We always knew it was going to be a tough one; but who knew how tough? Our search was for the one person, living and working in Nigeria, whose influence on our lives was pervasive, for good or bad, but ultimately decided that the stakes are too high for anything but the positive – this year.
Still, our editors ended up dissatisfied with the nominees we were left with, even after a long debate.
In selecting the final winner however, our job became considerably harder – so hard in fact, that the result was inconclusive.
He has made history as a minority Nigerian who became president, dismantling an old bloc of power players, presenting Nigerians with world-acclaimed elections, and remarkably opening up several democratic spaces; still we find it inappropriate to grant Goodluck Jonathan this title when the country is gripped by debilitating insecurity. We can ignore the perception of leadership defaults, but to ignore the bombs that keep us in fear; the deaths that face us with certainty is impossible. And taking strong and effective measures to end this national siege is his responsibility.
Dr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is a remarkable man; an inspiration to many professional Nigerians and a public official whose candour is well-regarded, but his relentless populism is yet to deliver anything close to economic regeneration. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an inspirational figure who, despite scattershot criticism, has taken a globally praised move to find some method in her nation’s madness; but her unpopular policy directions have yet to be proven correct. And, hailed as the “new Fashola”, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, while a refreshing political persona with giant strides in his state, still has a few more steps to go to truly qualify for this national title beyond the bursts of brilliance.
Our reader votes have slanted towards Dr. Sanusi, but if we absolutely had to choose then the choice would quickly, and very easily, be Aliko Dangote. Seen as Nigeria’s “Golden Boy” of business, he is without a doubt an inspiration to young entrepreneurs and professionals not just in Nigeria but across the continent courtesy of the single-mindedness with which he has set about building an empire and a legacy. But is that enough? For us, as part of a new generation of Nigerians who desire a difference, we want something more inspiring than topping the list of Africa’s richest men.
We could have taken the easy route from the beginning, and indeed we tried, to toe the line of Time, and reward ‘The Protester’.
Unfortunately, that would be deception. The last really successful protests Nigeria has had were the EnoughisEnough and Save Nigeria rallies in 2010. The Lekki Toll protesters, while their hearts were in the right place, made negligible impact; and we are yet unsure of the motives of the unsuccessful hunger strike champions. This year, the Nigerian protester did not make impact.
We took an entire edition of our magazine’s Issue 5, to pay tribute to the young corps members who lost their lives serving their nation, and so we considered nominating ‘The Corper’, just as we considered nominating the several victims of bomb blasts, or The Voter; whose intense desire for good government helped Nigeria deliver solid elections this year.
But, again, we resisted the temptation to cuddle ourselves. Yes, the Nigerian voter did vote, but what else after that? The idea of being part of the electorate is not just the act of ballot casting, but also one of vigilance.
How have we held our leaders accountable? How have we held them to higher standards? While we are all angry and frustrated, what have we done beyond the loud criticism to ensure the desires of our hearts are met? It cannot be enough to be a voter. We need to be active citizens, demanding good governance impactful and sustained ways.
We also considered young people, and there were those like the music entrepreneur Don Jazzy, who inspires young Nigerians across the world with his relentless industry and his seemingly endless ability to push boundaries. We are hopeful that the fruits of his vision will begin to bear fruit in 2012. There are also a large number of young people beyond entertainment and the media, for whom the past one year has been one of inspiration, and our January ‘The New Establishment’ issue will present some of these gems to the world.
Unfortunately, no one of these people can be said to be, for instance, Nigeria’s Zuckerberg; affecting our lives pervasively. We blame Nigeria for this – for refusing to rise up to the challenge of being a country where its citizens shine as bright as can be and inspiration is plenteous. In our little way – and of course we are fallible – we decided that reminding Nigerians of the hard truths about our collective lack of distinction is perhaps the biggest favour this exercise can provide.
This year, we decided to search for the positive, because our nation desperately needs the positive; and we are sad to report that there is a scarcity of that which we seek, and that which we need. There are pockets of good, but they are not enough; nay not even nearly enough. And it saddens us.
As we “cross-over” into the New Year, it is our fervent hope, prayer even, that Nigerians – collectively – can take up this challenge and work to change this reality, so that next year we won’t need to look so hard to find that one person, who, for good, can unanimously be declared 2012’s YNaija Person of the Year.
Happy New Year, and New Nigeria, in advance.