As Nigeria prepares to swear in President-elect Muhammadu Buhari this week, former Cabinet Minister Obiageli Ezekwesili says the new leader will need to “stop being a candidate…and reconcile the entire country.” Nigerian citizens will no longer idly wait for their government to take action, but will demand more accountability, she said in a videotaped interview with USIP Program Officer Oge Onubogu.

Obi and Oge

“The advocacy for our Chibok girls is a symbol of citizens finding their voice,” Ezekwesili says, in reference to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign that she co-founded to press for action and international attention after the militant group Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of girls a year ago. The campaign elevated the use of social media in Nigeria even further as a means of interaction and political debate.

Ezekwesili served as minister of solid minerals and then as minister of education in the administration of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo, and later as vice president for the World Bank’s Africa division. She was a founding director of Transparency International, and recently was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Ezekwesili participated in May 2015 in USIP’s African Women Leaders Leadership and Governance Forum. The discussion brought together a delegation of African women ministers from Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Morocco and Nigeria with representatives from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Defense Department to consider global gender and peacebuilding initiatives in the context of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls on women and girls to be protected in conflict zones and involved in related decision-making.

Following are two video clips from Ezekwesili’s interview with Onubogu and the full interview.

On the beginnings of the #BringBackOurGirls movement and its future:

On Nigeria’s governance challenges and civic activism:

Full interview, including Ezekwesili’s reflections on Buhari’s coming term as president:

Related Publications

USIP in Nigeria: Connecting Civic, State Leaders to Stem Violence

USIP in Nigeria: Connecting Civic, State Leaders to Stem Violence

Thursday, May 3, 2018

By: Susan Stigant; Oge Onubogu

A common thread underlying many of Nigeria’s most pressing problems is a failure of governance—a disconnect between officials and citizens in Africa’s biggest democracy. Whether the issue is the rise of Boko Haram, corruption or persistent intercommunal violence, the failure of government to understand or meet the needs of diverse groups of Nigerians is often the cause of volatile breakdowns.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Nancy Lindborg on Nigeria's Central Role in Africa

Nancy Lindborg on Nigeria's Central Role in Africa

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Fresh from her USIP delegation trip to Nigeria, Nancy Lindborg explains Nigeria’s importance to Africa and the United States. Lindborg discusses the critical on-the-ground work happening to prevent violence and underscores the importance of Nigerian governors to countering Boko Haram.

Peace Processes

Democracy and Security in Africa Depend on Nigeria

Democracy and Security in Africa Depend on Nigeria

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

By: Nancy Lindborg

When Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with President Trump on Monday, much attention was paid to the importance of counterterror efforts and economic investments that will help the country continue its climb out of its deep recession. These are both critical areas for U.S. focus and assistance, but will not ultimately be sufficient to resolve Nigeria’s internal and regional security challenges.

Democracy & Governance; Violent Extremism

Trump Meets Nigeria's Buhari Amid Lake Chad Crisis

Trump Meets Nigeria's Buhari Amid Lake Chad Crisis

Thursday, April 26, 2018

By: Oge Onubogu ; Chris Kwaja

When President Donald Trump meets Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on April 30, problems of terrorism and security across much of Africa’s Sahel region will get renewed media attention. Although the Boko Haram extremist group has been forced back from the large territories it once ruled and terrorized, its militants still carry out attacks. And groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS continue to operate in the Sahel, pursued by a U.S.-backed multinational military force. Talks at the White House will focus on broader issues of democracy and stability for Nigeria and the surrounding region.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications