by Stanley Azuakola
Editor’s Note: The Person of the Year is a poll for newsmakers, and is not an award this year, as is popular in Nigeria. It is editorial poll that tries to assess the one person who most influenced our lives, for good or bad . They also have to be Nigerians working in Nigeria. We have decided to leave this in the purest sense of the phrase, gaining inspiration from the Time Magazine Person of the Year format.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.” –Jaques, a character in Shakespeare’s play, ‘As You Like It’.
In the part of the world’s stage that is Nigeria, 2011 will be remembered as a year of high-wire drama and pulsating intensity. Never has there been a year like 2011 and never again would there be another year quite like it. Yet there is a truth that remains true for all seasons and years: All men and women are merely players, but some play better than others. All lives affect each other, but some lives affect other lives more. On that score, 2011 was no different.
The big question is—who is most deserving of recognition as the 2011 YNaija Person of the Year? That is, the person whose impact on the polity was most undeniable, either because of new milestones recorded, old records broken, great tasks undertaken, intense emotions stoked or strong influence exerted. Here are the five nominees:
1. Rotimi Amaechi, 46: As chairman of the powerful Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), the Rivers State governor literally stood at the centre of the most burning issues affecting the nation’s polity in 2011, from the controversies surrounding the national minimum wage for workers to the Sovereign Wealth Fund. Many have referred to him as the “PDP’s Fashola,” recognising his visible commitment to good governance and infrastructural development just like Babatunde Fashola, his Lagos ACN counterpart. His efforts have turned Rivers State into a mammoth construction site with progress in education, health and power. At a time when the centre has been panned for the unhealthy capital to recurrent expenditure ratio in the national budget, Gov. Amaechi’s Rivers State is one of the few states that have managed a positive ratio (73% capital expenditure budgeted for 2012 in the state, compared to 28% at federal level.)
2. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, 57: Convincing Madam Okonjo-Iweala to leave her prestigious position as managing director of the World Bank and take up appointment as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Head of the Economic Management Implementation Team has been described as the coup de grace which ensured that the world began to take President Jonathan’s much touted promise of transformation seriously. Judging by the volume of responsibilities on her dignified shoulders it is not hard to see why Google describes her as Nigeria’s “de-facto prime minister.” Whether it was convincing the governors’ forum on the desirability of a Sovereign Wealth Fund or championing the government’s position on removal of fuel subsidy, Madam Okonjo-Iweala brought a steely focus and sharp mind to bear in the discharge of her duties. In December 2011, she was named alongside world leaders like Barack Obama, David Cameron and Joseph Stiglitz as one of the 100 Global Thinkers by the Washington-based journal, Foreign Policy magazine. With fuel subsidy removal as a signature policy however, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala finds herself ending 2011 on the wrong side of the Nigerian public.
3. Aliko Dangote, 54: 2011 would be remembered as the year the name ‘Dangote’ resonated with a loud bang all over the world. Forbes business magazine valued his net worth at $13.8 billion, making him the 51st richest man in the world and the richest in Africa. With investments over a wide range of sectors including fertiliser, textile, flour, pasta, tomato, salt, cement, oil and gas as well as transportation, Dangote Industries Limited employs over 20, 000 Nigerians nationwide. Presently he is the chairman of the Federal Government Committee on Job Creation, and was recently conferred with the nation’s second highest honour, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) by President Goodluck Jonathan in recognition of his business investments all across the nation as well as his job creation efforts. His deep pockets also increasingly moulded him into the role of an eminence grise in political circles – some have said, for good or bad.
4. Goodluck Jonathan, 54: President Goodluck Jonathan made history in 2011 by becoming the first man from a minority tribe in Nigeria to win a presidential election in his own right. Also, for the first time in eighteen years, the elections which brought in President Jonathan were adjudged by most observers as mostly free and fair, even though he, as incumbent, also participated. The president went about the task of governance by setting up a star-studded Economic Management Team headed by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Though challenges continue to confront the nation especially in the areas of security and youth unemployment, President Jonathan will insist he has used the last few months to lay a foundation in tackling them, launching YouWiN! (a job creation strategy for young people), agricultural sector transformation agenda as well as pursuing the power roadmap. Unfortunately, on matters such as security (especially the recent bomb blasts that have cost so many lives), the cost of government and fuel subsidy – Mr President hasn’t impressed many.
5. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, 50: The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido, was a constant figure in the 2011 news cycle. His bank reforms continued to yield fruits with recent shareholder approvals for the merger and acquisition of some ailing banks which received CBN lifeline. Sanusi was also an aggressive promoter of the Islamic banking model in Nigeria. As populist governor, he released frequent exhortations against the exorbitant overhead used to maintain the nation’s legislature. Contrary to initial fears over whether he would be able to work amicably with Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-weala, he proved himself a capable team player. The seal of his flexibility was his transmutation into one of the most vocal supporters of subsidy removal, a flip-flop from his previous stand. Sanusi has already been named Forbes African Person of the Year 2011, and Banker of the Year in Sub-Saharan Africa by global business magazine, Emerging Markets. But have his decisions actually fundamentally changed out society in a positive way? That’s the question on the lips of critics.
The winner will be decided 50 per cent by votes and 50 per cent by our editors. You can vote in the poll below. The winner will be announced on December 31.