by Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq & Chinedu Okafor
Politics all over the world plays the most critical role in driving national development, but behind the structures, institutions and organisations geared towards the achievement of same are actors influencing thoughts, directions and processes of change.
Most often, many of these actors are aware of the enormous influence they wield but underestimate the ripple effect of it while others are completely unaware, thus making it difficult to leverage on the same for public good. Many even back out of the arena due to apathy without a realisation of how much their contribution enhance nation-building.
It is in a bid to promote this consciousness among Nigerians leading and those being led; that YNaija – the platform that focuses on smart conversations and contemporary issues as they affect young people, presents YNaija Politics 100; an annual list of individuals and institutions considered as its 100 Most Influential Voices in Nigerian Politics.
The list covering June 2020 – June 2021, consists of actors in different strata of Nigerian Politics ranging from the Academia, Civil Society, Media, to Activism, Separatists and Organised Labour. Others are Traditional and Religious Institutions, The Military, Legislature, Executive, Judiciary, Statesmen/Politicians and the Diaspora. [Special Mention]
Dr. Oby Ezekwesili
Dr. Oby has held key positions in and out of government; including as a former Minister of Education and also Solid Minerals during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. She also served as Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa division and afterwards, co-founded Transparency International.
Most notably however, she’s easily remembered as one of Nigeria’s most resilient activist cum technocrat following her role as a primary advocate under the #BringBackOurGirls movement during the Chibok School Girls saga. Shortly after stepping out of the race for the Presidency in 2019, she embarked on a research at the Robert Bosch Institute, in what would birth the #FixPolitics initiative and School of Politics, Policy & Governance (SPPG).
The School of Politics, Policy & Governance (SPPG), as part of the Values pillar of the Fix Politics initiative, has the goal of transforming politics in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, by building a massive base and pipeline of a new value-based and disruptive thinking political class with the requisite knowledge and skills to lead effectively.
Dr. Charles Omole
Pioneering Director General of the Institute for Police and Security Policy Research (IPSPR); a research institute geared towards collaborative research and reform programmes, he was in November 2020 appointed by Nigeria’s Speaker of the House of Representatives as Special Assistant on National Security and Intelligence Reform.
Largely described as an effective combination of the academia, industry, political and government proficiencies, Dr. Omole is a constitutional law scholar and global expert in law enforcement jurisprudence and organisational transformation.
With his wide-ranging experience in economics, business, technology, organizational change, politics, the judiciary, national security, policing, human capital development and leadership coaching; he consults for governments and businesses across Europe, Asia and Africa.
Dr. Clement Nwankwo
With what would seem like a personal vendetta against military rule, this Dr. Nwankwo since the days Nigeria was ruled by men in camouflage uniforms spoke against the leadership of the military, putting his life at risk in a personal crusade to see Nigeria return to civilian rule.
As recently as 2019, Dr. Clement was very critical about the military’s involvement in elections, noting that it jeopardises the integrity of the Nigerian democratic system. Since the 80s, he has been synonymous with the fight against authoritarian rule, and corrupt governance, and uses every opportunity he gets to deplore oppressive governance.
He is credited for creating and co-founding the first human rights organization: Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) in 1987. He would later create, the Constitutional Rights Project (CRP), a non-profit organization which monitors Nigeria’s laws and government’s actions regarding international agreements and human rights. Being an activist and lawyer he is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
Lawyer, Satirist and Pan-Nigerian, Ugo as is popularly called, is one of Nigeria’s influential political analysts; passionately dissecting and offering pragmatic solutions to topical issues in the country weekly.
With vast knowledge of law, medicine, philosophy and the military, he combines an impeccable mastery of wits, innuendos and fables to keep thousands of his followers and critics glued to his weekly columns and Facebook posts. While some of his opinions are deemed controversial, the developments unveil the diversity of ‘his following’ as a smaller version of the National Assembly, with constituents across varying ethnicities, religion and so on.
Avoiding the pitfall of becoming an ‘arm chair critic’ satisfied only with analyses, Dr. Egbujo has on multiple occasions mobilised his friends and followers to engage in worthy causes. In April 2021, he mobilised about 158 donors to compensate 53-year-old Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Sunday Erhabor for his professional conduct and restraint in the face of assault by a traffic offender in Lagos. The police officer was compensated with a million naira and similar acts of kindness have been replicated for relatives of deceased service men and other deserving Nigerians.
Dr. Reuben Abati
With over two decades of stellar experience in journalism – spanning 1985 till present, he has served as Chairman, Editorial Board of Nigeria’s Guardian Newspapers, co-presenter of the television program: Patito’s Gang, and was Deputy Governorship Candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 Ogun Governorship Election.
Despite been a former Presidential spokesman under the immediate past administration at the centre, Abati is also largely objective and is building a great persona as one of Nigeria’s top TV anchor in the political space.
Apart from running his own blog, where he gives indepth analysis on trending political issues, he is a columnist on ThisDay Newspaper, radio host on City FM and Lead Anchor on Arise News flagship programme; the Morning Show. One which has become a daily tonic for many young Nigerians especially after its coverage of the October 2020 #EndSARS protests. This is just as it recently secured a very revealing exclusive with President Muhammadu Buhari; his first media chat since he was re-elected for a second term.
In today’s world of broadcast journalism, very few Nigerians are as prominent as Seun; host of Politics Today, Sunday Politics and many other specials on Channels Television.
Known for raising questions on nagging socio-political issues through these very popular shows, Seun Okinbaloye has in over a decade, built reputation as a TV host who voices the concerns and grievances of Nigerians dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the economy.
The award winning journalist is definitely top of mind among political watchers in Nigeria, but easily one of the most criticised; especially by many who feel he’s deliberate about not drilling his guests from government.
From Assistant Editor at Punch Newspapers, to Business Editor of Vanguard Newspapers; Marketing Director at the Compass and 234Next, the veteran broadcaster has a rich profile within the Nigerian media.
An expert on foreign affairs, always finding a way to relate Nigerian issues to the grander global stage. Via his blog, you get the sense that he is well versed in every facet of the Nigerian economy, with topics ranging from finance to health to law.
These days, he anchors a radio segment on Nigerian Info FM after he was brought in to execute the balancing act of discussing hard pressing political issues with a forbearing tone. Disu is easily a ‘radio principality;’ given his pedigree with political discourses.
A co-anchor on Arise TV’s The Morning Show, this journalist has a profound enthusiasm for tech, public speaking, and of course politics.
A global orator who has given keynote speeches on stages like TED X, and Cambridge University, he has also gone on to anchor top-class dinners for British Airways and the American government. In the media space, he has worked as Editor at Next Magazine, Sports Analyst at OGTV and is currently host of Conversations with Rufai; a radio show where politics and social issues are extensively discussed on Nigerian Info FM.
Rufai, who has authored at least 2 books continues to build a reputation as the TV anchor who asks the hard questions, regardless of whose ox is gored and does well at bringing great insights, as well as unique solutions to burning socio-political issues in the country.
Seasoned and award winning; BKO as he is fondly called, is anything from a journalist, historian, to a polemicist and even a security expert.
Like most other journalists fed up with the way the country is being run, Babajide provides critical insight on political and security issues in the country as well as how they can be addressed. He has vast experience in both print and broadcast journalism, and uses both of them with gripping finesse.
He currently serves as the Group Head of Current and Public Affairs, TVC Communications, and has gained immense popularity through his active participation and contributions on the television programme, Journalists Hangout aired daily on TVC News.
Chamberlain is producer and lead presenter of Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, one of Nigeria’s top and long-running breakfast shows.
His experience crosses the borders of Nigeria as he once worked for the ITN News Channel 4 in London, and since joining Channels Television, he has carved a reputation for himself as a highly credible TV personality and great source of insights.
Generally described as a calm and focused presenter, the Public Policy professional from the Leadership Institute, U.S.A. is usually at the centre of many viral videos where guests on the show (especially public office holders) goof or make astounding revelations.
Long-time co-host of Sunrise Daily on Channels Television alongside Chamberlain Usoh, Maupe is a force to reckon with in Nigeria’s political circle, despite not been a politician.
As a journalist with years of stellar performance in broadcast media, Ogun-Yusuf is never shy to ask the tough questions on her show, Hard Talk and is widely known for stirring thought-provoking conversations on all shows.
Currently the Managing Editor at People’s Gazette, a newspaper with the motto “Courage or Nothing,” Samuel exudes the spirit of courage in his management of the online medium.
Prior to his current engagement, the investigative journalist had worked with few notable news platforms including Western Port Newspaper, The Scoop and Premium Times where he built a reputation of courage. He was in 2018, arrested and interrogated for a piece he wrote on the then Inspector General of Police. While in detention, the police forced him to reveal his source, which he refused, and having realized that he would not be intimidated, he was released.
Within months of its establishment and Ogundipe’s assumption of leadership, it has gained popularity among Nigerians for many audacious reports and exclusives. Reports enough to make the government instruct the country’s mobile network operators to block access to its site on January 26, for ‘stepping on toes.’
With over 20 years of experience in journalism, Ahmad Salkida has become a popular and renowned investigative reporter, reporting on the subject of national conflict and development.
Over the years he has been a journalist who is ready to risk life or limb for an opportunity to get the truth to Nigerians, leading him to co-found Human Angle; a media platform with the mission of reporting insecurity in the country and reliable source for reports on the fight against insurgency in Nigeria’s North East.
Reputed to be a brave reporter, his exclusive reports on the activities of terrorist group; Boko Haram, once forced him into self-exile in the United Arab Emirates, after threats were made on his life. He was also one of the first reliable sources who confirmed the eventual death of the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, in April.
A seasoned journalist who has worked with major media houses, the likes of BBC, Channels TV, the Guardian, Financial Trust London, Daily Trust and more. She is a member of the judging panel of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, member of the Premium Times Newspaper Centre for Investigative Journalism Board of Trustees.
Kadaria is founder of Daria Media Ltd., a company designed to bridge the gap in Nigeria’s journalism space by providing public service journalism and also provides leadership as CEO/Managing Director of Radio Now 95.3 FM, a radio station broadcasting out of Lagos to the world.
Radio Now has a mission to provide factual, unbiased and Nigerian-focused news, information and entertainment that empowers citizens to hold public and private sectors accountable, build social consciousness and promote nation building. Under her leadership, the station has in a short time made a major move to provoke conversations on national reformation; especially with its symposium ‘Urgent Conversations’ held in February.
Known in the journalism space as the one-man hurricane, this investigative journalist is a freelance writer whose works have been featured on numerous notable media platforms including CNN, The Africa Report, BusinessDay Nigeria, Channels Television, PlusTV Africa, Newswire, Yahoo Finance and more.
His expertise ranges from politics to tech, finance, and culture, owing to the fact that he started off as a Business Consultant and Marketer before making his entry to politics. A well-known critic of the Nigerian Government, he is well versed in disclosing political innuendos, and giving context to the events that make headlines.
From winning the People Journalism Prize for Africa 2020, David has gone on to stamp his footprint in the hearts of many with his audacious investigative report on embattled Communications Minister, Isa Pantami as well as a daring expose on the kidnap and murder of Akwa Ibom job seeker, Iniobong Umoren.
If courageous had a Nigerian face, it would no doubt look like this journalist. Founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, and a freelance writer who has written for publications such as Al Jazeera, The Cable and more.
Fisayo Soyombo took investigative journalism to a whole new level when he spent two weeks in police detention with the goal of exposing corruption in the Nigeria’s criminal justice system. To achieve this, he adopted a false identity and pretended to be a criminal. He was detained by the police, and after his release, shook the world with his expose.
Since then, he has been the recipient of many honors and awards including the Fetisov Journalism Awards, Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism and more. He was also at the centre of a controversial event last year, when he broke the news of Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s demise as a result of COVID-19 complications; days before a confirmation by former Oyo Governor’s family.
The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) is a non-profit civic hub of change makers committed to the promotion of democratic governance, human rights and civic engagement.
With leadership structures and members in all 36 states and 774 Local Government Areas (LGA) of Nigeria, the group is widely known for mobilizing young people for effective participation and improved electoral governance through issue-based civic and voter education. It also delivers research reports and findings on the dealings of the legislative arm of the government – including legislative drafting, bills analysis, scrutiny and more.
Investing in building networks and social movements to drive social change and transformation, YIAGA was pivotal to the successful signing into law of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill in 2019, and went on to play key roles as election monitors in the off-season elections held in Edo (September 2020) and Ondo (October 2020).
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)
With the alarming rate of human rights abuse in the country (especially in the public sector), it remains a difficult task to trust government to uphold these fundamental freedoms where political interests are in view; hence the need for watchdogs.
SERAP focuses specifically on economic and social rights in Nigeria and on anti-corruption work, as it uses human rights law to encourage the Nigerian government and others to address developmental and human rights challenges such as corruption, poverty, inequality and discrimination
The group year-in, year-out creates awareness on abuses and corrupt practices in government; providing hope for the common man that no abusive action will go unchallenged. This it does mostly using the instrument of litigations and calls for sanctions by Intergovernmental organisations. Key subjects it has been involved in includes illegal arrests/detention, recovered loots and the recent #TwitterBan
A civic organisation committed to facilitating societal change and aiding participatory governance through the application of technology in intersecting citizen engagement with institutional improvement.
Using a wide array of tech tools including animation, data analysis software, social media and more, it has earned the reputation of simplifying national and sub-national budgets and other information on public spending for citizens; as it continues to raise the bar on transparency and accountability in government.
In about 10 years of its establishment, BudgIT has positioned itself as a trusted hub for public finance data in Nigeria and through its project-tracking tool (Tracka), citizens are able to communicate with their elected representatives, and demand completion of the government projects in their neighbourhoods.
Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria
The group is a network of individuals and organisations committed to instituting the culture of good governance and public accountability through active citizenship.
Through its #OfficeOfTheCitizen initiative, it continues to promote processes that enhance young people’s engagement in governance and accountability by leveraging the power of technology and media.
Its support for election debates across the country and the weekly radio shows and other initiatives continues to promote the vision of a young and engaged citizenry.
Paradigm Initiative (PIN)
With regional offices across Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, Zimbabwe and beyond, PIN works to connect under-served African youth with improved livelihoods through their digital inclusion and digital rights programs.
In an age of intense digital policing, especially within Africa, the group does much for the protection of digital rights and freedom of people across the continent, connecting them with digital opportunities and ensuring the internet stays on.
In Nigeria, it’s been very vocal in the fight to restore the operations of Twitter, which was recently suspended by the Nigerian government.
Primarily focused on grassroots projects, this initiative was founded to shed light on the crucial accountability issues plaguing the Nigerian Government on every level.
A brainchild of The Future Project, yet another youth-centered development organization; YMonitor ensures that the appropriate information on government projects is made available to the general public while giving some autonomy to young Nigerians to demand for sustainable leadership from the Nigerian government.
Employing a number of programmes within the organisation including its famous Nigerian Symposium for Young and Emerging Leaders, Grassroot Accountability outreaches at local government secretariats as well as promotion of the Freedom of Information Act; the group is doing so much to ultimately bridge the gap between young Nigerians and public service holders.
Employing the services of top class data engineers, scientists and analysts, this civic group has been able to deliver some high level qualitative and quantitative reports and data on the current predicament of the Nigerian socio-political and economic affairs.
Their expertise spreads across various fields including global risks, exposure modelling to market evaluation, trend and sustainability analysis and scenario planning.
Politically, they are focused on analysis of the security issues in the country, particularly about terrorism, and they are also focused on the analysis of the catalysts responsible for the regressive state of the Nigerian economy.
Human Rights Lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and one of the country’s most respected lawyers, Femi Falana is one name that is synonymous with political activism in Nigeria.
A member of the Nigerian Bar Association, West African Bar Association, Pan African Lawyers Union and International Bar Association, his law firm: Falana & Falana Chambers is focused on constitutional law and human rights services, and is known for the numerous pro bono cases it chooses to handle.
He is largely perceived as a One-man Pressure Group, unapologetic about his views on injustices in the country and almost no week is deemed complete without his voice being heard on critical national issues.
Lawyer, Author and Activist who describes himself as the patriot of an unborn nation.
Farotimi advocates for the reform of the Nigerian constitution and has the goal of a new Nigeria in mind; a better and just society where leaders are held accountable. He uses his platform and voice to educate, enlighten and inspire his audience.
Apart from a personal YouTube channel where he dissects and highlights the issues surrounding the state of affairs, he does this via publications, articles and seminars.
National Chairman of African Action Congress (AAC) and Publisher of U.S-based investigative news agency, Sahara Reporters, Sowore is unarguably one of the most popular opposition voices in the entire country.
Armed with years of experience as a former student union leader, he is convener of the #RevolutionNow movement which has been associated with spearheading street protests all year round and has faced serious harassments by security agents severally.
The former presidential candidate is currently confined to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in line with a September 24 2019 ruling on bail application by the Federal High Court Abuja, after he was charged with “conspiracy to commit treason and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari.“
In 2020, she famously stood up against police brutality for which she was tear gassed and hosed down.
Regardless of the aggressive action taken towards her and her fellow protesters by the police she alone stood her ground and refused to run from them. Since then she has literally been a symbol of courage.
Prior to that, she was and still is known for fearlessly speaking against corrupt governance. She calls it like it is, communicating with Nigerians in a language which they understand. She was one of the co-conveners of the #Bringbackourgirls movement.
Rights Activist is currently the Convener of Concerned Nigerians; a civil Rights movement committed to defending Human Rights & Rule of Law in Nigeria.
With a passion for stamping out societal injustice, Adeyanju has been arrested numerous times (6 times in 2018) and sent to prison. Even with this, he insists on calling out government officials to do what is right.
Douglas Jack Agu
Popularly known by his stage name: Runtown, this artiste was perhaps just like every other entertainer in the country who were largely apathetic about political participation and processes. Following a national outrage by young people across social media and sundry developments, things would however change on 7th October 2020.
He dared to lead fellow celebrities and other Nigerians fed up with police brutality and extra-judicial killings on the streets on the first day of what culminated into the revolutionary #EndSARS movement. Having done his bit, thousands of young people across the country were encouraged by the courage he displayed and took to the streets in droves afterwards.
Unbothered about becoming the face of the protests, Runtown may not have been heard in many more political conversations after that first day but it is given that should he raise his voice on issues of political significance, there’s a ready audience willing to listen. He walked the talk for young people to see the possibility of much more than can happen when apathy is brought to the barest minimum.
Rapper, Falz was one of the major catalysts for the #EndSARS protests. You don’t get too many people whose name is as synonymous with the word, activism as this man’s name is. His entire family feels like a pressure group all on itself. He uses his music to advocate for the liberation of Nigerians.
Prior to this, Falz had been known to use his music to enlighten and educate his listeners on the hidden elements that make Nigeria as unjust as it is. His 2019 album Moral Instruction was one big message highlighting the problems of government, religion and harmful bureaucracies within smaller communities.
Debo Adebayo (Mr. Macaroni)
Among celebrities who came out to protest during the #EndSARS movement, very few arguably paid a heavier price than Debo Adebayo. Deep into the protest, this actor/comedian maintained a high level of energy and enthusiasm, so much so that he often slept on the cold protest grounds all through the night.
He marched day-in, day-out, and boosted the morale for young Nigerians protesting police brutality. As if this wasn’t enough, he quickly moved to join the protest against opening the Lekki Toll Gate, after the massacre that had occurred there on the 20th of October 2020.
Here he would bleed for Nigeria again, as he was arrested and dehumanised in typical Nigerian police fashion, alongside fellow protesters.
Damilola Odufuwa: A feminist, PR and Communications expert, a writer/producer, and Fintech CEO, this leading lady seem to be able to do it all.
She is the founder of the popular Feminist Coalition on Social media, a group whose goal is to attain equality for women in Nigeria.
She is also the co-founder of Wine and Whine, a quarterly event for women to come discuss issues affecting the female gender. She also has a ton of experience in writing and production. She has worked with media powerhouses, the likes of Zikoko, National Geography, CNN, MTV, Universal Music Group and more.
Odunayo Eweniyi: Much like her colleague Damilola Odufuwa, she is a business executive and activist. She specializes in Fintech, having co-founded the popular savings app: Piggyvest.
And like Damilola she is the co-founder of Feminist Coalition. In 2019, she was listed in Forbes 30 under 30, and was named one of 100 most inspiring women in Nigeria by Leading Ladies Africa for her work in activism.
Standing as the face of Tech for women, she was named one of 50 most visible women in Tech by Tech Cabal. She is also a writer, having written for publications such as Tech Cabal and Zikoko.
Young Rinu joined the #EndSARS protest an average Nigerian with a lot of grievances against the government, and enthusiasm for the movement, but emerged from the protest simply as one of the youth leaders in Nigeria.
Her passion during the protest spotlighted her as someone who could speak for young Nigerians and was subsequently appointed a representative of the youth by the Lagos State Government in the Lagos Judicial Panel; set up to investigate the rogue police unit and crimes it perpetrated during the protests.
As a rights activist, she continues to dedicate her life to tackling issues of equity, justice and fundamental human rights.
Obianuju Catherine Udeh
Popularly known as DJ Switch, this artist prior to the #EndSARS movement was a name only popular amongst those who enjoyed her craft. Following her role in the #EndSARS protests, she came to represent the highest echelon of courage and struggle against oppression.
Obianuju famously live streamed the Lekki Shootings of October 2020 and her bravery on the night is the reason why Nigerians have irrefutable proof that the Nigerian Army and Police shot at and murdered innocent protesters in the middle of the night at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos.
Since then, she sought asylum in Canada, where she has been speaking up about the horrors of that heinous and abominable night, while calling out governments for what they truly are.
A serving member of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Wabba became the current President of the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC), having served as the union’s treasurer.
Comrade Wabba is largely the face of Organised Labour in Nigeria and by virtue of his position, speaks and sit on negotiating tables on behalf of the average Nigerian worker.
The recent dispute between the NLC and Kaduna Government resulting in a shutdown of critical sectors of the North Western state’s economy; and at same time sending the entire country into palpable fear is evidence of how much influence he wields.
If any pressure group in Nigeria is as powerful as the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), it surely has to be the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
Upon his election as National President of the union in June 2019, Comrade Olaleye, who doubles as National President of the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB) promised to speak the truth to government at all levels and has continued to work in that direction.
As with his counterpart in the NLC, who represents thousands of workers in the country, he’s taken up the battle of getting defaulting states to implement the new Minimum Wage Act signed in 2019 while also been a major voice in the vanguard for the reduction in salaries of political office holders.
Sunday ‘Igboho’ Adeyemo
Although he has been described as a key stakeholder in the politics of Oyo state for a long time, he only gained national prominence in January 2021 after he issued a seven-day quit notice to Fulanis resident in Igangan, Ibarapa area of the State over alleged kidnappings and violent clashes with farmers.
Unlike other groups who would issue quit notices and backtrack on them, Igboho Osha as is fondly called was not going to be deterred by legality or the threats of being picked up by security agencies. With the support of aggrieved locals in the community, he damned the warning of Governor Seyi Makinde and carried out his previously threatened eviction. He would move on to another Fulani community in Ogun and carried out a similar action.
These events not only made him wanted by the Police but but ignited the passion of young people in the South West who have always considered secession of the South West region from the Nigerian federation. He continues to walk freely; perhaps for the fear of a youth uprising and since then held close to a dozen rallies in support of Oodua Nation.
Arguably the most influential Nigerian of South East extraction alive, Mazi Kanu popularly referred to as the Supreme Leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) is in the mold of Igbo greats like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu.
His highly confrontational approach to self-determination is definitely not liked by millions of his kinsmen, but he has moved from being one ‘radio rabble rouser’ to become a force to reckon with. Despite been a fugitive also, his influence in the region continues to swell especially among young people. With IPOB’s recent establishment of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) to protect farmlands and residents of the South Eastern states, he appears to have won the hearts of more citizens who see it as a decisive step which their constituted authorities failed to do.
Through his influence also, the South East for the first time in 54 years observed a compulsory sit-at-home on May 30 in honour of ‘Biafran heroes’ who were lost in the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970. From social media engagements across platforms, it can be estimated that one out seven Igbos within and outside the country, believes in the cause he’s fighting for.
Rev. Samson Supo Ayokunle
Dr. Ayokunle is the immediate past President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention and President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), one of the major pressure groups in the country.
Leading adherents of one of Nigeria’s most popular and politically powerful religions translates to no small influence and with the myriad of issues citizens face on a daily basis, it should certainly be treated as betrayal of trust for CAN not to speak up for its constituents. From issues of security, to federal character and the economy, the Ayokunle-led CAN have shown how much that the welfare and security of Christians across the country is of utmost importance and gone on offer solutions to .government.
On the current calls for restructuring and constitutional amendments, the CAN president has advocated for a rotation of the presidency among the six geo-political zones of the country as well as other major changes in the document.
Bishop Hassan Kukah
Priest, Activist, Maverick, Mediator and Founder of the Public Policy Think Tank – the Kukah Centre; Father Kukah is unarguably one of the most outspoken leader out of the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria in the last two decades. Toyin Falola describes him as “a theologically equipped and philosophically vast figure Nigeria is blessed to have.”
Long before he was ordained Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto; his position on burning socio-political issues in the country is always a point of reference and has earned the reputation of speaking truth to power. One unique thing about him is the fact that beyond writing and speaking, he is willing to serve in capacities that would be of benefit to the country.
From serving in the National Political Reform Conference, Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission, Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee, and National Peace Committee, he continues to commit time and strength towards finding solutions for the country’s challenges. His strongly worded letter to President Muhammadu Buhari last Christmas, literally put hot coals close to the seat at Aso rock, to the point that supporters of the government accused him of plotting a coup. This development equally incurred the wrath of Sokoto-based Muslim Solidarity Forum, who issued him threats and a quit notice.
Side-by-side the words of President Buhari’s broadcast, speeches and ideas offered at The Platform Nigeria have to be the top events on the calendar of Nigerians in their millions during critical public holidays.
At the centre of this nation building conference is Pastor Poju Oyemade; Convener of the event and Senior Pastor at the Covenant Nation. The Platform Nigeria is a series of events designed to facilitate citizens’ growth in the areas of personal capacity, productivity and national development. It has become so popular that young Nigerians sought to de-platform a governor billed to speak at the last edition, among other reasons on the grounds that he needed to stay back in his state to tackle the worsening insecurity.
Recognising this outsized influence and perhaps, the need to channel it to trackable progress, Pastor Poju recently established the Platform Institute with the goal of distributing relevant information to the Nigerian populace, enabling them to better engaged in the democratic process and in governance.
Globally recognised as a Strategic Leadership Consultant, Sam Adeyemi consults for high impact leaders who he believes will shape their corporations and nations. This is in addition to carving a profile for himself as “a guiding light unafraid to use the podium and his considerable influence to speak truth to power, as well as rally people to always do the right thing.”
Popularly known as the Senior Pastor of Lagos-based Daystar Christian Centre, he was one of the first preachers in the country who broke the barriers of “connecting with the youth” and has through the not-for-profit Daystar Leadership Academy raised over 35,000 leaders and managers capable of transforming the world. Most worthy of mention in the year under review, is his role in the #EndSARS protests of October 2020 when young people took to streets across the country in disapproval of police brutality.
“Rev. Sam became one of the early supporters of the youth-led movement, encouraging them via his social media handles to make use of their people power to push their legitimate demands, but to also listen to each other with respect and humility. His messaging was tailored to respect the mood of the nation as he provided messages of encouragement and more or less drew up the agenda for the church’s response to times of uncertainty and civil upheavals.”
Rev Father Ejike Mbaka
Perhaps the most controversial cleric in the country, Rev Father Ejike Mbaka hardly ever shies away from the most sensitive political issues.
His duty of providing spiritual leadership at his Adoration Ministries Enugu Nigeria (AMEN) has in no way stopped him from being critical of different administrations in the country, including his recent fall-out with the Buhari administration. A series of events that led to a punishment of one-month suspension after his parishioners and supporters allegedly destroyed properties within his bishop’s residence during a protest embarked upon to raise alarm about “his disappearance.”
He has through his opinions and support for candidates also been known to influence election outcomes especially in the South East.
Sheik Ahmad Abubakar Gumi
Sheik Gumi, current Mufti and Mufassir at the Kaduna Central Mosque comes from a genealogy of influential Islamic scholars.
He has however, in recent times come under intense criticism by Nigerians for his comments and association with bandits across the country’s North Western and Eastern zones. Gumi not only pleads their cause but has in some cases, negotiated the release of school children in their custody on behalf of the victim’s parents.
Following his recent heavy appearance in the media, many Nigerians who loathe his solutions to banditry and other associated problems in the North, continue to call for his arrest. What is of note is that his influence (albeit negative) continues to rise as one who has the ears of these criminal groups who cause pain and tears for many Nigerians.
Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III
Installed as the 20th Sultan of Sokoto in 2006, Sa’adu Abubakar III wields immense influence as Chairman of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN) and key factor in the promotion of religious harmony between Nigeria’s Muslim majority north and Christian-majority south.
His position as President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) makes him Spiritual Leader of Nigerian Muslims (estimated to be about 50% of the country’s population), giving him legitimate powers to speak on behalf of all adherents of the religion in the country.
Described as holding one of the most important administrative influence in Nigerian religious life, as well as his solid military background, he speaks on certain matters of state, particularly because his region is highly affected by many of these socio-economic and political issues.
Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II
51st Traditional Ruler of the ancient Yoruba kingdom of Ile-Ife, the Ooni holds the position of Co-Chairman of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN).
Holding the most revered position by the Yorubas across Nigeria, the fairly young monarch is largely seen as progressive and one of the biggest supporters of youth empowerment in the country.
Most recently, Oba Adeyeye very eloquently expressed strong support for young people in a viral video where he warned leaders of the National Assembly and others present on the implications of leaving out the youth from tables where critical decisions on their future are discussed.
CAPTAINS OF INDUSTRIES
Simply the richest black man in the world, it goes without question that Aliko Dangote has an extensive reach within the Nigerian political ecosystem.
The ease at which conglomerates operate are subject to government policies. These policies directly or indirectly affect profit margin, and as such are a huge concern to company owners. This is no different from Dangote’s mammoth conglomerate.
With his proximity to the power brokers, he has the capacity to influence political outcomes in the country.
Tony Elumelu is one of the county’s most prominent philanthropists, Chairman of one of Nigeria’s most grandiose banks; United Bank of Africa (UBA) and founder of a top foundation in the country: The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
He was recently listed by Time Magazine as one of Africa’s leading investors and philanthropists and in same year, mentioned in TIME100, the annual list of the 100 most influential people.
He has an interesting affiliation with the Nigerian Government as he has been trusted with administrative responsibilities. He sits on the Nigerian President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council (ATIC). He is the vice-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria and also chairs the Ministerial Committee to establish world-class hospitals and diagnostic centers across Nigeria.
Justice Tanko Muhammad
Nigeria’s most influential figure in the judiciary is Justice Tanko Muhammad, the Chief Justice of the Federation.
As the Chief Justice, Tanko has a lot to do in establishing the judicial arm as an independent body of the Nigerian Government, free from the clutches and influence of the executive.
Justice Amina Augie
A key player at the highest level of the judiciary level in Nigeria, Amina Augie is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem
Having served as the acting President of the Appellate Court for over three months, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem was in June 2020 appointed as substantive President of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal of Nigeria.
Ahmed Lawan: This Senator began his career in the house of representatives as far back as 1999, and today deservedly so, is the President of the 9th Senate of Nigeria. Since 2019, he has overseen and regulated proceedings with the Senate. He is also a Yobe State Senator, representing Yobe North Constituency.
He once served as a lecturer in The Federal University of Maiduguri. Living in an agricultural region he has been elected to the House of Representatives for Yobe state at different times, once serving in the House Committees on education and another on agriculture.
Elected into the House of Representatives as far back as 2003, Gbajabiamila is currently the presiding officer of the Federal House of Representatives. Elected into the position in 2019, he has since served as the speaker of Nigeria’s 9th House of Representatives.
During his inauguration he promised to create frameworks to curb increasing youth unemployment, fast-track the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, electoral act, block revenue leakages, security of lives and property, fight against corruption and many more.
He holds a strong stance against switching of political parties. Asides being the 9th speaker he also represents the Surulere I constituency of Lagos State.
He is an accomplished lawyer and politician and currently the Deputy Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As Senator representing the Delta Central Senatorial Zone, he is also the leader of his political party All Progressives Congress in the South-South Region.
Eyinnaya Abaribe: Being one of the most outspoken and controversial men in politics, Abaribe has not only implored the current President of the country to resign, he has also been arrested with alleged ties to Nnamdi Kanu. Regardless, every time this man speaks, it is with unwavering confidence and courage, as he brazenly calls out the failures of the government and calls for repercussion against those that have been responsible for so much mismanagement of public resources. He is currently serving as the Senate Minority Leader. He once served as Deputy Governor of Abia State within the years 1999-2003, under the then Abia State Governor Orji Kalu. After two impeachments, he resigned and was then elected into the Senate.
Currently lawmaker representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency of Abia State, Onyejeocha is ranking member of the National Assembly. As an advocate for women’s inclusion in politics, she has pushed bills for new seats to be included in the house to accommodate more women.
Previous positions she’s held include: Chairman House Committee on Aviation, Commissioner for Resource Management and Manpower Development, Abia State, Transition Executive Chairman of Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State.
In 2019, she rivaled Gbajabiamila for the position of Speaker of the House.
From journalism to politics, Biodun Olujimi now serves as a Senator of the Federal Republic Nigeria representing Ekiti South constituency.
During her stint in journalism she worked with notable media platforms including Nigerian Tribune, Nigerian Television Association NTA, DBN Television and more. She would later pivot into politics in 1997, initially working as the National Publicity Secretary in APC.
A former Deputy Governor of Ekiti, she is considered one of the most vocal opposition voices in the National Assembly.
With a 9-year experience in the NNPC, she left to establish her own oil company; The Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Limited (SPG). In 2011, under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration she held her first major position in government; having been appointed Minister of Aviation, a post she held till 2014.
She would in 2015, run for a senatorial seat which she won to representing the people of Anambra North Senatorial District. A seat she still currently holds.
Senator representing the people of Anambra Central Senatorial District, she is a two term-member of the House of Representatives and one of only six women elected into the National Assembly in 2015. She had contested in the senatorial elections to represent Anambra Central Senatorial District, but came up short, before succeeding in 2019, and has since been incumbent representative of the district.
In March this year, she made her intentions to run for the position of Governorship of Anambra State known, after submitting her nomination form at the People’s Democratic Party’s national secretariat. This is not her first rodeo with the gubernatorial race, she had in the past contested for the post of governorship, but came up short. Like her win as senator, maybe her win as Governor may come with some persistence.
General Lucky Irabor
Following immense pressure from the public relating to the insecurity issues in the country, particularly those posed by terrorist groups, President Muhammadu Buhari decided to appoint a new Defence Chief early 2020, and his eventual pick was the four-star General; Lucky Irabor.
His military streak has seen him attend military and civil courses both in Nigeria, Ghana, Bangladeshi, and the USA.
“Peace is expensive but insecurity is more expensive” a quote from the man, which clearly defines his stance on dealing with threats to the state.
Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo:
Gambo is a Rear Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, appointed by President Buhari on January 26th 2021. He is said to be one of the country’s foremost Underwater Warfare specialists, and thus a reason for his appointment. Prior to his current engagement as Chief of Naval Staff, he was Director of Procurement at the Defense Space Administration.
Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao
He is the Chief of Air Staff, also appointed on January 26, 2021. After his secondary school, Amao was enlisted into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) as a member of the 35 NDA Regular Course cadet on January 19, 1984, and was commissioned into Nigerian Air force as Pilot Officer on December 20, 1986. Amao held several positions in the Nigerian Air Force and was, prior to his appointment, the Air Component Commander of the operation against the Nigerian insurgents that was tagged as Zaman Lafiya Dole / Lafiya Dole in the North East Nigeria and was also the Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command (TAC).
Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya
General Farouk was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 27, 2021, after the death of the former Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru. Yahaya has served in various capacities, including as Garrison Commander of the Guards Brigade, Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Deputy Director Army Headquarters Department of Military Secretary, Deputy Director Army Research and Development and the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield. He also served as the Principal General Staff Officer to the Minister of Defence. Prior to his appointment as the Chief of Army Staff, Yahaya has also served as the General Officer Commanding of 1st Division.
FEDERAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
Muhammadu Buhari: As far as politics goes, Muhammadu Buhari continues to top the list. Beyond his position as President of the Federal Republic, he has, since assuming power in 2015, shown his political resilience and placed every other political figure under his unassuming influence. You would think the Legislative arm of the government and the judiciary would have bulged and removed him from office, bowing to pressure from the general public, but he has stayed influencing the political sphere with a calm demeanour. The advent of the pandemic in 2020 presented more economic, political, social challenges for the country’s top political figure and he has continued to swing the waves his way, carrying ‘Buharists’ (indeed the whole country) on his shoulder bag this whole time.
Yemi Osinbajo: If you regarded him as the quiet change maker, you may not be blabbing but not everyone may share the same sentiments. Osinbajo has remained quiet these months, especially since after the #EndSARS protests, but his loyalists have continued to grow. From one point of view, Osinbajo is not the one to call a politician, but he may be given the credit to lead a team of politicians and do a better job. His time as Acting President tells this story better. He is currently the country’s Vice President and has been in conversations about the 2023 Presidency, and we wait to see how that plays out.
Boss Gidahyelda Mustapha: When Abba Kyari passed in April 2020, the whole country looked for who will fill his ‘big shoes’ in Nigerian politics and Aso Rock, and eyes turned towards the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; who was already posited as one other powerful politician in the Muhammadu Buhari camp. He is not the one you will see on newspaper headlines every other day – except now that he has been appointed to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 – but Boss exhibits body language like a political boss. The lawyer and politician was appointed in 2017 and reappointed in 2019 after Buhari narrowly won his second term in office. And, beyond his origin, Adamawa, Boss has put up an energy that says you can’t ignore his presence in your midst. He has been hinted to be on the 2023 Presidential ticket with Bola Tinubu.
Babagana Monguno: When Col. Sambo Dasuki’s name entered conversations on corruption, the search for a new National Security Adviser (NSA) – the one who is to handle central coordination in terms of prioritising security reports, policies, and strategies on the realisation of a security crisis – followed suit. Babagana Monguno’s choice was deemed a right one at the time given the fact that Monguno came with a rich military background. He was the former Chief of Defence Intelligence and former Commander of the Brigade of Guards. He may not be in the league of top politicians but Babagana holds a key position of influence, and has arguably shown tenacity in that position. No wonder he will fire up a conversation on ‘what happened to the $1 billion withdrawn from the foreign reserves for insecurity?’
Geoffrey Onyeama: In a time when the country’s name continues to be trampled upon in foreign spaces, Geoffrey has not gone to sleep trying to ensure Nigeria’s relationship with other countries doesn’t end up in the bin. Indeed, the pandemic put countries in a dilemma, especially as countries started re-strategising on their relations with other countries. There were diplomatic tensions, and the United Nations Security Council had to step in to order a ceasefire. But, Geoffrey, in the midst of the chaos, supposedly maintained the required balance. And, when #EndSARS became a global conversation, Geoffrey did not present himself as an absentee Foreign Minister. According to him, ‘conversations continued so as not to severe diplomatic relations’. Talk about a Minister who holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) degree in Political Science, and continues to travel, holding talks and maintaining relationships.
Abubakar Malami: Abubakar has put himself out there more than he may like it. He does not enjoy as much loyalism as the President, but has stayed beside the President from 2015 and has shown himself the man of many moments. In 2020, he established himself as Buhari’s anti-corruption supremo after securing victory over P&ID. In less than ten years, he has become Nigeria’s self-proclaimed champion in the battle against the misappropriation of public funds. His utterances have led to national conversations, and we have two more years to see how much he can turn faces in the country’s political space.
Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed: For a country as economically volatile as Nigeria, managing of the Government’s finances, financial regulations and overseeing economic policies, is not for the faint of heart, but such are the roles and responsibilities of Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, who is currently Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Budget and National Planning – a position she’s held since 2019. As with other Ministries, COVID-19 presented gargantuan challenges to the Ministry she leads, and in the past year has come up with policies that have been both applauded and especially criticised. She has insisted that the economy is growing, and the plans and policies of the government on the advent of the pandemic has been applauded on the global scene. Her name remains on our lips as long as the economy is concerned.
Rotimi Amaechi: Rotimi’s influence grew from before his time as governor of Rivers and not many can rival his influence in Nigeria. He is one of the most vocal individuals in Aso Rock, and seems to be after the President’s heart – being the person leading Buhari’s most prioritised plan; connecting the country by rail. Besides that, Rotimi leads the Ministry of Transportation that’s said to hold a little more power considering its ability to generate as much funds. Throughout his political career, he has always been seen wearing his trademark ornately embroidered cap. But, in December 2020, however, he appeared on Channels Television wearing a plain red cap and a white shirt embroidered with the recurring motif of a lion head. It was a statement saying, “I want to be Nigeria’s first ‘Igbo’ president.” Arguably, Rotimi’s influence has spread to other geo-political zones than South-South Nigeria and if he contested in 2023, he may probably stand a chance.
Gbemisola Saraki: Gbemi comes from a powerful politically influential family and obviously let herself grow into that space. The stateswoman has enjoyed a measure of administrative success in her own right. She was appointed to the office of the Minister of State for Transportation in 2019, following her doggedness to show her political strength, as against her brother, Bukola Saraki. It is stated in some quarters that Senator Gbemi Saraki would have (in 2011) become Nigeria’s first female Governor, if her brother hadn’t directly opposed her. But, the end of 2020 came and the Saraki’s were reported to have reconciled. Gbemi has indeed charted her own path and she has no intention of stopping just yet. She remains a grassroot change maker is now more a national figure than just a Saraki.
Paullen Tallen: With a political career that began as far back as 1976, this veteran politician has enjoyed an extensive and fulfilling career in office. She is currently the Minister of Women Affairs, but this is hardly her first rodeo as minister. In 1991, she was appointed the Minister of State for Science and Technology during the Obasanjo Administration, making her the first woman to ever hold the post. Today, she is a vocal advocate for women, calling for the Government to create programs that encourage women’s participation in leadership.
Folashade Mejabi Yemi-Esan: In March 2020, Folashade Mejabi Yemi-Esan was sworn in as the new Head of Civil Service, after serving as the interim head of Civil Service, following the suspension of her predecessor. Her political career expands to when she served in the Health Ministry in the capacity of liaison officer West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), coordinator of oral health in schools’ program and director of health planning research and statistics. She was also appointed to the role of Permanent Secretary of Service Policy and Strategy Office of the Head of civil service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Federal Ministry of Education and Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources in 2012.
Godwin Emiefiele: Godwin holds a position that’s more strategic than many Nigerians want to know, and has been at the fore of applauded and criticised policies; notwithstanding the existence of a board. Without a doubt, Godwin brought the CBN to everyone’s lips and his dollar policies have moved the country in more ways than we talk about. If you had someone who leads the team mandated to promote financial stability, and is the banker of last resort and financial adviser to the federal government, it pays to know that his decisions can make a country’s economy or mar it.
Yemi Kale: Call him the Statistician General of the National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria because that is what he is. He is the only one in the organisation’s history to serve two terms. His idea to rebase the country’s GDP, capturing the new telecommunications industry, the bigger banking sector, the entertainment sector, among others not only highlighted Nigeria’s opulent assets but also revealed that Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. Nigerians usually wait for Yemi to release new data, and no doubt fires up conversations when he does.
Mahmood Yakubu: As far as influence goes, Mahmood heads the electoral body that constantly reminds us of the merits of democracy as per the power of a people in a society. Since his appointment in 2015, he has been keen on improving the voting system to be more convenient and accountable. He was applauded for a job well done by the Presidency and re-appointed in 2020 for a second and final term. Following his reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, faced pockets of criticisms from some unnamed partisans who would rather have him out of the way.
Abdulrasheed Bawa: When Abdulrasheed was appointed Chairman, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in February 2021, many heads turned in his direction, asking who he was and why he was chosen to lead the president’s anti-corruption crusade. His ascension to the top of the organisation has spanned 17 years, as he joined the commission in 2004. He got his competence in investigations at the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Financial Crime Enforcement Network(FINCEN), and United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes. Since joining the EFCC, he has enjoyed a successful detective career. Also in 2021, he was listed was listed among Nigeria’s Under 50 Leaders in Public Service.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa: Abike is currently the Chairman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, but prior to being afforded this post, she had served in different capacities in the office of the Presidency. She was the Chairman of the House Committee on Media & Publicity, a former member of the House of Representatives, former Chairperson of the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, and Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora. Before threading the politics path, she was a journalist, working for the National Television Association NTA, for 15 years.
Garba Shehu: Starting off his career as a correspondent at Nigerian Television Authority NTA, this journalist/politician is now the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media and Publicity, to the President. This role makes it look like everything he says are direct words of the president. And, he has become quite a popular figure in this light. He was the president of Nigerian Guild of Editors and spokesperson of the former vice president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar.
Ajoke Adefulure: She is a former Deputy Governor of Lagos, serving alongside one of Lagos’s most celebrated governors, Babatunde Fashola. Her political career began as far back as 1992, when she was elected member of the Lagos state House of Assembly, at the time, she represented Alimosho Constituency 1 from 1992-1993. From 2003-2007, she was appointed Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs. In 2007, she was the recipient of The International Public Servant of the year by the UK-based Non-Governmental Organization, The Scottish Widows. She also received the Daisey George Award in 2010 for her work advocating for women’s rights.
Kayode Fayemi: Kayode has moved from State level to national level and back, and did not seem to lose his grip on Ekiti politics. He became governor and subsequently the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF). In 2020, Kayode joined #EndSARS protesters in solidarity, advocating for dialogue with the federal government, highlighting his determination for effective leadership across board. Early this year, the Governor expressed the desire of his administration to launch a safety City Project to tackle all forms of kidnapping, banditry, robbery and other social menaces in the state. This, according to him, is part of the efforts to make Ekiti safe for investment and ensure the safety of its citizens in 2021.
Rotimi Akerodolu: Rotimi, as Governor of Ondo and Chairman of the Southwest Governors Forum has exhibited more influence than you may give him credit for. Insecurity has become a more pressing issue, and Rotimi has continually shown determined leadership and asked that States should be given more autonomy in providing its own security. No wonder he inaugurated the Ondo State Security Network Agency, code-named Operation Amotekun, asking that quick recruitment be carried out. He was one of the six governors who banned open grazing in their state, and he gave an ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen operating in the state’s forest reserves to leave due to increased kidnapping and other criminalities perpetrated there. He even tackled the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, who said it was unconstitutional to ban open grazing.
Simon Lalong: Simon is the current Governor of Plateau, and the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum. He was re-elected as the governor of Plateau State on May 29, 2019. He temporarily discarded legal practice to join the political bandwagon in 1998. In October 2000, he became the speaker of the assembly, occupying that position till the year 2006, following a political storm within the House. The seven years he served as the Speaker of that assembly made him the longest serving speaker of the House in the history of Plateau State. During that period, he was two times (2001–2002) elected as the Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of the 36 states of Nigeria.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu: Babajide holds many keys in Nigeria. Sometimes, you wonder how governors of Lagos maintain a calm appearance amid the ‘chaos’ in the state; not forgetting how other States put pressure on Lagos. And, you remember that responsible leadership is the only way. On the advent of the pandemic, knowing that Lagos is a major passage into the country, many feared that bodies may eventually litter the streets of Nigeria but, Sanwo-Olu averted that reality. He has led an executive that have shown doggedness when everyone should be panicking that the economy of the state will die a natural death. Sanwo-Olu understands the importance of communication between the government and the governed, and uses this tool effectively well. He is not a national figure but his position as governor of Lagos automatically keeps him in conversations on national politics.
Nyesom Wike: Nyesom is, no doubt, the most radical governor in Nigeria – and the most outspoken too. Nyesom Wike is one of Nigeria’s most powerful speakers, not because he is particularly articulate, but because Nigeria has learnt to take anything he says seriously. He is not the one to mince words when talking about the state of affairs in Nigeria. His ascent to the seat of the Governor in 2015 was no smooth ride, as it was riddled with opposition and legal conspiracies, but he scaled through. Wike continues to carry the People’s Democratic Party on his shoulders and has insisted that he won’t allow anyone kill the party. He once vowed to resist any cabal within and outside the state contemplating to foist his successor on Rivers residents come 2023.
Seyi Makinde: Seyi has come to be regarded as the beacon of hope for many Nigerians, in and out of Oyo – the ones who have lost the little trust they have in Nigerian politics. He time as a philanthropist and a businessman may be rubbing off on his time as governor, especially when you consider how close he is to the grassroots. Seyi has hardly conversed using national politics as the language, but his name is on the lips of Nigerians beyond Oyo. And, many already want him as the country’s president, asking him to contest in 2023. On social media, especially slightly before and after he maintained a close relationship with #EndSARS protesters, Seyi is called the most hardworking governor in Nigeria. Who won’t say that about a political leader who knows what communication really means?
Nasir El-Rufai: Nasir is definitely one of the most controversial Governors in the country, and certainly the most discussed Northern governor in recent times. Indeed, Nasir El-Rufai’s name is never too far away from a fascinating headline. He is currently serving his second term and has been named to make his intentions clear for the 2023 presidency. Nasir posits as a change maker and one who is focused on making it right in his state. Insecurity may, however, be a clog in this wheel. Yet, Nasir has maintained a controversial (more like radical) stance in his tenure, governing the Kaduna in ways he best deems fit.
Godwin Obaseki: You ordinarily do not want to struggle an election with a country’s federal government, especially when you remember ‘federal might’ and ‘federal resources’, but Godwin did this successfully and won his second term as Governor of Edo in 2020. In 2015, he won under the parasol of the All Progressive Congress (APC), and in 2020, decamped to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) under which he secured a second term victory. This was largely hailed as a huge democratic victory, proving that a people’s vote can count in a Nigerian election. He won the election and has made moves to stamp his imprimatur on his new party, the PDP. And, even that is playing out well for him. There are talks that his deputy, Philip Shuaibu may be succeeding him and he is already tying the knots to make that a reality.
Looking at Obasanjo’s lingering prominence and influence in Nigerian politics, it would be hard to tell that it’s been 14 years since he held any true political post. He is Nigeria’s first democratic President and is one of those politicians whose life is weaved into the fabric of Nigeria’s young history.
These days, he serves the country behind the scenes, acting as a political consultant to those in power now, advocating for the development of the country, advocating for maintaining the unity within the country and authoring books that tell of Nigeria’s complex and intricate history.
Goodluck Jonathan: Goodluck had to step in when Umar Musa Yar’Adua passed on. And, became the accidental president of note. Goodluck Jonathan was President from 2010 to 2015, and, the miracle of his regime was the fact that the country somehow did not implode. Post-presidency till now, Goodluck has experienced more of a tranquil run. Like every other politician, there are two sides to his story, but he continues to portray a calm nature and has hardly appeared in the news for the wrong reasons. His loyalists have not slept one day – talk about side talks he is contesting again in 2023.
Atiku Abubakar: Whether it is said as a joke or as a fact, you would have seen Nigerians on Twitter referring to Atiku as the progressive, Nigeria needs. And his active engagement with young Nigerians on Twitter and across the country has endeared him to more potential loyalists. He remains one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the country, and his messages on social media continue to speak of youth development and the implementation of innovative and inclusive policies. He positions himself as a reformed progressive and may be contesting again in 2023.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu: Known as Lagos’ Jagaban, and a powerful political godfather, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a man who still has his claws sunk deep into the politics of Lagos and has spread to the rest of South West Nigeria. He was on the team that brought Buhari to power in 2015 and 2019 and is no name to be sidelined when talking about Nigerian politics. Like every other politician, he has received as much praise as criticism for his handling of political affairs in Lagos and beyond and, was blamed for the events of October 20, 2020, when #EndSARS protesters were shot at. More than rumours now, Tinubu has been said to be running for the Presidency in 2023, and for someone who has been more active than we can imagine, you cannot rule him out of sitting in the Aso Rock chair.
Peter Obi: Even after the 2019 elections, when he was Atiku Abubakar’s running mate, Peter Obi has stayed in our conversations. He is, arguably, the South East’s most regarded politician. He is said to be the only Igbo man who could run for the Presidency and possibly win. He is assumed to contest again in 2023 but no information on who he will be running with or under what party. Peter does not shy away from conversations about the country’s progress, and has gathered as much support as can spread if he contests another election. His achievements as the Anambra governor have told his story better than words can.
Reno Omokri: There is no politician in Nigeria that is as social media savvy as Reno. Every use a social media app especially Twitter, you can almost be certain that Reno Omokiri has sparked a conversation that is either controversial or justifiable. He is a human rights activist, a lawyer and a thought leader on numerous topics spanning politics, family and religion. He has been heavily critical of the current administration and sometimes has been criticised for being too oppositional. He has managed to champion some movements, especially outside Nigeria, and has maintained the #FreeLeahSharibu movement, a media campaign advocating for the freedom of Leah Sharibu, a Christian girl kidnapped by insurgent group Boko Haram.
Bisi-Adeleye Fayemi: Bisi-Adeleye has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of women all over the world. She is one of Nigeria’s foremost feminist, and is actively involved in a number of initiatives that empower and liberate women. Being the First Lady of Ekiti, she has leveraged her husband’s position as governor, influencing policies, and creating empowerment and social inclusion programs in her State. She championed a gender based prohibition law, she also enacted an Equal Opportunities and HIV Anti Stigma bill. She co-founded the first Pan-African grant-making organisation: The African Women’s Development Fund. She is also the author of numerous publications including an autobiography of herself: Speaking Against Whispers. She is the recipient of the 2018 Zik Leadership Prize for humanitarian Leadership by Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC).
Kemi Nelson: Sometimes referred to as a political Amazon, Kemi Nelson continues to enjoy a noteworthy and fulfilling political career. With an MBA in Financial Management and a Diploma in Law from the Lagos State University, she made her entry into politics in the 80s where a decade later she would serve as a congresswoman for the Ikeja Federal Constituency in the house of assembly. She would also serve as the Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation from 199-2003. These days she holds the position of Executive Director of Operations of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). This multi award winning Stateswoman is currently the only woman serving on the Lagos State Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC).
Baraka Sani: She served as the Senior Special Assistant to the former President Goodluck Jonathan, on Agriculture. Prior to that, she served as the Kano Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural resources. This Harvard Kennedy School alumni also devotes some of her time to philanthropic activities, when she is not too busy handling her administrative responsibilities. She is the founder and President of the NGO: The Worldwide Initiative for Community Development and Global Healthcare. She is also a member of the American Red cross society.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION – DIASPORA
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: When it comes to creating wealth, very few are as well versed at the skill as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is. Standing as one of the most decorated individuals in the country, Ngozi at this stage in her political career can only be described as an avalanche of success. She is an author, economist, politician and international development expert.
On March 1, 2021, she assumed the role of 7th Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), making her the first black person to ever hold the post. When she took office on March 1, 2021, Ngozi became the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General. Her term, renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025.
She immediately started work as DG, WTO, when she was inaugurated and said a key priority for her would be to work with members to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Akinwunmi Adesina: In 2019, Akinwunmi received the Sunhak Peace Prize for his achievements in promoting food security in Africa through agricultural innovation, but his achievements as AfDB president was already in our faces, in the news and our communities.
In 2020, his clean public persona was questioned after a string of corruption and abuse of office allegations from his own staff spilled into the open. He denied all the allegations and it was confirmed that he was not guilty of any of them.
The charismatic speaker, who is known for his elegant suits and bow ties, has led the bank since 2015 and, on August 27, 2020, Akinwunmi was re-elected as the President of the African Development Bank, with 100% of the votes of its shareholders, regionals and non-regionals — the first such in the history of the Bank since 1964. He is the first Nigerian to lead AfDB. Akinwunmi is a globally renowned development economist and agricultural development expert, with more than 30 years of international experience.
Amina J Mohammed
A highly decorated political veteran, Amina J Mohammed is currently the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group. Prior to this, she served as the Minister of Environment from 2015 to 2016.
From her time working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria, to advocating for the increase of access to education and social services, to serving as the Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Post-2015 development planning, Amina J Mohammed has spent the better half of the last 30 years advocating for the growth and development of several Nigerian institutions. She has a number of awards for her work in development, including BBC 100 Women for her work as deputy secretary general of the United Nations in 2018, and Global Citizen Prize World Leader Award in 2019.
She was the former CEO/Founder of the Center for Development Policy Solutions, a think tank to address the policy and knowledge gaps within the Government. She also chaired the Advisory Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Monitoring Report on Education (GME). She holds a seat on the board of numerous global foundations including, Hewlett Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ActionAid and more.