The 2016 edition of Y!/YNaija.com‘s annual list of 100 most influential Nigerians has been released.
Individuals “who have greatly impacted the Nigerian society” were selected from entertainment, religion, governance, media, technology and more fields of endeavour.
According to the Medium’s Managing Editor Isime Esene:
In our annual tradition, we take a look back at the 100 people who have defined, re-defined and moulded the days of our lives in 2016, as part of our mission to focus our largely youth audience on the issues and ideas that truly matter.
Innovators, creators, political players, entertainers and activists of all ages – you won’t find a more definitive list anywhere else.
See full list and profiles below.
The former Vice President has shrugged off his defeat at the All Progressives Congress (APC)primaries and has much more than any politician not named Saraki, set himself to the task of rebuilding political structures, amassing allies and making all the right noises. Whether all of this will eventually lead to an Atiku Abubakar presidency should be interesting to watch.
After a slow start, Akinwunmi Ambode has taken to the task of governing Nigeria’s mega city with verve, impressing many and surpassing expectations. He has shown commitment to being inclusive by carrying along non-elitist suburbs, impressed with the Light Up project that has changed the face of Lagos roads and his 25 billion Employment Trust Fund seeks to confront youth unemployment head on.
The first lady dared to speak her mind in an interview with the BBC Hausa language service that was mildly critical of her husband’s politics and was promptly dismissed by the president as belonging to ‘’the other room.” But Mrs. Buhari has proven to be made of sterner stuff, speaking out for society’s underprivileged and raising money and goodwill for the rehabilitation of the victims of Boko Haram’s insurgency.
The ‘’Change” mantra that swept through the entire North during the last general elections did the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) no good but Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe state emerged from the political tsunami as the last man standing, managing to win a second term and under the PDP platform too. Dankwambo’s major achievements are in road construction, education, infrastructure and water supply.
The Department of State Security Service is once again a force to be reckoned with and the fear of Lawal Daura and his men is only the beginning of wisdom. Irrespective of constitutional implications, Daura’s DSS has launched sting operations on judges deemed to be on the take, unscrupulous bureau de change operators and on corrupt politicians and government office holders.
A former journalist and industrialist, Mamman Daura holds no official cabinet or government position but his family ties to the President Buhari and the complete trust that the President reportedly has in him has placed him in a position where he is able to influence who and what gets the president’s approval- or attention for that matter. According to inside sources, federal appointments almost always receive the Mamman Daura seal of approval.
You may not always agree with Fayose’s methods- and there is too much to disagree with,- but it is clear to see that Fayose swings from the thuggish, uncouth rabble-rouser image to a sometimes volatile, but thorough leader of the opposition. As his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continues to shrink into irrelevance, Ayo Fayose represents the last stand, leading the defence and fighting hard to stay afloat. He may still have a lot of fight left in him.
The Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari is no ordinary domestic aide. Kyari enjoys a close and robust relationship with his principal and leverages on it to influence everything within government from policy making to presidential appointments. He was recently named to the six-man board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)
Senator Ahmed Makarfi
The former Kaduna state Governor and Senator now has a running gig as chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It has fallen on Makarfi to lead a party in crisis and restore some semblance of confidence to a bruised property but Makarfi has so far spent his early days battling a challenge from the faction led by Ali Modu Sheriff. Crucial court victories relating to the Ondo state gubernatorial polls might prove that he has staying power.
The Minister for Environment is one of the shining lights in Buhari’s cabinet. Apart from leading negotiations on behalf of Nigeria at the Cop 21 climate talks, Mohammed’s ministry supervised the launch and provided leadership commitment to the clean-up of Ogoniland, as recommended in the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland and other associated sites.
The former banker took over a healthy economy from his predecessor and has gone on a massive infrastructure driven reconstruction of the state. From road networks to bridges, agricultural/rural development advances to providing a fertile environment for small and medium enterprises to thrive, Willie has indeed been working.
Since his second coming as a civilian president in 1999, no other personality has exerted as much influence on the polity as Olusegun Obasanjo. Some of this influence may be overbearing, sometimes it is self-serving, but it is hard to see any other leader that has dedicated their lives post service to the Nigerian project as Obasanjo has. From his second career as a continental diplomat to his past time of reminding sitting Presidents just why they were elected, Obasanjo is the man.
Peter Obi has helped to direct much-needed attention to the perils of government waste, an expensive habit that continues to eat away at the economic fabric. And he’s walked his talk. Anambra state is one of only a handful of states that has not owed salaries since the economic downturn began. Anambra is presently in a position to provide generous economic stimulus packages only because of Peter Obi’s foresight and financial prudence while in office as governor.
Bukola Saraki, heir, and leader of a supreme political dynasty emerged senate president by cooking up an illicit but potent romance with his colleagues from the opposition. The Saraki armour survived countless hits including a protracted trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal plus a criminal investigation into the forging the senate standing rules that got him elected.
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state is a shining example of a different kind of political leadership, one that has its roots in empathy and a genuine concern for the welfare of his people. He has been at the forefront of every single initiative to not only bring back and rehabilitate the missing Chibok girls, but also the thousands of other citizens lost to the Boko Haram insurgency.
The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) is your favourite GO’s favourite GO. Perhaps the most influential religious leader in the country, Pastor Adeboye has stated that his aim is to put a branch within five minutes of every human on earth. Every year he comes closer to this goal as he continues to minister to his devoted flock.
Reverend Sam Adeyemi is the senior pastor, Daystar Christian Centre and founder, Daystar Leadership Academy, a resource centre dedicated to raising a new generation of leaders that will serve as catalysts for the transformation of Africa. DLA’s alumni currently numbers over 30,000, drawn from all spheres of life including business, corporate and private sectors.
Millions of faithfuls, from all over the world flock to Prophet T.B Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) for his famous prophecies and life-altering interventions, millions more follow his teachings from the safe spaces of their home televisions and also online where his YouTube channel presently boasts over 400,000 subscribers.
Cardinal Anthony Okogie
His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie at 80 years of age may be settled into retirement but he has certainly not lost his voice, nor the importance of his calling, as he continues his fight for good governance, equality and speaking truth to power at every turn.
The founder and presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church World Wide, (also known as Winners’ Chapel) is in many ways also the most important private Nigerian investor in education. His work with Covenant University, Landmark University and the Kingdom Heritage model primary and secondary school franchise is unrivaled in its commitment to excellence.
Pastor Poju Oyemade is the senior pastor of the Covenant Christian Centre Lagos and convener of The Platform, an annual Independence Day event where prominent business and political citizens (that are believers) share how they thrive in their industries applying principles founded in the Bible. In 2016, the Platform attracted speakers like Peter Obi, Bishop Matthew Kukah, and Sam Adeyemi.
For a spell now, Yoruba Nollywood fans have been in on Odunlade Adekola, the genre’s biggest leading man. A veteran of over 100 movies, Adekola has been quite prolific, producing and starring in some of the biggest and most successful Yoruba films of the last decade, building a cult following along the way. He made the crossover to mainstream audiences last year with the stylish caper Taxi Driver: Oko Ashewo.
Afolayan’s big budget, pan-African production, ‘The CEO’ may have been a critical misfire what with its problematic final act, but the box office receipts and accolades received only proved that Afolayan is one of the few names that are a genuine box office attraction. For The CEO, Afolayan gathered a cast from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Benin Republic and South Africa and premiered the film aboard an Air France flight to Paris, France.
After a string of trials, Niyi Akinmolayan finally hit the mark with The Arbitration, a sexy legal thriller starring OC Ukeje and Adesua Utomi that plays as a meditation on corporate power structure and how it plays out between both sexes. With a heavy presence on social media, Akinmolayan organised a scriptwriting competition for his next project with a winning prize of 100,000 Naira awarded the winner.
Yemi Alade capitalized on her pan-African appeal and released her sophomore, a dance-heavy record pandering to as wide an audience as possible. This gimmick worked in her favour as she was embraced by the continent, co-hosted the MTV Africa Movie Awards (alongside Bonang Matheba) and featured on a worldwide Shell promotional campaign with Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.
AY Makun is presently Nigeria’s funniest man. From AY Live to The AY Show, AY’s Crib to AY’s Open Mic, the span of products his Corporate World Entertainment has been able to turn into money-spinning business ventures is quite something to behold. A Trip to Jamaica, the sequel to 2014’s record breaking 30 Days in Atlanta has quickly become the most successful Nollywood film ever in terms of box office receipts.
A former commissioner in his native Delta state, Richard Mofe-Damijo returned with his trademark charisma to the screen big time with high profile roles in television (Hush), lead roles (Oloibiri, The Grudge) and supporting turns (Dinner, The Wedding Party) in big screen productions. RMD was a member of the jury at this year’s Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
This rapper, comedian and internet savvy disrupter was born Folarin Falana. With 2 hit albums behind him, Falz has found a way to leverage on his comic talents and social media clout to push his music to wider audiences. Beyond mixing hit singles by the numbers, Falz took the concept of visual expression to a whole new level with his long form video for his single Soldier, a duet with singer Simi. This was a precursor to the eventual release of Chemistry, the joint EP by Falz and Simi.
DJ Jimmy Jatt
When it comes to the business of turning tables, Cool DJ Jimmy Jatt has elevated it to a profession. Beyond his unimpeachable bonafide as DJ of record for every event of note across the continent, DJ Jimmy Jatt has mentored a new generation of DJs, placing them on viable career paths. He has put out two well-received albums and has headed the jury for the Headies, Nigeria’s biggest music award show since 2005.
Femi Kuti has been all flying the flag for Afrobeat music since his father, Fela passed on and has been able to successfully create his own space, away but not separated from his father’s overriding legacy. He has been nominated for Grammys and has packed the convention centre of the Eko Hotel with a much buzzed about concert with younger brother, Seun Kuti.
Mkparu is the CEO of Filmhouse cinemas and FilmOne Distribution Limited, a franchise currently operating in Lagos, Ibadan, and Calabar. A beneficiary of the $200 million Bank of Industry creative and entertainment industry intervention fund, Mkparu’s Filmhouse opened the first IMAX cinemas in Nigeria and his distribution business is responsible for The Birth of a Nation arriving local cinemas.
When it comes to pure box office attraction, Omoni Oboli is simply without peer. No other actress/producer can draw people to the movies like she does. She was in Fifty and First Lady, two of the highest grossing films of 2015 and this year, has already made a profitable statement with the comedy, Wives on Strike. Her movies may be short on quality but they always find an audience.
Izu Ojukwu has shown traits of genius, working on Amstel Malta Box Office sponsored films like Sitanda and White Waters. But it was with the long in the making ‘76, released this year, that Ojukwu achieved his potential as the most important director of his generation. ‘76 is both high water mark and career highlight for Ojukwu and the team of actors and crew members which he marshalled to make movie magic.
Okwo is the co-founder of The Audrey Silva Company, the forward thinking production house behind the future classic, The Meeting and Surulere, a showcase of fresh Nollywood talent. A well-respected film director and producer, Okwo acts as Nollywood’s mother hen, dishing out tough love to a new generation of thespians on and off Twitter. She provided support to Bovi’s It’s Her Day and is hard at work on her new television series, Bankers NGR.
Chibuike Azubuike Nelson aka Phyno isn’t the first indigenous rapper working predominantly in the Igbo language but he’s been the most successful so far. Phyno who enjoys an endorsement deal with NairaBET has two successful solo studio albums (No Guts No Glory, The Playmaker) to his name and recently shut down a large stadium in Enugu with his annual Phyno Fest concert.
Africa’s most famous twin brothers Paul and Peter Okoye left their fans flustered when they spent the better part of the year bickering and threatening to terminate their union. After releasing lukewarm solo projects, the brothers decided to patch things up and came back with Bank Alert, an instant club banger that got everyone dancing again and proved that two is more formidable than one.
Tiwa Savage put out an innuendo-heavy video for her smash single If I start to talk in April, and by the next week her marriage was over. She seized control of the narrative though, voicing out her version of events in an exclusive interview that very nearly broke the internet. She returned to work almost immediately, releasing a well-received single with Wizkid, signing with JayZ’s Roc Nation and appearing on the soundtrack to AY’s record bursting film, A Trip to Jamaica.
The executive director and founder of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) has been working assiduously for 6 years now to make AFRIFF the continent’s most important film festival. Aside the glitz and glam, AFRIFF provides film training and talent development opportunities for budding filmmakers and creates an environment for stakeholders to engage in robust discussions.
26 year-old Wizkid achieved the unthinkable when he helped Canadian rapper, Drake secure his first Billboard Hot 100 number one as a lead artiste with the single One Dance. From London to Laos, Cairo to Cape Verde, the new sound of World music is Afrobeats and Wizkid is at the forefront of artistes creatively marketing Nigeria to the world. Everyone else is mostly following his lead.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The most compulsively readable writer of her generation in all of Africa is a 39 year-old Nigerian mother of one who has won numerous book awards and has been nominated for a Grammy. An unapologetic feminist who is now required reading in Norway, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie easily sparks debates and influences thought whenever she decides to publish her work or speak her mind. Thankfully for humanity, she does this with some degree of prolificity.
In between starring in some of the most high-profile films (Surulere, The CEO) to hit the cinemas of late, Lala Akindoju operates a private hustle as the CEO of Make It Happen productions, an outfit that has staged critically and commercially successful iterations of plays like V-Monologues, Femi Osofisan’s The Wives and London Life, Lagos Living. Akindoju also runs Open Mic Theatre, a hub for the expression of fresh talented acts in entertainment.
You know you are one of the most powerful persons alive when you can take a local bread seller, glam her up, present her to the world on the cover of This Day Style no less, and alter the course of her life, perhaps forever. This Day Style may not be the force it once was but Bello’s photographs of the most buzzworthy figures are still as important, and no Sunday is quite complete without her work staring at us boldly, daring us to look away. We dare not.
Ayodele Elegba is the CEO of Mustardseed Communication, convener of the annual comic, animation, gaming and film convention dubbed Lagos Comic Con, the biggest gathering of comic lovers in the country which is in its fifth year. Elegba’s name and prints appear on some of the most popular intellectual properties on the continent as regards comics, graphics, and animation and he continues to push to unlock the full potentials of his industry.
Ed Emeka Keazor trained as a lawyer but for the last couple of years, has worked as a journalist (regional editor for Music in Africa), musician (with traditional group Ikenga) and historian. He has over the last few years been involved in several projects documenting Nigerian history. Keazor’s richly researched lectures on Nigerian history are a hit in corporate and art circles where hs services are in popular demand.
Nnedi Okoroafor’s 2015 book, Binti, a HarryPotter-esque space odyssey won the Nebula Award for best novella, awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Okoroafor, who holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois, Chicago and works as an associate professor of creative writing and literature at the University at Buffalo also made history by becoming the first Nigerian to win the Hugo award in the novella category.
Bolanle Austen-Peters is the founder of arts and culture hub Terra Kulture, perhaps the most important space for the promotion of arts in Lagos state. Since inception, Terra Kulture has hosted over 100 plays. Apart from producing and directing Wakaa the musical, another big scale, splashy stage production, Austen-Peters also brought the excellent 93 Days, a chronicle of the nation’s successful fight against Ebola to the big screens.
The author of The Secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives, Shoneyin’s work with the Ake Book festival, an annual celebration of literature, dance and music has had a healthy and far-reaching impact on the creative industry. Writers and their hangers on look forward to the Ake festival with all the excitement of Hollywood’s awards season.
The author of the NLNG award-winning novel On Black Sisters Street resides in the United States where she is not only a professor of creative writing at Brown University but represents Nigeria proudly and effectively too. Unigwe has won the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition and a Commonwealth Short Story Competition award among other laurels. She is one of the judges for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.
Bibi Bakare Yusuf
An accomplished scholar, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf has through Cassava Republic press contributed to getting the nation reading. Cassava Republic which recently turned ten opened an office in London and published the Nigerian issues of hotly anticipated titles by Toni Kan, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, and Leye Adenle. The romance imprint Ankara is also pushing stories by upcoming writers.
Founder and artistic director of Style House Files, a creative development agency for Nigerian and African designers, Omoyemi Akerele is a driving force behind the burgeoning Nigerian fashion industry. A pioneer in image consultancy and creative direction, Akerele also helps brands gain essential international exposure through presenting showcases at Pitti Imagine in Italy, and through the annual Lagos Fashion and Design Week.
Atelier, businessman and showman, Mai Atafo is one of the most dependable names in men- and women’s fashion. His output moves from the production room straight to the red carpet and every celebrity of note; from Ramsey Nouah to Ebuka Obi-Uchendu has been attired by Mai Atafo. Weddings by Mai, perhaps his most popular line caters to every wedding clothing element that exists.
Oke-Lawal’s Orange Culture was part of Nigeria’s delegation to the 2015 International Fashion Showcase and was invited to show at premier menswear trade show Pitti Uomo under the Ethical Fashion Initiative. The self-effacing Oke-Lawal continues to juggle multiple balls in the air with the spin-off diffusion labels, Orange by Orange Culture, and a streetwear brand, O.C by Orange Culture.
A lot of working models, both at home and in the diaspora owe a lot of their success to Joan Okorodudu, founder of ISIS modelling agency and godmother of the Nigerian fashion industry. A former beauty queen herself, Okorodudu started ISIS while trying to fill the need for suitable representatives for models who emerged victorious in a reality competition that she organised.
Amaka Osakwe’s Maki Oh is white hot, even Beyonce knows to seek the brand out when looking to return to her African roots. And who can blame the Queen Bey? Maki Oh’s 2015 collection Arodan, debuted exclusively on Vogue, instantly making Osakwe the first designer based in Nigeria to achieve this feat. Maki Oh’s first studio in Lekki was commissioned last year and influential figures like Michelle Obama and Kerry Washington have been spotted wearing the label.
Lucy Ogechukwu Ejike is the Nigerian Paralympic powerlifter who has represented country at five consecutive Paralympic Games from 2000 in Sydney through 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, winning medals at each outing. An elite athlete, Ejike made history when she shattered the Paralympic and world record three successive times before winning gold with a lift of 142kg at the Rio Games.
John Mikel Obi
The Chelsea midfielder may not be known for scoring goals with prolific efficiency but he has steadily built his profile as one of the most successful African football players of his generation, joining Chelsea FC in Europe Championship and Premiership victories. One of the most decorated players on the continent, Obi was head of Team Nigeria’s delegation to the Rio Olympic games and provided leadership that moved his team from being stranded in Atlanta to scoring a Bronze medal.
Omagbemi enjoyed more than a decade-long stint as player and midfielder with the female national football side, Super Falcons before retiring and eventually serving as coach of the same Falcons. In December, she became the first person ever to win the African Women Cup of Nations as both player and coach when the Super Falcons defeated Cameroon to emerge champions for a record tenth time.
The most exciting female player on the continent is also one of the youngest. Last year, Asisat Oshoala scored double at the Glo/CAF awards, winning the African Women’s Player of the Year and Women Youth Player of the year. A veteran of two FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cups, Oshoala recently achieved her childhood dream of playing for Arsenal Ladies FC in the English Premier League. She is part of the team that emerged champions of Africa after winning the African cup of Nations in December.
Mo Abudu is the founder of EbonyLife Television and the Inspire Africa Foundation. As a TV producer, media personality, human resources management consultant, and entrepreneur, Mo is the poster child for those who keep evolving – for the better. EbonyLife films rolls out its second feature length, The Wedding Party, a star-packed glossy fairy tale starring Adesua Etomi and Banky W.
Tajudeen Adepetu is the managing director of Consolidated Media Associates (owners of ONTV, Televista Movies, Spice TV, Village Square and Soundcity) and Alphavision productions. These two companies together have made him the biggest owner of media properties this side of Africa. And he’s not nearly done. He launched Tribe TV, a new channel for African movies serviced across DStv channels.
Everywhere you look these days, there is a Pulse.ng ad material staring you in the face. There is no escaping the media onslaught it seems. Leading the editorial charge for the brand is entertainment journalist Osagie Alonge. Beyond the routine news, lifestyle and events content, Pulse.ng under Alonge’s watch has cornered the market on the effective use of video to create viral content, with soar away segments like Pulse TV strivia, Vox Pop, and Facts Only.
Chances are you have come across Mike Asukwo’s sharp illustrations, on the pages of Business Day newspapers or on the Internet where they are usually shared as quickly as they are posted. Asukwo uses words, pictures, and colours to present a mirror to society, sometimes in heart-breaking but always funny ways. A multi-faceted artist, he has worked on many prominent sculptural edifices in Cross River State such as the Twin Column at the City Gate and the 3D Coat of Arms.
Everyone’s favourite girl next door has continued to build on the runaway success of her eponymous brand. Ikeji’s blog continues to be the place to go for breaking news, celebrity culture, and gossip. She has started her own social network and made inroads into original content with the Linda Ikeji Studiosand music. Her give back project, ‘I’d rather be self-made’ helps young girls along their road to entrepreneurship.
It has been a whirlwind year for Toke Makinwa, On Air Personality, television host, vlogger and tabloid magnet. In between covering every major magazine on newsstands, Makiwa made herself some lemonades by capitalizing on the collapse of her high-profile marriage to Maje Ayida to write a sensational memoir which she bills as a “must tell.” Makinwa proved herself the Queen of the internet when she opened the floodgates of think pieces, reviews and free publicity that came after.
If you are Tiwa Savage and you are itching to correct the narrative of your very public marriage collapse playing out in real time, who do you call to tell your own side of the story? Yes, Azuka Ogujuiba. The This Day near-veteran has access to all the major stars and does not hesitate to call in her contacts to get to the heart of the story. Ogujiuba was also instrumental in the Olajumoke Orisaguna grass to grace story that captured the entire nation’s attention.
No one gets to the root of breaking stories like Premium Times and it is all because of Olorunyomi’s singular vision. In 4 short but eventful years, he has led the team at Premium Times, an online investigative reporting platform that has been relentless in its pursuit of government accountability. Premium Times oversaw the Nigerian leg of the release of the worldwide exclusive Panama Papers.
Few newspaper columnists command the clout and the national reach of Sonala Olumhense, whose weekly syndicated column has quietly become the Sunday Sunday tonic. Olumhense has a knack for getting at the heart of the matter of whatever topic he fancies at the moment and submitting well thought out, clearly considered analytical pieces that have earned him a wide readership nationwide.
Omatseye is a journalist and chairman of the editorial board of The Nation newspaper, one of Nigeria’s respected national dailies. He has practiced his journalism both within and outside the country. Also, a published author of works of fiction, Sam Omatseye’s weekly In Touch column in The Nation is required reading for students and practitioners of journalism. Taking some poetic license to convincingly advance his argument, Omatseye’s pen remains as sharp as his mind.
Taylor is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Big Cabal media, publishers of what is now regarded in some quarters as Nigeria’s largest technology website, TechCabal plus the emerging Zikoko.com, an exciting hub for shareable pop culture content that is unabashedly Nigerian. Big Cabal media under Taylor’s leadership, was announced co-recipients of the Lagos Angel Network’s 50 million Naira seed funding.
Ubosi is the founder and CEO of Megaelectric, operators of Classic FM 97.3, The Beat 99.9FM and Naija FM 102.7 in Lagos as well as The Beat 97.9FM Ibadan. He is also a co-founder of MTech Communications Plc, a fully indigenous mobile technology firm, providing services in data communications.
A former crown prince, Eheneden Erediauwa this year became the 39th monarch to ascend the throne as the Oba of Benin. In a landmark event that shut down the Edo state capital for days and attracted politicians, business magnates, scholars, media practitioners and a government delegation led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Erediauwa’s coronation was both majestic and splendid. He is now addressed as His Royal Majesty, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin.
Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi
41 year-old Ogunwusi is the Ooni of Ife, the paramount traditional ruler of Ile-Ife, one of the most revered traditional institutions in the country. A descendant of one of the ruling houses in Ife kingdom, Ogunwusi’s high wire politicking saw off challenges from about 21 other candidates. He has been engaged actively in using his platform to export Yoruba culture to the rest of the world.
Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II
Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has remained an active and engaged citizen, speaking out fearlessly on matters of national and economic interest, and standing as a principled and effective conscience for the Muhammadu Buhari led federal government. At a time when members of the elite have found it more convenient to maintain an uneasy silence, Sanusi’s voice has become a vital one, speaking truth to power and affecting change in the process.
Armed with a camera and an Instagram handle, @bitsofborno, Fati Abubakar strolls the streets of her hometown, Maiduguri and attempts to capture that other side of the terrorism ravaged state the mainstream media will not show you. Inspired by Instagram handles like @humansofny, Abubakar’s simple but powerful pictures of humans triumphing in the midst of affliction and their heart-warming captions have been able to tell a narrative of Borno beyond death and destruction.
As the executive director of Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), a coalition of persons and youth-led organizations tasked with instituting a culture of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria, Adamolekun brings the heat to lax public officials. Her team jointly organised the Ondo state gubernatorial election debate that aired on Channels television.
Fiery and furious, passionate and intelligent, Obiagaeli Ezekwesili, a former government minister and vice president of the World Bank, has kept up with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, drawing attention to the plight of the missing Chibok girls. Her efforts led to the return this year of 22 of the missing girls. Ezekwesili has repeatedly shown strength of character, vision, and decisive leadership when it matters.
The fearless and endlessly brilliant scholar and activist professor Chidi Odinklalu may have completed his tenure as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission but his voice has remained one of the nation’s most vital, coming across clear on all the important areas of human rights significance. He has also through the headship of the alumni association of federal unity schools tried to improve the educational system.
Seun Onigbinde is so powerful, Bill Gates knows his name, and shady government officials know to fear him. He fights for institutionalized transparency in government processes through BudgIT, a Co-Creation Hub-incubated organisation. BudgIT was instrumental in blowing the lid off the budget padding mess that tainted the Buhari led federal government and has consistently led the charge for an open national assembly in terms of finances and budgeting.
Twitter folk are likely to have come across a picture of Shonibare displaying a placard with a loud reminder of the exact number of days the Chibok girls have been in captivity. She uploads these pictures every day, in good health or bad, no matter what part of the world she finds herself. This powerful-in-its-own-way imagery supports the work that Shonibare does with and outside of the #BBOG group, one that includes sit-outs, marches and relief material provision to IDP camps.
A former Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development,- and a pretty decent one too,- Akinwunmi Adesina is president of the African Development Bank Group (AFDB),where he contributes to reducing Africa’s poverty burden via economic development and social progress. He recently walked his talk when he approved a $1 billion loan to Nigeria towards meeting the deficits in the 2016 Budget.
The Guaranty Trust Bank boss has taken to the task of building the brand into a premier national institution and under his watch, GTBank has enjoyed some of its most profitable years. Agbaje’s GTB is the undisputed market leader in game-changers like online banking, SMS banking, and mobile apps. He has also invested in entrepreneurs via the SME Market Hub, the GTB Food & Drink Fair and the GTB Fashion Weekend.
No one lights up the screen quite like Yinka Edward and any director worth their salt- from Kunle Afolayan to Izu Ojukwu- recognises that in Edward, they can get the perfect mix of skill and professionalism. A graduate of the Nigerian Film Institute, Edward has received cinematography credits for classic films like 76, and Confusion Na Wa as well as for the iconic MTN I don port advert.
Bright Ekweremadu is the Managing Director of the Society for Family Health, the biggest and most important indigenous non-governmental organisation in Nigeria. With office presence in about 25 states across the country, SFH, as led by Ekweremadu has doubled down on several public health programs and interventions especially in the fields of HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and other infectious diseases.
The recently appointed chief executive of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) boss has about 20years experience as a public health physician and epidemiologist working in various field locations around the world. His work with EpiAfric, a public health consultancy firm providing expertise in health project design, research, health communication and postgraduate professional development has led to initiatives like the Health Leadership Academy amongst others.
After her second stint as finance minister came to an end, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala did not go quietly into the good night. A world renowned global thinker and economic development expert, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed a member of the international advisory panel of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). She combines this with her roles as a senior adviser at Lazard and Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Yemi Kale is the man responsible for the much-lauded recalculation of the country’s GDP figures that saw Nigeria briefly become the biggest economy in Africa. An alumnus of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government leadership in government programs, Yemi Kale is presently the Statistician General of the federation and the National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria (NBS) which he leads has been pushing out real-time and reliable data on the state of the economy.
A respected physician, Godwin Maduka is the CEO and medical director of the sprawling Las Vegas-based Pain Institute & Medical Centre. A philanthropist who has stayed in touch with his roots, Maduka is building a state of the art 15-storey building in his native Umuchukwu, a rural community in Anambra, which he is gifting to the state to start a college of medicine and centre for research for its University.
An employee of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital Ikeja, Mgbajah Ogadinma this year, became the first female to qualify as a cardiothoracic surgeon in West Africa. Committing to a gruelling training period that lasted seven years and spanned three continents, Ogadinma has dedicated her working life to fixing the heart ailments of Nigerians.
Chidi Ajaere is the chairman and chief executive of God is Good motors, headquartered in Edo state. Taking over from his late father, Deacon Edwin Ajaere, the founder of the transport company, Chidi has been able to drive the group into the modern age through rapid expansion, technologic inclusion and construction of modern, state of the art terminals in different parts of the country.
Otunba Akin Alabi is the founder and chief executive of NairaBET, Nigeria’s first and biggest online sports betting portal, headquartered in Lagos. Licensed by the Lagos state lotteries board, Alabi, a former internet marketer has enjoyed first mover status in the world of online betting, stoking and benefitting from this market and has seen his company which he founded in 2009 grow to over 100 outlets around the country, employing hundreds more.
Despite a weaker Nigerian currency and strife in the northern part of Nigeria, Aliko Dangote is still Africa’s richest man by far, even after a net worth decline of nearly $5 billion in the past year. In 2015 his Dangote cement, Africa’s largest cement producer launched new plants in Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Zambia.
Chijioke and Ngozi Dozie
Brothers Ngozi and Chijioke Dozie are the brains and brawns behind Café Neo, a chain of coffee stores modelled after Starbucks that attracts the upwardly mobile Nigerians and corporate and business types. Inspired by the Cafe Coffee Day success story in India, the brothers are taking advantage of their first mover status to rapidly seize a considerable market share before the arrival of the Western brands.
Leo Stan Ekeh
Multi-millionaire Leo Stan Ekeh’s new business venture, Yudala, a premium online shopping store, which made its entrance last year has already become a big hit, beating other existing online stores with a combination of aggressive campaign, celebrity endorsement, and efficient delivery services. Yudala is the first company to combine an e-commerce platform with offline retail stores located nationwide.
Entrepreneur and investor Tony Elumelu owns a controlling interest in Transcorp, a publicly traded Nigerian conglomerate with interests in hospitality, agriculture, oil production and power generation. The Hiers Holdings’ boss through various initiatives like the Tony Elumelu Foundation, is committed to leadership, entrepreneurship and community development.
Mary Remmy Njoku
Mary Remmy Njoku is having a banner year. Her Rok Studios, an arm of iROKO which she runs as a production and original content company, has grown incredibly, launching a free-to-view 24-hour channel for all Sky subscribers on Sky TV in the UK. Rok on Sky will effectively take Nollywood to perhaps its biggest audience yet and Mary Remmy Njoku is at the forefront.
If you find yourself excited by Ventures Park, the trendy and aesthetically sound incubation/start-up hub that has taken Abuja by storm, then you have Kola Aina to thank. A serial investor, Aina is also among other things, CEO of Emerging Platforms Ltd, a software, and technology firm that specializes in developing innovative technology-based solutions in education, national security, governance and healthcare sectors.
The media overlord has been known to bridge the gap between traditional and new media with his Storm 360 label. Asika’s grand vision which has seen him operate the Nigerian franchise for Social Media Week has been impressive to behold as year-in, year-out, he and his team draw out the most important people from all walks of life for a week of exchanging ideas and creating sparks.
Mitchell Elegbe aka Mr. Cashless founded Interswitch in 2002. Under his focused leadership, the company has diversified its business, broadened distribution channels, expanded into new markets and delivered strong growth in revenue and profits. Interswitch is presently a billion Naira revenue company and powers most cashless transactions in the country.
iROKO Partners’ Njoku is undeniably one of the most powerful men in Nigeria’s business space. Since inception, iROKO has been able to raise an unprecedented $13 million in venture capital funding. With over 500,000 registered subscribers and a peerless collection of local material, iROKO keeps growing from strength to strength. Njoku’s company Spark also invests in space leaders like Hotels.ng and ToLet.
Tayo Oviosu might as well be the king of mobile money. His company, Paga which only last year secured about $13million in Series B financing remains focused on continuing its rapid expansion across Nigeria. With over 10,000 agents across the country, Paga has a significant market base for its banking partners to leverage. The company also has over 3,800 businesses using its services to accept and make payments and over 5.5 million users on the platform.