The Person of the Year and Seven Other Prominent Figures of 2018


PeoplePolitics and Policy

Simply because it was the eve of an election year, 2018 was bound to be chaotic, and it was.

Literally from the first day, there was trouble. Anger became a running theme among many members of the population as familiar headaches surfaced. In 2018, Nigerians wailed more about herdsmen-farmers conflicts than ever before thanks to a spree of killings which, added to those of previous years, now means Boko Haram is not the deadliest threat in the country.

There were other familiar problems: abductions and police brutality, to name two. But the year also provided positive moments from constitutional tweaks to momentous victories at the courts for human dignity and anti-corruption.

From the events of the year, good and bad, certain individuals and groups rose to more prominence and influence. Below are eight of them here in no particular order, except the last who is 2018’s Person of the Year:

Segun Awosanya

2018 was not the birth of “Dear @segalink” as a necessary accompaniment for amplifying complaints about the Nigeria Police on social media (especially Twitter). But the rate at which it became more common and efficacious is both worrying and impressive.

Awosanya, the forty-two year old realtor and lawyer, became a direct line of engagement for citizens to voice frustrations against the excesses of law enforcement agencies in Nigeria. He was called upon more than anyone else to add his voice and influence to cases of unlawful detention. ‘Sega’ was, more often than not, responsive to most requests, eventually forging a relationship with the Police.

More or less of Dear @segalink in 2019?

Monica Osagie

For the trouble that could have come with it, Monica Osagie could have chosen to not give in to the demands of her lecturer and still not report him. There were safer options than risking death threats to go public on CNN with her allegations. Demands for sex as a condition for marks is quite common in Nigerian universities so what was the guarantee that she would be believed?

Well, she was. And if any other students, female and male, should face similar situations and are able to prove with evidence like she did, it could be the end of such occurrences on campuses across the country. For Good.

The Technovation Champions

How did a group of girls who had never sent an email before learn to code within a short time, creating an app that could detect fake drugs?

The story of ‘Team Save-a-Soul‘, the five secondary school girls from Onitsha who won the 2018 Technovation challenge in August was a true bright light in a dark year for girl child education in Nigeria. Under the guidance of Uche Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, the founder of Edufun Technik STEM Center, the quintet graced a global stage and showed an important side of Nigeria: that girls are just as capable of high intellectual strides when the environment is conducive to innovation and learning.

Abdulaziz Abdulaziz

President Buhari has not shuffled his cabinet since constituting it in November 2015. Departures have been either due to resignations to take foreign jobs as Amina Mohammed did, unfortunate incidents like the death of Jame Ocholi, seeking political office like Kayode Fayemi or (frankly the most bizzare) taking up a second-class traditional leadership role in the case of Ibrahim Jubril.

But at least one has resigned in shame: Kemi Adeosun. Though it was not necessarily about her performance as Minister of Finance, the piece of investigative journalism which revealed Adeosun had obtained a false NYSC certificate was an exemplary act of social accountability. That it came from a journalist working for a local publication, Premium Times, makes it more important given the prevalence of reluctance to believe revelations that do not emanate from the BBC or CNN.

Premium Times still has a running clock against another Minister on Buhari’s cabinet, though the man in question has found loopholes to keep himself from the kind of scrutiny the erstwhile Finance Minister faced. She has fled the country, supposedly to return only after our consciousness of her fades.

Ladies Justice: Adebukola Banjoko and Maureen Onyekenu

If Abdulaziz takes credit for sending Adeosun into hiding, Justice Adebukola Banjoko did probably more by sending two former Governors to prison for corruption.

In two judgements within two weeks, Justice Banjoko, now Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, handed a total of 28 years to both Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye. The former got a reduced sentence and an a fine in November, but Banjoko is one good name to associate with anti-corruption at the moment.

Similar credit goes to Justice Maureen Onyekenu, choosing to set an example out of the OAU sex-for-marks case by wielding the full force of the gavel on Prof Richard Akindele. Justice Onyekenu declined to let Akindele off with community service or any terms of a plea deal to which his accuser, Monica Osagie, had agreed.

There are parallels between her insistence on sending him to jail and the Judge who handled the sensational case involving the serial US gymnastics athletes abuser Larry Nassar this year. Knowing how much justice needs to be served on more Akindeles in Nigeria, Justice Onyekenu’s precedent can be a watershed moment.

Samson Itodo and Not Too Young To Run Campaigners

A 35-year old is unlikely going to become Nigeria’s president by May 2019 but Chike Ukaegbu can legitimately hope to topple Buhari in February. Thanks to the Not Too Young To Run campaign spearheaded by Samson Itodo, the 2018 Future Award Young Person of the Year, such dreams are now valid.

The effect of what Itodo and co achieved will be felt at lower levels in state Houses of Assembly and Representatives elections where young people in their mid-twenties are seeking to shake some establishment tables. 2018 Person of the Year: Leah Sharibu

This is our saddest Christmas” says a headline describing the mood at the Sharibus’ this season. A notable absence there is Leah who was abducted with over hundred other girls from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State on February 19.

The others have been returned except Leah, more than 300 days after. On May 15, she turned fifteen, spending the day among terrorists. After Chibok in 2014, it was infuriating that school girls would, again, be abducted in Nigeria. But it happened.

Despite much bluster about conquering and defeating Boko Haram, the continued captivity of Leah and other abducted persons stand against any victory laps.

She’s Nigeria’s out-of-school child and the girl child starved of education. She is the Nigerian leader of tomorrow hostage to the decisions of failed leaders of today and yesterday. Her captivity is proof of the vulnerability of the weakest and defenseless amongst us, and until she and other captives are free, the promise of the National Anthem’s last sentence – the last two words especially – cannot be secure, or believable.

Honourable Mentions

Kemi Adetiba

For the thriller ‘King Boys’, grossing over N200 million from screenings across the country. Adetiba is standing out for meticulous attention to detail in her visual storytelling whether in film, music videos or documentaries. The Nigerian entertainment industry will be more competitive with more of her works.

Ahmed Musa

For becoming Nigeria’s all-time highest goal scorer in FIFA World Cups, after two sensational goals against Iceland in June. Even if he doesn’t win much else with the Super Eagles, the vice captain has his place in Nigerian Footballing history.

Deji Adeyanju

This list contains much praise for the Judiciary but Adeyanju’s detention is perhaps one of the lows of 2018 for that arm of government. Political motivations can be the only reason a magistrate court could sit and decide a case after release has been ordered by a higher court of competent jurisdiction.

Adeyanju, for his controversies, is now perceived a “prisoner of conscience”, an appellation that normally comes up during the administration of dictatorships.

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