Obiageli Ezekwesili (28 April 1963), popularly known as Oby Ezekwesili, is a Nigerian chartered accountant from Anambra state.
Early Life: 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.
Prior to working for the Government of Nigeria, Ezekwesiili was working with Professor Jeffrey Sachs at the Center for International Development at Harvard.
Achievements: 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 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, she held this post until she took up her World Bank appointment in May 2007. In March 2007, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz announced the appointment of Ezekwesili as Vice-President for the Africa Region starting on 1 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.
Ezekwesili 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 is also on the boards of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the School of Public Policy of Central European University, The Harold Hartog School of Government and Policy, New African magazine, 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. She was selected as one of the BBC’s 100 Women in 2014.
Legacy: She was a co-founder of Transparency International, serving as one of the pioneer directors of the global anti-corruption body based in Berlin, Germany. Ezekwesili was a 2018 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in transparency in the extractive sector.
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 migrating 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 nearly 300 girls were abducted from Chibok by the militant group Boko Haram., Oby 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 #BringBackOurGirlscampaign on social media, which trended internationally. She had on 23 April, at the opening ceremony for a UNESCO event honoring the city of Port Harcourt as the 2014 World Book Capital city, urged Nigerians to not just tweet but actively participate in efforts to “bring back our girls”.
In March 2019, Ezekwesili won the Forbes Woman Africa Social Influencer award for her efforts on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media.