of the entire world?
* Even el-Rufai and the current leadership in APC have suddenly lost their tongues… Can someone explain these?
* The mantra by this administration before it came on board was that it will end BH menace in one month. And that any insurgency that lasts more than 24 hours has the government complicit in it. Well, it’s more than 2 weeks…. Wouldn’t the same standard apply here? I would also have wanted to see some action that will convince me that something significant will be happening in the next 12 days to rescue these girls and end in the insurgency as promised…. Or are you asking us not to hold the government by its promise?
* While President GEJ was not present during this abduction, he is bound to listen to the report of his security chiefs. Thus he cannot officially hold a position different from his security chiefs. He takes responsibility for their position as the Commander- inChief. Whether or not he is convinced is now his personal opinion. However, we must also remember that it was on record too that the former NSA raised alarm on the complicity of members of the security agencies and government in the BH saga so it becomes difficult to separate fact from fiction.
* If the Chibok girls were scattered or profiled, the man promising one month to rescue and end the insurgency MUST have known of the scattering and the locations and how to coordinate such rescue in 30 days. He must also have known the infiltrators in the security agencies that will carry out this operation and how to cage them. If not I will be as aghast as you would, if sincere, on the basis of such pronouncements.
* I am happy that hapless girls are given a voice by international crusaders however I am worried that international crusaders switched off as soon as the elections ended. Can’t they continue till they see to the end of their crusade? It makes it grossly suspect, their timing in deciding to end their campaign for violence against women.
* I am 100 per cent for women empowerment, gender equality and violence against women. Even my closest friend has a song on it in which I might lend my voice to down the line…. I am peeved however that the rise and fall of this campaign seriously coincided with the 2015 general elections….
Finally let me ask you this, “Would you stop campaigning if your daughter was kidnapped by BH because Buhari won?”
In pondering the Ezekwesili saga, Nigerians are not losing sight of the close relationship between Obasanjo and his former minister.
While some hold that their relationship was purely that of a pleased principal always wanting to associate with an aide that did him proud while she served under him, not a few others hold that beyond that since Obasanjo wanted Jonathan out of Aso Rock this year, he may have propped Oby in her #BringBackOurGirls crusade. Her recent reported lobby for a ministerial appointment in the Buhari administration is said to have the backing of Obasanjo as pay back for her propaganda against Jonathan on the Chibok girls issue.
Not too long ago, the media was awash with pictures of Obasanjo and his “hardworking” erstwhile minister together. Though some interpreted the uniqueness of the photograph in rather weird and somewhat unimaginable manner, most did not rule out a strong bond between the two. The particular photograph was one of the many from the album launch of the former president’s book, ‘My Watch.’ The document went viral and so far, many people have been talking about it. Various reactions have been trailing the photograph as to whether Obasanjo was supposed to be as intimate to the former Minister of Solid Minerals and Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili.
“It could have been for good or otherwise,” said one observer a fortnight ago.
But many are not lost on the fact that given the morbid dislike for Jonathan while he was president both shared, and with their shared dream of a Buhari presidency coming to be, it is now incumbent on Obasanjo to present Ezekwesili for ministerial appointment to Buhari as one Nigerian who can rally support and needed understanding for the new administration. Already, the lobby has started.