21 FACES TO WATCH IN 2021

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Our Reporters

With 2021 already in its third day, certain individuals, by virtue of their current standing, aspirations or projections, look set to define how the year would ultimately turn out for the country. These individuals, apart from the influence they wield and their capacity to cause changes in certain areas of the body politic, the followership they enjoy, as well as their network of contacts, have also made their places inevitable in the new year.

Those identified in this report are just a few of the persons who would ultimately sculpt the new year and define its bearing, but they seem ready to be constant and present at every turn as the year runs through its many curves.
From politics to economy, art and entertainment, these individuals have left imprints in the previous year, which make their role in the new year clearly inevitable.
The actions or inactions of these 21 people is likely going to affect you, for good or for bad in this 2021.

Muhammadu Buhari

Naturally, everything revolves around the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. Either by choice or default, he is a regular face to watch out for this new year as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The president has been under intense pressure from different parts of the country and for many reasons, but chiefly issues bordering on leadership and good governance. While some stakeholders have continued to ask him to rejig the nation’s security architecture to enable the government contain growing insecurity, many have called for restructuring to address some of the imbalances in the country.
Of course, the president has yet to address these demands. With the new year just taking off, it is almost certain that the pressures would intensify. Not to forget, the youth are watching and waiting for the promises made during the EndSARS protests around the country to be fulfilled.

Terrorism Still an Issue

Despite official narrative that the Nigerian military has maintained a technical victory over the terrorists in the country, the situation on the battlefield suggests otherwise. The insurgents have continued to launch unceasing attacks.
The infamous Boko Haram terrorist group has also continued to be an issue in the body politic, especially with the recent kidnap and subsequent release of the Kankara schoolboys in Katsina, hometown of the president. With the state of insecurity in the country, it is almost certain that not much, perhaps, would be different this year.

Yemi Osinbajo

As the number two citizen, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo occupies an office that puts him out there for attention. Although he was not engaged as much as many had envisaged in the year that just ended, it appears he is going to be very much in force in 2021, courtesy of his principal.
Suffice it to say that the vice president had gone a bit quiet immediately after the 2019 elections and not so much was conceded to him last year in terms of responsibility, even though he made fleeting appearances at different times.
But this year, there are strong indications that the vice president might be productively re-engaged in view of the many challenges that currently beset the government.

Chikwe Ihekweazu

As the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine gathers momentum in 2021, Nigerians would be looking up to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure that the country gets the vaccine at the appropriate time.
The Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, and other officials of this government, whose agencies were largely unknown until the outbreak of the deadly virus in the country, played a key role in limiting the spread of the disease.
The general expectation is that an early arrival of the vaccine in the country would help in managing the challenges associated with the vaccine, which ultimately would lead to the removal of restrictions in movement and other activities.

Bola Tinubu

Former Lagos State governor and one of the national leaders of the ruling APC, Bola Tinubu, is beginning to come out strong with his intended presidential bid. No doubt, the clock is ticking for that critical decision, whether to run or not. But if early signals are anything to go by, 2021 is the year things will rev up his presidential ambition.
Tinubu had earlier denied sponsoring those promulgating his presidential ambition. But with the calibre of those in the South West Agenda (SWAGA) now selling his candidacy around the country, it is evident the politician has given nod to their move in expectation that power would shift to the zone.
0Tinubu is also going round the country in disguise. It is evident that he would pay serious attention to his presidential bid, which is billed to grow stronger in the new year.

Kayode Fayemi

Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has grown in stature, both on the political front and in name recognition. Heightening this is his rumoured presidential ambition, which makes him an active player in 2021.
For the better part of last year, Fayemi was the issue. Not only have his own people begun to project the possibility of his presidential bid, supporters of the ambition of Tinubu also see him as a major factor that could stand in the way of the latter’s ambition.
Typically, Fayemi is unlikely to say anything or respond to anyone, what is certain, however, is that the presidential talks around him will begin to assume a bigger dimension.

Mai Mala Buni

The Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, is also the National Chairman, Caretaker Committee of the ruling APC. This position ordinarily confers a lot of responsibility and attention on him.
With the tenure of his committee recently extended while the party is expected to hold a national convention later in the year, Buni is a major factor in the new year. He would be active, definitely.
Although Buni’s position has earned him enemies both within the ruling APC and the opposition PDP, he has tried to look away while making peace with some of the aggrieved persons in the party.

Willy Obiano

Anambra State Governor, Chief Willy Obiano, is unlikely to face any serious governance this year, as succession battle stares him in the face. He would be completing his two terms of eight years this year and coming from a minority party, there’s no debating the fact that the battle to succeed him would start early and it would be fierce.
0In Anambra State, the battle to succeed Obiano would naturally elicit and open up old rivalries. The ruling APGA would be trying to retain the state while both the APC and the PDP would also make effort to outrun APGA, the Anambra election offers an interesting year.

Godwin Emefiele

At a time the country is impressively managing its second recession amid a pandemic, the place of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, needs no debate. With monetary policies defining the different strata of the economy, Emefiele is a force in 2021.
The tone of monetary policy from the Emefiele-led CBN would definitely play a crucial role in defining the direction of the economy in 2021.
Already, the biting economic recession is impacting negatively on households and firms, making it difficult for them to meet basic needs in an economy battling high rate of poverty.

All eyes would be on the CBN this year to roll out ammunitions needed to combat the economic downturn in order to return the economic to the path of growth.
Emefiele, recently assured Nigerians that just like policymakers did in 2016, when the economy slipped into recession, the fiscal and monetary policy managers would join forces to address the present economic challenge. Consequently, Emefiele said emphasis would be placed on strengthening the development finance initiatives of the CBN in order to stimulate greater production and reduce unemployment.
In order to reflate the economy, the CBN recently raised its COVID-19 targeted facility to households and firms from N150 billion to N300 billion in order to accommodate more Nigerians.

Zainab-Ahmed

As the Minister of Finance, Dr (Mrs) Zainab Ahmed holds the key to lifting Nigeria from recession. A lot will depend on her actions.
She will have to push through difficult reforms that are needed to return the nation”s economy to growth.
She will have to build on her deft management of economic policies which earned her the African Finance Minister of the Year.
Already she is engaging strategic international partners to help the country navigate an extremely challenging economic environment. She is one of those who will impact our lives in 2021.

Aliko Dangote

The Dangote oil and gas refinery, which is expected to become operational this year, will be a game changer for Nigeria. Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, had assured Nigerians that despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the refinery would be inaugurated this year.

The refinery is expected to address Nigeria’s perennial problem of fuel importation as well as enhance the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Nigeria currently has very limited refining capacity and imports a significant amount of refined petroleum consumed in the country.
The Executive Director, Strategy, Capital Projects and Portfolio Development, Dangote Group, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, had said: “Our focus is to sell it in any part of the world. I am ready for all the markets. The volume is so large, obviously, I can meet the requirements of all the products of Nigeria and I’ll still have surplus to export.”

Abdul Samad Rabiu

The BUA Group, which has continued to add value to the Nigerian economy, is another organisation to watch in 2021. BUA Cement recently signed an agreement with Sinoma CBMI of China for the construction of three new cement plants of three million tonnes each per annum in Edo, Sokoto and Adamawa states.
The nine million tonnes combined capacity expansion project, estimated to cost about $1.05billion, will create job opportunities for young Nigerians in these three states.

Upon completion, it will bring BUA Cement’s total capacity to 20 million metric tonnes. The project is the single largest contract ever awarded in the Nigerian cement industry for the construction of new cement plants at the same time and by a single company.
These three new plants are in addition to BUA Cement’s already existing six mmt pa plants in Edo State, three mmtpa plants in Sokoto State, and another three mmtpa BUA Cement plant in Adamawa, which will be inaugurated in the second quarter of 2021.
Chairman of BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu, said the expansion decision was to transform the manufacturing industry and increase Nigeria’s cement production capacity.

Nyesom Wike

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, is technically the leader of the main opposition PDP and he is not playing it calm. Somewhat brash and pugnacious, he would certainly play things up in this new year.
Importantly, there are hints already that Wike might be interested in the country’s presidency. He is also allegedly looking in the direction of a certain northern colleague, with whom he had always wanted to be president.
Either on the choice of candidate or the likelihood of zoning the presidency, Wike is one force that would not be pushed aside. With his role in the emergence of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, Wike has claimed his spot in 2021 and on merit.

Babagana Zulum

Professor Babagana Zulum is the Governor of Borno State. Unfortunately, he has consistently been in the news for the unpleasant reason: growing insecurity in the North. And with the tide of attacks not subsiding, he is by every consideration a face to reckon with in the new year.
Last year, Zulum was attacked about four times by armed groups suspected to be terrorists. Indeed, with the frequency of the attacks, Zulum almost insinuated that the military was behind some of the attacks against him, which led to the loss of some men.
However, while the governor slowed down a bit towards the end of last year in his confrontation with the federal government, there are no indications that his plight and those of his people would change anytime soon. Zulum would continue to be in the news.

Nasir El-Rufai

The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, is by disposition a media delight. And with his constant position on power shift and the 2023 general election, this year offers him more opportunity to further assert and position himself. It is not an error to put him on the 2021 watch list.
0El-Rufai had said at different times that it was inconceivable to imagine the North retaining power in 2023 after Buhari’s eight years, even though some of his utterances had been interpreted to mean he was positioning himself ahead of 2023.
0However, while he is already being paired with two of the likely contenders from the South – South-west and South-south – El-Rufai has yet to state what his plans are. But the suspicions alone are strong enough to keep him in reckoning.

Aisha Yesufu

Feminist and rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, was in her best for the better part of last year and so, there’s a carryover effect of many of her feats into the new year. With her role in the #EndSARS protests, she promises to be very much around this new year.
This is particularly so because she has not limited her intervention to any particular consideration but intervenes in all issues, given their importance to the polity and humanity in general.
She not only attacks governments, but also often goes after individuals and institutions anytime they step out of line. Her recent intervention in the matter of Don Davis Archibong, an 11-year-old, who was allegedly molested at Deeper Life High School, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Burna Boy

Since 2018, Afro-fusion artiste, Burna Boy, has amplified greatly. From making ‘Ye’ his comeback anthem to releasing his ‘African Giant’ album, fetching a Grammy nomination in 2019, winning BET International Act of the Year, and following it up with another album release ‘Twice As Tall’ in 2020, another BET win, another Grammy nomination and MTV Africa Music Awards nomination too.
With the collection of accolades, 2021 is certainly looking bright for the young music star. The focus will mainly be on his Grammy nomination. As the first Nigerian artiste to be nominated consecutively in the Global Music Album category, expectations are high that Burna, who has been very ambitious in his musical pursuits, would bring the glittering gramophone award back home.
0 If he succeeds in doing so, it will be the first time a Nigerian artiste would clinch a Grammy in that category, which has been mostly won by Brazilians and South Africans. He will also outshine the Kuti brothers, Femi and Seun Kuti, who had been previously nominated in the category. Furthermore, it would break the Grammy jinx in that category finally for Nigerian music and validate Afrobeats as the dominating sound of Africa and, perhaps, the world.

Wizkid

‘Made in Lagos’, the long-awaited album, which was finally released last year, received rave reviews from critics. It made British Vogue’s 12 Best Albums of 2020; ‘Essence’, a song from the album was one of United States former President Barack Obama’s favourite songs of 2020; the album was also the longest-charting Nigerian album on the UK albums chart for the new decade, the list to Wizkid’s achievement last year is nearly endless.
But like Burna Boy, Nigerians are hopeful that he would have a shining moment at the 63rd Grammy Awards. He was nominated alongside American superstar, Beyoncé, in the Best Music Video category for ‘Brown Skin Girl’, off the visual album ‘Black is King’. Wizkid is likely to veer into more fashion endorsements in 2021.
0Last year saw him advertising Puma Suedes for international fashion brand JD. Ahead of his album release, he advertised an array of merchandise for fans to purchase. His love for fashion is not hidden, having walked the runway for Dolce & Gabana’s SS19 menswear alongside supermodel, Naomi Campbell, in 2018. Perhaps, people might see more collaboration in the new year.

Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya

Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya, an 88-year-old printmaker, painter and sculptor, who has exhibited in such prestigious venues as the Tate Modern in London, UK, the National Museum of African Art of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, USA and Malmö Konsthall in Malmö, Sweden, lights up the local arts scene with his bi-annual Harmattan Workshop in the town of Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
The workshop that not only attracts artists from all over the country but also from outside the country will be holding this year in February and August as planned. The purpose-built venue for the workshop, according to the artist, is designed in such a way that the participants would be able to observe the COVID-19 safety protocols. He would be an issue in the new year.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is by every definition a major character in the New Year. As the governor of Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre – the country’s microcosm – Sanwo-Olu’s leadership choices helped to shape many of the events of last year and this was from the start of 2020.
From the first index of Covid-19 in February of 2020 to the commercial motorcycle and tricycle crisis, explosions in different parts of the state, collapse of buildings and the #EndSARS protests, Sanwo-Olu’s 2020 was completely eventful, albeit not enviable.

Therefore, going into the New Year, it is without doubts that 2021 already has a place – better described as distinctive – for the Lagos governor, who has not fallen short of expectations in his leadership, even when it seemed there was confusion on the horizon.
Bolstered by his honesty, friendly disposition, capacity and collegiate approach to leadership, Sanwo-Olu’s Lagos definitely looks forward to a promising 2021, prepped to recover from the ruins of last year and appears determined to take the chances of prosperity in the New Year.

Uche Secondus

From the moment he assumed leadership as the National Chairman of the main opposition PDP, Mr. Uche Secondus has not left anyone in doubt that he understood his briefs and why he must step up to the challenge before him.
Without playing to the gallery, the PDP under the command of Secondus, hasn’t done badly so far in its role as the opposition party by constantly engaging the ruling APC, putting it on the spot and often boxing it to the defensive corner.

Suffice it to say that the PDP had grown from the timid, uncoordinated and confused party it was immediately after it lost the 2019 elections to not just a barking opposition but one capable of biting and leaving an enduring scar on its victim.
With the journey to 2023 likely to be one of the main concerns of political actors this year, Secondus, without much ado, is positioned to lead some of the challenges that are related to the prospects of the next elections in 2023. He is therefore a factor in 2021.

Osagie Ehanire

Like many of his colleagues around the world, the Minister of Health, Professor Osagie Ehanire, was expectedly not prepared for the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. But unlike some of his colleagues too, he stood up to the challenge and today the Nigerian Covid-19 story is different, despite some of the obvious inadequacies.

From taking extreme precautions at the nation’s borders and airports as well as prescribing instructive safety protocols, his leadership at the health ministry in conjunction with other interest groups like the Presidential Task Force and the NCDC, has helped to contain the menace of the virus and subdue its spread significantly.
Of course, the virus has been carried over to the New Year, which means the battle is far from being over. This reality, as a result, entrusts the Ehanire leadership with a certain degree of expectations in the sustained fight against Covid-19 and at the centre of this coordination is the health minister.