Obiagweli Ezekweseli; an invaluable member of President Obasanjo‘s economic team raised to ensure the successful execution of the administration’s reform programmes. A leader in Development and Governance initiatives, Ezekweseli co-founded the Transparency International (TI) in 1994. As a minister, she displayed rascality, dishonouring two appointments with the Senate committee overseeing her ministry[i]. Ezekwesili made her first appearance in Nigerian public service in 2003 when she was appointed a Senior Special Assistant to the president as Head, Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit. It was at this job that she was nick-named “Madam Due Process”- a sobriquet earned because of her strict insistence of observation of laid -down rules and procedures in government business transactions. She was later appointed minister of Education. Oby Ezekwesili was invited to deliver the opposition party, APC’s first post-registration lecture in 2014. The party won the presidential election of the following year, producing President Buhari whose administration she would sternly oppose with her activism.
Born on April 28, 1963, Obiagweli took her first degree in Business Education and holds a Masters Degree in Public Policy and Administration with International Law and Diplomacy and a doctorate degree in Public Policy. She was employed and trained at Deloitte, and qualified to be a Chartered Accountant. She later studied International Law and Diplomacy at the University of Lagos. After she founded the Transparency International she was exiled by the Abacha regime. In exile she gained admission into the Harvard Kennedy School Mason fellowship programme in 1999.
Oby was hired by Jeffrey Sachs directly after graduating from the Kennedy School in 2000. When the Harvard Centre for International Development put up some money for an economic reform assistance project in Nigeria she came to Abuja to direct. At the expiration of the 6-months stint she was offered a job by President Obasanjo to be his special assistant on budget monitoring and price, to continue the due process work she had articulated. Ezekwesili was in charge of due process before she was deployed to the education ministry, after the sack of Chinwe Obaji, her immediate predecessor. The due process department was the unit the Obasanjo administration used to ensure that jobs of government are not overpriced. Through the process, the administration saved the country a lot of money that would have been stolen out through over-invoicing[ii]. From this position she got appointed as federal minister for Solid minerals and in 2006, as education minister[iii].
Within 11 months period of her tenure as Solid Minerals minister, over 100 companies tendered an Expression of Interest, wishing to invest in the erstwhile unimportant sector. From the World Bank to the United Nations Nigeria was considered to be a real fore runner in the implementation of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). Notably, during Ezekweiseli’s tenure at the ministry, the Minerals and Mining Amendment Bill was passed by the House of Representatives. So also was the privatization of the Nigerian Coal Company, and the Nigerian Mining Company. In June 2006, Oby was moved to the education ministry where she introduced reforms. She took up an appointment with the World in April of the following year as as Vice-President in charge of Africa coordinating lending programmes for sub Saharan Africa[iv].
The work of Oby Ezekwesili has been inspirational to women activists nationwide. She spoke up when over 200 girls got abducted by terrorists in the north of the country and launching the #BringBackOurGirls campaign which led to the global campaign and some of the girls being returned to their families. Ezekwesili called on the Senate to delete Section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 constitution in 2013, arguing that the issue of underage marriage has no religious correlation[v].
[i] The Source September 18, 2006
[ii] TELL May, 2007
[iii] The Accidental Public Servant, El Rufai, 2009
[iv] Newswatch April 9, 2007
[v] Punch July 26, 2013