Being Nigerian is hard enough. But these breakthroughs felt like collective wins and made it a little bit easier to believe in project Nigeria.
Afrobeats to the World
Nigerian music continued its quest for worldwide domination with wins erupting from several corners. Burna Boy scored a second straight Grammy nomination in the global music album category for his Twice as Tall record.
He won Best International Act prizes at the MOBO Awards and at the BET Awards. Wizkid took home the Best African Act at the MOBOs shortly after releasing his fourth studio album Made in Lagos. Davido and Tiwa Savage performed virtually on the Tonight Show live with Jimmy Fallon. Davido, Savage and Mr Eazi were on the cover of the Billboard magazine and let’s not forget Beyonce’s culture shaping Black is King film which featured a roster of Nigerian creatives.
A Generation Wakens
For almost three weeks, young Nigerians took to the streets in their numbers from Lagos to Abuja, Ibadan to Jos, blocking major roads across cities and grinding commercial activities to a halt. Their demand? The complete shutdown of the notorious police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests in October were only the beginning of a new dawn of youth engagement and participation. The government may have temporarily halted the momentum, but history makes it clear that it is impossible to stop an idea whose time has come.
Akin Adesina’s Big, Complicated Win
On his way to a second tenure as President of the Africa Development Bank Group, Adesina survived both an internal investigation and an external review headed by former Irish President Mary Robinson.
The victory was a reflection of the years of dedication that Adesina had put into the role. Famous for his smart suits, bow ties and bright smiles, Adesina remains a consensus builder, with the charisma and know-how to reach across political, national and even international divides
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Winner of Winners
This year, Adichie partnered with Amazon Original Stories to publish Zikora, her first work of fiction since the award-winning tome, Americanah. On the 25th year anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Adichie’s towering masterpiece, Half of a Yellow Sun– victorious in 2007- was named winner of winners, that is the best book to have ever won the prize. In May, Adichie became the first black woman since Patricia Harris forty-two years ago, to deliver the commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania in May 2020.
The Future of Nigerian Journalism is Bright
Nigerian journos shone bright at the 2020 African Fact-Check Ceremony Awards. Taiwo Adebulu took home the award of the day for fact-check of the year by a working journalist for his investigative work on Nigerian universities and renewable energy.
Oluwaseye Ogunsanya from Lagos State University won a runner up prize. ‘Fisayo Soyombo, former Editor of The Cable, was named winner of the local reporter category of the 2020 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism. Philip Obaji was among the 8 finalists for the freelance category while The Nation newspaper’s Olatunji Ololade was a finalist in the local reporter category won by Soyombo. Kiki Mordi was named the 2020 winner of the Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling for her Emmy nominated Sex for Grades documentary.
The Last Stylebender
Few marketers for brand Nigeria this year have been as consistent or as convincing as Adesanya. He speaks Yoruba and pidgin English surprisingly well. He isn’t shy of waving the Nigerian flag. And he proudly showcases Nigerian music. He loves his father too. Adesanya kicked of his year with a fight against Yoel Romero.
He won and was able to defend the UFC middleweight championship successfully for the first time. In September, Adesanya beat fellow undefeated fighter Paulo Costa. This was the first time that two male unbeaten mixed martial artists battled in over a decade.
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is the Woman for the Job
In the coming weeks, the World Trade Organisation faces a record making choice. For the first time in its 25-year history, the next Director General of the organisation is going to be a woman. Should present momentum hold, then the job will go to Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.
Before the selection process was put on hold, NOI was the candidate to beat, as she enjoyed the largest support by members in the final round. She also garnered broad support from member states from all levels of development and from all geographic regions.
Olasunkanmi Opeifa is Teacher of the Year
Olasunkanmi Opeifa was listed as a finalist for the 2020 edition of the prestigious Global Teacher Prize. Opeifa was one of ten nominees based in countries such as Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Opeifa was noticed for his work with students of Government Day Secondary School, Karu, a semi-rural area of Abuja.
Opeifa teaches English Language to children of low-income earners in the civil service, market traders and artisans. According to his Global Teacher Prize application, his students often cannot afford textbooks or heavily subsidized school fees.
Onyema Ogbuagu leads on Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine
Onyema Ogbuagu, a Nigerian-born researcher and medical doctor who had spent his career investigating infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS and Ebola was one of the heroes of the covid-19 pandemic.
Amid the pandemic, Mr Ogbuagu’s ground-breaking research in the field of modified genetic code catapulted him into the public eye, as one of the brains behind the research at Pfizer who worked on the world’s first potentially effective coronavirus vaccine.
Paystack’s Deal of the Decade
In a year that was defined by state sanctioned violence against young persons, Ezra Olubi and Shola Akinlade were beacons of hope, sending out the ultimate middle finger to the establishment with their outsized success in business and technology.
On their own terms. In a landmark deal that is being touted in some quarters as the deal of the decade, Paystack, the financial services and payments company founded by Akinlade and Olubi only five years ago was acquired by Stripe for a reported fee of $200million.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.