OBIAGELI Ezekwesili’s mien cuts a clear-cut picture of her persona. She is forthright and thoughtful. A Nigerian who believes in what she says and advocates what she stands for. She may not give an impression of a likable person, but you hardly disagree with her viewpoint on issues that border on Nigeria. She fights for just cause under whatever guise it comes. Her passion has not shifted from that.
By Emeka Chiaghanam
Her dispoistion earned her the appellation, ‘Madam Due Process’ as pioneer head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration for the outstanding work she did in the spirited effort to sanitise public procurement or contracting at the federal level in Nigeria. Values to her are important, “I set very high standards for myself. For example, there is nothing worthy enough to make me to negotiate away my values just as my father taught me. You see, in decent societies, nobody cares about what you can competently do, but they really care about your values. Your character is ultimately the deal breaker in the pursuit of a career,” she said.
The former Minister of Education and convener of the BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group, Obiageli and seven other members of the group, not long ago, were arrested and detained by Nigeria Police in the nation’s capital, Abuja, believed to be connected to the activities of the group. The group has been carrying out sit-outs in Abuja since more than 200 girls were abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, in April, 2014, by Boko Haram insurgents. The police did not state why they were detained.
Anambra State born Obiageli Ezekwesili, who qualified as a chartered accountant began her career with Deloitte & Touche, where she worked as an auditor, management and financial services consultant, holds a Masters in International Law & Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, a Masters in Public Policy & Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nigeria. Obiageli worked with Professor Jeffrey Sachs at the Center for International Development at Harvard before working for the Nigerian Government.
She was appointed Minister of Solid Minerals in June 2005 after pioneering the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit, in 2003, as Senior Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo, during which time she led a vibrant reform program that led to Nigeria’s global recognition as a credible mining investment destination
As Minister of Solid Minerals, she oversaw the passage of the Minerals and Mining Act, the establishment of the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office and the opening of the sector to private participation. She also led the first national implementation of the global standards and principles of transparency in the oil, gas, and mining sector. In June 2006, she was appointed Minister of Education, holding this post until she took up her World Bank appointment in May, 2007.
She is co-founder of Transparency International; the global anti-corruption body with headquarters in Berlin, Germany and a recipient of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR). 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 Africa Magazine and the Center for Global Leadership at Tufts University.
Obiageli, who cherishes her family, says she adores her husband a lot, “My husband is a critical part of my life. He is a very wise man. He has this unbelievable wisdom, and I spend a lot of time listening to him. He is my best friend. We basically have the strongest relationship which helps to make me emotionally solid. He is my number one ‘cheerleader.’ Obiageli’s union with Chinedu Ezekwesili, pastor with Redeemed Christian Church of God is blessed with three sons.