Friday, November 20, 2015

Jega, Jonathan, Al-Hassan, Oyedepo, Awosika, 5 others are nominees for Y!/YNaija Person of the Year 2015

The Y!/ Person of the Year is in its fifth year and is awarded to the individual who has most visibly influenced the Nigerian society for good in the past year, breaking new boundaries or consolidating on gains – and driving the advancement of the public, especially young people.

The editors announced there was no winner for its first edition in 2011. The 2012 winner was entrepreneur and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. The 2013 winner was tech industry trailblazer, Jason Njoku and the 2014 winner was Obiageli Ezekwesili for championing active citizenship and entrenching the idea of the 'Office of the Citizen'.

The shortlist is announced following the decision of editors as well as feedback from readers and social media audiences. Voting commences today, Friday, 20 November and closes after a month on Sunday, 20 December.

The Y!/ Person of the Year 2015 shortlist:
Bunmi Akinyemiju and Kunmi Demuren, business
Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, politics
Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, politics
Ibukun Awosika, business
Attahiru Jega, public service
Goodluck Jonathan, public service
David Oyedepo, education
Simdul Shagaya, technology
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, politics
Josephine Ugwu, citizens

The profiles:

Bunmi Akinyemiju 37 and Kunmi Demuren
The duo of Bunmi Akinyemiju and Kunmi Dumeren, both experienced and successful business executives, presently manage Venture Garden Nigeria (VGN), a holding company for a group of financial technology entities providing data-driven technology platforms. Their stewardship of VGN made perhaps the biggest headlines in the financial technology ecosystem this year when it was announced that they had raised $20million from Convergence Partners in exchange for a minority stake. Even though the terms of the deal aren’t in the public domain, this has been the largest Series A round for a Nigerian entity to date. They have set new standards for the possibilities in business across the sub-region.

Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, 56
“Aisha don’t give up”. Those were president Buhari’s words of encouragement to Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan when the results of the hotly contested Taraba state gubernatorial elections came in and she found herself trailing Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Mr President needn’t have bothered, for like a certain female former prime minister of England, Al-Hassan has been doing battles all her life. A trained lawyer, Al-Hassan became the first female to be appointed attorney general in Taraba state. She would later become the first elected female senator from the state, serving in the 7th Senate from 2011 to 2015. Refusing to let issues like gender, religion or a federal appointment get in her way, Al-Hassan scored a massive win for females in Nigerian politics when the state electoral tribunal nullified the victory of Mr Ishaku and declared her winner of the guber polls. Barring any other judicial reinterpretations, Al-Hassan is on course to become the first female elected governor of the federal republic.

How’s that for leaning in?

Rotimi Amaechi, 50
Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi received a thankless and unattractive job offer when he was tasked with chairing the 2015 presidential campaign of General Muhammadu Buhari. A perennial seeker of the highest office in the land, Buhari was at the time an unattractive candidate whose stern, uncompromising features had been rejected by voters nationwide on at least 3 separate occasions. Amaechi took to his new assignment like a man with plenty to prove. And indeed he had. Locked in an epic political battle of wills with former president Goodluck Jonathan, Amaechi spared no turn reimagining and reinventing candidate Buhari with a focus on the younger generation. Assembling a cracker-jack team comprising some of the most dedicated professionals and committed volunteers this side of the world, and benefitting from a lacklustre outing by the past administration, Amaechi chipped away gradually at Buhari’s inadequacies, polishing his candidate to a nice, shinning gloss. The result? A landmark electoral process that peaked with the unprecedented defeat of an incumbent administration.

Ibukun Awosika, 53
Ibukun Awosika isn’t the first female Nigerian to chair the management board of a top tier bank, but her elevation this year to the chairmanship of the board of directors of First Bank Nigeria Holdings, one of Nigeria’s most revered institution, points to the conclusion that 2015 is indeed the year of the Nigerian woman in business. And it is only befitting that this honour would come to the woman who has through her life and career blazed the trail for her gender and empowered and inspired thousands to reach for their dreams. Impossible is nothing, according to the Ibukun Awosika playbook. Whether it is her work with The Chair Centre and its group of subsidiaries which she runs, her passion for development and mentoring evidenced by the soar away non-profit, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) which she co-founded in 2001, or her contributions to nationhood via public service, Awosika remains a leading light and beacon of hope for women - and men.

Attahiru Jega, 58
Professor Attahiru Jega is no stranger to public service. As a lecturer and union leader in the eighties, he battled the military junta to a standstill. As an administrator, he presided over the Bayero University Kano with top level precision. But it was with his appointment as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that Jega would face his biggest challenge. The job was never going to be an easy ride, as Jega had inherited an INEC facing a crisis of credibility. Step by boring step, he went about his job and with his comforting assurances and bitesize successes in warm up elections, gradually began to give Nigerians reasons to believe once again. For the 2015 elections, Jega’s INEC joined the rest of the world in embracing technological advancement by introducing the card readers and permanent voters cards (PVC). Even though the process was far from seamless, these additions went a long way in forestalling electoral fraud. And who can forget his calm, unruffled mien even in the midst of provocation where he was accused by a PDP agent of manipulating the process on live television? Refusing to buckle under pressure, Jega stood his ground, unmoved and announced the results just as they were presented to him. The job isn’t complete yet but Nigerians once again have reasons to believe in the electoral system, and Attahiru Jega is the man to thank for this.

Goodluck Jonathan, 58
In the thick of campaign season, former President Goodluck Jonathan once declared that his political ambition isn’t worth the blood of any Nigerian. As events would prove, this statement was no mere rhetoric. While political scholars, historians and Nigerians of all walks of life debate the legacy of the Jonathan presidency, one thing remains certain, his commitment to the electoral process via reforms and independence has been unparalleled by any other Nigerian leader. Even though the campaign season was as brutal and bloody as they come, Jonathan had set the foundation for INEC’s decent outing by appointing an incorruptible, well regarded administrator as head. Jonathan also respected the independence of the electoral agency and avoided any undue interference. As the results of the 2015 presidential polls trickled in and it became clear which way the pendulum swung, Mr Jonathan’s supremely presidential act of immediately conceding defeat, calling his opponent and accepting the result in good faith remains a high water mark in Nigerian, nay African politics. With this singular act, Jonathan carefully side stepped the electoral violence that could have followed, deepened democracy on the continent and became a sterling example for leadership. As the world looked in on us, Mr Jonathan rose to the occasion and we remain eternally proud of him for walking the talk.

David Oyedepo, 61
David Olaniyi Oyedepo, founder and presiding bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide is known to the world as a preacher and pastor to his flock. What goes understated most of the time however, is his vital role as a renowned educator and administrator. Oyedepo has gone about this mission with all the zeal of a hundred missionaries and has emerged in recent times, as the biggest Nigerian investor in education. The scale of his ambition is as breathtaking as the successes he has recorded so far. With the Covenant University in Ota, he has remodelled tertiary education, bringing back excellence to a system hanging on the precipice. This commitment to excellence is being replicated in projects like the Landmark University Omu-Aran, an institution with an agrarian mandate, the prestige driven Kingdom Heritage model primary and secondary school franchise and a proposed Crown University in Calabar. If there is anyone who has done more for the Nigerian education system, combining educational excellence with an eye for architectural designs that create the perfect ambience for raising a new crop of leaders, we are yet to meet them.

Simdul Shagaya, 39
For three years now Simdul Shagaya has been focused on building a home grown business with the guts and potential of competing globally. This is no mean feat considering that e-commerce is still in its infant stages and Nigeria is still struggling with basic challenges of broadband penetration. Limitations do not exist for Shagaya though as his firm but steady hand has guided Konga through rapid growth bursts aided by aggressive marketing, remarkable customer service and a burgeoning middle class armed with greater spending power. The ripple effect hasn’t gone unnoticed. Online retailing is set to leap frog advances made by traditional brick and mortar businesses within a short space of time and Konga’s success in the market place has inspired a long list of competitors looking for a bite of the online pie. It helps also that the charismatic Shagaya is the kind of leader that makes his empire a work friendly environment. Konga was recently voted one of the best places to work this year by the Great Places To Work Nigeria Institute. With an unforgiving work ethic, effectively motivated team, timely business instinct and a burning hunger to succeed, Simdul Shagaya renews the possibility of building a Nigerian business that is truly world class.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 63
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has tasted both sides of the political coin. As a resilient member of the opposition, he knows what it is like to be on the outside looking in. Following the result of the 2015 general elections and victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he also knows what it’s like to be at the centre. And few politicians are as deserving of this victory as Asiwaju Tinubu. In the 4th Republic, Tinubu entered the political fray via the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) and won a hotly contested mandate to govern Lagos, Nigeria’s most important state. He survived many political shenanigans and grew his clout to the level of godfather and regional leader, discovering and nurturing a new generation of political leaders- Fashola, Fayemi etc-  who have gone on to bloom where planted. As Nigerians expressed dissatisfaction with the PDP government that held sway at the centre for 16 uninterrupted years, Asiwaju marshalled a strike force that held consultations from across the country. The result was an unprecedented merger of various political parties from different regions to constitute the mega, truly national All Progressives Congress. Managing the ambitions and expectations of the various power blocs within the APC has been a difficult job but if anyone can get the job done, it has to be one with the grit, farsightedness and sagacity of Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Josephine Ugwu, 36
By this time last year, only a handful of Nigerians had heard of Josephine Ugwu. At the end of 2015 though, this dedicated cleaning lady who works at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos had become a household name and something of a celebrity. For once, her new found fame arrived not through the usual avenues- politics, entertainment or sports. In a single act of almost unfathomable honesty, Ugwu who at the time earned a monthly salary of N7,200, returned a staggering amount of N12 million in cash which she found in an airport toilet while performing her daily duty. In a country where everyone has been branded dishonest, Josephine Ugwu’s antecedents- it isn’t her first time returning monies stumbled upon- provide renewed hope that there is goodness yet. And that Nigeria remains a great nation littered with good people.

There will be no award or ceremony for the Y!/ Person of the Year 2015. The winner will be notified formally and an announcement made to the public on Wednesday, 30 December, with an essay detailing rationale, impact and significance.

The public can begin to vote here:

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