Obiageli “Oby” Katryn Ezekwesili who was a candidate for office of the President of Nigeria in the 2019 election, is an economic policy expert, former Nigeria’s Minister of Education and Vice President of the World Bank. Dr. Ezekwesili served as Vice-President for the World Bank's program in Africa starting in 2007 and was responsible for a portfolio of over $40 Billion and the delivery of programs, projects as well as extensive economic and sectoral research and studies in 48 Sub-Saharan countries for five years in Washington DC. She is also a co-founder of Transparency International and was one of the pioneer directors of its Global Board in Berlin from 1994-1999.
In 2012, she became the Senior Economic Advisor at the Open Society Foundation in New York, aimed at building vibrant and tolerant societies with democratically accountable governments. In that position and operating from Abuja-Nigeria, she travelled extensively across Africa, advising a number of Presidents and their cabinets on sound economic policies to achieve inclusive growth. Since 2015 and to date, she serves as the Senior Economic Advisor of the Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI) in Abuja and provides policy expertise and advisory support to a number of country Presidents and their cabinets.
Dr. Ezekwesili began her career with Deloitte and Touché Akintola Williams working in Audit and Consulting. She also worked within the investment and non-bank financial services sector as well as the Center for International Development at Harvard University with Professor Jeffrey Sachs as Director of the Nigeria Economic Support Program.
From 2002, she served as Special Assistant and Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on Budget Monitoring, and the Price Intelligence Unit and led the institutional reform of the country's Public Procurement system through the establishment of the Due Process system in public contracting. She led the work for the drafting of the Bill and establishment of Bureau for Public Procurement in Nigeria and supported most of the thirty-six states in Nigeria to do the same.
Dr. Ezekwesili was Minister of Solid Minerals Development from 2005 and reformed Nigeria's mining sector to internationally recognized standards especially through her work on a new Minerals Act, a world class Geological Survey Agency and the innovation of a Mining Cadastral Office. She served as the pioneer Chairperson for the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative - NEITI- from 2004 -2007 and pioneered the voluntary sign-on of Nigeria to the EITI Principles, as well as supervised the first ever published physical, financial and process audits of the oil and gas sector. During her leadership of NEITI, she was architect of the NEITI Act that also established the agency.
In June 2006, Dr. Ezekwesili became Minister of Education and led a comprehensive reform program within the education sector including restructuring and refocusing the ministry for the attainment of Education for All (EfA) targets and Millennium Development Goals and reduced the number of out-of-school-children in Nigeria in 2007.
Ezekwesili was a key member of the 12-person Economic Team of President Olusegun Obasanjo- 2003-2007. She was the Chair of the Governance, Transparency, Accountability, and Anti-Corruption sub-group of the Economic Team and in this capacity negotiated for Nigeria, the OECD G-8 anticorruption Transparency Compacts announced at the 2004 G-8 Sea Island Summit in the United States.
She co-founded the #BringBackOurGirls Movement, a group of diverse citizens advocating for speedy rescue of school girls abducted in Nigeria in 2014. Following the abduction of 219 girls from their secondary school in Chibok in 2014, Dr Ezekwesili co-convened the viral ‘#BringBackOurGirls’ campaign on social media, which trended internationally and has world-wide support, including from international personalities including the former First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Through sustained advocacy of the #BringBackOurGirls, freedom was secured for 107 of the abducted girls and the Movement continues to advocate for the remaining 112 #ChibokGirls, another sole remaining school girl from Dapchi - Leah Sharibu - who was among a second tranche of 105 school girls abducted in 2017 from their school in Yobe State as well as other identified cases of abduction.
She is the Founder and Convener of the #RedCardMovement (RCM), a citizens' centered advocacy movement which started organically on Twitter in January 2018. The movement was borne out of what citizens determination to end the recurrent plague of bad politics and governance in Nigeria regardless of which political party has held sway at national, state and local government levels.
Dr Ezekwesili is an Honorary Member of the Committee of the Crans Montana African Women’s Forum and Member of Board of Director of AfriHeritage Institute an economic policy think tank in Enugu, Nigeria, She is on the Global Board of Governors of NCMG International and a member of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s Advisory Group on Gender, Forced Displacement and Protection. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Atlantic Dialogues; Member of the Global Advisory Board for Facebook's Community Leadership Program; Member of the Board for Almajari Project in Nigeria and the Chairperson of the Nigeria-2035 project; and Global Advisory Board Member, African Leadership Institute (AFLI) South Africa.
Ezekwesili serves a Commissioner of the Global Ocean Commission at Somerville College, Oxford, jointly chaired by former Costa Rican President José María Figueres, the former Minister in the South African Presidency Trevor Manuel, and former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Ezekwesili sits on the board of Nexford University Washington DC and three public policy schools, namely, the Harold Hartog School of Government and Policy at Tel Aviv University in Israel; the School of Public Policy of Central European University, Budapest- Hungary, the Global Leadership Institute at Tufts University in Boston, and several other institutional and corporate board memberships like the New Africa magazine in London.
Ezekwesili served on the Board of the WWF in Switzerland and the Bharti Airtel in India. She was member of the Africa Council and the Extractive Industries Council of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum in Davos and currently serves on its Africa Strategy Council.
Dr. Ezekwesili, a chartered accountant, holds a Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, and a Masters in Public Policy and Administration with emphasis on economic policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge Massachusetts.
The University of Agriculture in Abeokuta awarded her an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2012. In 2016 the University of Essex Business School also awarded her an honorary Doctorate Degree in Business in recognition of her role in promoting economic and social justice in African countries.
Dr. Ezekwesili was named one of #Genius100 Visionary Thinkers of the Future and featured as contributors to the first ever 3D printed book by the Albert Einstein's Foundations. Howard University Washington DC accorded her the Vanguard Award for 2019 and Forbes Magazine named her the 2019 Social Influencer Award.
She was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the Time-100 Most Influential People-2015 and by New York Times as one of the 25 Women of Impact for 2015. She alongside Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation were awarded Women of Impact by The Women In The World, New York at the World Economic Forum in 2016.
She holds the Robert F. Kennedy Award of Excellence in Public Service of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the Tuft University EPIIC Jean Meyer Awards; Democracy Ambassador of International IDEA, Sweden and a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for her highly influential work in promoting transparency in the Extractive industries in Nigeria and globally.
She is currently building a citizens’ good governance coalition through #FixPoliticsDotOrg and establishing an Academy of Politics and Governance. The vision of the twin initiatives is to structurally transform Nigeria’s politics and political system while also producing a strong pipeline of result-oriented leaders that will become candidates for elective offices at all levels.
Mrs Ezekwesili was decorated with the national award of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR).
Dr Ezekwesili, a globally renown Speaker is married to Pastor Chinedu Ezekwesili. They are parents to three sons-- Chinemelum, Chinweuba and Chidera.