By Osho Samuel
1. Obiageli Ezekwesili
Ezekwesili is a Nigerian chartered accountant, a co-founder of global anti-corruption body, Transparency International, former Vice-President of the World Bank and two-time minister during the second-term Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. This year she was keynote speaker at the APC Convention where she delivered strong remarks that shook some of the party leaders. But the main reason she featured strongly in the news this year was as the most vocal co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign which grabbed the attention of the world in 2014.
On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram raided Chibok in Borno State and kidnapped more than 234 students from their school. As the FG began to first deny the incident and then drag its foot, Ezekwesili and her team swung into action with social media activism and street protests in Abuja and Lagos. Soon the eyes of the world were on Nigeria.
Ezekwesili’s sacrifice for the campaign was remarkable. For several months, she spoke about nothing else but the girls and their plight. She granted hundreds of interview and her social media engagement was consistently about the kidnapped girls. Even as the politics season began in earnest, Ezekwesili refrained from making any political statements else the campaign be adjudged as political.
Despite criticisms and attacks from the federal government physically, online and through hired hands like the US PR firm, Levick, Ezekwesili ensured that the campaigners conducted themselves with decorum and kept their eyes on the ball. On July 21, 2014, Madam Due Process as she is popularly called was arrested by security agents at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on her way to a scheduled #BringBackOurGirls engagement in London and her travelling documents withheld. She was later released and allowed to go for her function. One of the enduring pictures of the movement was Ezekwesili sitting all alone on the grass at the Unity Fountain in defiance against the authorities who demanded that the group disperses. Her courage strengthened the other members of the group.
259 days after the girls were kidnapped, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has not relented in its efforts to sustain the pressure even as most Nigerians have lost hope.
2. Aminu Tambuwal
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, enjoys such support from his colleagues that even when he began to separate himself from his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and entering into the embrace of of the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), his position never seemed to be in doubt. Then on October 24, he formally defected.
Even though the ruling party saw it coming with his body language which showed a soft spot for the opposition party before and especially after his state governor joined the APC, and even though it became glaring when he started castigating the actions of PDP and criticizing the Presidency in the Public, the decamping still left the ruling party confused on the right action to take.
There are many who argue that Tambuwal should have resigned as speaker the moment he chose to leave the party on whose platform he got the office. That is a moral argument however as he is not constitutionally obliged to do so.
Anyway, the police IG withdrew Tambuwal’s security details and there were moves to impeach him but the numbers just were not there. On November 20, 2014 there was upheaval at the National Assembly complex as policemen and State Security Services (SSS) denied Hon. Tambuwal access into the legislative chamber. After a heated protest by lawmakers amid smog of teargas, he was allowed in and a handful of lawmakers resorted to climbing the gates of the complex.
Despite the political storm caused by Tambuwal, he won the APC gubernatorial ticket for Sokoto State.
3. Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh
The senior Nigerian Air Force officer was appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff on January 16, 2014 at a time when the war against insurgents in the North East was ravaging the land. Badeh hails from Adamawa State; one of the states feeling the brunt of the terrorists. In fact in 2014, Mubi, his hometown, was captured by the terrorists.
A dramatic scene in the struggle to stop the sect occurred on October 17, 2014 when after a three-day security meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon, Badeh announced that a ceasefire agreement has been reached by the Nigerian Army and Boko Haram. Events after the declaration actually showed that Badeh had been fooled as Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, denied ever agreeing to a ceasefire. On November 5, 2014, the Deputy Governor of Borno State, Zanna Mustapha disclosed that 13 local governments in Borno, three in Adamawa and others in Yobe were under the control of Boko Haram. There has been a lot of complaints about the efficiency of the Nigerian Army in battling Boko Haram as it was reported that majority of the soldiers fled from the battlefront due to lack of arms and ammunition.
However there were times when the Nigerian military gave us reasons to be proud as they recorded some stunning victories as well. But in all, Nigeria’s will be hoping that Badeh’s leadership will yield more fruits in the coming year.
4. Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh
The Nigerian physician wrote her name in gold as she displayed the kind of courage rare in these parts which was enough to save Nigeria from the fangs of an imminent epidemic. The Liberian-American man, Patrick Sawyer came into Nigeria on July 20, 2014 and was admitted as a patient at the First Consultants Medical Centre until he was diagnosed of Ebola Virus Disease. Adadevoh, an endocrinologist who was a lead consultant at First Consultants Medical Centre, Obalende, Lagos came in contact with Sawyer. who died on July 25, 2014 while under treatment and quarantine. There were pressures from influential Nigerian friends of Sawyer and also from the Liberian Embassy officials in Lagos to forcefully discharge him from the hospital but Adadevoh stood her ground, insisting that Sawyer would not be allowed to move through Lagos after he was diagnosed to be a carrier of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). This uncompromising attitude of a passionate health worker mitigated the outbreak of the disease.
In the process of rescuing the lives of many, she lost her life as she got infected and died on August 19, 2014. On October 21, 2014, Nigeria was declared an Ebola-free nation by World Health Organization (WHO) after reporting 20 cases with 8 deaths. As a result of her heroics, she won several posthumous awards, including being nominated on December 11, 2014 was among the 2014 TIME Magazine Persons of the Year.
5. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
As Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Okonjo-Iweala was at the forefront of creation and implementation of economic policies for the nation. Under her watch, Nigeria emerged as Africa’s largest economy surpassing South Africa. Nigeria moved 12 places up to become the 24th largest economy in the world at par with Belgium and Poland and ahead of Argentina, Austria and Iran. This evaluation was made possible after Nigeria recalculated its GDP for the first time since 1990.
However in 2014, the value of the naira crashed against the major world currencies and the nation struggled to meet some of its obligations as a result of the drop in oil prices. These issues are expected to carry over into 2015, in which case Okonjo-Iweala will have a huge task on her hands stabilising the economy in an election year.
6. Prof. Attahiru Muhammadu Jega
The astute intellectual was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan as the Chairman of the Independent National Elelctoral Commission (INEC) on June 8, 2010 as replacement for the discredited former chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu. The forthcoming elections will be the second nationwide test for Jega after doing a good job with the handling of the 2011 general elections.
There are mixed signals concerning INEC’s readiness to do a good job. On the one hand, the distribution of permanent voters card (PVC) and continuous voters registration (CVR) have been bedevilled with several issues, raising fears that some people will be disenfranchised as a result. However, INEC largely passed two tests placed on its path in 2014 with the successful conduct of two gubernatorial elections in 2014. On June 22, 2014, Mr. Ayodele Fayose of PDP defeated the incumbent governor of Ekiti, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and on August 9, 2014, Osun State gubernatorial election was conducted in which APC candidate; Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola emerged as the winner. Both elections were widely adjudged to be peaceful and transparent.
7. Abubakar Shekau
The leader of the deadly Boko Haram sect is no doubt the most wanted man in Nigeria after orchestrating several attacks against the people of Nigeria and even Cameroun. Shekau was allegedly killed by the Nigerian Army during the Battle of Kondunga which was between September 12 and September 14, 2014. However, he ‘resurrected’ and debunked the story in a video he released on October 5, 2014.
It was reported that Boko Haram killed more than 5000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014 including at least 2000 in the first half of the year 2014. In a study done by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Boko Haram killed 801 people in 30 attacks in just one month of the year 2014. Notable among the attacks were Chibok girls kidnapping and Nyanya bombing with both occurring on April 14, 2014. The ongoing spate of attacks stimulated the state of emergency rule which was enforced in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa States. In the year 2014, they had no fewer than 35 attacks resulting to thousands of deaths and injuries to both civilians and soldiers.
Shekau, the man who seems to have seven lives, has been declared wanted by the U.S. Department of State and the Nigerian Army. A whooping sum of 7m USD plus N50m awaits anyone who has accurate information leading to Shekau’s capture.