by Isi Esene
The editors of Y! – TV, Magazine & Online – today announced the shortlist for Y!/YNaija.com Person of the Year 2014.
The YNaija Person of the Year is in its fourth year and is awarded to the individual who has most visibly influenced the Nigerian society for good in the past year, breaking new boundaries or consolidating on gains – and driving the advancement of the public, especially young people.
The editors announced there was no winner for its first edition in 2011. The 2012 winner was entrepreneur and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. The 2013 winner was tech industry trailblazer, Jason Njoku.
The shortlist is announced following the decision of editors as well as feedback from readers and social media audiences. Voting commences today, Monday, 3 November and closes after a month on Sunday, 12 December.
- Mosunmola Abudu, media
- Babatunde Fashola, governance
- Mobola Johnson, public service
- Vincent Enyeama, sports
- Lanre DaSilva Ajayi, fashion
- Obiageli Ezekwesili, civil society
- Chimamanda Adichie, art
- Stella Adadevoh, health
- Adamu Mu’azu, politics
- Atedo Peterside, business
Mosunmola Abudu, 50
It is not every time you find a person (male or female) who re-invents as much as Mosunmola “Mo” Abudu does, and yet stays ahead each time – focused solely on pushing the boundaries where they exist. First as a Human Resource expert, then as a venture capitalist, Mo found herself with the groundbreaking TV series, Moments with Mo. 2011 however brought a whole new level – Mo arriving as the only female in the country to own and lead a television station. One year after, with a pack of the nation’s brightest television personas, and leading the pack for culture and cool, it is apparent that Mo has changed the way we look at women in the media.
Babatunde Fashola, 51
His angry diatribes against the president of his country underline one crucial fact – Babatunde Fashola feels Nigeria has been short-changed when it comes to visionary and (to forgive the pun) transformational leadership. And he has the credibility to boot. His administration has not been perfect, as many of the roads and schools in Lagos would testify, but the clarity and force of the vision Fashola has for Lagos, and the single-mindedness with which he has pursued the imperatives of a modern city, have never been in doubt. That razor-sharp intellect and the strength of character to see it through is what led his state’s successful push against Ebola in Lagos, and then Nigeria. In the centre of chaos, he stands as a practical icon of governance and leadership, and not just for Nigeria. And because of that, Fashola gives Nigeria’s thinking set hope – that Nigeria’s leaders can yet inspire.
Omobola Johnson, 51
Call her the mother of Nigeria’s IT revolution, and you would only narrowly miss the mark. Omobola Johnson, fresh off 25 years at Accenture, might not have inspired or led the movement from the start – but the strides to democratize broadband to the acceleration of IT investment, entrepreneurship and collaboration (including the Idea Hubs across the country) certainly earn her the street credibility to boast leadership. Through a robust policy framework, a national and harmonized ICT policy, and an inspired work-schedule that has helped converge all the players in a sector once defined by conflict and a lack of direction, Nigeria’s Minister of Communication Technology has brought excitement, passion and critical long-term thinking to the job of enabling Nigeria take advantage of the opportunities technology bring as well as accelerate our leap into the future.
Vincent Enyeama, 32
There is a reason Vincent Enyeama is endlessly popular in most of Nigeria, and yes it has to do with the fact that this is a football-loving nation, and in a football-loving nation, which spends plenty – including emotions and cash – on football, it is important to win, and Enyeama has been winning for very many years. He has been a steady part of the nation’s sport tours across the world, playing in 28 of the national team’s World Cup qualifiers since 2006. He has also been a frontline part of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, leading the Super Eagles to fine finishes in 2004, 2006, 2010 and to a trophy in 2013. In 2014, when all hope seemed entirely lost; there he was again, carrying a people’s aspirations on his shoulders and in his glove. He helped Nigeria to its first win at the World Cup since 1998 and stood his ground, even through loss, for the rest of the tournament. While Nigeria continues to fool around with its potential for growth in sports, those like Enyeama stand away from the rot – reminding us of what is possible, and challenging us to step up our game, because he, after all, is Nigerian.
Lanre DaSilva Ajayi, 36
She stood out for a bold idea this year – Nigeria spends millions (of dollars) on football yearly, and what is the return on that investment? Well, how about fashion – which has transformed lives, careers and brands across the country, creating jobs, building entrepreneurs and transforming the way the world sees Nigeria, without any institutional support? She is the only African designer whose work is stocked at Dolce & Gabbanna’s, Spiga 2 Concept store, and once you could literally walk into her eponymous LDA brand at Selfridges in London. There is a reason why a woman, barely 30, is spoken about with such awe by contemporaries, the upcoming or those gone before her. Because Ajayi stands as a beacon, icon, medium for the dreams and aspirations of an entire generation, who can change Nigeria. We need to pay attention.
Obiageli Ezekwesili, 51
What takes a two-time federal minister and former Vice-President of the World Bank to the streets of Abuja for more than 200 days, eschewing the comforts of her cosy job as Senior Economic Advisor for the Open Society Foundation, from where she advises reformist African governments like Rwanda’s? What makes her stake her name, her fame, and any potential for patronage from Nigeria’s ruling government as she focuses on a single issue? Over 200 missing girls. Obiageli Ezekwesili’s constant disappointment in politicians on both sides, her disgust with a complicit elite, and her confidence in the power of citizens, expressed for years through policy proposals, speeches, articles and tweets have all coincided in one mission: #BringBackOurGirls. When Nigeria’s missing Chibok girls are finally found, or if the government changes the way it does its business on security, Nigerians will have one woman to thank. She is very easily the country’s Citizen-in-Chief.
Stella Adadevoh, 58
A lot has been said about this woman who gave her life so that the lives of plenty across Nigeria and its neighbours could be safe from a galloping Ebola scourge. Thankfully, many have got the point – at the end of the day, it didn’t require impassioned speeches, protests at government house, or dramatic gestures. All the late medical doctor did was her job. Along with the rest of the staff of First Consultants Hospital in Lagos, she makes this list for her clear understanding of what was at stake and her decision to put herself second and enforce the confinement of Patrick Sawyer. That was leadership. Nigeria has plenty to thank this great grand-daughter of Herbert Macaulay for, not just for preventing what would have been a pandemic in a state of 14 million, and not just for single-handedly changing the narrative for Nigeria in the international community, not only for taking a risk to serve her fatherland, but above all else, for giving Nigerians a reason to believe again – that we are truly a good people, that, with Nigerians living in Nigeria, we can truly become a great nation, whenever we decide.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 37
Basically, for being herself. Chimamanda doesn’t make this list for being one of the world’s iconic writers, or one of Nigeria’s most important exports. She doesn’t make this for presenting to her country the gift of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. She makes it for resolutely insisting on being an original; for transcending the near impenetrable divide from the revered literati to the centre of global pop culture. Today, she’s quoted and debated liberally by everyone from Beyonce to Justin Bieber, from the New York Times to the Linda Ikeji Blog. She boldly stands in her isi-owu and tells the world how it should think. From kinky hair to feminism to gay rights to the government, Chimamanda knows how to get the world to listen. For the sheer glory of being Chimamanda, as she travelled the world selling her latest book, her kinky hair and her stubborn ideas, Chimamanda owned the year.
Adamu Mu’azu, 59
It’s not everyday that a politician inspires only for being a politician, but then we didn’t reckon with the former Bauchi governor. Three things are important in a democracy – one is a vibrant opposition; the other is an active civil society. The third is usually taken for granted – a focused ruling government. To avoid distractions, a leader requires smart, disciplined, purposive politics. The People’s Democratic Party in addition to its deficiency in character has been the opposite of this for so many years, so distracted by pettiness and chaos it became almost impossible for it to govern. Mu’azu came in after the fractious tenure of Bamanga Tukur and brought calm to the storm through humility, perspective and a relentless focus on the bottom-line – reconciling enemies, soft-pedaling on rhetoric, building bridges, strengthening alliances for good governance. You can say much about the quality of Dr. Jonathan’s government, but whatever the faults are, they are no longer the result of watching his back constantly. Mu’azu reminded us that the game of politics isn’t just for the delight of its actors; when well played, it is democracy’s most important tool.
Atedo Peterside, 58
It is almost impossible to find any from the corporate wing of Nigeria’s one percent who is willing to speak with courage and independence of mind about Nigeria’s politics, governance and society. It is usually buried in a sea of clichés, euphemism and downright lies – as each struggles to get a bigger piece of the never-ending cake baked in the corridors of power. The ‘almost’ in that statement only exists because of people like Atedo Peterside. The bank chairman is perhaps the only private sector business leader that has been publicly outspoken about governance, politics and the chasms that threaten our existence as a thriving nation, and he has taken a step further from public debate and private business to contribute to interventions, from the privatization of power to the national conference of 2014. None of this has affected his core identity, where this year he was both appointed a director in Africa’s largest financial services company, Standard Bank Group as he was announced CNBC’s All Africa Business Leader of the Year for West Africa. Dear Nigerian corporate titan, there lies your call to courage and character.
“As with each year, all 10 are Nigerians who have shaped and engineered society as we know it, and for good, over the past year,” said Chude Jideonwo, who is editor-in-chief for Y!/YNaija.com. “We are excited to continue this direction of spotlighting and celebrating them. We look forward to the 2014 winner!”
There will be no award or ceremony for the YNaija Person of the Year 2014. The winner will be notified formally and an announcement made to the public on Monday, 30 December, with an essay detailing rationale, impact and significance.
The public can begin to vote below.