Oby Ezekwesili to stand for pres in Nigeria

Ms Ezekwesili a powerful voice for the release of the Chibok girls

Ms Ezekwesili a powerful voice for the release of the Chibok girls

Nigeria’s presidential election was shaping up to be a contest between two veteran male politicians, but the candidacy of Oby Ezekwesili could change that.

Women have run for the presidency before but she is the most prominent Nigerian woman to challenge for the top job, the BBC’s Nigeria reporter Chris Ewokor says.

Ms Ezekwesili is well known for leading the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to help free the 276 girls kidnapped from Chibok, northern Nigeria, in 2014. She has also served as the country’s education minister and vice-president of the World Bank.

But come February’s vote it will be a tough challenge to unseat incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, 75, or beat the main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, 72, who both have formidable party machines behind them.

The deadline to register for the election passed at midnight local time (23:00 GMT) on Sunday and at least nine candidates in all are thought to have submitted their papers.

At the weekend, President Buhari was nominated by his All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr Abubakar beat a field of 11 others to become the flag bearer for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The two parties have supplied all of Nigeria’s presidents since the end of military rule in 1999.

For Ms Ezekwesili the men she is facing represent a “mediocre political class that bumbles from one crisis to another”, as she told the meeting of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), where her candidacy was declared.

She is setting herself up as the anti-establishment candidate, calling the politicians in charge of the country part of “an evil ruling class”. And, in an Obama-like move, the ACPN is labeling her as the “hope” candidate.

Ms Ezekwesili, who is 55 years old, is also trying to appeal to the youth of the country, saying that the people in charge do not understand the technological changes that are happening.

More than 50 per cent of Nigerians are under the age of 30.

“How can a country gifted with millions of young, vibrant, brilliant people are satisfied with just being [an] onlooker?” she asked.

Along with reaching out to Nigeria’s youth, Ms Ezekwesili has an obvious appeal to women, and her high profile in the country and international respectability could also boost her candidacy. -BBC

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