The woman who led the global campaign to free Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists is now running for president, saying she is fighting for “the soul” of Africa’s most populous nation.
Oby Ezekwesili is the most prominent woman to seek the presidency in Nigeria, where politics, as in many African nations, have long been dominated by men.
A former World Bank vice president, Ezekwesili also co-founded Transparency International, one of the world’s leading organizations against corruption — a widespread problem in oil-rich Nigeria.
But she is perhaps most well-known for her vocal work in turning the world’s attention to Boko Haram’s Islamic extremist insurgency and its abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from the community of Chibok in 2014. The #BringBackOurGirls movement, supported by former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and others, put relentless pressure on Nigeria’s government to free the students.
Now Ezekwesili is challenging the 75-year-old Muhammadu Buhari on his campaign vows, drawing on personal experience on both fronts ahead of the February 2019 election.
A major challenge is an attitude toward female candidates in Nigeria, where many say women are fit only for the kitchen.
The president, however, lacks the energy of the 55-year-old Ezekwesili as he continues to face questions about his health after extended stays abroad for medical treatment.