Co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and former Vice-President of the World Bank, Africa Region, Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday inspired graduating students with an impassioned speech as she was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Essex.
The award recognises her outstanding work to achieve reform, combat corruption and promote transparency which mirrors Essex’s commitment to nurture positive change, justice and fairness.
The honorary degree was presented during yesterday’s ceremony for finance and accounting students graduating from Essex Business School.
Ezekwesili also said she was personally inspired by the same ideals as those celebrated in the University of Essex’s motto: “Thought the harder – heart the keener.”
She said her own father had taught her that the quality of a human being depended on the quality of their thought and that “when your mind produces thoughts your heart must put them into action.”
She added: “Graduates of Essex Business School I am sure will understand that no longer does anyone care just about the extent of your skills. Ultimately it is now about your character. Good governance depends on the quality of character of the people who lead us – whether that is as leaders of government, business or society.”
The former Minister of Education is a co-founder of the campaign to find the 300 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 and has also held several keys positions within the Nigerian government.
She is currently Senior Advisor of the African Economic Development Policy Initiative incubated at the Open Society Foundations. She assists the Mano River governments with international financial relations. She also works on developing a school of public policy in Abuja, Nigeria.
Holding a Masters 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, she began her career as a qualified chartered accountant with Deloitte and has served as Director of the Harvard-Nigeria Economic Strategy Program in Boston and Abuja.
Professor Neil Kellard, Head of the Finance Group at Essex Business School, paid tribute to Ezekwesili during his oration.
He said: “Her diligence in reform, and exposing corruption mirrors Essex’s commitment to change, justice and fairness.”
He added: “We celebrate today a woman who pushes political and ideological boundaries for education and equality. We celebrate today a woman who challenges corruption and encourages transparency.”