The most influential Nigerians of 2021 [Pulse Picks 2021]

In no particular order, here are the most influential Nigerians of 2021…

On November 1, 2021, Nigerian epidemiologist, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, took up the role of Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in charge of health emergency intelligence, after midwifing and overseeing Nigeria’s COVID-19 response.

With over 20 years of senior public health and leadership positions in several national public health institutes under his belt, Ihekweazu was the calming, enlightening presence as governments and a weary public battled the novel coronavirus back home.

It is little wonder that he has been summoned to peddle his expertise and experience on a global scale.

Their job was a simple, yet difficult one: days after government and government operatives were accused of masterminding a massacre at the Lekki tollgate in October of 2020, the same government commissioned them to unearth the truth and tender recommendations.

On Monday, November 15, 2021, the 8-member Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel submitted a scathing report that indicted the state and federal governments, ruling that what transpired at the Lekki tollgate, as young, unarmed protesters marched against police brutality, was a “massacre in context.”

The panel also leaked its report to the public before the Lagos state government could settle on the details of a white paper, effectively pulling the rug from underneath the government’s feet.

Panels of inquiry set up by governments seldom deliver verdicts in the public interest. The Lagos #EndSARS panel was however remarkably different–a departure from the norm. They managed to deliver at a time most young people had given up all hopes of justice.

They understood the assignment.

In February of 2021, 66-year-old Okonjo-Iweala was crowned as Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after some intense politicking involving world powers.

She has since settled nicely into her role, campaigning for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines here and leading negotiations on fishing subsidies there.

A former minister in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala has put the health and economy of Africa and Nigeria at the heart of her agenda at the WTO.

It is little wonder that Time Magazine also named her as one of the most influential global personalities in the year under review.

Former Lagos State Governor, Brigadier General (retd) Mohammed Buba Marwa, has been tasked with curbing the drug menace–especially among young people–in Africa’s most populous nation of Nigeria.

And he’s taken to the task with single-minded determination and an unprecedented clarity in these parts.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) looks completely reborn on Marwa’s watch and the cartels have been scurrying into hiding as NDLEA officials comb the country.

In March, Marwa mandated top officials of the NDLEA to undergo drug tests before going after those ruining young lives with banned substances–a move that further underscores his leadership nous, acumen and influence.

“We cannot be asking others to undergo drug tests without submitting ourselves for the same. Coming out clean and negative gives us the moral authority to conduct the test on others.

“The essence of also taking everyone by surprise and inviting external medical personnel to conduct the test is to further strengthen the validity of the exercise,” the drug czar stated.

5..Nigeria’s tech ecosystem

Never before have young Nigerians been this keen on joining the nation’s burgeoning tech ecosystem, as attention rapidly shifts from the country’s mainstay of crude oil.

The success stories and big money moves of tech start-ups like Paystack, Flutterwave, Patricia, Andela, Bamboo, Piggyvest, MainOne and MoniePoint, among others, is motivating and influencing thousands of young Nigerians to flock to an ecosystem that requires all the creativity, innovation and energy it can get.

These days, Nigeria’s social media users have fondly nicknamed techpreneurs “tech bros” to underline their contributions to the nation’s swivelling economy.

The Rivers State Governor is arguably the best fighter the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) have got within their ranks.

Wike has rejected all advances from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), and he remains as combative and outspoken about his party’s chances in the next elections as ever.

There is a lot to be said about his style and the substance beneath some of his utterances, but Wike continues to influence our political landscape periodically in ways even he may not have envisaged.

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