by Aisha Yesufu
On the 30th of April 2014 I came face to face with an individual that made me to believe in Nigeria. That individual is Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. On that day I saw what Nigeria can be if only we would allow those who truly believe in this country and care for its people to be the ones in charge. On that day when rain threatened to stop a march for school girls abducted by terrorists and on whom the government had been silent she stood tall and reminded us all that it wasn’t about us or our discomfort but about the children of this Nation who had been taken away by our enemies and in the rains we marched and marched and marched and we got the leaders of the National Assembly to come out and meet in that rain with citizens who were saying enough of being treated shabbily.
On that day, I believe, if Dr. Oby Ezekwesili had said ‘let’s march on to Sambisa and retrieve our daughters,’ we would have followed her and most likely saved us this unending wait for our #ChibokGirls abducted on the 14th of April 2014.
Dr. Oby Ezekwesili is that Phenomenal Woman that Maya Angelou described in her 1995 poem. A woman who doesn’t just say it but lives it. She embodies all that she says. For Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, it’s do as I do.
As a member of the #BringBackOurGirls movement from the April 30th 2014, and having been privileged to have been a member of the Strategic team and also Chairperson of the Strategic team, I have had the honour of working closely with Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and I can say she embodies the core values of the #BringBackOurGirls advocacy which is HUMANITEEDS :-Hope, Unity, Motivation, Affability, Nationalism, Integrity, Transparency, Empathy, Equity, Discipline and Sacrifice.
Dr. Oby Ezekwesili is one human being who is ever hopeful and would never give up on hope. When things were bleak and for over 2 years that we were advocating for the rescue of #ChibokGirls with no result or any sign of #ChibokGirls still being alive she kept us going with hope. Many a times she reminded us that our #ChibokGirls were divine and God would show us his might. She refused to be swayed in her believe that #ChibokGirls can be rescued and reunited with their families. She refused for a tiny second to give up on hope. She just kept on going and indeed that hope paid off when the first ChibokGirl was found unexpected. With Dr. Oby Ezekwesili #HopeEndures.
One person who has a unifying spirit is Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. For her we all are human beings and we all are related with our shared humanity. With her it’s never about gender, religion, ethnicity or race it’s about ensuring anyone she meets becomes a better person.
Failure is not an option and excuses are not tolerated by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. I can’t is not something she listens to. She would tell you how you can. She would never allow you shirk on anything. When you feel as if you can’t she is there to tell you how you can. She is a teacher to many. Each moment with her is an opportunity to learn and be better. She motivates one not just with words but with her actions and her dedication to anything she is doing. When you see how much she puts in to what she does one is motivated to do more and her uncanny way of noticing and giving that word of praise or admonishment or encouragement or cajoling or a big hug motivates one to not just shattering glass ceilings but seeking them out to shatter.
Courtesy and respect to a fellow human being is one thing Dr. Oby Ezekwesili stands for. From her we learnt never to address the occupier of an office with their names no matter how angry or displeased we were. She would insist on the proper title. You must respect the office she would insist. Her level of grace and tolerance is on another level. It sometimes annoys me the level of things she takes from people and yet she would be gracious to them. She would tell me a leader must be tolerant and let things go for the greater good. She has a forgiving spirit. To Dr. Oby Ezekwesili everyone must be respected and their views heard and respected. She would always say you can negotiate your views but never negotiate your values.
If Nigeria has one person who is a Nationalist that person is Dr. Oby Ezekwesili. For her it’s all about character and values. She is one person who transcends beyond ethnicity and regions. For her it’s about a Nation that she cries out daily we have failed to build in Nigeria. From her I came to realise that Nigeria is a country that no one has made a nation and we need to come together and build that Nation. With the #BringBackOurGirls movement what nationhood can make people is seen in our ability to use our diversity to be stronger and better.
If I have just one word to describe Dr. Oby Ezekwesili that word would be INTEGRITY. This is a woman whose words you can take to the banks. On 30th of April 2014 when one of the leaders of Chibok Community in Abuja knelt in the rains and begged us not to leave the issue until the girls are rescued she gave her word she would not. Many of us too did but many forgot those words and moved on. Dr. Oby Ezekwesili would always refer to that day and say I gave my words . We gave our word in the rains we cannot move on. That’s to a person who knows truly what integrity is.
In all her dealings she does them with a high sense of integrity. Everything to her is about empirical evidence. Little wonder the #BringBackOurGirls movement she has led with such integrity has never been found misinforming or having to recant. When one has integrity it shows in everything one does.
With Dr. Oby Ezekwesili what you see is what you get. She is as transparent as can be. One of her shortcomings is that she doesn’t know how to pretend. Her feelings and all are out there for you to see. No pretentious bone in her.
The worst mistake anyone would make is try to carry tales to her. There and there she would call the person you are trying to snitch on and ask they explain. She is transparently blunt. Try doing amebo with her at your own peril.
She is so transparent that even when the State or those uncomfortable with her stance for the common good try to paint her black or fabricate issues it just doesn’t stand and many are angry at her because her transparency is like a mirror in which they watch themselves and fall flat .
Dr. Oby Ezekwesili to many is a strong woman but not many see her soft side that empathise sometimes too much.
She would call sometimes midnight crying because of one thing or the other done to #ChibokGirls or their parents. She feels so much the pain of ordinary citizens who are going through hard times. She carries the burden of a Nation’s elite that has failed the teeming masses. She breaks and cries easily at the hurt meted on the vulnerable in our society. To the Chibok Community and indeed the country she is a mother. She gives and gives so much of herself. She is like that proverbial candle but we continue to pray to God to strengthen her. She gives of herself for others to go on. She is found behind the scenes making dreams come true long after the story is forgotten and all have moved on.
To Dr. Oby Ezekwesili it has to be justice and equity. If you want to be on her bad side just be unjust to anyone. She would buy the fight of anyone treated unjustly. Her stand for #ChibokGirls is one amongst numerous injustice she had fought publicly and privately. She is one woman who would take on the world to protect the vulnerable.
Many people left the #BringBackOurGirls movement because of the discipline that Dr. Oby Ezekwesili insisted upon. Many felt the movement was too law abiding. It should fight it’s way through and be more confrontational many felt but Dr. Oby Ezekwesili insisted on discipline and development of our core values which today has become the ethos of the movement. We are guided by our core values which our leader Dr. Oby Ezekwesili has exemplified.
Being disciplined and law abiding has helped us to remain focused on the singularity of purpose that brought us put almost 3 years ago. Being disciplined has made Dr. Oby Ezekwesili to be that Nigerian who has ensured Nigeria is looked upon with some respect
When we were putting together our core values as a movement two words Dr. Oby Ezekwesili insisted upon were Discipline and Sacrifice. 3 years on those two words I have come to understand what they truly mean. It’s discipline and sacrifice that would keep one focused and unrelenting on a course.
In Dr. Oby Ezekwesili one needs to go no further in finding that person that exemplifies Sacrifice. This phenomenal woman has given so much of herself that it’s painful to see. She has put herself and her needs last and have taken up the needs of others to fulfil and fight for. January 14th 2016 would always be a day that would stand out in my life not only because of the way parents of children who had been abducted were treated shabbily by my government but also for the sacrifices Dr. Oby Ezekwesili made in that day. First of all she checked herself out of admission in the hospital to be part of the march. We tried to persuade her to think of her health but it wasn’t heeded. She said she had to be there for the parents. Over a hundred parents had sacrificed to come to Abuja all the way from Chibok. Some had to sell their farm produce to make the trip. She made the march to the detriment of her health. We came back from the march and from Unity Fountain had to rush her to the hospital. It was the scariest day of my life. When her husband, Pastor Chinedu Ezekwesili walked into the hospital room he looked at her and said “baby you will be fine,” I knew having a strong man besides one is a gift from God and makes phenomenal women even more so.
Dr. Oby Ezekwesili is a woman who has done it all. A strong career woman and achiever and also a strong homemaker who has built a loving home and nurtured a loving family. Her home always radiates peace whenever one enters. It’s so lovely seeing the love between her and her husband. She turns into this blushing girl whenever her husband is with her and the way he cuddles her and ruffles the head of his baby so touching.
There are many more words to describe Dr. Oby Ezekwesili but just one more I would use and that is Spiritual. She is such a devoted Christian and always in the service of the Lord. She exemplifies for me what I say to many people. Don’t tell me your religion be your religion. Let the goodness of your religion be seen in your actions
Dr. Oby Ezekwesili is a leader who has continued to build leaders around her rather than followers. She is always about teaching and empowering and I am proud to call her Mother of the Nation.
Brave Women is YNaija.com’s citizenship series for the month of March. Find more stories in the series here.