By OCHEREOME NNANNA
In spite of the persisting gloomy indices portraying Nigeria as a country still mired in backwardness, the year 2013 was full of silver linings on the dark clouds of the nation’s firmament. Our economy was given a healthy rating by many reputable international agencies, though it was generally agreed that little of it is being felt by the people on the streets.
It was a year that Forbes Magazine handed the Forbes African of the Year Award to the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, for helping to turn around the agricultural fortunes of the country and making it a model for the world to copy. It was also the year when our Vanguard African of the Year nominee, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group and Africa’s richest man, made giant forays both within the country and outside, carrying the flag of Nigeria into an arena which was hitherto a preserve of people from other continents and climes.
For instance, the Dangote Group announced plans to establish a petroleum refining complex that would cost an eye-popping $9 Billion. It was the year in which the Group revved up its global expansion project with the acquisition of 64% stake in South Africa’s Sephaku Cement (Pty) Ltd, with similar ventures in Tanzania, Nepal, Ethiopia and more to come. Dangote is leading the charge for Nigeria’s global industrial business outreach, a departure from the past when Nigeria was a mere dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish from all corners of the world.
Beyond enterprise, it was also a year in which Dangote went into partnership with the former wealthiest man in the world, Mr Bill Gates, to raise a princely $6 billion for the eradication of the polio virus from the entire world. Surely, such a home-grown multi-billionaire who has pioneered the Nigerian/Africa global venture in the passing year more than any other Nigerian or African deserves special recognition, which we consider our honour and pleasure to do.
When we conducted the election for our Man-Of-The-Year 2013 which is usually carried out by our Board of Editors, the overwhelming majority of votes were in favour of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Executive Governor of Delta State. It was not just his efforts in the passing year that won him the honour. He has run the affairs of the state for 78 months, largely succeeding in dousing the burning dichotomy between the two major sections of the state. Uduaghan’s innovations which were copied by other states include the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC). Nearly all the other oil producing states have established their own “PADEC” committees to ensure that oil producing areas get more from the riches of their land than ever before, thus reducing the youth unrest and violence in those areas.
Uduaghan has also battled intense criminality in his state, particularly kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy and sea piracy in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies and the armed forces. He has thrown open the economy of the state and given free access to investors from within and outside the country in his fervent bid to prepare the state for the day when oil will no longer be its main income earner.
The Delta State Chief has also been a great stabilising force in the politics of his state and the South-South Zone. He is an enthusiastic flag bearer to build a solid political bridge with the South East and indeed, all the zones of the country for the unity and stable progress of the nation.
Completing the troika in our awards is Chief Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, the founder and Chairman of the Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Ltd, Nnewi, who has bagged Vanguard’s Most Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year 2013. Chukwuma fills us with pride and delight with his inspirational rise from a tyre and spare-parts dealer in Nkwo Nnewi, his hometown in Anambra State in 1982 to emerging as the proprietor of the first indigenously-owned comprehensive private car manufacturing plant in Nigeria and Africa at large.
From the ashes of collapsed multi-national vehicle assembly plants, which took place because of the unsupportive atmosphere in the country, Innoson was able to give us, not just the elusive Nigerian car, but an integrated and all-embracing motor assembly for virtually all purposes. He will be featuring as the foremost local content provider in the new automotive policy unfolded by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, a venture that kicks off in the New Year.
We are proud to present the Nigerian Troika to the world who, before and during 2013, made a great difference in their respective areas. Here is presenting to you, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, GCON, the Vanguard African-Of-The Year 2013; Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, CON, Vanguard’s Man-Of-The-Year 2013 AND Chief Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, OON, Vanguard’s Most-Innovative-Entrepreneur-Of-The 2013!