It is hard being a Nigerian and this year was as demanding as any other in recent times. But every once in a while, some moments presented themselves that made us deeply proud to be Nigerian. These 10 moments/people/events had us waving the flag.
8 year-old Tanitoluwa is world chess champion
The world was drawn to the attention of 8-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi after he won the kindergarten through third grade category at the 2019 New York state chess championship. At the time of his win, Adewumi who only began to play chess a year ago, was living with his family in a homeless center while waiting on their asylum request to be accepted. The family has been moved to a comfortable apartment and his story will be told via a series of three soon to be published books. A big screen adaptation involving Trevor Noah’s Day Zero productions company is also in the works.
Adesua Etomi-Wellington on the cover of Vogue, yes Anna Wintour’s Vogue
Actress Adesua Etomi-Wellington turned heads earlier this year when she landed one of the most coveted real estate properties in all of global fashion, the cover of Vogue magazine. Etomi-Wellington was one of 14 stars from 14 countries selected to grace the magazine’s global issue. She joined the likes of soon-to-be Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Debicki, Bond girl Lea Seydoux and South Korean superstar Doona Bae.
Allen Onyema’s Air Peace restores faith in the Nigerian project
Responding to the ugly xenophobic wave of attacks in certain pockets of South Africa, Allen Onyema, founder and chief executive of Air Peace the country’s biggest local carrier made a bold decision that earned him loads of commendation. As the government dithered in coming up with a comprehensive diplomatic response, Onyema quietly mobilized an airplane and according to him expended over 230 million to evacuate about 485 Nigerians who were willing to return home. Of course Onyema isn’t so hot these days as the US department of justice has since announced that he is being investigated for financial crimes.
Bernardine Evaristo wins the Booker for Naija… well sorta
The first black woman to win the Man Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award has some Nigerian in her. Bernardine Evaristo achieved this historic feat in October when her latest, Girl, Woman, Other shared the prize- and 50,000 Pounds prize money- with the legendary Margaret Atwood whose co-winning The Testaments is a long awaited sequel to her now classic dystopian fantasy, The Handmaid’s Tale. Evaristo, 60, whose father migrated to Britain in 1949 is also vice chair of the Royal Society of Literature.
Meanwhile another Nigerian, Chigozie Obioma was also a Man Booker prize finalist for his latest novel, An Orchestra of Minorities.
Beyonce’s Afrobeats Gift
What happens when the biggest star in the world with the weight of the almighty Disney corporation behind her is commissioned to curate a side project for one of the year’s most anticipated films, itself a remake of a proper animation classic? She decides to widen musical tastes and expand appetites by exploring newer, emerging soundscapes. Afrobeats was the beneficiary of this decision and Beyoncé‘s The Lion King: The Gift featured new music from the biggest Nigerian pop stars. Burna Boy, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage were just some of the names who can now claim to have worked with the queen of everything.
Burna Boy’s wild ride
It is unbelievable the terrific year that pop singer Burna Boy has had. If 2018 was his year of breaking into the international scene, 2019 was his time to consolidate his stronghold and double down on the advances Afrobeats has made on the world stage. Burna Boy parlayed an online spat with Coachella over font size into big wins at the BET awards and MTV EMAs among others. He put out a well-received album, African Giant that fetched him new audiences the world over and was nominated for a Grammy in the world music category. Oh! And did we mention he worked with Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and Stormzy?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, force for change.
What would contemporary culture be without the force that is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? We shudder to imagine. Nigeria’s biggest export not named Fela Kuti continued the important work of providing representation for her home country on the global stage. This year she became the first person in the history of Yale University to serve as class day speaker and receive an honorary doctorate in the same weekend. She was one of the cover stars of the landmark issue of British Vogue guest edited by HRH The Duchess of Sussex. Adichie also became the youngest African to receive the UN Foundation Global Leadership Award.
Mama Burna tells them how it is
When Burna Boy was announced winner of the best international act at the BET awards, he was nowhere to be found. Just as well as his momager, Bose Ogulu was up to the task of receiving the award on his behalf. Her message was short yet powerful, a stark reminder to every POC in the room of the validity of their heritage. Africans first before anything else. Her message went viral and was incorporated in Burna Boy’s African Giant album which arrived soon after.
Mo Abudu again
Simply because she does not know how not to win, EbonyLife CEO Mo Abudu became the first African individual to chair the international Emmy awards gala at the 47th international Emmy awards in New York City. At the event, Abudu oversaw the presentation of the Founders award to Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss.
Muhammad Pate becomes World Bank guru
Former minister of state for health Muhammad Ali Pate was appointed global director for health, nutrition and population at the World Bank. Pate, a renowned scholar and global health leader was also named director of the Global Financing Facility for women, children and adolescents. Pate who at various times has served as executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is also a Julio Frenk professor of public health leadership at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health.