Obiageli Ezekwesilli: Madame Due Process Has No Choice -By Bello El-Rufai & Adam Wali

Filed under: National Issues |
Oby Ezekwesili

Oby Ezekwesili


Public Disclaimer! This is a biased write up and I do not care if the revelation makes the reader less inclined to it. It is imperative to point this out before I begin in order to clarify that the write up does not cater to petty thinkers or conspiracy theorists. Instead, it focuses on an audience that appreciates the enormous challenge of re-positioning our country in the right direction. As such, any competent, tested and honorable mind, regardless of party affiliation or ethnicity should be pressured to support President Muhammadu Buhari in whatever capacity he or she can. In this case, the competent person I will speak of is Dr. Oby Ezekwesilli and the question of whether or not she should accept an appointment if offered by President Muhammadu Buhari. Will it jeopardize her extraordinary role in the ‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬ movement?

For starters, this write will publicly commend Dr. Ezekwesilli and then corner her into a difficult position, with the knowledge that she is the one person that is more than capable of finding her way out of it. I once publicly described the other co-convener of the #BringBackOurGirls movement and current Chief of Staff to Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Hadiza Bala Usman as Nigeria’s Iron Lady. This is in comparison to the decisive and courageous Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher. However, the original Iron Lady has to be Dr. Ezekwesilli, and she has consistently displayed various qualities throughout her professional years. Dr. Ezekwesilli’s approach to any task placed before her; during and after she left the government has remained constant. She has approached each assignment with integrity and competence, and no upright mind can deny that.

So what has she done to deserve this commendation? What has Nigeria’s Iron Lady achieved? Well, frankly, she has done so much that a mere write up cannot cover. There are many of us that hope to get a memoir from her as we did from her brother, The Deliberate Politician. However, this write up will focus on a few of the remarkable things Dr. Ezekwesilli has achieved and continues to do to improve the welfare and image of Nigerians. She got her tertiary education from the University of Nsukka and eventually became a chartered accountant. Her experience included auditing, consulting and financial services. She was employed by the reputable Akintola Williams Deloitte & Touché, and had attained financial security before venturing into public service. During her stint as an accountant, Dr. Ezekwesilli was an exemplary worker and a disciplined individual.

She also obtained a Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos. Furthermore, she added a second Masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard University School of Government. She was conferred with the Robert F. Kennedy award for exceptionable public service in another display of excellence. I believe it is around this period that Dr. Ezekwesilli dedicated her entire focus towards public service. As a founding director of Transparency International, an NGO that became a revered anti-corruption watchdog, her doggedness towards transparency, activism and democracy led to her exile during the regime of General Sani Abacha. She spent some time in the United Kingdom before moving back to Harvard University as an Edward Mason Fellow. Her final role before coming back to Nigeria was when she worked at the Harvard Centre for International Development under Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

By the year 2000, she was advising former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the much-needed economic reforms that Nigeria required after years of decay. To most of us, it was at this point that her name began to resonate. However, she had clearly played a major role in shaping the trajectory of Nigeria in both a direct and symbolic manner. Her first official appointment was as Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Budget Monitoring & Price Intelligence. It was her shrewdness and effective management skills that re-instilled a culture of budgetary efficiency in Nigeria’s public service. She created a system to review the prices of all major contracts saving Nigeria billions of dollars between 2001 and 2005. This astuteness earned her the sobriquet “Madame Due Process,” and her efforts towards the actualization of accountability led to the creation of an institution, the Bureau of Public Procurement in 2007.

Similarly, her endeavor as the Minister of Mineral Resources is also worth noting. Despite the limitations she encountered, Dr. Ezekwesilli managed to promote reforms, regulation and legislation to develop the Nigerian mining sector. Her tremendous effort was responsible for the establishment of another institution, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). Additionally, she bowed out of the office after ensuring that Nigeria had been accepted as a tenable mining investment hub in 2005. Her final appointment with the Nigerian government was as the Minister of Education. In 12 months, her attempt to sanitize the education sector is on the record. It is truly tragic that her efforts to reform the unity schools were cut short. Yet, as with many brilliant administrators, her implementation capability was evident and clear for all to see.

Like any other human or public servant, Dr. Ezekwesilli has her flaws. She has also made many mistakes, and she will be the first to admit them. As her self-proclaimed brother, Governor Nasir El-Rufai aptly stated, “Oby is not a perfect human specimen? Of course not! Only God is perfect. Oby is simply among the best I have come across in recent years. She is honest, incorruptible, and fiercely loyal to her friends, family, colleagues and country. In her interactions and relationships, she is not utilitarian. She is the friend one can count on through thick and thin. She does not do what is wrong or against public interest because it is popular or demanded by influential people or nations. She lacks guile and is incapable of being conspiratorial. With Oby, what you see is what you get. What she says about you behind your back is what she will repeat to your face. Oby is a genuine person. I am fortunate to have her as a friend and sister. My children and indeed, many Nigerian youths are fortunate to have her as a mentor.”

The entire point of highlighting Dr. Ezekwesilli’s professional history in public service is to re-enforce the already known fact that she has served at the highest capacity in government and numerous reputable organizations. After her tenure as Minister ended under the Obasanjo administration in 2007, Dr. Ezekwesilli was appointed as the Vice President of the World Bank, Africa Division. In addition, she worked as a senior economic adviser with billionaire investor George Soros’ at Open Society, where she advised 9 reformed minded African Heads of State. She continued to fulfill this assignments exceptionally! Due to her qualifications, experience and integrity, Dr. Ezekwesilli cannot afford to flirt with the idea of not accepting an appointment from President Muhammadu Buhari if it is offered. In case you were wondering why Dr. Ezekwesilli might turn down an appointment if it is ever offered, then I’ll suggest you join Twitter. There is a section of Nigerian Twitter that is led by a set of immoral and small minded bigots, under the burnt banners of the ‪#‎WeTriumphStill‬ and ‪#‎GEJWinsIt‬ that believe Madame “Due Process” cannot accept a role in the incumbent government.

To these young conspiracy theorists, the tireless and courageous efforts of the likes of Dr. Ezekwesilli, Aisha Yesufu, Hadiza Bala Usman and countless others was simply to orchestrate the downfall of their hero, former President Goodluck Jonathan. To these petty commentators, their hero deserves commendation for accepting a fair defeat, while Dr. Ezekwesilli’s bold decision to remember 276 innocent girls that were kidnapped in a part of Nigeria that she is not from deserves condemnation. They astonishingly believe that the APC and the Northern elites, and not the monstrous Boko Haram are responsible for the kidnapping of these girls. To our bewilderment, the worst among them actually went/and still go as far as saying none of the girls were kidnapped. To them, the fact that some members of the #BringBackOurGirls movement are members of the APC makes such a respected cause a compromised charade.

Their reaction to Hadiza Bala Usman’s appointment as Chief of Staff re-affirmed this position. Their ignorant mind blinds them from realizing that she was a member and an aspirant in the defunct CPC and is also as competent as ever. In the case of Dr. Ezekwesilli, she remains non-partisan and is still not a member of the APC. Her stance was highlighted in her keynote address during the APC National Summit, where she criticized a number of the APC leaders to their faces. This occurred before the disappearance of the Chibok Girls on April 15, 2014, and the same small-minded commentators that now criticize Dr. Ezekwesilli applauded her back then. They fail to see that in whatever she does, Dr. Ezekwesilli remains an incorruptible servant of God and Nigeria. It is this character among a thousand others that endears her to us. It is also why her name continues to be rumored among those President Muhammadu Buhari will appoint in his cabinet. The most recent being reports that she might be appointed as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

Regardless of what the portfolio is, Dr. Ezekwesilli should not rebuff the opportunity in order to appease a shortsighted group of commentators that are blinded by their tremendous loss at the polls. She should accept it with the dignity and class that she is known for and we will completely have her back, as would our President, Muhammadu Buhari. She has never cared about public opinion; she has always cared about doing what is right in the most appropriate way. She should sustain that approach and ignore the buzzing mosquitoes. After all, it is under the unfocused leadership of the beloved leader of these mosquitoes that 18, 000 thousand Nigerians were killed and about 1.5 million people were forced from their homes. So while they focus on conspiracy theories about the #BringBackOurGirls movement and their petty and inconsequential views, we will focus on getting as many competent and tested hands to aid President Muhammadu Buhari in changing Nigeria for the better. And Dr. Oby Ezekwesilli is one of the best options he has. One can only imagine how bright she would flourish under the administration of President Buhari, when she managed to outshine the stars under the more complicated tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

– Bello El-Rufai & Adam Wali