30 December 2012

Nigeria: Persons Who Will Matter in 2013

Who's set to grab headlines in 2013? From the President to a young internet enterpreneur, Nigerian observers will have plenty of personalities to watch out for in the next year. And with familiar faces reinventing themselves and new potential powerhouses arriving on the scene, expect noteworthy efforts from the following group of politicians, business moguls, policymakers and innovators. There is, of course, arbitrariness to most lists -- and this list of men and women to watch out for in 2013 is no different. One person's priority might well be another's sideshow. With that in mind, here is the list of "top 13" newsmakers for the coming year.

GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, President and Commander-in-Chief

Because Nigeria's constitution vests disproportionate powers in the Office of the President, whoever is occupying that seat, whether a realist or an idealist, a performer or a non-performer, is perceived to be all-powerful.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has occupied Nigeria's topmost office for more than two years. In this period, President Jonathan has shown slight capacity to skillfully govern a nation in crisis. Under his watch, the Nigerian state has been drifting into crisis. Yet the president remains the most powerful man in the country. But he has promised Nigerians that his administration would perform better in 2013 and improve on their welfare in all aspects. Therefore, he stays as the Number One in the list of Men to Watch in 2013. Some of the plans the government has for the new year include a commercial farmers' scheme for unemployed graduates.

"In 2013, the administration will implement a Young Graduates Commercial Farmers' Scheme, which will absorb 780,000 graduates in its first phase and provide an estimated four million jobs in the agricultural sector in the first year," said the president's spokesman Doyin Okupe. Twenty-two airports were earmarked for rehabilitation and reconstruction and by the end of October this year, over 50 percent had been commissioned for public use with the remaining 11 tp be completed in 2013, he added.

However, Nigerians would be watching to see whether the president will keep his words this time.

MUKHTAR RAMALAN YERO, Kaduna State Governor

The 44-year-old Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero came into office on December 16 after the sudden demise of his predecessor, Patrick Yakowa. Much attention will be focused on the young governor as he attempts to run the affairs of a state often described as a mini-Nigeria, with its concomitant religious and multi-ethnic diversity. How Governor Yero jostles with the contending interests and forces in the state would certainly define the character of politics in Kaduna State especially now that every move will now be made with 2015 in mind. Of uttermost interest for political observers is whether he will have the free-hand to run his administration. How he would immediately balance the existing but delicate political conundrum would speak correctly of his administrative acumen. So, Governor Yero will definitely be a man to watch in 2013.


When Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is not battling to reduce the high recurrent expenditure at Federal level, she is fighting to reduce the corruption in the subsidy process, or battling to save some of the country's oil receipts for a rainy day in guise of the Sovereign Wealth Fund. It has been a year of battles for the former World Bank VP in her second coming. Shorn of the staunch support she got from her first principal (Olusegun Obasanjo), she fights a gradually more lonely battle to keep the treasury from falling completely into the hands of those who would finally empty it. It is a battle that has come at a personal cost, with the kidnap of her mother earlier this month, and while not all her decisions have been favourable and popular, there is little doubt that things would be much worse in her absence. Will she overcome the demons that stalk her all through her recent years in public service? The upcoming year will reveal a great deal in this undulating clash at the top echelon of government.

SANUSI LAMIDO SANUSI, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor

This outspoken Central Bank Governor doesn't mince words when it comes to matters of the economy. He always speaks his mind and passionately at all times. And he is no stranger to controversy. Recently, Dr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was lampooned by a section of Nigeria's intelligentsia for his comments on public finance and government expenditure. As we move into the new year, it is almost certain that the Central Bank governor will be on the front burner of 2013 news makers as he thrives to maintain a positive macro-economic indices for the nation's economy.


One of the most controversial ministers in President Jonathan's cabinet, Diezani Alison-Madueke staying power seems elastic and she remains highly influential, all thanks to the portfolio she currently holds. In 2013, Diezani Alison-Madueke would continue to court controversies especially on issues such as deregulation and fuel subsidy. But the biggest issue on the table is the much-talked-about and amended Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). No end appears to be in sight for its passing. The bill has been too long in the making due to persistent distortions by the Presidency.


Hon. Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar has indeed blazed the trail for Nigerian women after she emerged as the country's first female chief justice in May. Having settled into making unassailable reforms in Nigerian judiciary in her quest to sanitise the judicial system, Justice Mukhtar will continuously be a newsmaker in the upcoming year and thereafter.

GEN. MUHAMMADU BUHARI, Former Head of State and politician

Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Presidential Candidate in the 2011 elections, General Muhammadu Buhari will be the rallying point for Nigeria's opposition as we perch in 2013. Talks have reached advanced stage for the merger of opposition parties, all eyes would be on the Daura-born general. Though he had said he will not put himself forward for election as president again, many observers feel Gen. Buhari may once more stick his neck in for a final contest as the presidential candidate for the yet-to-emerge mega-party. Due to his incomparable personality, the 70-year-old former military leader will remain in the top ranks of men who will matter in 2013 and beyond.


Like him or loath him, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is a perennial figure in Nigerian politics. The role he would play in the protracted crisis in the ruling party, PDP, at national level and at his own state, Ogun, would suggest the coloration of the disputes and whether it would linger on or not. He was said to be angry with President Jonathan over a wide-range of issues and is working against his re-election in 2015. Though the Presidency had denied any crack between the Owu Chief and the president, their recent utterances and body language imply otherwise. All the same, Obasanjo would beyond doubt be one of the men who would matter in the nation's politics in 2013.

ALIKO DANGOTE, Business tycoon and Africa's richest man

The richest black person in the world, Aliko Dangote, is expected to remain in the news well into the new year and afterwards as he extend his business frontiers to far-flung places like Myanmar and Brunei. Not long ago, he boosted his philanthropic activities with the launch of his foundation (Dangote Foundation) which now aligns with the Bill Gates and Melinda Foundation in the effort to kick out polio in Nigeria. This humble billionaire, who also plans to invest heavily on education and health in 2013, currently sits atop one of Africa's largest conglomerates, the Dangote Group, made up of Dangote Sugar Refinery (one of the most capitalized stocks on the Nigerian Stock Exchange), Dangote Flour Mills, Dangote Sacks, Dansa Foods, Dangote Transport, Obajana Cement (Africa's largest cement factory), National Salt Company Of Nigeria (NASCON), Benue Cement Company Plc, the Bachita Sugar Company, Dangote Cement, Blue Star Shipping, Blue Star Investment and so on.


A Nigerian educationist, Mr Muyiwa Bamgbose, emerged in 2012 as the world's ninth best innovator in electronic learning. He was one of the world's top 10 people who had contributed positively to e-learning and expected to be amongst Nigeria's news makers in the upcoming year.

Bamgbose, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Educational Advancement Centre (EAC), Ibadan, changed the learning system in the country last year when he came up with an electronic learning method that delivers contents of subjects to mobile telephones of candidates preparing for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME). Named MobiLearn, the product allows candidates to study contents and attempt questions. It also marks the questions and shows areas where candidates need improvement. Bamgbose, whose centre is in partnership with the University of Ibadan Distance Learning Centre, also introduced the idea of external mock examination for SS3 students in public schools two years ago.


A winner of wins MIT's World Top Young Innovators Award, the 35-year-old US-based researcher, Yemi Adesokan, has put Nigeria's name on the map of nations of unnovator. He has joined our list of potential news makers and people who will matter most in 2013. Adesokan's discovery which has potential to change the way mankind responds to disease pathogens, according to experts, may bring to an end the era of increased burden of drug resistance in the world particularly, in sub Saharan Africa.

When he moved to United States in 1996, little did the young innovator have realized that he was going to rub shoulders with some of the greatest names in scientific technology.

Today, Adesokan has been listed by Technology Review, an independent media company owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT) USA, as one of the top innovators. Past recipients have included Sergey Brin (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Konstantin Novoselev (later a Nobel Laureate in Physics).

LADI DELANO, Entrepreneur

Little known Ladi Delano has made the recently released Forbes Magazine 'Ten Young African Millionaires to Watch' list. The 30-year-old jet-setting Nigerian entrepreneur made his first millions as a liquor entrepreneur in China. He made a lot of profits from this venture and later sold the business to a rival liquor company for over $15million.

He is presently the co-founder and CEO of Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA) - a $1billion joint venture with the $15billion (market cap) Bakrie Group of Indonesia. The Indonesian conglomerate has provided over $900million worth of funds to invest in Nigeria and Bakrie Delano Africa is responsible for identifying investment opportunities for the company in the country.

JASON NJOKU, Entrepreneur

Like Ladi Delano, Jason Njoku also made the recently released Forbes Magazine 'Ten Young African Millionaires To Watch' list. Jason, 31, is the founder and CEO of Iroko TV, is also among thousands of young and immensely successful entrepreneurs across the African continent, who are legitimately amassing multi-million dollar fortunes.

Jason Njoku, who started off as an Internet entrepreneur, is today the founder of Iroko TV, the world's largest digital distributor of African movies. Earlier this year, Iroko TV raised $8 million in venture capital from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based private equity and hedge fund run by billionaire Chase Coleman.

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