I must confess,I am confused about few of the Names mentioned here.
50 Years of Independence...
Celebrating 50 Makers of Modern Nigeria
Prologue: Tugging at the heart of every golden jubilee anniversary is the desire to celebrate, to take stock. Indeed, 50 years in the life of any nation is a long time. For those old enough to remember, watching the final lowering of the Union Jack from the flagpoles of Nigerian public buildings 50 years ago could have been the ultimate teary moment. How often they must have relived in their subconscious those cherished moments when the Green-White-Green fluttered gloriously as they hopefully looked forward to the future! Nigeria, they hoped, would be among the developing countries to be reckoned with in future.
Was this not consistent with the dreams of the founding fathers of the Nigerian nation? Though the crystallisation of these dreams into reality has fallen short of their great expectations... Gloom descended on the land less than a decade into its disorienting journey to nationhood and continued to haunt its people as it plodded on. Dreams of a few of never-say-die spirits meanwhile fanned the embers of the dying hopes of millions of Nigerians. Even under the most inhospitable conditions, the ingenuity of human creativity continued to hold the torch for optimism.
Indeed, there were moments of lucidity even as the nation veered off its intended course on its daunting march to a greater future. And these hopeful moments glimmered through the efforts of the iconic Nigerians mentioned below. As THISDAY celebrates these figures come February 21, 2010, its board of editors revisits the rationale for their selection as the 50 great Nigerians to be honoured on that day.
Titans/Builders: Adetokunbo Ademola
Justice Adetokunbo Ademola was the first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). He was Chief Justice of Western Region before his appointment as CJN. His time as CJN spanned the colonial and post-colonial eras, making him a bridge between the two epochs in the country’s history. The colonial government made him CJN in 1958 after the abolition of the West African Court of Appeal (WACA) prompted by Ghana’s independence in 1957.
Ademola helped to lay the foundation for the post-independence Nigerian judiciary. He was instrumental to the establishment of the Nigerian Law School and was chairman of the Council for Legal Education in Nigeria.
His era as CJN paraded some of the most vibrant and brilliant set of judicial officers the country has ever seen. Nigeria at the time exported judges to serve in other countries. For example, Justice Akinola Aguda went to Botswana to become chief justice.
Besides his role in the judiciary, Ademola also played a key role in politics. His intervention and persuasion helped prevent the disintegration of Nigeria following the regional tensions instigated by the first military coup in 1966.
Ademola is revered in the legal world for his monumental judgements that have, even after his death in 1993, continued to shape judicial arguments. Important here is his ruling that the court could review military decrees. This was in a case now referred to as Lekanmi versus Attorney General of Nigeria. A minister in the then Western Region had sued the central government over the confiscation of his assets by a decree enacted by the military in the aftermath of the emergency rule in the region in 1965. Even though the Yakubu Gowon tried to destroy the effects of Ademola’s ruling by enacting another decree that ousted the power of the court to review military decrees, the ruling has continued to be viewed as one of the boldest steps in judicial activism in the country.
Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo started as a regional political leader of his native Yoruba people like his contemporaries in the pre-independence period. But he is today popular as the only real leader of opposition the country has ever produced. His radical views and inclination for having a mind of his own brought him in conflict with the central government in the immediate post-independence period, leading to his imprisonment for alleged treason. His conviction is widely believed to be based on trumped up charges.
A journalist and unionist, Awolowo founded many organisations, including Egbe Omo Oduduwa, the Trade Unions Congress of Nigeria, and the Action Group (AG).
Socialist-leaning in his politics, Awolowo was the first indigenous premier of Western Region. His government’s educational and infrastructural development in the Yoruba South West remains legendary. He introduced free education and healthcare in the Western Region, established the first television service in Africa in the region in 1959 and set up the Oduduwa Group of Companies, which is among very few public companies still surviving since the post-independence era.
He built the first stadium in West Africa – Liberty Statium, Ibadan – and ran what was widely believed to be the best civil service in Africa at the time. He is also credited with the coining of the name “naira” for the country’s currency when he was Federal Commissioner of Finance under the Gowon government.
Many today refer to Awolowo as the best president Nigeria never had. He died May 9, 1987.
Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first Nigerian president and, before then, the country’s only indigenous Governor General, was renowned as a pan-African nationalist and master of compromise. He was key to the ending of the civil war between his native Igbo (Biafra) and the Nigerian state. Though, some of his kinsmen dubbed him a sell-out on account of his conciliatory position in relation to the war, that did not diminish his respect, as he emerged again as the most popular leader of the Igbo during the Second Republic.
“Zik of Africa,” as he was widely called, provided tutelage to African leaders like former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah. He founded several newspapers, including the West African Pilot, and wrote columns that helped kindle the fire of nationalism and anti-colonialism in Nigeria and Africa. He edited the Accra-based African Morning Post and tried through his writing to rein in the colonial government’s violations of African rights and racial discrimination.
A pan-Nigerian politician, Zik was the only one among his contemporaries to be a leader of opposition outside his native region.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto, was the first premier of Northern Nigeria. He was one of the most prominent figures from the north in the agitations that led to independence in 1960. He studied local government administration in England and brought his knowledge to bear on the administration of the Northern Region.
Bello introduced a unique style of local administration that involved consultation and consensus with the major representatives of the people. Before becoming premier, he had served in the Northern Region as Minister of Works, Minister of Local Government, and Minister of Community Development.
His Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) entered an alliance with Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) to form Nigeria’s first indigenous federal government that ushered in independence from Britain in 1960.
Bello is remembered for his fervent effort to unite and modernise the diverse peoples of Northern Nigeria. He was also famous for prudent management of state resources and a modest lifestyle, attributes that have continued to serve as model for northern political leaders, in particular, and Nigerians, generally.
Mallam Aminu Kano was a politician known for his keenness in applying religion as a vehicle for positive change in society. He led an Islamic movement in the north in the 1940s that opposed colonial rule. As an educationist, he voluntarily engaged in various educational and political programmes, outside his formal teaching job, to help improve the quality and volume of learning and teaching among his people.
In 1948, Kano used his position as head of the Teacher Training Centre in Maru, Sokoto, and secretary of the Northern Teachers Association to establish an organisation to improve the quality of Koranic education in the north. He championed the cause of women and the common people through that organisation and other existing structures and, later, through the platform of political parties.
Kano formed the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), a progressive leaning party of mainly teachers and intellectuals. He led supporters of the party to modest electoral successes, despite the formidable stature of NPC. Kano piloted the progressive group into the Second Republic and formed the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), which won the governorship elections in Kano and Kaduna states.
Visionary Leaders & Fighters
Emeka Anyaoku’s enviable career as a diplomat par excellence commenced during Nigeria’s independence in 1960 with roles at the United Nations headquarters in New York and the Commonwealth. He later capped it with two terms as the Commonwealth Secretary-general following his first appointment in 1989 when the organisation was witnessing fundamental changes. Upon his resignation in 1999, he left with a quiver of enviable achievements. These include a long and prolific involvement in diplomatic and international service plus 35 years of Commonwealth initiatives and negotiations across the 54-nation body. His feats in the realm of international diplomacy have also trickled down to the Nigerian setting where he rules as Ichie Adazie of Obosi and makes sound commentaries on the domestic issues bedevilling the polity. These commendable efforts at the global stage have made him a reference point for international diplomacy while attracting awards like the Freedom of the City of London, a $1.8 million chair in Commonwealth studies dedicated to his name at the University of London, and a decoration of Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCBVO) by Queen Elizabeth. Anyaoku is currently President of the World Wide Fund for Nature and Vice-President of the Royal Commonwealth Society. He was Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs in 1983 under the Shagari administration.
Dubbed the most controversial but most popular Nigerian head of State, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s entry into power via a bloodless 1985 coup ushered in a glut of carefully crafted programmes for economic development. As the first and only military leader to use the title, president till date, he launched the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1986 after issuing a referendum to garner support for austerity measures suggested by the IMF and the World Bank. The policies entailed under the SAP were the deregulation of the agricultural sector through abolition of marketing boards, the elimination of price controls, the privatisation of public enterprises, the devaluation of the Naira to aid the competitiveness of the export sector, and the relaxation of restraints on foreign investment put in place by the Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo military governments during the 1970s.In two years, when these policies were executed as intended by the IMF, the Nigerian economy actually did grow as had been hoped, with the export sector performing especially well. While retiring from public office, he instituted the Interim National Government (ING), preparatory to democratic elections. Till date, he continues to lend his weight to developmental efforts within and outside the country as a notable politician, statesman, and entrepreneur.
The 1983 entry of the Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon military regime into the apogee of Nigerian power system triggered a clean-up exercise that touched all sectors of the economy. Buhari justified the military's seizure of power by castigating the civilian government as hopelessly corrupt. His administration subsequently initiated a public campaign against indiscipline, known as "War Against Indiscipline (WAI)." The campaign is still lauded by many to have instilled the most orderly conduct of public and private affairs in Nigeria since independence in 1960. Even though Buhari's administration later became unpopular with the majority of Nigerians before it was ousted by the Babangida regime, Buhari, as head of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), demonstrated that his earlier commitment to discipline, especially in public office, was not just a fluke. PTF was a body created by the Abacha government to fund and pursue developmental projects around the country. Buhari’s transparent and efficient handling of the agency endeared him to Nigerians, forming the basis for his preference as presidential candidate of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2003 and 2007. Despite losing on both occasions to Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua respectively, he still maintains a role as a revered statesman and one of the pillars of opposition in the country.
The youngest ever head of state took over the reins of power when the nation was at the peak of its worst political crisis brought about by the coup and counter-coups of January and July 1966. The event showballed into a three-year civil war that had grounded economic activities to a halt. Despite this anomaly, he formed a government composed of brilliant the country personalities to lead Nigeria out of the dark. A fine gentleman with immense heroic exploits, his unflinching advocacy for one Nigeria saw him preside over the hadover of arms by the secessionist forces led by Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu and declared "No victor no vanquished" at the end of the war in January, 1970. Even in retirement, he continues clamouring for the reality of one Nigeria via comments and reigious gatherings, an effort his time as head of the Arewa Consultavie Forum ACF did not stall. The views his service as a national leader rather than, regional champion of interests. His intervention and that of alhaji Shehu Shagari during the executive - legislature fall-out of Obasanjo’s civilian government quelled the lingering discord between the Obasanjo-led executive and Anyim-Na’Abba-led legislature-another example in a long list of efforts that have attracted tags of liberal statesman and detrabilised Nigerian for Yakubu Gowon.
After the death of General Murtala Mohammed, he continued the industrialisation strategy which saw the emergence of the Nigerian middle class. A fearless leader, he was not afraid to push for an agrarian nation. He also nationalised British Petroleum's interests in Nigeria and threatened to boycott British imports. This forced Margaret Thatcher to relent and begin the process that led to free elections and majority rule in Zimbabwe. The Obasanjo government made a new constitution before handing over power to the democratically-elected government of President Shehu Shagari in 1979. Twenty years later his return to power as a civilian president saw ample time spent in repairing the country’s image via foreign trips around the world. Under Obasanjo the growth rate doubled to 6 per cent, helped in part by higher oil prices. Nigeria's foreign reserves also rose from $2 billion in 1999 to $43 billion on his leaving office in 2007. He was able to secure debt pardons from the Paris and London club amounting to some $18 billion and paid another $18 Billion for the nation to be debt free as most of these loans were secured and spent by past corrupt officials. His government also introduced the GSM sector by selling licenses to indepent operators through a transparent process. As president he won international praise for Nigeria’s role in peace-keeping missions, a factor that contributed to his recent appointment by the United Nations as its special envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a role he combines with his duties as an elder statesman in Nigerian politics.
Champions of Democracy & Governance
Chief Moshood Abiola was a successful businessman known for his philanthropy and passion for using his material endowments to try to ward off the misery and lack he said had dominated his origins. He entered the 1993 presidential race with that passion and was poised to win before the election was cancelled.
Though destiny took a stand against Abiola, history is full of kind judgements for him. The June 12, 1993 presidential election he was on the road to winning has been adjudged the freest and fairest the country has seen. He extensively exposed and exploded the myth of ethnic and religious inflexibility in Nigerian politics by leading a Muslim-Muslim ticket that most Nigerians took a fancy to.
With his international influence, Abiola made a push for reparation for black Africans for the injustices of slave trade. Though, he never succeeded in securing the recompense for his native Africa’s suffering, he has set in motion a process that will forever pressure the world to have a more reflective look on Africa and its travails. He was a philantrophist and sports financier.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi was a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and one of the most active and consistent human rights activists in Nigeria. He devoted much of his law practice to advocacy and attempts to expand the frontiers of freedom.
In 1994, Fawehinmi formed the National Conscience Party (NCP). Though, with little chances of winning elections in Nigeria’s money-obsessed political terrain, he succeeded in making vital statements against the injustices of the political system. In 2002, he led other opposition political parties in a legal struggle that culminated in the expansion of the political space, then restricted by the tough registration requirements of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A lover of social justice, Fawehinmi was conferred with the award of Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) long before he became SAN and he was the only Nigeria to be so honoured.
In the field of law, Fawehinmi remains a crucial reference point, with his Weekly Law Reports increasingly popular as one of the most important law texts in the country.
Former President Shehu Shagari is the first executive president of Nigeria under the current presidential system of government. He helped to form the first political party with the widest national reach in the post-independence era, National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Shagari won the 1979 presidential election on the NPN platform and tried to follow through the nationalistic character by promoting the party’s motto, “One Nation, One Destiny.”
He made housing, industries, transportation, and agriculture – the most critical needs of the country – the major thrust of his administration. Shagari’s government is remembered for building the popular “Shagari Estates,” completion of the Delta Steel complex, huge investment in the Ajaokuta Steel complex and the Steel rolling mills. He launched a robust roads construction drive across the country and initiated the “Green Revolution,” a scheme intended to ensure food security through promotion of mechanised agriculture to increase productivity.
Shagari developed strong social views about communal progress early in life. In 1946, he co-founded the Youth Social Circle, a political organisation dedicated to promoting awareness and development in his native Sokoto. This group merged with other organisations to form the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the platform through which Shagari went into politics in the late 1950s.
Professor Wole Soyinka, writer, poet and playwright, is winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, and the first African to win the coveted award. An avid believer in human freedoms, he is known for using his writings to advocate a humane social order where liberty and good governance reign supreme.
Soyinka has played an active part in the country’s political history. During the political turbulence of 1965 in the Western Region, he made spirited attempts to right the electoral wrongs that fuelled the crisis. Though, some of his steps were controversial, they nonetheless flowed from the pulse of society at the time and ultimately aimed to return society to the path of genuine democracy.
In 1967, during the civil war, Soyinka made vigorous effort to broker peace between Nigeria and its eastern parts, despite the obvious great cost to his life and liberty.
He is one of the most consistent voices of opposition to military dictatorship in the country. During the last military interregnum, he sponsored pro-democracy groups and led agitations to pressure the military into returning the country to civil rule. With that mission achieved in 1999, Soyinka has mounted a powerful campaign to condemn maladministration, wherever it is noticed, and promote the rule of law.
Obong Godswill Obot Akpabio, a lawyer, is the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom State, elected in 2007 on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Before becoming governor, he had been Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources.
Akpabio is admired for his transformative programmes in the state, especially in the areas of infrastructure and education. His free and compulsory education policy is celebrated in the state and his ambitious infrastructural projects, including the international airport project, are among achievements Akpabio is honoured for.
The governor is also famous for his prudent management of public resources, rare interest in completion of projects began by his predecessor, and team spirit in the administration of the state.
Muhammad Adamu Aliero, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was governor of Kebbi State from 1999 to 2007, when he was elected senator for Kebbi Central constituency. He occupied the senatorial seat from June 5, 2007 to December 18, 2008, when he was appointed minister by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Aliero, a former customs officer, brought his vast experience in public service, spanning over 26 years, to bear on the administration of the FCT. And it paid off in the efforts to make the FCT one of the best capital cities of the world. He is known for his keen devotion to the return of FCT to its original master plan.
Donald Duke, lawyer and two-term governor of Cross River State – 1999 to 2007 – is celebrated for his efforts to make the state a world tourism destination. He introduced the Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race and nurtured it to one of the most lucrative mountain running competitions in the world.
A firm believer in private-sector driven economy, Duke’s stewardship saw the setting of Cross River State on the path to becoming one of the most robust economies in the country. He made massive investments in the fields of agriculture, urban development, environment, information and communication, and tourism. He made Calabar, the state capital, the “cleanest city in Nigeria.”
Duke’s administration established the TINAPA project, taking advantage of the Free Trade Zone, to facilitate his government’s policy trust of making the Cross River State a world business and leisure destination. Projected to earn for the state about N3 billion annually, the TINAPA model remains till date the country’s most concrete preparation for the post-oil economy. Duke was by 1992 Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Planning in Cross River State. He was a member of the National Economic Intelligence Committee, the Federal Economic Council, and Federal Capital Budget Monitoring Committee.
Nasir el-Rufai was a member of the presidential transition team in 1998 that shepherded the political class towards the start of the Fourth Republic. Dismayed by the quality of leadership in the country, he was devoted to the achievement of change in the conduct of public affairs. Thus, during his involvement with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight years administration, el-Rufai embarked on many programmes, which, though hurting in some ways, ultimately sought to return sanity to public service in the country. He led the privatisation of many government-owned companies, one of the hottest topics during the Obasanjo government. El-Rufai was also Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises during the Obasanjo administration. Appointed FCT minister in 2003, el-Rufai launched an extensive demolition and reconstruction programme aimed at retuning order to what he called “a situation of chaos” that the federal capital was turning into.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola was the only governor returned on the platform of Action Congress (AC) after the 2007 general elections. One of the few remaining opposition lights in the country, Fashola is admired in Nigeria and beyond for his pragmatic effort to give the pulsating metropolis of over 15 million people that is Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre a facelift and return it to orderliness.
Fashola’s government is popular for its massive infrastructural development drive that has seen the construction and reconstruction of many roads, schools, and hospitals as well as provision of electricity in various parts of the state. The Eko Mega City Project is a grand, visionary programme of the Fashola government aimed at transforming Lagos into a mega city through vigorous public-private sector partnership. Though, initiated by his predecessor, Bola Tinubu, the project has received the greatest acceleration under Fashola’s stewardship. The project involves the reconstruction and expansion of Lagos infrastructure and districts.
Under the programme, there is a transport development plan captured in the Lagos Rail Mass Transit project, which includes the building of light railways and expansion of the Badagry Expressway that links Lagos directly to the south-eastern border of Benin Republic to a 10-lane dual carriageway. The Eko Atlantic City project, planned for development on reclaimed lands at Victoria Island, is another visionary plan of the Fashola government meant to support the accommodation of Lagos inhabitants, estimated to grow up to 25 million by 2015.
Senate President David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, a first-time senator, represents Benue South senatorial district of Benue State. He had been governor and communications minister under the last military regimes.
For all intents and purposes, Mark is the hero of the latest political solution to the constitutional crisis engendered by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s medical trip. His “doctrine of necessity” has become popular in the country’s political lexicon as a pragmatic new strategy in the continuing effort to resolve the Nigerian question.
Former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, no doubt, played a significantly remarkable role during the transformational period in the Nigerian politics. The period was between 2006 and 2007, shortly before the last general election. The issue at the time was third term agenda by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Sadly, the controversy that followed up had brought down virtually all systemic political values. And the only hope at that time, perhaps, was the National Assembly. Thus, Nnamani, as the head of that arm of government, defined the moment and saved the country from the slide into precipice. Quite naturally, this presented him as a “great” man who caused a major change in his society at a crucial moment.
As the third ranking elected Nigerian politician at the time, Nnamani’s role could not have been over-emphasised. Besides, his position as Senate President barely had much to do with his personality or qualifications but his handling of the situation that confronted him and the nation at the time.
As Nigeria’s first female Finance and Foreign Affairs Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was an active player in decision making during the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. As a member of the kitchen cabinet that determined the economic fate of the country, Okonjo-Iweala’s era was equally significant.
During her tenure, particularly as Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala combated corruption, made Nigeria's finances more transparent, and instituted reforms that made the nation's economy more investment friendly. The Nigerian government at the time unlinked its budget from the price of oil- her main export, to lessen perennial cash-flow crises. She also attacked corruption with a view to making the country more desirable for job creation.
More significantly was her role in Nigeria’s external debt cancellation. This has remained one of Nigeria’s notable achievements during the days of Obasanjo. Today, she is a managing director with the World Bank and head, Makeda Fund. She is working for change in Africa.
Governor of Edo State and former President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was noted for his disdain for incessant, yet obnoxious increase in oil prices in the country. For the period he served as NLC President between 1999 and 2003, his activities raised the profile of the NLC well beyond the labour movement. He broadened the scope of activities of the labour union.
Oshiomhole was dreaded by the Nigerian leadership as he would not negotiate less for the mass of the Nigerian people. This naturally endeared him to the people but pitched him against the leadership. He took certain decisions at great cost and risk, some of which resulted in his incarceration. Sometimes, he would have to defy court orders to wrestle with the Nigerian leadership against bad policies that are inimical to the interest of the generality of the people.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu is the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The role he played in cleaning up the image of Nigeria was a handful. Although, to some, it was loathsome, his achievements are however believed to have changed the course of the country significantly.
Ribadu was a key member of the Economic Management Team that conceptualised and navigated the different public sectors reforms agenda from 2003 to 2008. That team laid the foundations for the socio-economic rejuvenation of Nigeria.
Beyond this, some of Ribadu’s achievements in EFCC include the delisting of Nigeria from the FATF List of Non-Cooperative Countries & Territories; admission of Nigeria into the prestigious Egmont Group and the withdrawal of the US Treasury advisory on Nigeria by the FINCEN which helped make the EFCC a reference Law Enforcement Agency on the continent. Besides, the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of some of Nigeria’s supposed untouchable politicians and businessmen earned him the reputation of being a respected anti-corruption crusader in the world.
He was former Managing Director of First Bank Nigeria Plc. Today, he calls the shot as the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria. Within months of assuming office, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has shown the stuff he is made of.
In a move indicative of a major shake-up, Sanusi has tightened up the financial sector with calls for stricter regulation, more transparency and accountability. He is also willing to allow more foreign banks to take controlling stakes in Nigerian institutions. The United States' Citibank's profitable stake in Citi Bank of Nigeria is one of the few locally incorporated financial institutions in which foreign investors have majority stake.
Sanusi, it was who forced out some bank chiefs for flouting Central Bank rules. His criticism of poor management has therefore propelled many bank executives to campaign against his appointment. But he has changed the face of banking in the country as insiders abuse may have become a thing of the past.
Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State is the chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, a platform through which governors of the federation meet to pursue common interest affecting the country as an entity. Apart from the fact that Saraki has used his chairmanship of the forum to further the cause of nation building, his exploit in Kwara as a two-term governor has also created a big challenge for his prospective successor in office.
Specifically, Saraki’s approach to agriculture is today a reference point in the country. With the introduction of Zimbabwean farmers who have since changed the face of farming in the country, agriculture has remained a major area of concentration for every government and a yard-stick through which the functionality of any state is now measured, put differently, critical infrastructure. He has made Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, one of the cleanest and most modern state capitals in Nigeria.
Professor Chukwuma Soludo was the immediate past Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria. As an appointee of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Soludo was also a member of Obasanjo’s economic team as well as his kitchen cabinet.
With such radical initiatives like bank consolidation and redenomination of the naira (which was later turned down), Soludo kicked off a reform agenda that was sure going to place the Nigerian banking system on a stable operational platform. Today, the whiff of stability enjoyed in the banking sector is a fall-out of the reforms instituted by Soludo and which is now being leveraged on since he left office. As a resounding professor of economics, undoubtedly of world class; Soludo has contributed immensely- his intellectual credentials to the development of the nation’s growing economy.
Former Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State is today regarded as the face of New Lagos. He earned this title because of where he met Lagos in 1999 and the point he left it in 2007 after eight years as governor. His days as governor were remarkable in many ways.
But worthy of note was his opposition to the government of Obasanjo, a situation that provided the needed platform for constructive criticism to the government in power at the centre such that kept it on its toes. Coming at a time opposition was practically nil in the country, Tinubu’s Lagos stood its ground and fought a just course even though it had to pay dearly for it. His choice of a solid technocrat as his successor also portrays him as a visionary.
Udoma Udo Udoma
A well accomplished Nigerian, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma; chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was Senate Chief Whip where he represented the people of Akwa Ibom State.
He is presently a director of the UAC. A man of few words, this unassuming senator speaks only when it is practically unavoidable. This was why his position on the failed third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo carried as much weight.
“I have said it elsewhere that I am not convinced that President Obasanjo wants a third term, as much as to use the entire process as a clever political ruse to upend some aspirants. I have not changed my mind, even though everyday occurrence related to this issue seems bent on proving me to have been infinitely wrong. But the din of the opposition is on the rise. In time, it will be clear if the president really wants to throw caution to the wind and place Nigeria in harm’s way by seeking a third term.” The position of people like him made all the difference in the death of third term.
As Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has such natural challenges that come with steering affairs of an oil producing state. But his establishment of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) as a starting point was a welcome development. It was therefore not surprising the role he played in the Amnesty-deal of the Federal Government- an initiative put together with a view to finding lasting solution to the problems of the Niger Delta.
Because of the place of Delta in national polity, majority of Uduaghan’s achievements are seen as having a spiralling effect on the country. For instance, the governor now organises the state back into a huge investment house capable of creating wealth, generating massive employment and reducing the poverty index.
He has built bridges across social and ethnic divides in the state and systematically brought together, all the dissenting voices and by implication, formed one of the most cohesive networks among the people of Delta state. And since peace in the creeks means a lot to the country, Uduaghan has played a major role in ensuring peace in Nigeria.
Business Leaders, Entrepreneurs and Corporate Champions
Mike Adenuga Jnr and Globacom
Although, Globacom did not commence operations as a GSM service provider in Nigeria until August 29, 2003, the company privately owned by the business mogul, Dr. Mike Adenuga has indisputably left an indelible mark in the nation’s telecommunications industry.
Today, the company operates in four countries in West Africa namely Nigeria , Republic of Benin , Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and as of June 2009, the company has employed more than 2,500 people worldwide. GLO has an estimated 25 million subscribers and the company has the reputation of being one of the fastest growing multi-national carriers in the world.
To demonstrate its uniqueness as the first wholly indigenously-owned telecommunication company, Globacom put a lie to the claims of other operators, who had argued that the introduction of per second billings was not feasible as at 2003 when Globacom came to the scene.
The company took the plunge by charging its subscribers per minute, a rare feat which compelled other operators to follow suit.
Globacom has also gone down the history book as the first company to build an $800 million high-capacity fibre-optic cable known as Glo-1. It is the first successful submarine cable from the United Kingdom to Nigeria; and it has the potential to decrease telecommunications cost and provide excess bandwidth to all the countries connected to the cable. Globacom is however the manifestation of one man with foresight, Otunba Mike Adenuga junior who is the company’s vision. Adenuga is also the chairman of Conoil and Director Equitorial Trust Bank.
The company, in its contribution to the development of the telecommunications market in Nigeria has also introduced an array of products, which market watchers said, have continued to put other operators on their toes.