This is the tenth year I will be naming a person of the year and my approach this time is somewhat different and eclectic. Nominees include individuals and companies, even projects! I have joint and several nominations; some are governments, national or sub-national, and others are non-governmental organisations.
My nominations are informed by my perspective of what the most important developments in the outgone year were, and once you understand that perspective, you should sympathize with my choice of nominees. In my view, the most important development in 2013 was the privatization of the unbundled PHCN distribution and generation entities, even if Nigerians do not yet recognize it as such. In terms of our economic development, that was a revolutionary moment, probably at par with telecommunications deregulation/digital mobile license auctions and the Paris Club debt forgiveness transaction. Politically the most significant development was the creation of the All Progressives Congress, the opposition coalition which, in spite of its many limitations, promises to make our politics more competitive. It is a pity that its success in deepening politically competition was probably somewhat undermined by the cynical manner in which it seeks to inherit, through a wholesale political “organ transplant”, the heart and soul of the PDP!
Other important positives in 2013 included the continuing agricultural reforms; Nigeria’s multiple successes in football at the African Nations Cup and the FIFA Under-17 competition; the expanding market for electronic commerce and electronic payments in Nigeria; and continuing strengthening of the Nigerian corporate sector. In politics, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) impacted the polity and carried over into the “New” PDP and APC with Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi being the constant factor. I live in Lekki where an iconic project, the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge has shortened commuting time and transformed lifestyles with hundreds if not thousands of residents, including this columnist, improving their health and lives through walking, jogging and cycling on the world class bridge. And corruption remains one of Nigeria’s most debilitating challenges. While official anti-corruption efforts floundered, I found one innovative non-governmental effort that provides the common man a weapon to fight corruption.
Given the above view of 2013, my list of nominees for person of the year 2013, would then not be surprising. I think Stephen Keshi, Manu Garba, Bolaji Abdullahi and President Jonathan jointly deserve recognition for our successes in football. Keshi’s victory at AFCON was unexpected, but dazzling and he proved it was not a fluke by also qualifying Nigeria for the 2014 CHAN contest for Africa-based national players and FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Garba’s team won the FIFA Under-17 tournament in equally brilliant fashion, with a team whose average age may be closer to (say) 22 rather than 30! It would be nice if we could actually present 17 year olds!!! Sports Minister Abdullahi and the President must share the glory for their leadership and enablement. The EFCC, ICPC and the Police failed to combat corruption in 2013, but an NGO, “The Integrity Organisation/Convention on Business Integrity (CBI)” led by Soji Apampa along with some partners (OSIWA, Premium Times, Abuja Sheraton, BAAC etc.) created a website called www. egunje.info which provides a process through which ordinary Nigerians can report requests for bribes and other encounters with official corruption which the organization follows up with the ICPC. This worthwhile initiative earned the NGO my nomination for person of 2013.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi was ubiquitous on the political scene throughout 2013 for good and doubtful reasons. I personally believe the fate of NGF was a “lose-lose” outcome for him and Jonathan; I also worry that he may have been distracted from the laudable work he was doing in Rivers state and may be dissipating his state’s resources on excessive propaganda and brinkmanship. But no one can question his courage and the fact that his actions contributed towards defining 2013, one way or the other. Of course Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would clearly be the pre-eminent political actor of 2013 forging APC out of disparate interests and challenging PDP’s political hegemony. It is debatable if he hasn’t sacrificed his new grouping’s credibility as a truly “progressive” party in the process and may be taking some of his core constituencies for granted, but his impact on Nigerian political development in this dispensation has been huge.
My next three nominations are from the business constituency. Larry E Ettah of UAC has transformed the legacy conglomerate and strengthened its competitive position, entering into joint ventures with Tiger Brands, Famous Brands and Imperial Logistics all of South Africa and concluding acquisitions of Portland Paints and Livestock Feeds in the same year. Aig Aig-Imoukhuede stepped down as CEO of Access Bank after an eventful tenure which saw him take the institution near the top of the Nigerian banking league. The manner of the post-Aig succession was a brilliant master class. My final business nomination is jointly to three entities that are transforming the e-payments space in Nigeria-Jumia, Konga and Mastercard.
And then my top three nominees-for the first time I recognize a project, the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge a world-class, architectural and engineering masterpiece sponsored by the Lagos State Government, which is adding value in multiple ways-transportation, tourism, health, lifestyles and revenue generation, a remarkable win-win for all stakeholders. Dr Akinwunmi Adesina earned well-deserved global acclaim as Forbes African of the Year in 2013 for his agricultural reforms (and competed strongly for this column’s as well!), but my “person” of the year for 2013 is jointly awarded to Atedo Peterside, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and President Jonathan for the power sector privatization and reforms, which will one day be regarded as the economic turning-point for Nigeria.
By: Opeyemi Agbaje