Inspiring Thursday: Obiageli Ezekwesili

“We need a collaborative disruption of the present acceptance of extremism, especially targeting women. Wherever women are being attacked by extremist ideas – whether it’s our Chibok girls or women in Syria – it’s the same underlying philosophy and the world cannot afford to stay in this state of complacency.” (Vital Voices).

Obiageli Ezekwesili was born in 1963 in Nigeria, Lagos. She is a Nigerian accountant and prominent political leader, widely known for her tenacity and her bold activism on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Obiageli Ezekwesili is a highly charismatic figure with a long career, full of many highlights!

In 2014, Obiageli Ezekwesili captured the world’s attention with #BringBackOurGirls, a movement created in order rescue 276 schoolgirls who had been kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria, by the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram. The campaign drew international attention, even though the Nigerian government was silent about this.

Ezekwesili holds a master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, and a Master of Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Besides being a fierce political leader, Ezekwesili’s sterling career involved the fight against corruption and the promotion of transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and sectors of society. Co-founder of Transparency International, an anti-corruption organization based in Berlin, Ezekwesili received the title of “Madam due process”. The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) director Henrik Urdal described as her “an international champion in the fight against corruption”.

In 2005, she became the Minister of Solid Minerals (Mines and Steel). As a minister of solid minerals, “Oby” lead a reform program that gave Nigeria the global recognition as a credible mining investment destination. Then, in 2006, she was appointed the Federal Minister of Education where she also made remarkable contributions. In 2007 she became the Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa, where she remained until 2012.

As a fierce agent of change, Obiageli, received several awards. She was honoured with a national award – Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2006. In May 2012, Ezekwesili was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science (DSC) degree by the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta in Nigeria. Moreover, she was selected as one of the BBC’s 100 Women in 2014. Most recently, Ezekwesili won the Forbes Woman Africa Social Influencer award for her efforts on the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media.

Obiageli founded the #RedCardMovement, a citizen’s advocacy movement that campaigned against bad leadership, politics and governance in Nigeria regardless of the political party. Also, the movement advocated and encouraged Nigerian citizens to participate in politics and contribute to the building Nigeria. The movement began on Twitter in January 2018.
Ezekwesili is a resilient and passionate woman, utterly devoted to the betterment of our societies, in the context of the political arena of Nigeria, where she did most of her work.
Obiageli Ezekwesili is Truly an inspiration!

Written by Mariana Cunha, WAVE Intern